One of the first classes I took in Bible College was “The Life of Christ.” While we were told that our text would be Luke, we actually were required to purchase The Fourfold Gospel: A Harmony of the Four Gospels. Every word of the first four books of the New Testament were chopped up and arranged chronologically to tell the story of Jesus.
Maybe every believer needs a chronological overview of Jesus’ life, but I suspect there are significant unintended consequences that arise from such an approach (e.g., venting the smoke, from the cooking fire, out of the grass hut in Africa allows mites to invade):
- Knowing about Jesus replaces hearing Jesus.
- We fail to understand and appreciate the nuanced gospeling that the Spirit gives us through the early church.
- We perpetuate the “string-of-pearls” hermeneutic which is modeled for us.
- We fail to perceive the power of contextualization.
Before you take a section from one gospel (or any New Testament author) and join it with one from another, you should make sure you understand what the first author means. Context deals with more than the paragraph or chapter.
Let me illustrate my point by raising two issues. The word “disciple(s)” is very significant in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. It never appears in the rest of the New Testament. You must grapple with the function of the word “disciple(s)” in the narrative sections. While the epistles and Revelation deal with the concept of discipleship, they never use the word.
Only Matthew contains Jesus mandate to “Go, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded.” What does “make disciples” mean here? You have to understand the model of disciple making that Jesus has used with these men. You cannot just drop into the first gospel at this point and know. You will import a connotation from somewhere else if you are not careful. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to share from my study of hearing Jesus and being obedient.