The Powerful Voices of the Gospels


The reader of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, is much like the symphony conductor who delights in modulating and harmonizing the different sounds into a pleasing whole, or like an opera-goer who thrills to the separate but harmonious strains of that great quartet in Verdi’s Rigoletto. The effect is unforgettable.

Vastly more significant and much more unforgettable is the harmonious blending of those four disparate yet unified voices of the New Testament Gospels, probably the best-known books in the world. In this divine quartet, four men, three of whom walked the hills of Palestine with Christ, blend their voices to bear ageless witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Matthew, a lowly tax gatherer; Mark (John Mark), a follower of Peter who is sometimes identified with the young man who lost his garment at the time of Christ’s arrest; the Greek-speaking Luke, that “beloved physician” (Col. 4:14); and John, who at the Last Supper “was leaning on Jesus’ bosom” (John 13:23), all present their “good news.” They recount in various voices the drama of the life of Jesus Christ, a drama fraught with more pity and terror, joy and sorrow, more insight into the depths and heights that humanity can reach, than any Verdi opera, or any Greek or Shakespearean tragedy could ever portray. Great as these plays are, such depictions of the drama of human life cannot compare with the drama of Christ’s life, which, as it is recounted by these four men, soars far beyond the stage-bound, time-bound tragedies of unhappy love and early death to a timeless cosmic drama wherein God and his host confront Satan and his host against a backdrop of the universe, and in that lonely yet glorious figure, that greatest hero of all, Jesus Christ, the creator of this world becomes flesh.

Although Matthew chooses to demonstrate in his account that Christ was a prophet in the succession of earlier Hebrew prophets and attempts to prove the Lord’s power by citing Old Testament passages, his voice is not essentially different from that of Mark, who chooses to emphasize the Lord’s power as a healer of souls and worker of wonders. Luke, however, underlines Christ’s power to command the forces of the universe, of nature, and of God, and his power over Satan. John focuses on the Lord’s power in discourse and in teaching and on his universality as a glorious pattern of salvation for all men.

Whatever the emphasis, and whatever the differences in their accounts, each voice testifies unforgettably that the drama of Christ’s life has universal applications, that this Christ was more than a man—he was the Son of God—that the earth could and would never be the same again because of his ministry. Each of the four writers bespeaks the truth that Jesus Christ had power to thwart evil, power to alter the course of nature, and, above all, given a man’s desire, the power to change the human heart. Harmonizing these accounts, much like a conductor or music lover, the reader glories in Christ, delights in his life-giving message, and wonders at the grace of God in keeping intact the example of his Son and the records of his plan, which, together with the Book of Mormon and modern revelation, provide a clear and simple score whose notes ring sweetly in a world too often made dissonant by resounding chaos and discordant spiritual pollution.

Matthew

From the Book of Matthew’s beginning assertion that it is “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1) to its final ringing assurance that “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20), the first of the synoptic Gospels blends its voice with those of its fellows to proclaim memorable truths in a powerful and memorable way.

From the beginning to the end, the Book of Matthew demonstrates vigorously that Jesus spoke to mankind “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29), that Jesus’ message was not derivative but primary, and that he knew whereof he spoke because he had from its source the power to speak and act for God, the authority of sonship.

To affirm this power Matthew raises his Hebraic voice in an account of Jesus’ genealogy so that the reader might see that Jesus had the necessary lineage of the long-awaited Messiah. To affirm this power Matthew relates with some care the numerous accounts of dreams through which God prepared those participants for their roles in the great drama of the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. To affirm this power Matthew constantly portrays Jesus as one who knew of his destiny, one who knew the beginning from the end, thus separating him at once from the tragic heroes of mortal drama. He is no Oedipus, no Hamlet, no Rigoletto. They come before us possessed of tragic flaws, without understanding. Christ was guiltless, knowing. In fact, the climax of Christ’s dramatic life turns on the perfection of his flawless nature, a nature that put his clear-eyed view of absolute truth and absolute morality directly in conflict with the befuddled half-truths and moral compromises of man.

