Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John – That’s all you Need Right?
Luther on Reading Gospel
Need some help reading the Bible? Me too, no need to be ashamed. I grew up in church. I grew up with the Bible sitting on my dresser. But I freely admit to you that I didn’t know what to do with the printed text for many years. It’s daunting in its enormity, in its language, and in its “Bible-ness”. I think it’s easy for us to just simply read the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and feel like we have a pretty good sense of the Gospel. Maybe.
These books give us the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, they too can’t contain the enormity of who Jesus is and what Jesus’ life and death means for us. But let’s just say we want the Gospel – we just want to hear the Good News about Jesus – aren’t these the books we should read? Don’t these best share the life of Jesus?
Martin Luther says yes and.
For Luther, the four “major Gospels” are only part of the story of Jesus, but Jesus’ story goes back to before his birth, and continues long after his death and resurrection.
At Bethany we read lots of scripture! Sure we have the Gospel text, but we also have the Old Testament, Psalm, and the New Testament texts too!
But are we always listening to them?
Does it sometimes feels like the only text that matters is the one we stand up for?
We stay seated during the non-Gospel readings. And hey – maybe we are listening. Or maybe we’re getting our check ready for the offering plate later in worship. Maybe we’re thinking about that bowl sitting in the sink at home that we “forgot” to wash. But we stand for the Gospel reading.
It can feel like only the texts from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have meaning for us as Christians. And Luther would argue against that.
The direct translation of Gospel is “good news”.
For Luther, Gospel is “the story of Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as Lord over all things.” This is the good news.
Well what else can we read besides the four Gospel books that can share this Gospel?
Luther would say “Well…the Bible.”
We can read about Jesus, about the Son of God who became man for us, who died and was raised, and who is Lord over all things in most of our scripture. We can read this Gospel in the New Testament and the Old.
The prophets of the Old Testament tell us who Christ will be and what he will do for us. The book of Acts tells us of Christ’s life after his death, Christ giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, of the Holy Spirit’s actions within the early church, it tells us another story of Christ.
It is Gospel.
What would happen if we read the entire Bible as the story of Jesus? The story of God reaching out into creation from the very beginning?What joy might we find in knowing that we can read how Christ comes to us, not only in his life, but in the promises of God to Abraham?How might we better dive into scripture if we can hear the prophecies of our messiah?
And even without being a prophecy or something pointing directly to Jesus – as a person of the Trinity, shouldn’t we recognize that God is all over the Bible? And the promises we are given by God throughout scripture are pure Gospel?
Do you read scripture often? What are your practices? Do you find yourself stuck in just the Gospels? How might you find the bigger picture in our holy texts?