Section Seven: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Alive in God’s Realm
“Listen, we did what we were supposed to do,” said the solider to Claudius. “We secured the tomb like the governor said. The stone was secure. No one came to the tomb the whole night.”
“And then…” Claudius said, “then…”
“We agreed never to speak of that again. I don’t know what that was…who that was…but when I woke up the stone was rolled away,” the soldier admonished Claudius. “After we report to these Jews, never speak of what you saw again!”
The two soldiers walked quickly into the city. They were coming from the garden tombs to the offices of the chief priests. The two soldiers entered the building and marched right to the main room of the Sanhedrin. The chief priests were there, celebrating it looked like. They all looked relieved. They all looked self-righteous. Their faces changed as the soldiers related the uneventful evening and the unexplainable morning.
The night dragged on.
On guard. Nothing to report.
No people approached the tomb.
A shining person of light.
Immediately the Jewish leaders talked among themselves. The soldiers stood in the center of the room. The soldier asked Claudius, “Should we leave? What should we do? They are just talking among themselves”
“Let us wait a moment,” Claudius answered. “We may have to report to the centurion or to the governor.” The chief priests met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The two solders left with money bags in hand. As they hurried through the streets, the one solider spoke to Claudius in a hurried and insulted voice, “These Jews mock us and insult us. No Roman soldier would be asleep in duty and not all of us at once! They paid us to lie about what happened. What are we supposed to report?”
Claudius stopped his friend and fellow soldier in the street. “You go and report to the governor what the Jews asked us to say, but add…’The Jews are satisfied with this report and there will be no upheaval for you to deal with.’ You and I know the governor only handed this Jesus over to avoid revolt. We were there…it was chaos. He will be satisfied that the Jews are not upset. If he asks you to swear about the report on your life…refuse. He will understand.”
“Where will you go,” the soldier asked Claudius.
“I will report to the centurion and keep us from death. You and I both know what he said of this Man’s death while he oversaw it on Friday. You know what he said. You know.”
The two men nodded to one another and split company.
While on his way through the main street to the barracks, Claudius’ mind was racing how he could convince the centurion that he and the men had not been derelict in their duty, but guarded with honor and had not let Jewish fishermen get the better of them. They had not faulted. While on his way, Claudius heard commotion in a set of houses off the main road. For some reason he was drawn. He approached the houses and heard commotion inside. He heard women’s voices elevated and almost in a panic. They said things like, “We saw Him” and “You must believe us” and “He rose just as He said.” Odd statements, but this had been an odd morning.
Claudius approached the window and looked in. He saw three women speaking to a group of men. The women were breathless and yet still speaking. He heard what they described.
They described seeing the open tomb. They described seeing soldiers leave.
They described seeing a messenger from God. Claudius’ stomach tightened at the mention of the messenger from God.
The messenger from God said, “Why do you look for the Living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”
These women had been to the tomb!
At that moment, one older man bolted for the door and ran out.
The next moment the youngest of the group ran out the door.
The two ran for the tomb area.
Claudius backed away from the window and for the second time that day was shocked to his inner being. He tried to hurry away from the house, but his legs would barely carry him. He dropped his bag full of coins. He did not care. Shock set in.
The first time of shock had been at the sight of this messenger of God. He would never forget that sight and yet wanted so badly to remove it from his mind. Now he was shocked again. He could barely think.
Could it be true?
Could it be true that is Man Jesus rose from the dead?
Could it be true that this Man Jesus rose from the dead and was the Son of God?
What does this mean?
Claudius could barely think. He could barely move his legs and yet he found himself in a run all the way back to the barracks. His stomach was in knots. His heart pounded. He entered the gates of the barracks as others of his company looked at him warily. “I must report to the centurion,” he said breathlessly. The others pointed.
Claudius entered the centurion’s outer room and found him sitting.
It looked as though the man had not slept.
His mouth opened with awe as Claudius related the events at the tomb.
His mouth turned in anger as he was told about the meeting with the Jewish leaders.
His mouth again was in awe as he heard about the events at the house.
Claudius looked at the centurion.
The centurion looked at Claudius.
The centurion opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. Then Claudius put words to the centurion’s thoughts. They were the same words he had uttered three days before, “Surely this was the Son of God.”
Alive in God’s Realm
The New Testament, after 400 years of silence on God’s part, explodes with meaning. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke break through the narrative of Scripture and introduce humanity to the LIFE that was promised in the Old Testament. The Old Testament promised One who would come. Matthew, Mark, and Luke proclaim “Here He is!”
