I recently read a blog post titled “Why Is Jesus a Minor Character in the Religion Named After Him?”. I cannot recommend this post, as the author takes many positions that are contrary to orthodox Christian belief (such as stating that Jesus came to “make God known to us and to clear up the confusion left by those guys who thought they saw God, but clearly did not.” – specifically referring to the Old Testament prophets). That being said, I think there are some reasons why evangelicals tend not to focus on Jesus and the gospels as much as other parts of scripture.
- Jesus was a Jew.
Any study of the life of Jesus must reckon with the fact that He was a first century Jew, and therefore lived in a context that is different than most of his followers who are gentiles. Paul, on the other hand, while being a Jew, was sent to the gentiles, and I propose that it is no accident that his teachings are more accessible to many modern Christians than the gospels.
- Jesus says hard things
Jesus says a lot of offensive things, things that are deeply challenging to any honest person. Without the context of the OT law that he lived under, many of these commands seem impossibly radical. Even with a good understanding of his context, including study of the laws or commandments that Jesus is addressing, He demands some very difficult things of his followers.
- Jesus challenges our intellectual confidence
Jesus is God, and he shows it. It is common in the gospels for the reader to come up against sayings or actions of Jesus that they cannot understand, or have great difficulty explaining. A faithful person can search out these difficulties, but often will have no choice but to pray for wisdom, and to follow Jesus the best that they can.
Where do these three points leave us? The gospels have some very challenging material, but there is great benefit to be found in them, if for no other reason than stretching our faith and leaving us humbled before our God. In your study of the scriptures, I hope that you do not neglect to spend some time studying the life of Jesus.