Gospels, Part 1: Introduction to the Gospels

There is a tremendous difference between reading the Bible and understanding the Bible.  Many of us – myself chief among them – spend years reading the Bible feeling some combination of frustration, boredom, and complete confusion.  This is often acutely true when reading the Old Testament, given the many names of people and places that are so foreign to us, and the great historical and cultural gap between us and the events recorded.  But I think it is true of the whole of scripture.

The Gospel accounts may be slightly nearer to us in time and worldview, but no so much that we easily enter into the story with familiarity.  Though the church often suggests that Jesus is an easily comprehensible figure with a very straightforward message, anyone who has attempted a serious reading of the New Testament quickly realizes this is not the case.  Jesus is tremendously complex.  And his message was shocking to many of his contemporaries.

For my part, I spent much of my life of faith feeling that Jesus was maddeningly inconsistent.  One minute he’s calling the weak and weary to follow him for his “yoke is easy and his burden light,” while in another place refusing the man who wishes only to bury his father before coming along.  He calls one to sell everything to care for the poor and praises another for pouring very expensive perfume on his feet… What???   How are we supposed to “follow” someone so unpredictable?  And why would one want to?!?

Fortunately – several decades of study later – Jesus has come to make far greater sense to me (and proven amazingly likable as well!).  What made the difference was gaining the ability to understand Jesus within the world of 1st century Palestinian Judaism.  When we can hear him as those who stood in his presence, his message is far more clear…and far more challenging.

This podcast episode is the first in a 10-part series on the Gospels – what they are, why they were written, and what they intend to communicate about the message and ministry of Jesus.  They were originally taught in the fall of 2011 at Irvine Presbyterian Church as part of our adult discipleship ministry.

I hope they help make sense of Jesus and offer some inspiration to dig even deeper into the biblical story.

If you have questions, let me know!

And if you want to join in the online discussion of the course, just click here




  1. Anon 1
    November 20, 2011

    is the online web forum still available?

    1. Kirk Winslow
      November 22, 2011

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