Genesis 3:15 promises One who would crush the head of Satan. Matthew introduces Him by laying out His royal and prophecy fulfilling pedigree. Genesis 15 promises that One of Abraham’s seed would come and bless all of mankind. Mark introduces Him in the first chapter as the Son of God with Whom God is well pleased. Deuteronomy 18 prophesied that a prophet would come one day Whose words must be listened to. Luke starts his historical account of Jesus by laying priestly and prophetic foundations for Jesus of Nazareth. 2 Samuel 7 records for us a great promise given to King David that God would establish a kingdom through his descendants unlike anything ever seen on Earth (a house for God’s name sake and rule forever). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah King Who came full of Holy Conscience as the Son of God.
We must understand that Jesus of Nazareth, the One who brought us LIFE, neither came from nowhere nor was an afterthought of God the Father. Jesus Christ was expected. Jesus Christ came and walked every step of the covenant relationship with God described in the Old Testament and did so perfectly. Jesus came describing and offering a deeper way which leads directly to the LIFE that God has been offering all along. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts or wide paths, but a narrow path to God that moves right through Jesus to the Father.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke (three biographies of Jesus of Nazareth) communicate to us all about the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Each of these reports on the life of Jesus come with their own perspectives and emphasis. For our purposes…
…Matthew remembers Jesus as the Messiah King.
…Mark emphasizes Jesus as the Holy Conscience.
…Luke investigates and concludes Jesus is the Son of God.
We will take a look at the life of Jesus in a chronological manner and see each of these emphases throughout His life. Each of these emphases in these biographies of Jesus proclaims Jesus as the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE and supports that Truth about His identity.
The Gospel of Luke shares with us about the birth of Jesus and includes angels bringing messages and songs of praise from Mary. The Gospel of Luke rightly shares with us about the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. Among the precious things the angel Gabriel tells Mary, he tells her, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33, NIV 1984). We must not skip over the fact that Jesus was born of a human woman and the Holy Spirit and therefore is made of exactly the same “stuff” as God. He is truly the Son of God. This conception was planned and divinely given.
The Gospel of Matthew, from its opening salvo of Chapter 1, is a book of the Bible explaining all about Jesus of Nazareth in terms of the Messiah King. This is the Holy Spirit inspired purpose behind the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. The genealogy shows Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, son of Mary, and stepson of Joseph, having the physical and divine pedigree to be the Messiah King that has been promised for so many generations. Matthew 1:22-23 shares with us, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (NIV 1984). This Jesus that we have just begun reading about is God with us and the Anointed One (Christ) that we have been looking for since Genesis 3. The Messiah King was God with us. As a side note, the Gospel of Luke in Chapter 3 (verses 23-38) also presents a genealogy of Jesus which rightly places Him not only in the line of David for Messianic purposes, but also rightly traces His origins all the way back to Adam who is seen as “the son of God.” Jesus is Son of the Most High God both physically and spiritually in every aspect of His make-up.
The Gospel of Luke gives us another look at Jesus eight days after His birth when His parents take Him to the temple for circumcision (found in Luke 2). While in the temple, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus meet Simeon and Anna who have been waiting to see the Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed One) their whole lives. When Simeon and Anna see the child, they know He is so much more than they had imagined…He is truly the Son of the Most High God. They both pray and see that Jesus is the source of salvation (2:30), a light for all people (2:32), the One who will reveal many peoples’ hearts (2:35), and the redemption for Jerusalem (2:38). Even as a baby, Jesus the Son of God is seen as the source of salvation for all people.
Cleansing Power of the Messiah
Matthew and Luke are of course not the only telling of Jesus’ life. The Gospel of Mark grabs the attention of the reader and begins with the ministry of John the Baptist as he heralds the coming Christ. Mark 1:4-5 tells us, “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (NIV 1984). Even at this early stage, the holy conscience makes an appearance in 1:5 as the crowds are gathering to confess their sins and get right with God.
Matthew Chapter 3 echoes Mark 1 and begins with the Messiah King being announced by His herald. Matthew 3:1-2 tells us plainly, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (NIV 1984). John the Baptist came to prepare the hearts of the people for the Messiah King who would soon come on the scene. He described this Messiah a short while later in Chapter 3: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11, NIV 1984). The Messiah King would bring with Him the Kingdom of Heaven fueled by the Holy Spirit.
