Jesus, from Beginning to End
Jesus, from the beginning to end, is all over scripture. In Luke 24, Jesus has resurrected from the dead and is walking with some disciples along the Emmaus Road. Luke says that Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Through a simple conversation, Jesus places himself clearly not only as the hero of the New Testament, but as the Hero of the entire biblical narrative and beyond. This good news that the Bible shares is the truth that humanity was hopelessly lost in our own sins and failures. We were incapable of earning God’s acceptance or favor; we were so wrought with sin, we could not be in the presence of a holy God, which is what we were made for. Therefore God, in His amazing grace, sent His Son Jesus to live the perfect life we couldn’t live, to die for the penalty that we deserved, and to rise again from the dead. He did this so that sinful people (you and me and our students) could have a relationship with a holy God due to the work of Jesus as the all sufficient substitute. He did this so that we would no longer need to work for his acceptance and favor. Bathing in this truth that Jesus stands as the Hero of both our stories and the biblical narrative transforms our lives and ministries at the core.
In reflecting together on this conversation in Luke 24 after Jesus had left them, the disciples state, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” The revelation of a gospel-centered biblical interpretation results in great passion and joy to share that same story with others. Once seeing the beauty of the gospel for myself, I couldn’t help but share this amazing news with others. Jesus the Hero reframes our lives and ignites a passion to share the truth of the gospel that burns within us and ignites a ministry with gospel flames. The fact that we no longer need to work to please God – the freedom he has given us in Christ – makes us want to please him all the more.
I was in late high school when my eyes were opened to Jesus being the Hero of the scriptures. Seeing Jesus for the first time throughout the text is like looking at one of those optical illusions. Once you see the hidden image, the image redefines the page and jumps out at you everywhere. Once you begin to read the Bible from a gospel-centered perspective, you see Jesus and the power of grace jumping to life from the whole of Scripture – the journeys of the patriarchs, the cries of David in the psalter, the promised restoration in the prophets, and the pictures of a Victorious King in John’s Revelation.
Once we grasp the message of gospel-centered teaching, we cannot help but tell the story of Jesus and his grace to our students. Through gazing into the gospel, we can remind our students that the Old Testament stories are not merely moral lessons of self-improvement; they are stories of what God has done in, for, and through His people. By gazing into the gospel – into the eyes of our Savior – we can remind our students that the same God who heard the laments of David in the Psalms will hear them when they cry. Through gazing into the gospel, we can remind our students that though the times seemed dark and God seemed far away, he was faithful to the prophets and His people and He will also be faithful to them. Through gazing into the gospel, we can point our students to the end of the story in Revelation where Jesus stands as the Victor over sin, hell, death, and the grave, and He will one day make all things new.
Gospel-centered ministry first changes our students by reminding them that Jesus is the Hero, that everything in their lives flows from God’s work in them and not their performance for Him, and that Jesus is the one who is faithful and ever-present with us. Once these truths change our lives, they will radically alter how we approach ministry.
We will point our students to Jesus the Hero. We will remind our students that Jesus’ work is sufficient and that their work is an overflow of God’s work within them. We will remind students that no matter how dark, challenging, or difficult the situation they may find themselves that God is faithful and always there.
Gospel-centered student ministry fills both youth workers and students with a great hope. A hope that resides in an unlimited source. A hope that will never fail. A hope that overflows with grace. Let us be faithful to lead and shepherd our students into that hope.