Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?
Introduction to this Series
In the Beginning
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Conflicts of Demons
Conflicts of Disease
Conflict of Crowds
Conflict of Jewish Authority
A Prophet Without Honor
Jesus Heals a Blind Man
Peter Gets it... Then He Doesn't
The Passion Predictions
The Son of David
The Temple, The Tree, and The Plot to Kill Him
The Markan Secret Revealed and the End?
Lesson 1: Introduction to this Series
Four Gospels, One Jesus
The Bible has four gospels on Jesus. Have you ever wondered why there are four? Why not one definitive story? Why not five?
Why four gospels? There aren't four Jesuses... er.. Jesi... err... oh geez, how do you spell Jesus in the plural? Anyway, there's only one Jesus, so why have four gospels about him?
Each gospel author brings his own story of Jesus. Their stories are based on their experience and their purpose for writing them. For example, the gospel according to John was written, "so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31, NRSV) Because every person has a different perspective on things, each gospel author presents Jesus in his own unique way. Because of this we have four stories of the same man. There may be minor variations but this must not be confused as contradictions.
How the Four Gospels May Appear Different
Before we dive into Mark, I want to take a moment demonstrate how four gospels can give the impression of more than one Jesus. To accomplish this, I'll lean on the book Four Gospels, One Jesus, by Richard A Burridge. In his book he brings up the analogy of multiples pictures of one subject, Winston Churchill.
“Four pictures, all different – each with its own story evoking its own atmosphere and provoking its own response in the viewer - yet all are of one and the same man. This is the skill of the portrait painter, or the clever photographer. Each intends to communicate an image to us and to make us respond. It varies according to the setting, people, or objects which are included or excluded, and there is scope for the creativity and inspiration of the artist. So we are introduced to the statesman, the family man, the man of war, or the solitary painter, yet all are recognizably Churchill.” Pg. 2
So it it with Jesus. We have four authors sharing their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Should these authors be painters we would view Jesus through their paintings. One may use bold colors, another broad strokes. One painting may focus more on the general landscaping of Jesus' life, revealing more about his family and disciples, while another focusing on the qualities of Jesus himself. The beauty of the artist is that he/she shares with the world their perception of their subject. This is a good thing to keep in mind when we read through the Gospels.
It's a common thing for us to say, "I know it's in the Bible" when we are trying to recall a story of Jesus but don't know the details. When we do that we run the risk of merging the books of Jesus together as one single story. Each of the gospels is Scripture and each one on its own reveals Jesus to us and is suitable for teaching. But we should be careful not to treat all four as one single story.
This mixing together of all four gospels and creating a fifth is what my professor at Fuller Theological Seminary called "Gospel Stew." When we make Gospel Stew we create a kind of "fifth gospel" of Jesus; one that attempts to ignore the different perspective each author brings and blend them together in a homogenized gospel whereby we can digest the whole of Jesus in one story. The problem with Gospel Stew is that we lose perspective and the uniqueness of the gospels. Gospel Stew, while providing some calories, is not very nutritious.
Are You Ready?
So are you ready to dive into Mark's story about Jesus? I hope you are. It's one man's story. It's not Gospel Stew. But it will give you a lot to chew on.
Lesson 1 Questions
1. How many gospels are in the Bible?
2. Why did John write his gospel?
To get a book deal
He wants his readers to know that Jesus is the Messiah
He disagreed with Matthew, Mark and Luke, the other three gospel writers
To let people know what an interesting life Jesus lived.
3. What is "Gospel Stew"?
A traveling gospel quartet
A nickname for Suart Perry, a professor of New Testament studies
The habit of merging all four stories together as a kind of fifth, super gospel of Jesus
The nourishment we receive from God when we read the Bible
4. What is the value of having more than one book about Jesus in the Bible?
So we can have more than one perspective on Jesus from history
There is no value
Four is a Biblical number and appears multiple times in the Bible
The four gospels represent the four corners of the world