Just a little further in Mark 1 we find Jesus of Nazareth fulfilling all mandates and taking His place as the Perfect Conscience of God on Earth…Mark 1:11, “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Again in verse 15 we find Jesus encouraging the people to “repent” which is certainly a word attached to the Holy Conscience presented in the Gospel of Mark. This same passage is echoed in Luke 3 and we see God the Father proclaiming Jesus as His Son and again adds His stamp of approval and pleasure upon Him.
Jesus Christ not only ushers people into the Kingdom (see the Gospel of Matthew), but He also explains by His example what that Kingdom will be like. It is a kingdom of holiness. It is a kingdom of conscience. All throughout the action oriented Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus making people right, clearing consciences, and proclaiming a way to get right with God. He does this by His actions. Jesus does this with the man with the unclean spirit (Mark 1), the paralytic (Mark 2), the man with the withered hand (Mark 3), the demoniac (Mark 5), and the cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11).
In some of the events and interactions mentioned above in Mark, we find Jesus of Nazareth going holy-toe to unholy-toe with demons. We see this expressed in many of the Gospel accounts, but for our purposes we’ll jump back to the Gospel of Luke to make additional emphasis about Jesus. In Luke 4:1-13, 4:41-44, and 8:28 we find Jesus interacting with Satan and his demons. We should note from the Gospel record that these spiritual beings knew exactly who Jesus was and identified Him as “the Son of the Most High.” Jesus was not an angel. Jesus was not made of spiritual “material” from any run-of-the-mill spiritual being. Jesus was not simply a human being. Jesus was and is Son of the Most High God and full-partaker in His nature and divine quality. Jesus is uniquely God and uniquely Himself. The faithfulness of God is expressed in the life of Jesus. The radiance of God is expressed in the life of Jesus. The plan of God throughout history is expressed in the life of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who is the Messiah King bringing about a Kingdom of Holy Conscience.
The Messiah is God-Man
Further along in Jesus’ life and ministry, Matthew 8:27, we find the deep vexing question of the disciples in the boat when they asked, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (NIV 1984). They had seen thus far that Jesus was righteous and Godly, showing the WAY to God, teaching TRUTH unlike any others at that time, and living the covenant LIFE perfectly. The Messiah King was one in Whom all the power of God rested. More importantly, the Messiah King was one on whom all authority rested. There is no point in having Jesus as the Messiah King if He has no authority to do anything in the physical world or change anything in the spiritual realm. The Gospel of Matthew gives us a beginning framework with which we should begin to understand the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ. Jesus is firstly the Messiah King who invites us to live in God’s realm in the Kingdom of God.
We see that overall, Jesus comes to bring in the Kingdom of God, which is the realm of God. This realm is a spiritual kingdom or as Jesus put it “not of this world” (John 18:36). This realm can be entered by repentance and taking on the ways of Jesus Christ. God wants as many as possible to enter His realm through His Son. John the Baptist heralds that the “Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus preaches the same words in Matthew 4:17 (and 10:7). Jesus proclaims the “Gospel of the Kingdom” in every city and town He visited (Matthew 4:23, 9:35). Jesus is all about ushering in the Kingdom of God (the realm of God) and the word “kingdom” is mentioned 53 times in the Gospel of Matthew.
What do we know about the Kingdom of God from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew? What do we know about the realm of God being offered to us by Jesus Christ?
It is near and at hand (3:2, 4:17, 10:7)
One enters via repentance through Christ (3:2, 4:17)
It is all about compassion and healing (4:23, 5:3, 9:35, 18:23, 21:31, 23:13)
It is fueled by righteousness and obedience (5:10, 5:19-20, 6:33, 7:21, 8:11-12, 11:11, 13:52, 19:23-24, 21:43)
It is sustained by faith (13:11, 13:19, 13:24, 13:31, 13:33, 13:44, 18:1-4, 19:14, 25:1)
It belongs to God (6:10, 12:28, 16:19, 16:28, 20:1, 20:21, 25:34, 26:29)
As Jesus lives and ministers among the people of God, He expresses, by His words and His teaching, the holy conscience that is present in the Kingdom Matthew emphasizes. For example, in Mark 2:17 Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (NIV 1984). It is described of Him and His disciples in Mark 6:12 “They went out and preached that people should repent” (NIV 1984). Again Jesus teaches the people to put their consciences before their often grudge-bearing desires by saying, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV 1984).
