Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Impressions of a Savior

Imagine that you were introducing Jesus as our Savior to someone for the first time. Maybe they had heard fragmented accounts of some stories in the Bible, maybe not. What is the very first thing you would want to tell them about Jesus?

I picked up my New Testament again tonight and thought about that question as I read Matthew 1:1. The first thing Matthew tells us is that Jesus is "the son of David, the son of Abraham," and then he goes through the genealogy chronologically. Jesus is the son and heir of the king of Israel and an heir of the covenant of Abraham. But he is more. He is the author of that covenant - the "author and finisher of our faith." He is the King of Israel in whose stead David stood, this being the answer to Jesus' question: If the Christ is the son of David, why does David call him Lord? (Matt 22:41-46). Jesus is our king, our lawgiver twice over, and the one to whom our fathers looked. That's a lot to pack into eight words, i'n' it?

Mark and Luke both start with John the Baptist, but in very different ways. Mark begins with John's testimony that Jesus' mission was to remit sins, to baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost, and his witness that God Himself called Jesus His Son. Luke begins yet earlier with John's father, Zacharias, entering the temple to petition God. The angel declared that his prayers had been heard. What was it the priest was to pray for when he entered the temple? For the redemption of the people, a redemption heralded by two births in the same extended family. Jesus would redeem His people.

John focuses on who Jesus was before He came to earth: the Word, of God and God in His own right, the Creator, the Light and the Life, the only way whereby we can return to God and receive of His fullness. Deep and wonderful doctrines that require more chewing than I'm planning on for a blog post.

So then I got thinking about the Book of Mormon. I realized one of the primary differences between the Gospels authors and the Book of Mormon authors is that the Gospels authors are very third-person and hidden in the background (John does his dead-level best to hide his own name and the others try to avoid mention of themselves as well) while the Book of Mormon is much more first-person: this is me and my life. The thing that I realized we don't have in the New Testament is what might be termed a personal narrative: I came to Jesus with this question and this is what He said to me; I had this weakness and this is how Jesus taught me, healed me, trained me, changed me. Rather, the authors of the Gospels tell His interactions with others and group interactions in which the author can hide. On the other hand, Nephi, at the end of the first chapter, tells us his purpose is to show rather than tell how the Lord's tender mercies have been over him and his family. It's an account of God's dealings with people in the first person.

I'm very thankful to have both: records about Jesus and His life and records about other people and their relationship with their Savior. What a beautiful complementarity!

So that was one verse of my scripture study today. On to verse 2! :)

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