I am about to say some things that no one, including me, will like. Maybe I will leave a nasty comment afterward. No, that would be wrong.
My wife and I have spent the last 6 months reading the gospels aloud every night. Both of us have read Matthew/Mark/Luke/John many times before, but this time we were gobsmacked. Jesus is an unstoppable bulldozer. He offers no safe harbor for those, like me, who desire a comfortable, safety-oriented life. He will put your whole life as you knew it into a pile if you let Him. Praise God??
Seriously, He will come at you with the pruning shears (John 15:2) until either you admit you aren’t really interested in carrying your cross for Him (Rev 3:16) or you begin to understand that His Way is now your way (Matthew 5-7; Romans 12; Col 3).
But, but… faith, right? First, that word translated “faith” is “pistis” in Greek. It can mean both faith and faithfulness. Now which do you think Jesus exemplified? Did He need faith? He was and is the Logos (Word/Wisdom) of God (John 1:1). Jesus had complete KNOWLEDGE of God and acted accordingly (John 12:49-50). Paul said that when you have knowledge of God you “awake to righteousness” (Rom 15:34). Putting it together, if you had perfect faith in God, you would act just like Jesus (Heb 12:2). All through the Bible, that’s what faith produces — obedience to God (Hebrews is the survey course on that concept). Faith is not like preparing for an essay test where you put down all the right ideas about Jesus and God gives you a gold star and a pass on Judgement Day.
Even the demons know who Jesus is (Mark 5:7). What distinguishes us from Satan’s fellow angels is we can be reborn from above (John 3:3) and bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8; Gal 5:22-23). Don’t wish to walk the dusty path of Christ in establishing His kingdom on earth, but want to delight in the rewards at the banquet table in heaven (Rev 19:7-9)? Sorry, no wedding crashers allowed (Matthew 22:1-14)!
This is what happens when you read the words of Jesus without commentary, without a safety net trying to forget what you think you know. Try to read it as is, if you can, but brace yourself.
(Be sure to read part II)