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Pondering the Master

J.M. Diener

April 2024

At the beginning of the year our church began a sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew, and I had the privilege of preaching the first message. As I was preparing the overview of who Matthew was and why he wrote his Gospel, I stumbled upon something that I hadn’t realized before. In 2016, I’d read Jayson George’s The 3D Gospel (Self-published: 2016)1 and it made a profound change in my understanding of the how the Gospel applies to my life. Knowing we sinners suffer from shame, fear, and guilt, the three-fold effects of sin, God provides the remedy through Jesus in giving us honor, power, and justification. Accepting that God has covered my shame and reconciled me to him and given me power to overcome my fears set me free to follow him in ways that I had been unable to for most of my life which had not been touched by merely understanding the justification from guilt we in the west emphasize.

As I was examining the four Gospels and thinking about why there are four, I spent time pondering the ancient symbology of the Gospels based upon the four faces of the cherubim Ezekiel saw (Eze. 1:10) and the four beasts on the throne of God in Revelation (Rev. 4:7). In traditional iconography Matthew is identified with the man, Mark with the lion, Luke with the calf, and John with the eagle. It struck me that perhaps each of these symbols could also reflect the three-fold effects of the Gospel on the three-fold effects of sin. Matthew portrays Jesus Christ as the Man, the rightful King of Israel who has come to reconcile God and man, restoring man’s honor and standing in the universe. In Mark, Jesus is powerful and active, the Lion who has come to set his people free from the dominion of death and Satan. In Luke, we see Jesus Christ the Calf, the one who has come to sacrifice himself for the sake of mankind to pay the debt owed for our guilt, thus bringing us justification.2 Then John explains why this all works, as the Divine Christ, symbolized by the Eagle, has the humility, power, ability, and perfection to bring the work of redemption to pass through his person. Like a four-color printout, each of the four Gospels brings another layer to the picture painted of Christ, that when read together is more than the sum of its parts.

Now, I will admit that at this point this is no more than an idea. It would take a lot of time and effort to track and see if the Gospels truly reflect my thoughts, for which I currently do not have the time. But if one of my readers would like to dig in and prove me right or wrong, I’d love to hear what was found; for if this four-dimensional approach to all the Gospels is true, it could affect which Gospel we start our evangelism from depending on our environment and will help us become more incarnate into the societies God has called us to.3

  • 1This book is, in my not so humble opinion, a must-read for all Christians.
  • 2 Considering Luke’s close relationship with Paul, it is expected that Luke would be the one to emphasize justification.
  • 3For more on this, see J.M. Diener, “Preaching the Well-Rounded Gospel”, Pondering the Master: WolfHawke.com, April 2016 < https://www.wolfhawke.com/ptm/preaching-well-rounded-gospel > (accessed 2024-04-18).

We parent from a place of received grace, not from divine right.

Paul Cummings