Hey everyone, I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to this very first episode of “Opening Up the Gospels”. In these videos we’re going to be looking at the life of Jesus of Nazareth from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. My main goal in this weekly series is to chronologically walk through his life and dig into the gold mine of what the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:8 calls “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. There’s so much to marvel at, and I want to walk through some of it with you in 7 to 10 minute episodes every Tuesday. Here’s a breakdown of how we’ll get started so you know where we are going. In the first four episodes I want to give you a little bit of the “why behind the what” – just some of the reasons why the life of Jesus is even worth a series of videos. Then the next two, I want to talk about pondering or contemplating the life of Jesus – with just some practical tips on how His story can move from fairy tale to real history in our minds. And the last four of the first group I’ll dive into an introduction of each of the Gospels and talk about things like their author, style, their structure, and some of the major themes. Then after 10 episodes of what I feel is a necessary introduction, we’ll jump into the story itself and begin chronologically walking through the scenes in Jesus’ life. I’ll inevitably take episodes during the narrative to diverge into theology or more background, just because our understanding of what’s actually going on in Gospels and everything Jesus said inherently shapes our theology. But my primary objective is simply to tell the story of Jesus’ life so you can talk to Him about it and deepen your own friendship with Him. For far too much of my Christian life, I looked at Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as just a random collection of stories of Jesus walking around random places in Israel healing people and getting mad at the Pharisees sometimes, just kind of buying time before the cross. But the life of Jesus is so much more glorious than what Sunday school videos and skits and puppet shows may have taught you. And because the Gospels are not that complicated, you can know the story with clarity. As a Christian, our highest joy actually comes in getting lost in a Person far more beautiful than what we see in the mirror every day. The mirror may be a good place to fix your hair, but it’s not the place to find your highest joy. Now you may wonder why I am doing a series on the Gospels and not some other hot topic like grace or justice or hell or prayer? Well, I have a few simple reasons, and I’ll take the next several episodes to talk about them. I believe the Words of Jesus in context can bring much clarity to the confusion in many of those hot topics, and I believe the life of Jesus is one of the most neglected subjects in Christianity. It should be one of the most central. I hope that throughout this series, you’ll begin to feel this so much more. In this episode, I’ll talk about the first of four reasons why I want to focus on the Gospels – and that’s the simple fact that Christianity is about putting our faith in a person named Jesus and growing in a real relationship with Him. Now before you stop this video because you think i’m going to talk about something you already know, give me a few minutes to explain what I mean. Being a Christian is not like being a conservative or a liberal or a republican or a democrat, though we’ve probably unconsciously thought of it that way (at least I used to). It’s not first and foremost believing in a message or having certain values, but it’s about putting our faith in a real person named Jesus and growing in a relationship with him. Now when I say “In a relationship” I don’t mean “in a relationship” like how somebody says it on Facebook. Christianity is about a real relationship with Jesus, who is called “the Christ” and who is our God and Maker. Even right now as I said that, I’m sure some of you say “yeah, I get it… a relationship with God!” But I’m saying that is in fact the problem – we have trivialized the concept of relationship with Him and assumed wrong things about what it really looks like. Now let’s take a second and really think about what being in a relationship with someone means. To say it simply, it means you relate to them. That’s what people do with one another – they relate. Think of the way you relate to your best friend or your spouse. You know things about them – maybe where they grew up, what they like to do, what their habits are, what their siblings’ names are. You relate to them because of real knowledge of them. Knowledge is the substance of your friendship with them. Your interaction with them began with a little knowledge, and then you sought to know more about them. And the more you related to them over time, your heart began to overflow with love for them. But it didn’t stop there, especially if it’s your best friend or spouse we’re talking about. Because when you love someone, the most natural thing to do is to seek to know as much as you possibly can about them, right? So you didn’t remain content with the degree that you related to them, so you sought to know more and interact with them more. Then that led to still more of an overflowing heart of love. See how that works as a cycle? Knowledge begets an overflowing heart, which begets a desire for more knowledge, which begets more overflow in love… Over and over again. This relational knowledge is at the heart of any close friendship. Let me ask a contrasting question about relationship to help you feel this a little more. What if you were a college student and you came home for your semester break and told your parents “mom, dad, I’ve met the one! We’re going to get married and live happily ever after!” Naturally your parents would want to know as much as they could about your potential spouse, right? How foolish would you sound if you weren’t able to tell your parents anything but… “I don’t really know much, but I just know I’m lovesick… I just feel so great, I’ve found true joy and true bliss…” Well, that isn’t friendship or love – that’s infatuation. Why? Because it isn’t based on anything substantial. It may be very sincere, but there is no real knowledge of the person you say you’re lovesick for. Now to say this a third way – what would happen if you just went up to somebody random on the street and shouted “I love you!”? They’d look back at you oddly, completely ignore you, or just laugh at you. Why? You couldn’t possibly love them because you don’t know them! Now take these examples and let them sink in for a second, and then think again about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to actually know Him. You don’t have a relationship with Jesus primarily because you go to a building on a sunday to sing songs. People go to concerts all the time to sing and have their emotions moved, but that brings them no closer to having a deep friendship with the lead singer. We have to recognize that the way we get to know Jesus and the way our hearts overflow with love for Him is no different than the way we get to know any other person. Though the type of relationship we have with Jesus is very different than another person (because He is the Creator and we are the creature), our love for Him grows in the same way it does for someone else. The fuel for our love to grow is real, substantial knowledge of His life and his words as the gospels reveal it to us. We’re fooling ourselves if we say we’re lovesick and barely know anything about Him. Jesus loves our sincerity, but actually wants us to know Him and His story, not just have fuzzy ideas from Sunday school stories about Him. So do you feel this a little bit now? We need to ask ourselves some hard questions. How has it become almost perfectly normal in the church today for us to say we love Jesus more than anything and yet know almost nothing about His life and His words? What is our “relationship with Jesus” really based upon? Jesus had four brothers and sisters, He lived in a small town called Capernaum during the 2 years of His ministry before being crucified in Jerusalem. He really lived among us as a seemingly ordinary man – he ate meals, he had best friends He spent more time with than others, He was John the Baptist’s relative, and even right now as He sits enthroned in the heavens he has vivid memories from His childhood. Oh, there’s just so much more… It’s so glorious… And that’s what I’m going to develop over this series. When you count up all the chapters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have 89 of them. Each of those chapters reveal the precious record of Jesus’ llife, words, and deeds. When we take them together as a coherent testimony, they give us a beautiful picture of our God and His first 32 years of life as a human. For Christians, the Gospels should be our ultimate source of joy, pleasure, awe, and wonder… Not just a place to get theology for our church doctrinal statements or practical principles for life but a place to grow in real substantial knowledge of Jesus. So again, why a series on the Gospels? The first simple reason is just that to know Jesus – his life, his story, and his words – and to put our faith in him becuase of that knowledge is what it fundamentally means to be a Christian and to love Him. Our faith for salvation is not based on what scholars write in books or what our pastors say in sunday sermons. Our faith is in a real person who was really pinned to a wooden beam and who really spilled his blood on a real day in history. The details of His life matter to us because HE matters to us. In next week’s episode of “Opening Up the Gospels”, we’ll talk about the second reason for why the Gospels are so important for us to know. We want to know the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of our culture. I hope you’re provoked and i hope you’ll join me on this journey as we seek to know the Man in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.