Lecture 7: Meet the Many-faceted King, Servant, Man, God
Welcome back for session seven. We wrapped up our time in the 400 silent years which we discovered were anything but silent. In fact, they were very active days. We learned that God is filling up the time preparing the way for eventually the coming of His Son. Remember that time we looked at in the 400 silent years, we looked at people who ruled: Persia, who had a foreign policy that led people who had been scattered all over the Persian empire to come home to rebuild Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, those kinds of things. They were conquered by Greece. Greece came and established educational systems and various ways of commerce. Among the important things they contributed out of their culture was a language. Greece eventually was pushed out of the land in a period of independence in which the Jewish people ruled over themselves. That starts out very well and ends up very poorly. At the end there is a lot of conflict and eventually conflict over leadership will lead to an invitation to Rome to come settle the conflict. They will come and settle it by simply taking over. So in 63 BC Rome takes over and they stay in control for well past the time of Christ in The New Testament period.
Rome is going to bring to the table some things different than the period of independence . In the period of independence we have return to monotheism, One God kind of worship. The Greeks had introduced many gods. They are going to have a hope begin to grow in them, and that hope is going to gradually be focused on the possibility of a coming Messiah. Then, during the period of Rome, Rome which is a systems group, will introduce a lot of things that will systematize the land, commerce and other things. Along with that, because of their sheer power and might, they will bring a peace to the land and that will be viewed as a good thing for awhile. Then, over time that will deteriorate. But early on, they settle a lot of things in the land. The last thing that they do becomes so important, particularly when we come to the historical book of The New Testament. We see the church beginning to spread out and they created this network, this network of roads that run all over the empire. They built major urban sites along with many places. Those roads and those urban sites are going to become key spots for the building of the early churches. You will see this once we get into that period of time.
We are in The New Testament. We have 27 books. Whole Bible 66. Old Testament 39. New Testament 27. Four of those books are in the foundational section, we call those the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are oftentimes referred to as biographies. I have even referred to them that way in the notes. They are much more portraits, if you will. We will talk about that in just a minute. There are a couple of ways of thinking about that. They are not really pure biographies as we think of biographies, and I will tell you why.
We have one historical book, the book of Acts. Then we have a number of instructional books that we will reflect on in our next-to-the-last session when we are together. We will see how those speak into the history and support the foundational things we have learned.
Today we need to look at the foundation: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The way I am going to do this is to answer a common question that comes up, particularly when a person like me does a seminar. Almost invariably, someone is going to ask this: “How come there are four, not one? Why isn’t there just one biography? Why are there four?” I don’t know if we can answer that totally, but let me give you a couple of thoughts that I think at least support the notion of their being more than one.
One of the analogies I like is of the diamond. If you think of a diamond and you hold a diamond up, a diamond has facets. You hold the diamond up and you look at one side and you think, “That is beautiful when it is kind of this way, I like that color.” Then you turn the diamond and you look at it another way, and it looks different. Turn it again and it looks different again. You turn it again and it looks different again. I like to think what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are doing is they are in fact simply looking at facets of the diamond. By the virtue of doing that, we actually get a clearer picture of who this Christ is, this Jesus who came, this One who is going to come and save His people.
Another way of thinking of it in a more contemporary way I think, in terms of our history, is to think in terms of painters. We have four superior painters who we put in a room with a model in the middle of the room and painters on the sides. They are looking at the model from direct directions. You ask them to paint. I ask you, do you think that their paintings are all going to be the same? The answer is, No, each one of them because of style, how they look at things and just what they are seeing, they are going to all paint the same model, but they are going to get different emphasizes in how they portray that in their painting. I think that is what happens here. If we did not have that, then I think we would miss significant things. These authors – Matthew, who interestingly was a publican, a hated tax collector, is going to see Jesus one way. Mark, who was a missionary, is going to see Jesus another way. Luke, who was a physician and a historian, is going to see Jesus another way. John, who was a fisherman, is going to see Jesus another way. I think that is why this is such a unique foundational piece for this structure, this piece of our scriptures where we are introduced to this One frankly that all of our Old Testament pushes toward, all of the 400 silent years pushes toward. Now we are beginning to see all of what was promised and looked toward, unfolding and unfolding in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is a very, very powerful period of time. I want to talk you through a few things. We are going to look quickly at each one of these. We are going to turn the diamond, if you will. We are going to reflect the audience, who this is written to. I am going to reflect on the author a little bit. I am going to reflect on the focal point, what was the focal point of each of these books. We will take a look at a distinctive feature. We will also then discuss some of the themes that show up in each one of these which are called gospel books, books that are about the good news, the good news of the coming of Christ, the good news of the Savior who has come to save mankind, the good news of this person who is going to live His life and then allow God the Father to take Him to a cross where he will die a humiliating and difficult death, go to a grave, only to be raised again and to be raised again to defeat the great enemy of our souls, which is death itself; and to give us the opportunity of eternal life. Isn’t that an amazing thing? By the way, if you have never responded to that good news, I would hope that somewhere along the way here in the gospels, you would realize just what good news that is.
