We will never have the complete and full picture of Jesus’ life.


“Reading the gospels, you might get the impression that a day in the life of Jesus went something like this:

9:00 a.m. Heal blind man
9:10 a.m. Deliver sermon
9:30 a.m. Rescue adulterous woman
9:50 a.m. Feed five thousand people

If I were to write an account of your life as a short story, I’d have to select which of your life experiences to include. What would make the cut would be those I judged to be the most significant and defining experiences. From each selection, I’d have to further decide what it was specifically about the experience that I felt was noteworthy. Because of the obvious spatial constraints of the short story format, I’d most likely have to leave out many “incidentals.”

Who cares that you went through the Starbucks drive-thru moments before that big car accident occurred and you stopped to offer assistance? And there’s really no reason to mention the ten minutes of casual chitchat you were engaged in before you launched into that extraordinarily enlightening advice you gave your friend who was on the brink of self-destruction. If I’m recounting your life in a short story, all that minutiae is unnecessary filler.

What gets lost in the translation of the life of Jesus is this filler—the incidental things that Jesus thought, said, and did—that we will never know. It’s hard for us to imagine that Jesus’ poignant talk with the rich young ruler was a five-minute encounter on his way to lunch, or that after Jesus rescued the adulterous woman, he went on to have a twenty-minute conversation with her about some mutual friends, or that Jesus’ main motivation for accepting Martha’s invitation into her home was needing to use the restroom, and fast!

It hit me that Jesus’ life was filled with the same mundane realities as yours and mine. I could plainly see that being Jesus could not mean scripting my life in a way that resembled the specifics we know about him from the gospels. Jesus wasn’t always doing something like the daily schedule I came up with implies. Applying that standard, even Jesus would fail at “being Jesus.”

We will never have the complete and full picture of Jesus’ life. You can’t squeeze thirty-something years of living into thirty-five pages—which is about the length of each gospel. Heck, you couldn’t adequately cover a week of Jesus’ life in thirty-five pages. For everything we know about what Jesus did, there’s far more we don’t know.”

– Jim Palmer, Being Jesus in Nashville: Finding the Courage to Live Your Life (whoever and wherever you are)

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