I’m a curious soul.
That can be a good thing. But it can also be a not so good thing. On the one hand, being curious has created a nearly insatiable desire to learn as much as I can about the world around me. If I had a current set of encyclopedias, I’d probably read them. I research–for fun. Who does such a thing?
Nerds. That’s who.
This curiosity also means that I question–everything. I have more than a healthy dose of skepticism. Some people live life with a child-like faith and acceptance of the things they encounter. Me? Not so. I question, question, question. I pull doubt over my shoulders like a familiar blanket. I wear it, like a tarnished badge of honor.
And then, when I discover that something is truth, I don’t stop there. I want to know why it is truth.
My curiosity extends towards God, and into the things of God. There is good in that, too, because that desire often–not always, but often–turns into passion for God. But it also can turn into frustration, when I can’t figure out the “Why?”….or, even more so, and sinfully so, when the “Why” simply can not be known.
One of the “Why’s?” I have when it comes to scripture, is this: “Why four gospels? And, why are they so different?” Sure, I understand that they are written by four men, from four different viewpoints. I understand that, just as in a court case a lawyer brings multiple witnesses to the stand in order to gain multiple perspectives supporting his case, that a similar approach was taken in the inspiration of the four authors of the gospels.
However, when I read books detailing the harmonies between the four books, I can quickly get hung up on their dissonance. Or—in my arrogant prideful stupidity–I’ll think, “Wasn’t there a better way, to share the story of Jesus’ earthly life? And why did each author leave out so much? Leave so many questions unanswered? Leave us hungry for more information??”
See? My curiosity can get me all ramped up.
I’m reading a book by John Stott–and I’m wondering why I’ve never read it before now. Stott’s book “The Cross of Christ” stand out as one of several books that influenced my steps toward becoming a Christ-follower. The book I’m reading now—“The Incomparable Christ”—is just as powerful. Just as thought-provoking.
Just as settling.
As I was reading Stott’s words a few days ago, I came upon his explanation–or definition–of the purpose behind the four gospels, and it stunned me. It literally stopped me in my tracks……..
…….because it made sense.
I felt in those moments, that one of my many “Why?” questions regarding scripture, had taken a step closer to being answered.
Here’s what Stott had to say, in his explanation of the “why” or the “what” behind the need for four different gospels:
Speaking personally, I find it helpful to detect in the four evangelists four dimensions of the saving purpose of God: its length, depth, breadth and height.
Matthew reveals its length, for he reveals the Christ of Scripture, who looks back over long centuries of expectation.
Mark emphasizes its depth, for he depicts the Suffering Servant who looks down to the depths of the humiliation he endured.
In Luke it is the breadth of God’s purpose which emerges, for he depicts that Saviour of the world who looks round in mercy to the broadest possible spectrum of human beings.
Then John reveals its height, for he depicts the Word made flesh who looks up to the heights from which him came and to which he intends to raise us.
His words make sense–each gospel shows us not only a different aspect of who Jesus was, but also shows us a different “dimension” or “measurement” of God’s ability to save us–of the very act of salvation:
- Matthew: Length
- Christ of the Scriptures
- Mark: Depth
- Christ the Suffering Servant
- Luke: Breadth
- Mercy Provided to all mankind
- John: Height
- Word made flesh–who came from God, and will raise us to be with Him, in our forever eternal home
Goodness. My soul.
And oh, how we need each aspect.
I–and you, dear reader–need to see that Christ is the Christ of all scriptures—he is ageless, before the moon and stars were hung. Through all of the Old Testament–and now, beyond the New. He is and always has been.
I–and you–need to see that our Jesus understands our suffering, for He knew great and deep suffering–on our behalf. And that suffering, including His death upon a cross, means not only that he understands the griefs of our souls, but that His suffering paid the price for our sins.
I–and you–need to see that He extends mercy to all–to us who are Christ-followers, and to our neighbors, our friends, our enemies–to all people; and we are called to be a conduit of that grace and mercy, as we love others with the love that we have been shown ourselves, and given to give.
I–and you–need to see that Christ is our only hope. That His death, burial, resurrection and now His awaited return, are real. And that we, too, can rest in the truth that there will be a day, when we shall see Him face-to-face.
Length. Depth. Breadth. Height.
All portrayed in the four books that we refer to as gospels—or rather—Good News.