Reflecting this morning on the experience of the studying deeply the four gospels over the past several weeks in New Testament class. Thinking about how each gospel tells the unique story of a community’s struggle to come to terms the challenges facing them in the lived context of their lives, struggling to come to terms with the presence of the Risen Christ in their midst, ever elusive, enigmatic, yet ever in your face, now we glimpse him, now we don’t.
Mark’s gospel – a call to return to God’s covenant, to care for one another as God care for us – a call to throw off Roman oppression by trust in God, opting out of the oppressive economic and political system of the Roman’s and the Temple – a plea to not seek a military solution, to seek a military Son of David to save them – a plea that went unheeded and Jerusalem was destroyed.
Matthew’s gospel – Reclaim your Jewish Roots! Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. Build a fence around Torah by loving more than the Torah requires.
Luke’s Gospel – inclusive table fellowship – extend the banquet of God, the feast of God to all people. Exclude no one.
John’s Gospel – Ah, here is a struggle! John’s community, their experience of Jesus as Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Logos, that very high Christology, well, it’s not been so well received by some of their Jewish brethren. They aren’t listening to us, this community cries. They don’t believe the signs Jesus himself show us and them. We need to separate ourselves, set ourselves apart until they come to their senses.
Each Gospel has a unique story to tell, lesson to learn and live. Some of those lessons are about how the community got it wrong. God in Her wisdom does not dictate the truth to us. She wants us to develop our minds, hearts and spirits – to think – to love God with our whole minds, to learn to discern what is life giving from that which brings death. So God, in Her wisdom has allowed Scripture to come to us imperfect, with errors, so that we may not worship the words of the text, but listen to the Living Word speaking through the text. “See, my child, John didn’t quite get it right here, but here, yes, he got it right. Now let me take you deeper into the meaning of these words.”
Now in New Testament we will get into the mind of Paul. I look forward to learning more about Paul and his struggles. Paul is another person who got some things very right – 1 Corinthians 13 and some things quite wrong – 1 Corinthians 14:34, for example.
I truly believe that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16, but not in the way many Christians think. I’m not saying the God inspired errors in Scripture. When God inspired humans to write Scripture, God is did not violate our free will, our humanness, our finite knowledge of God. So we fallible humans misunderstand what God was trying to say at times. And that’s OK because the Spirit is ever with us to guide us, if we slow down, be still and admit we don’t comprehend God perfectly, if we are humble and admit we do make mistakes, correct them and move on in the joy and love of God.