Letter from Joseph Tkach — March 2012

Posted by colin on March 2, 2012 under Pastor General's Monthly Letter | Comments are off for this article

March 1, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May I ask you a question? Which is your favorite Gospel? Many people could not answer that. Not because they don’t have a favorite, but because they can’t even name the four Gospels. Recent polls indicate that most people would do better naming the four Beatles than the four evangelists. This is another sad indication of growing biblical illiteracy.

I am confident that you can name all four. However, do you know why there are four?  Most people who have read the Gospels recognize that there are similarities, but also differences between them. Some critics try to force these differences into being contradictions, but that is not the case. Each Gospel is written with a specific audience in mind, and each presents a different perspective on the life of Jesus.

Matthew tells us about the relationship of Jesus to the law and the Old Testament prophets. This Gospel is like a bridge from the Old Testament to the New. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament more frequently than any other New Testament writer. He wrote with the Jewish audience in mind. For Matthew, Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scriptures did not mean that they had now lost their significance and can be discarded. He wrote to prove that Jesus fulfills Messianic prophecy.

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and a friend of the apostle Peter. He originally wrote for a Gentile audience, who would have been more impressed with what Jesus did than with how he fulfilled prophecies they had never heard of. His fast moving, action packed writing style leaves out certain details that would have had little significance for non-Jews. He demonstrates Jesus’ authority over every sphere of created life as the Servant King.

Luke was known as “the beloved physician,” and he has the distinction of being the only Gentile author whose writing is included in the Bible. It has been said that preachers try to see men at their best, lawyers see men at their worst, and doctors see men as they really are. Well, Luke’s writing seems to fit that third description. He wrote an authoritative fact book for new believers and is extremely precise in his historical, political and geographical details. Luke wanted his readers to know his account was based on historical facts that could be verified through secular history.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the three Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means “see-together” and they should be read with that in mind. They tell the same story from slightly different perspectives. 

The fourth Gospel is quite different. John focuses not so much on what Jesus did as on who he is. Whereas the three Synoptic Gospels individually follow Jesus’ life from its human origins, John begins by showing us how he came from God. John shows us who Jesus is by highlighting seven signs (miracles) of Jesus. He also shows us who Jesus is through seven dramatic I Am statements.

So, back to my original question – which is your favorite? There is, of course, no right or wrong answer. Perhaps picking a “favorite” Gospel depends to some extent on where you are in the process of getting to know Jesus. I suspect most of us would answer the question differently at different times as we grow in grace and knowledge. I think that earlier in my life, I would have chosen one of the Synoptic Gospels, and I used them more in my preaching and personal life. However, right now, I think I would say that John is my favorite. I like the way it confronts me with the central paradox of the incarnation of the Word or Son of God. The core of my being resonates with John’s identification of Jesus as the eternal divine. John presents Jesus as simultaneously a human being and also the “only begotten” of God the Father. I then go on to read how Jesus lived, died and was resurrected so that I can be included in his relationship with the Father!

John’s Gospel brings us right to the core of the trinitarian theology which has reinvigorated my own faith. It is as if I discovered a new room in our familiar home, and found it to be full of treasures I did not know we possessed. I hope John’s profound grasp of who Jesus is and who we are in him is helping all of us to move forward together as a body of people – called together by God for his purpose.

Next month the calendar brings us to the Passion Week drawing us into a time of special remembrance of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Let me suggest that now would be a great time to re-read any one of the Gospels in preparation of celebrating the astounding news that “He is Risen.”

I thank you for your continued interest and support. My prayer is that we are all moving forward together to proclaim the love of God and the deep relationship we have with our Father, through the Son in the Spirit.

Your Brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

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