Because Christ knew his destiny, his mission, and his role in the eternal drama, he could speak with power, with an authority and certitude not unlike that of the recently returned missionary explaining missionary life to the newly called elder. With the kind of knowledge that transcends human limitations, but that he gained precept upon precept and line upon line, Christ could say to the devil in the wilderness, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matt. 4:7.) With this kind of authority Christ could end his marvelous Sermon on the Mount with that command: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48); with this power he could calmly command the waves to be still.

There is no question as to power when Christ says, “… whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock,” (Matt. 7:24.) It is no wonder that the people, long used to hearing sterile scholarly debate over scriptural interpretation, would be “astonished at his doctrine” (Matt. 7:28), which rang with the certitude of authority.

It is in this connection that Peter demonstrates throughout the book of Matthew that the Lord thought and spoke from an eternal framework. Peter never questions the authority of his Master. When Christ called to Peter and Andrew they responded: “And,” Matthew writes, “they straightway left their nets and followed him” (Matt. 4:20)—through time and eternity. In the midst of his ministry Christ asks: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Peter, brushing aside suggestions that Jesus was the embodiment of some prophet such as Elijah or David, states convincingly, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:13–16.) Christ does not shrink before this powerful statement, but blesses Simon Peter, proclaiming with divine assurance that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)

But, growing as he was in knowledge of the kingdom, Peter’s vision is blurred by the world, and Matthew demonstrates, through Peter, the great gap in understanding between the Lord’s knowledge and that of mortals—even such special mortals as Simon Peter. On being vigorously contradicted by Peter, after stating that he would be scourged and killed and rise again, Christ says to his disciple, “thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23.) Christ’s power allowed him farsighted vision, while Peter’s nearsightedness weakened his vision, for he, like us, thought in finite terms.

Even after the Transfiguration, in which the veil between earth and heaven became transparent, Peter still demonstrated an earthbound vision that conflicted with the heavenly vision of his Lord. Speaking from his mortal point of view, Peter proclaimed his loyalty to Christ. Speaking, conversely, from his immortal stance, Christ prophesied Peter’s three denials. And it was from this same mortal inability to see the whole that Peter failed to remain awake when commanded to do so, that he might share somewhat the Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew underscores the difference between the special calling and mission of the Lord and the nature of such lesser beings as Peter—and the rest of us. Yet even in his vigorous attempts to serve Christ, Peter points up his lack of knowledge of the eternal purposes, for when he cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Christ restores it, pointing out that “thus it must be,” reminding the impetuous Peter that the Lord could call up legions of angels—if he desired. (Matt. 26:51–54.)

In Peter and in Christ, Matthew juxtaposes those of us who, like Peter (and Paul), “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12) with Christ who, because of his absolute righteousness, his perfect understanding and magnification of his priesthood power, and his divine sonship transcends the limitations of mortality. It becomes easy for us to identify ourselves with Peter, for all of us must share with him that tension between the righteous desires of the spirit and the often unrighteous cravings of the all-too-urgent flesh. With Peter each of us stands, at some point in life, on the brink of a storm-tossed sea, the sky black and forboding, the winds of life howling about us with demonic fury. Then how glorious it is to see, as did Peter, the gentle, confident, powerful, and untroubled countenance of Jesus as he walks calmly upon the sea, beckoning to us. How few of us muster the faith and courage and spirit of Peter who responded to that thrilling word and gesture of the Master: Come.

Whatever else we may say of Peter, we must say this: He went. Just as he had responded to Christ’s authoritative call to leave his nets, he left the relative safety of the ship and walked on water. He walked. He faltered, yes, for he did not have perfect faith, but he walked for a time when many of us would have beseeched the Lord to wait until a calmer day to test our faith.

Peter did not wait for a calmer day. Secure in his faith in the authority of Christ to which Matthew so eloquently and repeatedly and simply testifies, Peter responded, and the storm of that afternoon prefigured the storm of his whole life spent in the service of the Master.

But in the midst of the storm he found a calm, for on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost descended with a roar upon Peter and his brethren, Peter found that greater vision, that greater power: the mantle of authority fell upon him and he healed the lame, confounded the rulers, and “with great power gave … witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 4:33.)

