If you had only two hours to tell the life of Jesus, what would you include and what would you exclude?
My mother and I this week saw Jesus live on stage at the Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and the show was amazing: massive motorized sets, seamlessly-integrated visual-effects with stunning scenery, a new but heavily Biblical script of emotional dialogue, several original songs, and a large cast of people and highly-trained animals entering and exiting the stage often through the audience.
Yet, somewhat like a Reader’s Digest condensed book, the narrative was rearranged, and characters were amalgamated, and afterwards we discussed what was included and excluded and wondered whether what was there was clear and sufficient.
Certainly, the Holy Spirit creates faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel, presumably regardless of whether the Gospel is in a two-hour musical, a 10-minute sermon or a 400-word column.
Yet, faith has specific content towards a specific goal (John 20:31): we repent of our sins and trust God to forgive us for the sake of His Son, Who took on human flesh, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and now works through water, sinful men, and bread and wine, to give eternal life.
The producers of Jesus rightly emphasized the theme of God’s love that rescues, not just a few fallen individuals, but as many as possible, even if the producers missed key details about Jesus’s Divinity and how the Holy Spirit works.
Playwrights may take some artistic license — even the Divinely-inspired evangelists did not tell everything (John 20:30) — but Christians and their churches are not free to pick and choose what to include or exclude, to believe or reject, to confess or deny.
Church fellowship is based on agreement on the Gospel and all its articles, including Who Jesus is, what He has done and how He works even now.
As individuals, we try to tell our family and friends, classmates and coworkers, what God has done and is doing for us through His Son Jesus, and we do not have to tell them everything at once, for, in most cases, we have more than 400 words, 10 minutes, and even two hours.
We try to tell them clearly and sufficiently so that they come and see (John 1:39, 46), and then the Holy Spirit can work in them as He promises.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.