Every so often, it’s good to go back and review the basics. We need to re-examine those underpinnings that we once learned but now unconsciously assume rather than thoughtfully consider. The end of one year and the beginning of the next can inspire us to do that. Perhaps that’s the best kind of New Year’s resolution we can make.
For a Christian, that can mean rereading the Gospels to see once more what Jesus said, how and to whom he said it, and what he did.
It’s funny how each time I read one of the Gospels, I discover something I never saw there before.
John’s Gospel is my favorite, but I love the others as well. Each one presents Jesus from a slightly different angle, and the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.
I love Matthew’s Gospel for the connections it makes with Jesus’s Jewish heritage. Jesus would have gone to synagogue every Sabbath, like every good Jew of his day. Every Sabbath, he would have heard a reading from the Jewish Scriptures (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings) followed by a teaching about what was read.
The Law was given to Moses, and he wrote down everything the Lord had said (Exodus 24:4) even before he received the stone tablets listing the Ten Commandments. A section from the Torah, the first five books of the Jewish scriptures that contained the Law, was read aloud every Sabbath.
Every Jew who listened to Jesus almost two thousand years ago would have learned the Law as a child. Each time Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said,…but I tell you,” a good law they could recite by heart was taken to something higher, deeper, harder by Jesus’s expansion of the meaning.
Jesus raised the bar to where no one by their own efforts could completely obey, and any who were willing to be honest with themselves knew they fell short. They knew that failing to keep the law perfectly was sin, and sin always separates a person from God. Even if they thought they had kept the letter of the Law before, they had to face the truth that they hadn’t kept the spirit of it.
But recognizing that we fall short of what’s required is the necessary first step. It isn’t until we face that truth that we can do something about it.
Jesus calls me to do things I can never do on my own, but I know he never expected us to do it on our own. I need to want to do it, and then the Spirit helps me do what’s impossible.
And I give thanks!
Are there things you do to help you refocus on the foundations of your faith?