Multiple Endings

The four gospels are possibly one of the most brilliant things about the story of Christianity. The idea that God would come down to earth in human form, live here, teach here, declare the Reign of God, be crucified, and rise from the dead is far too mind-blowingly enormous to simply be contained within a single account. It is a profound and complex and beautiful story. What the four gospels give us is four different perspectives on this monumental event. 

I appreciated this anew last night when reading the final chapter of John’s gospel. Each of the gospels tell the story from the resurrection on in a different way. Matthew basically goes straight from the resurrection to the Great Commission. The most ancient manuscripts of Mark end with a cliffhanger: the tomb is empty and the women have been told that Jesus is alive. Luke takes a walk to Emmaus before ending with a Matthew-like commissioning. And John ends with this personal, intimate scene by a lakeside in which Jesus forgives Peter for the disciple’s denial of his teacher.

Each gospel shows a facet of what the resurrection means. Like in Matthew, the resurrection is a catalyst the propels Christ’s followers out into the world to announce the Reign of God. Like in Mark, the resurrection is a wild and mysterious thing that we cannot totally understand and makes us wonder what’s coming next. Like in Luke, the resurrection tells us that Jesus continues to walk with his followers as they go through life. Like in John, the resurrection speaks of our reconciliation to God. Those are just superficial takes on what we find in the gospels. Besides, the resurrection means so much more than even that.

I love that. I love the way the gospel writers branched out from the resurrection into different meanings. I love the different perspectives and stories that grow out of that one event, the different responses to this incredible event. I’m glad it is told through the lives around the resurrection rather than being laid out like a pithy moral of the story. I get to see different sides of the story with each gospel.

It’s just another reason that I’m thankful for the multiple beginnings, middles, and ends of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Foreword to Another New Life

Letting Go Just a Little