As the last vestiges of summer begin to slip away, as "sweater weather" approaches, as we sigh and fondly remember the vacation moments of the last few months, I have a question for you to ask yourself: whether you traveled near or far, did you get a chance to see and do everything you wanted to during that time? Did you get to spend as much time as you possibly wanted at every stop or location you visited? Did you get a chance to take your time, or did you have to rush through? I think it's a safe bet to say that your vacation time was probably much like my family's: fun, enjoyable, a few unexpected circumstances and a few difficult moments, but not long enough, and never enough time for everything. Even one stop in a vacation can provide a plethora of opportunities to explore, learn, eat, drink, and enjoy… But you can never do it all. As human beings, trapped in time, we will always be limited.
When I was growing up, there was a member of our church who attended the seminary in preparation to be a pastor. He came back home on one of his breaks, and while I don't remember much of what he shared with the congregation, there was one thing that stuck with me. He told us that the more that he studied God's Word, the more he realized he would never be able to learn or understand it all. This truism applies to any field of knowledge, but especially to theology. The Bible is a vast ocean of insight, wisdom, narrative, prophecy, miracles. The span of years we have in this mortal life could not bring us even close to having the amount of time we would need to sail every corner of that expansive sea.
Any season of exploration is naturally going to be met with a degree of limitation. If you're going to sail the seas and explore every corner of the globe, you use a ship; but if you want to explore the depths, you need a submarine or underwater exploration vessel of some sort. If you travel by train, you may be taking a whistle-stop tour of spots that you will have to revisit later. If you want to go deep, you will not also be able to go wide at the same time, and vice versa. Sometimes the best approach to exploration is going "an inch deep and a mile wide."
Jesus was a master at finding the balance between deep and wide. He traveled widely, taking the Good News of His Father's Kingdom's coming to people throughout Galilee, Judea, Samaria, and landing finally in Jerusalem. Historians estimate that according to the Gospel texts, Jesus walked over 3,000 miles during His ministry. During that span of over 3 years, He met many people, but He did not have the opportunity to go as deeply into the will of His Father as with others. Yet we have records of His conversations with his disciples as well as a collection of other people here and there (i.e., Nicodemus, John 3) with whom He delves deeply into the purpose for which He was sent and the meaning of His life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Jesus sent the message of God's love and compassion for humanity as wide as one person could go at that time, with the intent that others coming behind Him would go deep, watering, fertilizing, and tending to the seeds of His Father's promises that He had sown.
Jesus' methodology is evidenced in Luke 10, in His sending of the 72 disciples in pairs to prepare the way for Him. While John the Baptist prepared the hearts of people before Jesus' ministry started in one spot, by the Jordan River, the 72 were sent out. These early disciples (Greek mathetes or "learners") of Jesus were told to go out into the surrounding towns and villages with one simple message: "The kingdom of God has come near" (Luke 10:9 & 11, CSB). They were also given the power by Jesus not just to tell the news of the Kingdom's coming, but also to manifest it through wonders and miracles. The 72 were able to spread this simple initial message wider than Jesus was physically capable of accomplishing as a single person. They were His advance team, preparing peoples' hearts to receive the most potent dose of God's presence they would ever experience. When Jesus arrived in a region or town, and crowds of people gathered around him, they weren't looking for something completely new. They had already heard of Jesus. They had already seen a tiny glimpse of what He would bring. They were ready to meet Him in person.
Throughout the seasons of your life, you will have different opportunities to delve into the truth and promises of God as a follower of Jesus. Some opportunities will go deep. Others will go wide. This month we begin our whistle-stop tour of the books of the Bible, which will examine the full swath of Scripture, an inch deep and a mile wide. My prayer is that our exploration of the broad strokes of Scripture will encourage you to continue your study and enjoyment of God's Word outside of our time together. I fully trust that by the power of God's Spirit, it will continually reveal to you the adventure that is found in a life with God, a life enriched by imitating Jesus and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit. There is plenty of adventure to be found between the two covers of this book we call the Bible. However, I pray that you don't stop there. I pray that you discover and embrace the adventure of living in a broken world, "in" but not "of" it (John 17:14-19), and loving real, broken, beautiful people around you, just like Jesus did. Following in His footsteps, letting Him take the lead, I'm sure you will discover that…
Adventure is out there!