The gospel writers
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These names are familiar names. Many men, young and old, have these names. Yet when you put them together in this order, they have an unmistakable significance. These are the writers of the four gospels. We often discuss the four gospels that they wrote, but I'd like to go in a different direction today and take a look at the writers themselves.
Naturally, these men were not actually named "Matthew", "Mark", "Luke" and "John". I'm certain that the JAM could give you their real names. I can't. And if I did, no one would recognize them, so I will be using theEnglish variations throughout this message.
We'll start with Matthew. Matthew's original name was Levi. I find this interesting because Levi was a tax collector. His job was to take money from the Israelites and give it to the Romans. The tribe of Levi in the Old Testament era was to receive support from the people of Israel for their own welfare, in exchange for their service as priests, ministers and temple servants. THIS Levi was instead giving Israel's money to their conquerors. His type was seen as traitors of the worst kind.
Jesus came to Matthew and asked him to become one of his disciples. Levi got himself a new name, then. "Matthew". It means "gift from God". Matthew left his job as a tax collector to travel with Jesus for three years and learn from him. Matthew's gospel focuses on Jesus as King of the jews. it is curious that one who was considered a collaborator with the enemy should suddenly become a disciple of the king. Matthew teaches us in this way that the Lord loves us no matter what we do, and He is willing to change us. Matthew changed from one who takes away to one who gives, and he changed from a servant of the invaders to a servant of the king.
Mark is a bit of a mystery. We really don't know much about him, except that he was a disciple but not an apostle, and he later became a missionary. Now there are a few unconfirmed rumors about Mark. One is that he was the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked how to be saved. It is also believed that he was the young man wearing a single loose garment who ran away naked when the Romans attempted to grab him. We don't know that either of these are true, but for the sake of discusion, let's temporarily assume that they are.
Mark's gospel focuses upon Jesus' role as servant. Clearly, he recognized that he had a good thing. Mark recognized that Jesus was better than riches, and that the benefits of being Jesus' follower far outweighed the loss of any Earthly wealth. He wanted to tell the world how great Jesus is, and he did. Mark accompanied Paul and later Barnabus on their missionary journeys, and is believed to be the one responsible for bringing the gospel to the continent of Africa. It is true that he bowed out for a little while, much to Paul's disappointment, but his devotion to Jesus drove him to return to the ministry as Barnabus' partner.
Luke is a most interesting author indeed. He is the only non-Hebrew to author part of the New Testament. Luke was a gentile. He joined Paul's missionary team on their way to Macedonia. Luke was a doctor, and just as in our day, was therefore a learned man. He had a slightly different approach to writing his gospel. Matthew, mark and John wrote about what they saw and heard. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christ's ministry, so he interviewed a large number of people who were. The result was that Luke's gospel focusses on Jesus as sacrifice. This is very interesting to me and helps to authenticate Luke's gospel, since a gentile would have been unlikely to reference the sacrificial system of the jews if he were making it up.
Luke also wrote the historical book of Acts, further demonstrating his commitment to recording the facts. Luke is the only gentile ever to write entire books of the bible. As such, Luke demonstrates that God's love extends to all people, not just Israel, as many jews believed in Jesus' day, and some still do.
That leaves John. Now I have recently heard someone say that we don't know who John was. This was an "atheist" speaking, attempting to discredit the Revelation. The fact is we do know who he was. John was working as a fisherman when Jesus called him to be a disciple. He was the son of Zebedee and brother of James, also fishermen. John and James were both passionate men, and earned the joint nickname "Boanerges", meaning "Sons of Thunder". I suppose you could call them the "Thunder Brothers". Both were among Jesus' three closest friends. John's service to Jesus lasted well beyond the murder of his brother. He would write three general epistles and become the last surviving apostle, sentenced to exile on the island of Patmos, where he received the vision which became the last book of the bible. John's gospel takes a very different tack from the other three, emphasizing Jesus' Godhood. John was a man who was on fire for God, and because of his passion and love for his God, John was raised from an obscure fisherman to a leader of the first church and the Lord's close friend. Because John honored God, wherever Jesus is glorified, there John is honored as well. John proves that there is glory in serving the Lord.
So what have we learned from these four men? Let's sum up. God loves you, no matter what you've done. He died for you, in the person of Jesus, to save you from your sin. It doesn't matter who you are, He did it for you. The gift of salvation which Jesus offers is better than anything this world has to offer, and there is glory in being the servant of Christ.
So for anyone reading this sermon who has not accepted Christ as savior, I invite you to do so now, knowing that He cares for you and extends this gift of life, abundant and free, to you. All you have to do is accept. For those of you who have, enjoy the knowledge that you have something wonderful, and try to emulate the writers of the gospel, living by the love of God, with wisdom, passion, devotion, humility and goodness.