Here’s why we love the red letters: it’s as close as we can possibly come to walking with Jesus.
It’s the way He taught His disciples. They walked and they talked. That’s why the stories are about fig trees, and grape vines, and soil, and planting, and harvest, and camels, and sheep, and shepherds. They walked and Jesus talked about what they saw.
The God of the universe became a human being, and for three years He walked and He talked with twelve disciples, and three of them and Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote down what He said. They were sure enough about this to put His actual words in quotes. This is not roughly what He said as best they could recollect it; it is a collection of the words of Jesus, woven into a narrative, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The gospels are about Jesus; the red letters are Jesus. They are alive! The red letters are Jesus among us. The only thing we don’t have is the physical presence of Jesus to deliver the words, but we have the words nonetheless. And the fact that all four gospels have the same words when Jesus speaks, with only minor exceptions, tells us these are the very words translated into our language. The red letters are Jesus speaking into our reality today.
So when you have Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” You might as well have been there. And if He asked Martha if she believed it, don’t you think He would have asked you the same thing? Isn’t He asking it now? And do you believe? He’s waiting for your answer.
And when you read, “Lazarus, come out!” don’t you get a chill down your back? Can’t you imagine a man still wrapped in burial cloth shuffling out of the darkness of a tomb like a ghost?
“Unwrap him and let him go!” (John 11:25, 26, 43, 44) And isn’t this what He says to all of us coming forth out of the death of our trespasses and sins? “Unwrap them and let them go!”