It is the end of Lent.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have come and gone.
Last week, in our ongoing video lesson from Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, we were able to glimpse some of the remarkable aspects of the Gospel story. The story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion and his resurrection and encounter with the disciples, differ in significant ways. In the recording of the gospel story, the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John differed in there sources, but also, in there intent to convey that message to specific audiences, or hearers, of God’s word. One thing to keep in mind:
They do not approach the story of Jesus, nor the meaning of his ministry, as a modern method of biography or story-telling.
There is a significant amount of oral tradition that forms the basis of each gospel. The perspective is from the religious experience of at least two generations of believers that followed Jesus ministry, death, and resurrection.
The order of writing is something like this:
Mark was the first that was written, about the middle of the first century, or about 25-35 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.
Matthew and Luke used Mark, along with independent sources unique to their stories and a shared document, that has never been found, called “Q”
These are the Synoptic Gospels: you can line them up side by side, and see the similarities.
John is unique. Jesus is presented very differently, a bit more detached. He has long speeches (soliloquies) and the disciples, Pharisees, and the crowds seem never to fully understand the meaning of his words, healings, or minsitry.
There are other writings that have been discovered in the 20th century.
Writings from Nag Hammadi, such as the Gospel of Thomas: an early writing which is associated with an heretical form of Christianity, called Gnosticism. This book interests scholars because it contains very accurate and independent quotes of Jesus, found nearly exactly in the Gospels of our New Testament canon, the Protestant Bible.
We need no greater reminder than the cross to understand that Jesus died as a criminal, indicted and executed under Roman rule.
He died with the title: “King of the Jews”
He had a trial in which he chose not to refuse this accusation: that he was the self-proclaimed “King of the Jews.”
What endures for us in Jesus’ death? His resurrection? Is Jesus to remain the executed criminal, guilty of insurrection, a self-proclaimed “King of the Jews”?
Or, is Jesus’ death and resurrection incorporated into our being: a transforming and active part of our lives, the crown of our Lenten season experience?