Monday, August 31, 2015

The Presentations Of Jesus In The Gospels (Part 2)

Question: Do the Gospels really present Jesus in very different ways? 

TWH: Are there different emphases in the four Gospels? –Yes. Are the Gospels presenting four different Jesuses? –No. The Gospels definitely have different motifs. Each author focuses his attention on who Jesus is and focuses on different aspects of his identity. Matthew is undoubtedly trying to present Jesus as the rightful heir to the Davidic throne. Luke does so as well, but he writes his Gospel in such a way that it will be most useful to Gentile communities where Paul has labored and presented the gospel. Peter preaches in Rome–this is where we get the Gospel of Mark–and he chooses to focus on the wondrous works Jesus did through the power of the Holy Spirit and his role of chief servant; remember Jesus saying "I [The Son of Man] came not to be served, but to serve and give my [his] life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). There is emphasis on the role of servant in Peter's preaching. And John chooses to hone in on the deity of Jesus Christ.

Now some clarifications. That each of these authors emphasize a particular motif does not mean that their presentations of Jesus are inaccurate, nor does it mean that they do not present those characteristics of Jesus found in the other Gospels. For example, Matthew presents Jesus as God, as does Luke, and as does Mark. The difference is John chooses to focus on Jesus' deity, and how that deity was manifest in Jesus' ministry. We can see these motifs very early on in the narrative of the Gospels. John 1 for example explicitly states that Jesus is God. Matthew 1 explicitly states that Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David.

There is a problem when it is said that the Gospels are presenting totally different perspectives of who Jesus is–in the sense that they are in conflict with one another. They do not. The accounts are consistent. And they present the same Jesus. Only they focus on his identity in different ways so that we better understand who he is. Jesus is fully God; he is fully man. That's what we call the hypostatic union in theological language. Jesus is gentle, and he has a divine anger; just contrast Jesus' interaction with Lazarus' sisters with his encounters in the temple with the moneychangers. He is king, and he is servant.

Another thing that is crystal clear in the Gospels is the emphasis placed on Jesus' death and resurrection. The Synoptics spend about forty percent of their content on the last week of Jesus' life. John spends about that much on the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. Important? Definitely!

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