Simple as that. It's been a very slow unhurried process (I'm up to chapter 12 now). The attitude I'm trying to have as I read is this: I'm a new disciple of Jesus, just like Peter and the others. I've dropped everything to follow him, but there are many things I don't understand. Day by day I sit under his teaching, I watch and listen. I'm getting to know this man, Jesus, because it seems to me that this is the most important thing I can do right now.
As I read, I'm looking for recurring themes. This is where the journaling comes in. How do these words of Jesus match up with what he's said before now? What are the things that seem important to Jesus? Why are some people offended by him? On the other hand, what is it about Jesus that many find so attractive? What does the teaching of Jesus mean for my life? In other words, given this particular message of Jesus, how then should I live?
The way this works, I may read the same passage over and over again for several days. What usually happens is that after these several days I will have begun to see how the passage has, perhaps, struck a recurring theme (so it;s clear this is something I should pay close attention to), or on the other hand that it has struck a new and unprecedented note. Perhaps a challenging note, that will get him in trouble (and cause me to wonder if I should still be hanging out with this guy).
This is not "Bible Study," per se. I am not (generally speaking) comparing the passage at hand with parallel passages in the other Gospels or with Paul's letters, etc. And actually, one of the things that motivated me to read the Gospels this way is that I felt I was getting entirely too much of Paul, and too little of Jesus, in all the teaching I'm exposed to as a Christian church-member.
"Give me Jesus," as the song says. Let me soak in his teaching, let it perk up my ears, pierce my heart, challenge my mind, provoke wonder, sorrow, joy, repentance. And may I continue to follow hard.
This reading plan, which I intend to stick with through all four Gospels and perhaps then to repeat, is a follow-on to the sentiments expressed in this old song: