Sharpen Your Sword – Week 1.
Topic: Introduction to the Gospels.
Scripture of the day.
We will commence our exploratory activities into the Bible Gospels i.e. the first four books of the New Testament, by looking into the background of the personalities to whom their authorship has been ascribed. The intention is to see how much their background and personality could have shaped their perspectives of every event that they chose to record. No doubt both would have had significant effects on their areas of interest and the mode of presentation of these events, while trying to preserve the substance of the story .
Highlights of the day’s scripture.
- The first four books of the New Testament Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are collectively called the Gospels because they contain mainly the record of events around the life and times of Jesus Christ and his teachings.
- Whereas they are all referred to as Gospels, the first three, are grouped as the Synoptic Gospels because they literally documented the same events in the same sequence using similar or identical wordings but are different in details of their record.
- The fourth Gospel which is the book of John is classed differently as its author focused more on the spirituality, divine nature and salvation roles of Jesus Christ unlike the Synoptic Gospels that recorded mainly the earthly activities of Jesus Christ.
- Although the Synoptic Gospels mostly recorded similar events, the details of the events as recorded by each author are obviously different which is probably a reflection of the different biases and background of the writers.
- The authorship of the book of Matthew has been credited Matthew, also known as Levi (Mk. 2:13-17) who was a tax collector before becoming an evangelist of the Word. He was at his duty post when Jesus called him to become his disciple – Matt. 9:9-12. The Pharisees at that time, may have considered him a sinner and unworthy of such honour but Jesus Christ took the opportunity to let them know the reason for his coming. The background of Matthew being in the Finance and Accounts sector and his social status no doubt played immense role with regards to the volume of information he accessed and his approach to analyzing them.
- Mark whose other name was John, on the other hand was presented by Bible scholars as an associate of the Apostle Paul – Acts 12:12; 15:37 and one who served in the role of an interpreter for the Apostle Peter. Both roles, especially the latter, no doubt positioned him to access information about the life and times of Jesus Christ. Another source could have been the information gleaned as a child, from the comments and statements of several disciples who reportedly and with the permission fellowshipped regularly in their home . Though he re-ehoed some events that Matthew recorded, he was not as detailed and this could be due to the limited information that may have been made available to him from these third-party sources unlike Matthew who had direct relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Luke who was a medical practitioner was another professional that became a positive tool for evangelism. Though he never had a direct Calling as a disciple neither did he have a direct interaction with Jesus Christ since he became a believer only after the death of Jesus Christ, he probably accessed the information in his two books, the second being the Acts of the Apostles, from the Apostle Paul, whom he followed as a disciple after voluntarily stopping his practice of medicine. The effect of his literacy level on his ministry was obvious as he was able to garner what he himself referred to as “accurate information” about, not just the life and times of Jesus Christ but also the activities of the disciples including Apostle Paul, after his resurrection and ascension into heaven. Though like Mark, he also thrived on third party information, his account was definitely more detailed and covered more activities than that of Mark and that can be attributed to the differences in their educational levels. Luke himself had revealed that he was writing based on the confirmed information he gathered from several witnesses and he obviously did a great job – Lk. 1:1-4. He simply felt a responsibility to render accurate account of all these events to the one he described as “most excellent Theophilus”.
- There is no consensus among Bible scholars about the authorship of the last of the Gospels which is the book of John with some believing that John was either just a part author or it was written by one of his followers who chose to write a book from the information gathered while interacting with John. Although the contents of the book are true and infallible, the disorderly nature of the events in the book buttress this assertion further, as it did not reflect a relationship, so close that John was described as the “Beloved of Christ”. However, there is no doubting his great influence on the contents of the book. His background as a fisherman may however be considered as the reason for the disorderly nature of the events in the book as he will most likely have had to engage a third-party to help put his thoughts down. The significance of the book is in its focusing more on matters of theology, mainly the divine nature of Jesus Christ, the several aspects of his role as the Saviour of mankind and his relationship with Jehovah his father.
The Christian Today.
The life and times of the real and imagined authors of the Gospels provide such a good story with many areas that should be of interest to the Christian today. Listed below are some of these areas but definitely not exhaustive.
- All the writers of the Gospels took a decision to provide a solid legacy on which generations after them can build their Christian life. What legacy will you leave for coming generations after all those years of being a Christian?
- They were all called away from a secular vocation into the Ministry, whether educated or not and were not called out of retirement. Are you sure that the sudden declaration of being called is not because of your joblessness or your idleness after losing all relevance in the secular world? It should never be the case that Jehovah will only have the rejects of the secular world.
- The Call may be true, but personal development in terms of acquiring relevant knowledge will aid the success in the Call as insufficient educational awareness will always constitute a clog in the wheel of success for the Call. It does not have to be the acquisition of degrees but if that is the yardstick for measuring the acquisition of relevant knowledge, then so be it. Every Call will definitely require some level of educational awareness so that the Called can be more efficient by not needing to re-invent the wheel during the implementation of the Call.
- The time spent being a Christian will pale into insignificance if performance metrics are comparatively low. Truth be told, most Christians have nothing to leave for other Christians after their departure from this realm. It will never be how long but how well. Luke for example never met with Christ or associated with him in real life but was able to leave a legacy that was of greater relevance to humanity than John who was so close to Jesus that he was described as the “Beloved One”.
Think: Ponder a while over the lives of these great Christians and think of measure Christian life with theirs in order to determine how you fair, other lessons to learn and what you can do to improve.
Re-examine and re-assess your Christian life with a view to determining whether you have enough to justify the invested Grace of being Called, not just with men but more importantly with Jehovah.
What legacy will you leave if everything is to end today? What kind of effect will a book about your Christian life, written by you or on your behalf, have on its readers? Remember, you will be expected to render account of his investment in you since you were Called when he returns. This has nothing to do with your professing him as Lord and Saviour as that only determines where you spend eternity. It is simply about how you spend it.
May Jehovah find us worthy of eternal comfort in Paradise in Jesus name. Amen.
Matt. 25:14-30; Mark 10:29-30