John tells us that God did send His Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, would not face in effect that great enemy of death, but indeed would have eternal life. It all comes down to belief. I want to challenge you today to look inside yourself at that belief. That is the good news. We would fail if we did not underscore that good news.
The last piece I want to look at here would be what I would call some leader applications. We started with the perspective of influencers. What are some things that influencers ought to pay attention to? So we will do that all of the way through all of these.
Matthew has an influence. It has a focal point that I want you to see right out of the box. Matthew is going to focus on Jesus Christ as the promised King. It is a king orientation. Matthew likely wasn’t the first gospel written. But the organizers of our English Bible put it first because Matthew, more than any of the other books, catches the flow out of The Old Testament. It is filled with Old Testament references and analogies and all sorts of things that relate to The Old Testament. It has all kinds of connections. It has more Old Testament per square inch than any of the others. It connects Jesus to the promised Messiah. It pushes the gospel of The King.
Let me get the rest of them for you quickly. It will help us as we move along. I put them side by side because Mark, who was a missionary, takes a whole different look at it. He offers the shortest of the gospels, we will talk about that in a minute. He offers the gospel of the servant. Matthew says, “Look at the promised King.” All of it is about the King and his Kingdom, the King and his servants, the King and his disciples. Mark says, “No, no, look at the servant.” “For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve and He gave his life a ransom for many.” So we have the diamond looking very different, don’t we, from one to the other?
When we get to Luke, the historian and the physician, Luke is going to look at Jesus as The Man. He is going to pay attention to Christ’s humanity. Luke, because he is a likely a Greek, he is likely a Gentile, he is very captivated by the personhood of Christ. So we need to have that unfolding. This is the perfect man you are seeing. In the Greek world, that was significant. In their artistry and all of that, they strive for what they interpreted to be perfection. What Luke does is address that audience and says, “Look, I want you to see perfection. This is the perfect man.”
John takes the opposite approach and says, “This man, interestingly enough, is also God, the Son of God.” So John takes us into that arena – “No, no, no, look, this is the Son of God.” He introduces his book in such a way and carries what he does all through the book. He shows you things that support the notion that Jesus is God.
So you can see, we have a full orbed kind of look into the life of Jesus: The promised King out of The Old Testament; who even in The Old Testament is often painted, for instance by Isaiah, as a servant; who also came as the perfect man who was born into this world. “In the fullness of time God sent His Son, born of a woman.” He was born into the world, he was a man. His humanity is important. He shared in our lives, crucial to what He is going to do on the cross, isn’t it? Crucial to his priesthood in our lives. John says, “Yes, but this man, who is king and servant, is God Himself.” So you have this powerful picture unfolding.
Let’s take a look at Matthew and the audience. Matthew is going to largely address what is a Jewish audience. That is why Matthew uses lots of quotations from The Old Testament, but he called The Old Testament the Hebrew Scriptures because Matthew wants to speak into this audience, telling them that the King has come. Remember that hope that they had during the independent period? Matthew is going to point his work into that hope and try to raise that hope in terms of, “This One that you hoped for has come.” Unfortunately, a lot of particularly the leading people, the Sadducees, the Pharisees and others, even though they had that hope, they have learned to love their power and their positions. So some of his audience is not going to be so receptive anymore. In fact, they are going to become, in effect, anti-Jesus, are they not, along the way? That is the focal point. The author here, I want to say to you was a tax collector, one of the really loved people of the culture – no, he wasn’t, was he? Isn’t it interesting that Jesus selected a tax collector to be a disciple, who became also an author of one of the stories of Jesus’ life, one of the major stories of Jesus’ life, as The King. It is an amazing thing, except when you think, this tax collector has seen lots of kings. My guess is, this King he has written about here is different than any king he has ever seen. He is perfect to write about Jesus The King because he has seen it up close.
