About a year ago, I started to focus my reading on the gospels (currently, I am reading Bock's Luke Commentary) and the historical Jesus instead of Pauline stuff, especially as it relates to justification and New Paul Perceptive. And so far, I found that the key in unlocking the gospels is the understanding of Jesus' mission and relationship with Israel.
Here's a good quote from Scot Mcknight describing Jesus connection with Israel:
"It follows, then that Jesus cannot be understood if the described exclusively, ore even primarily , in the category of a spiritual master, or as one who was primarily concerned with the inner religious life and its disciplines for the individual. First and foremost, Jesus was a Jew whose vision of the proper religious life centered on the restoration of the Jewish nation and on the fulfillment of the covenants that God had made with the nation. The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish national disaster. Jesus' hope was not so much the "Church" as the restoration of the twelve tribes (cf. Matt.8:11-12;10:23;and19:28), the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God's kingdom (focused on and through Israel) on earth. Thus, when Jesus sent out the Twelve (cf. Matt. 9:35-11:1), the "disciples were not evangelistic preachers sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival." 
 For a great lecture on understanding Jesus, check out Rikki Watt's talk dated "January 14, 2001)
 Mcknight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context, see pp. 10-11