For Teaching Reproof, Correction, and Training in Righteousness, Issue 83

March 17, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation will offer brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word.

The Synoptic Gospels – Mark, Matthew, and Luke – are not interchangeable. “Synoptic” means “to see together,” but their similarity is qualified by the distinct angles of vision that each brings to the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Their distinct-yet-complimentary angles of vision are evident from the beginning.

Mark has no birth narrative, while Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth differently. The different narratives of Matthew and Luke give clues to what each found compelling about Jesus, and what each wanted to proclaim. Each gives us a chronicle of Jesus’ genealogy, but the lists of names are less family trees than theological statements about Jesus’ significance. Matthew begins with Abraham and traces the line forward through Isaac and Jacob (and Tamar!) to David (and the wife of Uriah!), and the Exile, to Joseph (the husband of Mary!) and the child Jesus. Luke begins with Jesus and works backward all the way to Adam.
Is the difference in genealogies due to their different “audiences” – Matthew writing for Jews and Luke for Gentiles – Matthew tracing Jesus’ line from the father of the nation Israel and Luke tracing back to the common ancestor of all humanity? Perhaps. But remember God’s promise to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen. 12:2-3). Beginning with Abraham is no less universal than Luke’s concluding with Adam. Both Matthew and Luke, in different ways, use genealogy to indicate the universal grace of God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.

Much of contemporary biblical interpretation looks for difference rather than unity in Scripture. The differences are then taken to be indications of divergence, so that one is pitted against others. Perhaps the unity of Scripture is to be found in its multiformity, variegation that enriches biblical witness by providing multiple angles of vision on the same good news.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the first people to see (and understand the significance of) Jesus are Gentile “wise men” from the East. In Luke, the first are (poor and somewhat disreputable) shepherds. What Jewish shepherds and Gentile astrologers have in common is their status as “outsiders,” now taken into the universal embrace of God. Luke and Matthew have the same aim as Mark, to narrate “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). The synoptic Gospels “see together” the same presence of Emmanuel – God with us – although from different angles, so that we can see all of Jesus.


Easter Blessings

The Presbyterian Foundation wishes you a blessed holy week and a joyous celebration of the resurrection!

“Easter means hope prevails over despair. Jesus reigns as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. … Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace over exploitation and bitterness.”
-Desmond Tutu

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