Knowing a loved one
‘He unrolled the scroll and found the place …’ is a phrase from Luke’s Gospel (4:17) that I treasure.
Whatever else we should take from the story of Jesus in his hometown synagogue, I’m sure we are meant to notice his evident familiarity with the text from which he read. His selecting of a particular text whilst standing amongst the gathered throng suggests to me confidence, knowledge, and previous reflection.
Here is an action grounded in fluency and awareness. Jesus came to the text of the prophet Isaiah because he knew it well and had thought about it deeply. I imagine him reading it aloud with profound conviction. This was an action born of words that he had inhabited, as it were, for many years.
The thought struck me again at the funeral of a much-loved aunt. The minister had clearly worked hard at her preparation. The family eulogy was carefully referenced in sermon, hymns and prayers. Phrases and ideas from Scripture were thoughtfully expounded in close association with the realities of my aunt’s life. The minister spoke for us all as she brought the scriptures alive in her association of their ideas to a life-lived in the person of the deceased. We knew that something authentic was disclosed of my aunt’s being in the rehearsing of words she had been familiar with all her life. To think again on those words gave us a way into appreciating her life anew; to recognise her in words that spoke of her understandings and ours.
In a similar way, we need to be familiar with the words that formed the actions and understandings that Jesus held dear if we are, at the least, to appreciate his life. That day in Nazareth he made very plain how rooted he was in the scriptures of his people. Without sharing those same scriptures, we cannot possibly enter his way of seeing the world. If we are to know him, we must rehearse the stories and ideas that formed his own knowing.
The articles in this edition focus on some of the hardest passages of the Older Testament; passages that we may be tempted to avoid. Such avoiding, however, denies us – and those among whom we speak – a further opportunity to think on the ideas and understandings that formed the distinctive and salvific character of Jesus. To work with only what we find conducive, or to isolate our account of Jesus without reference to the scriptures that shaped him, is not the way to know more of the one we love because he first loved us. Knowing him means knowing more of what shaped his thought and prayers.
Christopher Burkett, Editor