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A new way to read the red letters

May 17, 2010

I have stumbled upon a strategy for reading scripture that will breathe new life into your quiet time, deepen the roots of your relationship with Christ, and quite possibly revolutionize much of your theology.

I’m not entirely kidding.

Next time you’re in the gospels, try this. When you’re reading what Jesus was speaking, smile.


Or – at least – picture Him smiling while He’s saying it.

Stay with me for just a minute, here.

I think
that we think
that Jesus was unhappy
more often than He really was while He was here.

It kind of fits with our general understanding of God. Even those of us who go to passionate, Spirit-filled, Bible-preaching, authentic (or any combination of the above) churches. Even those of us who have great pastors and good worship music.

If you do a Google image search for Jesus, the only picture you will find of Him smiling are the Buddy Christ statue from Dogma.

I won’t go into all the reasons why, but I think we paint a sadder, more serious, more disappointed Jesus than really walked the earth. And it bleeds into how we read scripture.

But, if you allow yourself to believe that Jesus was doing what He loved doing, with people He loves, for a Father He loves – you might be able to imagine Him smiling and it will change your Bible right before your eyes.


There is a wedding in Cana. Jesus is there with Mary and the first few of His disciples. The hosts run out of wine. Mary happens to mention the fact to Jesus. What is His response? “Woman … ” And yet, Mary goes to prepare the servants to receive what she knew was about to happen.

Read it once like most of us do. Like Jesus is irritated with her trite request and can’t be bothered with such foolishness. “Woman, what has your concern to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” It’s almost snooty. And – though I have heard sermons on asking in faith, etc. – it doesn’t really make sense with what He does next.

Now read it and pretend He’s smiling. Like He loves the fact that Mary knows full well what He’s capable of. Like He knows He’s about to do a secret little miracle that will blow His disciples’ minds, and that – just for kicks – He’s going to use the water that the religious people use for ritualistically washing their hands before they eat. “Woman, what has your concern to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” It’s almost playful. It’s almost like He’s about to pull a supernatural prank and it’s an inside joke for now.

And the examples are endless.

There are exceptions, of course, but they’re fewer than you might assume. If your mental image of Jesus smiling while He’s speaking makes Him look like a crazed lunatic, ditch it. Driving the money changers out of the temple, for example. Probably not smiling that time.

Try it.

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