In a more extended passages, Jesus tells the people listening to obey the laws of their lands and be good citizens. Mark 12:14-17 describes, “They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?’ But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked. ‘Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ And they were amazed at him” (NIV 1984).
Over and over in the Gospel of Mark (and in all three synoptic Gospels really), Jesus of Nazareth is setting up the Holy Conscience atmosphere that will fill the Kingdom of God. The God who is in charge of the Kingdom is Holy and so should those who are subjects of it. Each person who fills space in the Kingdom of God will be a person infused with a holy conscience given to them by God.
Life Under Messiah is Shared
We should not leave the Gospel of Mark without noting the words of Jesus in Mark 16:15-20, which directs us, “‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.’ 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (NIV 1984). This Kingdom of Conscience is offered to the whole world through the followers of the Messiah King. It is a Kingdom filled with signs and wonders; faith and freedom; safety and security; goodness and salvation.
What do You and I need to understand?
The three streams of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were just merged into one large river gushing into your mind and heart. You might be thinking…huh? What am I supposed to think? It is important to note from Matthew, Mark, and Luke that a switch happens in Scripture and in God’s dealings with human beings. We find in the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Son with Whom God is greatly pleased. He is pleased with His character, His life, every decision He made growing up, His choices as an adult, and every single temptation ever resisted. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that has been promised in the Old Testament. Jesus is not a “type” or a “foreshadow of things to come,” but rather the fulfillment of all the types and shadows and predictions we found in the Old Testament.
Jesus is the Covenant Bringer.
Jesus is the Unique Son of God.
Jesus is the Real Thing.
Jesus is what God has been doing all along.
A Thought Exercise About Jesus Christ: “What If”
Consider and read Matthew 16:21-23: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”
What if in that moment, Jesus decided that He really did not want to suffer “many things” and be killed? What if in that moment instead of continuing in God’s Will He decided to run away? What if Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Peter, you are right! Go and get the others!” While Peter was gone getting the other disciples, Jesus went and bought an ox team and a wagon. He then gathered all the disciples and said, “I do not want to go to Jerusalem and die. Come with me or stay. Your choice.” Some jumped in the wagon. Others stood stunned. Jesus along with some of the disciples travelled south…never to be heard from again.
Consider also Matthew 26:26-30: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
What if, on His way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus succumbed to His fears? He knew He would be arrested. He knew He would be beaten almost to death. He knew He would be nailed to a cross. He knew His blood would be shed. He knew He would take on the sin of the world. He knew He would be separated from God the Father. What if it was all just too much? As they approached the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “Now is the time for my departure. I am going back to the Father.” Jesus rose from the top of the mountain and disappeared into the night to Heaven.
Think and ponder on Matthew 26:47-50 as well: “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you came for.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
What if in that moment, Jesus did decide to call down 72,000 angels from Heaven? He could have prayed to God and 72,000 (or more) heavenly powered beings would have swept into the Garden of Gethsemane on top of the Mount of Olives and all over Jerusalem. “Jesus looked up and said, May the Host of Heaven Come forth!” Thunder rolled. Lightning cracked. The sky would have parted. Heaven would have rained down divine retribution never before seen and smote them all to cinders. I doubt any human being would have survived!
Of course there is also Matthew 27:38-43 to consider: “Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”’”
What if Jesus came off the cross as all the people were taunting Him instead of staying on the cross for us? What if in that moment of taunting, Jesus decided to come off the cross? They did say if He came off they would believe in Him…didn’t they? Jesus certainly had the power. You see nails did not keep Jesus on the cross, but it was His own free will. He could have said, “I now show the full extent of my God-hood to all those who watch me upon this cursed tree.” He then could have summoned all His divine power and heavenly light would have begun to glow in His chest. Celestial light would have shot out of the tips of His fingers and come out of every pore of His body. His eyes would have blazed with fire. Jesus would have un-nailed Himself from the cross and landed on His feet in front of them all with all wounds healed and in all His glory.
Think about this: Jesus did not run away because He loves us. Jesus marched to the cross even knowing what was coming for Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually because He was willing to follow the plan of God to save us. Jesus did not call down legions of angels because His was compassion, love, and grace. Jesus willingly stayed on the cross suffering because it was what we needed! If Jesus had not died on the cross, then there would be no religion in this world based on His birth, life, and teachings. If Jesus had not died on the cross, then overall the spiritual condition of every human being on the planet would be in a constant state of hopelessness. You see, the cross proves everything.