Friday, May 19, 2006

The Gospels parts 2 & 3

For the next few posts (unless there is “late breaking news…”) I am going to share from an overview on the Gospels. I’ve used this as an introduction to Bible Studies when they were taken from the Gospels.

Last time we looked at Matthew - this time we'll cover Mark and Luke.

Written by John Mark, son of Mary of Jerusalem, who was also a sister to Barnabus, Paul’s traveling companion. It was Mary’s house, many think, that was the meeting place for the disciples and where the Last Supper took place. The gospel of Mark was written primarily to the Romans and thus has little to say concerning prophesies. He also explains many Jewish words and customs, for his non-Jewish readers.

Mark was very close to Peter, and many feel that this gospel reflects much of Peter’s recollections of Christ although it is debatable whether Peter had already been martyred when the book was written. Mark is also thought to be “the certain young man” in Mark 14:51-52 who was caught following, and had to escape without his clothes as Christ was taken by the soldiers from Garden of Gethsemane. If indeed the “Last Supper” had taken place at his house, it would not be surprising for a “young man” to sneak out in just his nightclothes to see where his heroes were going!

In Mark we see the Suffering Servant who gave His life as a ransom for many. Also, as Mark reflects on the “servanthood” of Christ, he gives no genealogy, since the “family tree” of a servant or slave would not be important.

Mark’s “creature” (many believe the four creatures with the four faces mentioned in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4, with heads of a man, an eagle, an ox [or a calf] and a lion, represent the four gospels) is thought to be represented by the ox or calf, which signifies the One who “carries the load.” It also shows the works of Christ more so than His words, by recording 18 miracles performed by Jesus against only 4 full-scale parables. Also an unusually large number of instances of Jesus’ exorcizing of demons are noted.

Mark’s Gospel is generally accepted as the earliest gospel written, as both Matthew and Luke seem to draw from his accounts. It is the shortest and appears to be told in a “breathless” manner, as if Mark was in a hurry to get it all down. It is likely that Mark wrote in this manner, as the Romans were a “practical lot” who allotted little time for details. As the newspaper analogy, Mark’s gospel would be the Headlines.

Luke was known as “the beloved physician.” He was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul. He wrote his gospel (and the book of Acts) to Theophilus, and ultimately to other gentile Christians, so that “you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4) As the only Gentile writer in the Bible, Luke writes his gospel after interviewing eyewitnesses and ministers to gain “an orderly report.” It is also a devotional gospel as it especially emphasizes prayer.

Luke’s gospel is sometimes known as “The woman’s gospel” due to his respect and reverence for womanhood. He shares the births of Jesus as well as John the Baptist with a physician’s love for life and with such a grace and delicacy that fill the stories with an atmosphere of love and purity. One cannot help but wonder if many of the “eyewitnesses” that Luke interviewed were the women, who would surely remember and share that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”

Luke writes of the “Son of Man” and traces the linage of Christ all the way back to Adam. Luke’s genealogy is believed by many to be Jesus’ family tree through Mary, as Heli (or Eli) was thought to be Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law. This line goes through David’s son Nathan where as Matthew’s goes through Solomon, the last King of the United Kingdom. Matthew’s linage presents a “descending” line from Abraham down through David to Joseph, to “Jesus who is called Christ.” Luke’s genealogy presents an “ascending” line starting with Jesus and going back to Adam, and thus to the Creation.

The heavenly creature most accepted for Luke’s gospel is the one with the face of a man. As the “Son of Man,” Luke shows Jesus love and care for the poor, the lonely and the outcast.

As Luke gives a great many details and stories of Jesus’ life, his gospel as a newspaper, is the “features section.”

Next time - John, the beloved disciple...


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