The focal point of this book, as we move through it, is the making of disciples. How does this book start in terms of Jesus’ ministry and how does it end? He introduces his ministry to the disciples by calling his first disciples by saying this: “You come follow me and I am going to make into fishers of men.” “You come follow me” – that is your responsibility. “I’m going to make you into something” Jesus said, - “that is my responsibility.” “And we are going to know when this is working because when it is working, you’re going to catch people.” Jesus ends by giving us what we have called the great commission. “Take this following practice of me, in which you are going to follow me, I’m going to make you into something, you’re going to catch people. Take that into all of the world, making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them what I have taught you.” Then there is an affirmation that says, “By the way, I’ll be with you always, until the end of the age.” So this begins and ends with this notion that the King wants his followers to make other followers, to make disciples.
The feature of this that I would like you to pay attention to, is the feature of the genealogy of Jesus and it is the genealogy of the King. It attaches Jesus to the lineage, the Jewish lineage necessary for him to be the rightful King. We could say a lot more about it, but I just want you to see the big picture. Everything that Matthew is doing is basically to say to this Jewish audience, “Look, look, look, look, this is the King you hoped for.” So he is underscoring this in every way he can.
What are the themes? You have guessed many of them. There is the theme of The Messiah. There is the theme of a new faith community that is called the church. It is only just a seed, but in Matthew 16 he introduces that seed when he says to Peter, “Who do people say that I am?” And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus basically says, “Well, Peter, you didn’t figure that out yourself.” Then He says, “By the way, Peter, on this rock – on this testimony of yours that I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God – I’m going to build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Right away we begin to see, He is in the process of transitioning to a different sort of faith community. We will see that unfold more and more as we look at the historical books and then at the letters. But it is introduced here. It is a theme here in Matthew. We might look at kingdom citizenship, citizenship in the Kingdom. We might look at character, what is the character of the Kingdom citizen? Most everything in this is attached to, What does it mean that Jesus is the King, and what does it mean for me to be a disciple or a follower? That is the whole push of this book.
The applications that a leader needs to pay attention to: Let me read them to you. They are these kinds of things. The pattern in this book is this kind of a pattern. It is words, works and responses. Matthew uses this pattern all along the way. He speaks words. He does a work. There is a response from people. Words, works, responses. In our own reading, those need to fit together. Oftentimes we rely heavily on words. Sad to say, sometimes our works counter our words. If we are thinking in terms of leadership and even the pattern of this book and the pattern of Christ’s life and ministry, we need to see that words and works need to fit together to arrive at an appropriate response. Matthew has that all through this particular gospel.
We also know that there is a lot of Old Testament fulfillment here relating to The Messiah. We need to pay attention to those things because those are confidence building things. When I see here things I learned back in The Old Testament, it builds my confidence in the truthfulness, the veracity if you will, of the scripture. That is what Matthew is trying to do for the Jewish audience, to build their confidence in the veracity that Jesus is indeed the Christ, Messiah.
The audience with Mark is not a Jewish audience now. It is going to be a layman audience. Mark was intimately familiar with a lot that has to do with Rome and he is going to address his book to a Roman audience. The reason he is going to - other than he is being led by The Spirit of God to do that – is that he is surrounded by these people who need to understand this and he understands what they need to hear. So he is going to take this diamond of Christ’s life and say, “I want you to look at Jesus as servant.” Why that is important is because in the Roman Empire, if you were going to become a great leader in Rome, you started out by being a great servant. So when you look at the leaders that are scattered around the empire – even many of the ones mentioned in the scripture – if you could look deep into their lives, you would see that these guys came up through the ranks as servants. In Rome, when the leader said, “Jump” you didn’t ask, “How high?” You just jumped. We’re going to see Mark saying, “I want you to see a leader like that. “ This leader is action oriented. This is a short book. It is quick. It is to the point. It is, dare I say, snappy. Its language is abbreviated. It gets to things very quickly, and that is how these servants operated.
By the way, as an aside, many people think that the language that you see in Mark and how it is put together, is a reflection of Peter, who was probably a great influence on Mark. Many even reflect the way that Peter spoke, that he spoke kind of like that in his style. We don’t know that for sure, but lots of people have a hunch that that is the case, that Mark attached himself to that great apostle.
