On the Third Day of Christmas
On the Fifth Day of Christmas

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Snow_3Four calling birds.  Four Gospels.  Four testimonies to the same good news that God is reconciling the world to himself.  Four personalities.  Four perspectives.

We have a much "rounder" picture of Jesus with four writers than we would with one writer.  God uses the personalities and particular backgrounds and sensibilities of each of the four writers of the Gospels to present a picture of a royal-servant-shepherd-brother Jesus who defies caricaturization.  He is God.  He is human.

It's interesting just to examine how each writer chooses (under God's superintending grace) to begin.  Eschewing all recommendations on how to begin a book, Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus.  A list!  His aim, presumably, is to show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of David, the Ruler of his people, the promised Messiah.  And yet there is Rahab the prostitute in the lineage, affirming the humanity of Jesus as well. 

Mark begins with John the Baptist's baptizing of Jesus the man, ready to begin his public ministry, skipping genealogies and the birth account completely, focusing on the action, much like a journalistic account might.  Just that description of John the Baptist right up front in Chapter One is enough to pique the reader's interest, what with his eating locusts and wild honey and dressing in camel hair clothing with a leather belt.

Luke begins with an assertion that "I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning," with the goal of writing an "orderly account."  And it is.  But it's probably the account where we see the compassion of Christ most fully, a social concern.  It's the only one where we hear about Jesus the boy.  (For a fictional and yet not unbiblical account of Jesus the boy, I suggest reading Anne Rice's Christ the Lord.)

Finally, in John, storytelling wanes and doctrine gains ascendancy.  John begins with the well-known "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  It's a statement of fundamental doctrine, of a Trinitarian view, right up front.  Jesus is God.  He is divine.  And yet he is human.  It is John who penned the shortest verse in the New Testament: "Jesus wept" (Jn. 11:35).  Jesus was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (Jn. 11:33).  And there is that intriguing ending: "Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them was written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (Jn. 21:25).  What an odd statement!  It makes you wonder what John left out.  And yet maybe the point is not to prompt us to useless speculation but to enter into and know Jesus ourselves, and in knowing him begin to experience a fuller and deeper knowledge of him than can be communicated in mere words on a page.

I'm thankful for four accounts of one story.  That they don't match up, that each emphasizes different things or contain different details reminds me that this is a real story told by real people about a real Jesus, the Lord.