As we look at Mark, we have a Roman audience. As I said before, Mark is a missionary, so he has a good handle on the cultures of Rome and many places. In terms of a focal point, it is going to be about, what is a life like if given in service? In terms of a feature, I would like to call this one word, it is the word “immediately.” This word is used over and over again in the gospels and particularly in the gospel of Mark where it is used multiple times. The essence is that Jesus did not delay over things. In fact, he moved immediately. He had that sense of, “This is important, act now!” If you were to look into the book of Hebrews, where there are five warnings, the second warning deals with obedience and the writer of Hebrews – we don’t know who that writer was – giving a warning there about obedience and says, “If you want to keep your heart and your spiritual life healthy, you need to make your obedience immediate.” I wonder where he got that idea. I’m thinking it is attached to Jesus very closely. The distinctive feature here in terms of this particular book has to do with “immediately” we have already talked about. Themes, basically related to power and authority. This is almost an interesting paradox, that in Kingdom business that we look at, that servanthood gains power and authority. In the Roman world this would have been a paradox, for sure, in the sense that when the average person looked at power and authority, they saw this person who now commanded lots of people and basically what they did not realize was that under the surface, even in the Roman Empire, they could have gained that by being great servants. When it relates to the Kingdom, when Jesus talks to us about the nature of us having power and authority, it is always out of the servant context. “The least will become great. The great will be servant of all.” It is those kinds of things.
This is Mark at work. The leadership of course attaches to that. If you think of leadership acts, we think of the strength of servanthood; we think of the qualities of the servant character. We think of action, that action again matching our words. We think of a lot of emotional reactions to Jesus. In Mark we get a lot of that, a lot of emotion; how people react. You have to watch for that and you will see it along the way.
Can you see how these are different now? How they are unfolding something to you and now life is going to be totally different. This historian is going to write to an audience and that audience is going to be a Greek audience. Remember, in this land that we talked about, we have learned that this land was ruled over by Persians and then by Greeks, and then a period of independence, and then by Rome. So all of these people are scattered all over this empire. This is a very multi-ethnic empire. These gospels are aimed at various different pieces of that audience.
Luke, we have already said was a historian in terms of the author. He was a historian. He was a physician. He was an amazing person. He was a detail guy. Mark was not a detail guy. Matthew was detailed to the point of working backward into the Hebrew scriptures and making sure he picked those details that underscore the reality of Jesus the King. Luke is looking at the man as the man operates in that time and saying, “Look at this man.” He is looking at all of the details related to that. If you want to understand Jesus ‘s humanity, this is the book that you go to. This is the book that shows you how Jesus reacted to women, how Jesus reacted to children, how Jesus reacted to people with need, how Jesus reacted to all sorts of things that make up life. In all of that, what Luke is trying to say is, “Look at this, no man ever reacted to things like this.” That is the power of this.
The focal point, as you would guess, is the humanity of Christ. As the feature here I could have said genealogy again because he includes the genealogy that connects Jesus, not to the Davidic kings and to the Jewish lineage and to Abraham, so much as it connects Him to Adam. So it connects Jesus now back to the starting point of humanity. But I would like, rather than picking that focal point, to say that the focal point here is basically about seeking and saving the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” That is the whole emphasis here as Luke unfolds this. We have Jesus’ humanity. We have this distinctive seeking and saving that which was lost. Other themes that flow out of this include God’s rule over history: The historian says, “I want you to pay attention to the details because God is in the details.” Very exciting time. It is an affirmation of teaching. Because Luke was so detailed and really points to the sources of so many things, he gives us this great affirmation of what is going on. History and studies have only affirmed that Luke had it right over and over and over again. So he contributes to a sense of confidence to this particular gospel and to the life of Christ itself.
He emphasizes Godly practices. He emphasizes as well this emerging paradox of “The weak shall be strong and the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” He begins to work in all of those arenas as he works on things that are aspects of humanity. It is crazy in the human world to think of the last being first, we don’t think that way. Luke is taking these normal ways that humanity might think about things and he is reversing them and saying that the kingdom looks like this, the kingdom looks like this, the rule of Christ looks like this; emphasizing all the time the humanity of Jesus.
Some of the crucial leader applications out of this I think are related to the beauty of humanity, Jesus’s love for all persons, his intentionality. Get this word, if nothing else, his intentionality in seeking out those in need.
John, as we mentioned, the Son of God is the key. We are looking at an audience now that is global. If you know the work of missions, oftentimes the first gospel that is translated into another language is John. That is a good choice because John has a global emphasis. It is not focused on Rome or a Jewish audience or a Greek audience. What he says, because he is portraying Jesus as the Son of God, has global implications. The author is John the Apostle, who is a fisherman. The focal point is to believe and in believing in Jesus Christ, believing, have life. That is what he says is the reason he wrote his book; writing this book so that you will know and in knowing, you will believe, and believing, you will have life in the Son of God. That is his whole portrayal of his book.
The distinctive feature is how he builds this around seven miracles. These miracles are the touch points to the book. Every miracle is offered to affirm this thing that he is emphasizing, that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God. So from turning water into wine, to raising Lazarus and all points in between, healing a son, healing a paralytic, feeding the multitude, walking on water, healing a deaf person. All of those are intended to have you see that this Jesus, who was a perfect human by Luke’s account and all accounts, did things that only God can do. He throws into it some statements, some “I Am” statements. Remember, in The Old Testament, God says “I Am who I Am, I Am is my name.” Jesus uses that when he says for instance, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Then he raises Lazarus from the dead. He says, “I Am the bread of life.” Then he feeds 5000. On and on it goes. John is helping us see that this person is like none other because this person is not just human, but he is indeed the Son of God.
These miracles become a crucial piece, with one final miracle. What is the final miracle? The final miracle is The Resurrection. That fits the capstone on it all. It is what Jesus is pointing toward. It is what he tells his disciples about a lot, but they don’t get it. They do not understand it. And we wouldn’t either. But it points them toward that and eventually He goes to a cross. That must have shocked so many people, even though he had said that it was going to happen. Even though he had said in ways that he would be raised again, it was hard to fathom. Then we have The Resurrection that becomes the key to it all. As Paul would say in Corinthians, “Without the Resurrection, we believe in vain, we are to be pitied.” The Resurrection becomes really the capstone of this great book of John, only a thing that God could do.
There are themes: Jesus is God, source of eternal life, member of the Godhead. You see Father, Son and Spirit working together a lot in the gospel of John. There are so many things that are there.
Leadership applications really relate to eternal life. When you see Christ’s offer of eternal life, John gives us tremendous insight into the nature of that offer, what is needed to receive that offer; and it is indeed received, it is not earned. This is a picture of the life of Christ describing him as a person full of grace and truth. Interestingly enough, the passage has it that he is 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth. I don’t know how that works out or how that happens. But he was indeed God. So you could believe him 100 percent and his grace will never fail you because He is the Son of God. It is a belief book. It gives us this beautiful picture of this side of the Godhead. Wow!
I think a way of thinking of this, I want to close with this, is to think of another piece that we call “the great commandment.” Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?” He said this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.” I think what you have in this is a look into the gospels. I don’t want to stretch this out because, again, the Bible never does this. In a sense, we have these pictures and to me they kind of fit those four pieces. The heart is the core of who you are and really is the embodiment of your will. It is the thing that drives your life; and if there is anything that is like that in these gospels, it is Matthew, who says “I will.” The King says, “Come follow me” and my answer needs to be “Yes, I will.” “Go into all the world and make disciples.” “Yes, I will.” Matthew is filled with that kind of thing. When I get to John, I think I find the “soul” book. The soul is that motivational piece of you. I jokingly tell people, “The soul is that part that states, ‘When you open the door of a new car, you smell that new car smell, your soul says, ‘You really need this’” That is your soul. When you look into the life of Jesus and the book of John, I think the intent of John is for you to come away saying, “I really need this.” Your soul needs to say that to you. It is the believing part of you. It is the part that motivates you and eventually causes your heart to say, “Yes, I will.” When it comes to the mind, nobody goes to the mind better than Luke. Luke is the detail guy. “Let me get this all in order for you” he says. “Let me make this make sense to your mind.” And it surely does, both in this book and in the book of acts. He is the author of both.
We get to Mark. I’m not giving you these in order, I’m doing them in “great commandment “ order. Mark really touches on the whole issue of strength, to bring your strength to play here as a servant. You want to invest the things that you have, the capital that you have, your intellect, your energy, your physical strength, all of those things. You want to bring them to bear in the servant life of following the King, who is God Himself, who is also a perfect man who gave you great examples of how to do this.
So, all of these are like a diamond, like portraits painted by different excellent painters. A life loving God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.
Next session we will go into the book of Acts and we will see how real people did that. See you next time.