Throughout his great book Matthew affirms to all men that Jesus had this eternal vision, this godly authority. In Peter, Matthew powerfully demonstrates how each of us through following the authority of the Master and obeying his commandments can make the trek toward that glorious day when, in mortality or immortality, we act and speak “as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:29.)

Mark

And what of the power of that simple unembellished voice of Mark, the shortest, most direct of all the presentations of the life of the Savior? How clearly that firm voice sounds in our ears as Mark recounts the drama of the Christ confending powerfully with his Pharisaic adversaries and counseling patiently his astonished disciples. On one level we are keenly aware of the conflict between an historical Christ and his enemies in the world around him. It is not a subtle contest carried on in backbiting whispers, but a face-to-face challenge as the scribes and Pharisees point and gesture, question, and demand, “Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (Mark 2:24.) “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” (Mark 7:5.) In every encounter Jesus gives an answer that is the simplest possible and yet the one most devastating to those seeking to thwart his work: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27.) “Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly. … That which cometh out of man, that defileth the man.” (Mark 7:18–20.) Or, as he detects the shallow meanness of the Pharisaical questioning, the Lord may choose not to answer at all, and leave his persecutors entangled in the problems of their own questions:

“… as he was walking in the temple, there came to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,

“And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

“The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

“And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

“But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

“And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27–33.)

But there is a deeper human level on which Mark’s Gospel speaks to us: indeed there is a certain familiarity in the slow awakening of the disciples to the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. Over and over again, as was the case with Peter, those followers failed to understand the meaning of the Lord’s words, the power of his priesthood, or the significance of his life in this world and in the heavens. So we find mirrored in the slow development of their own understanding our own struggle to come to know this Jesus in whom is eternal life. Like them we come to him as unsophisticated as children in gospel understanding. And he may well ask of us, as he did of them, “Are ye so without understanding also?” (Mark 7:18.) Might he even say to some of his latter-day disciples as he did to his former-day disciples, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” (Mark 9:19.)

But the message of Mark is clear. The Lord is with us, his patience continues, and, piece by piece, bit by bit, he turns our ineptitudes and stumblings into glimpses of our own potential and the way to exaltation. How well Mark shows it in this familiar incident:

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

“But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

“And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13–16.)

How simple Mark’s message is. There is no artifice, no embellishment, no filigree. There is just the quiet, straightforward, but powerful narrative that builds with unalloyed intensity, reducing the gospel message and Christian living to its essence. Consider, for instance, the remarkable account of Bartimaeus, the blind man, sitting by the roadside just outside Jericho, begging from the passersby, hearing the shuffle and shouts of an approaching crowd, discerning in the passing hubbub one name repeated again and again, realizing, crying out of his own darkness into the dust and confusion of the highway, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” The people of the crowd looking down on this negligible bit of human flotsam, telling him to be quiet, to “hold his peace,” but Bartimaeus persisting, continuing his cries louder and louder. It is easy to see what an imaginative writer might do with such possibilities. But listen to the absolute simplicity of Mark’s conclusion of these events, and feel the power of his unadorned narrative:

“And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

“And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

“And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.” (Mark 10:49–52.)

How joyous it would be if we too could have the faith to call without ceasing, to arise, to see, to be whole again, and, by the power of our faith, take the way with our Master. Through the words of Mark this joy comes nearer to realization. Simplicity is power, in words and in faith.

Luke

The resonant voice of Luke, coming as it does from a disciple who never knew Christ personally but who had a “perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (Luke 1:3), reaffirms and often retells much of the chronology that Matthew and Mark recorded but with a slightly different emphasis. Writing to his friend Theophilus, Luke finds it urgent to relate those accounts of Christ that he had received from “eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2) who had walked and talked with the Savior. Luke wrought better than he knew, for in writing his beautifully simple yet eloquent letter, the beloved physician preserved for all time his testimony that Jesus was the Christ, endowed with the power of God. We can almost hear the personal voice of Luke joining with the others when, at Jesus’ casting out an unclean spirit from a child, he records that “they were all amazed at the mighty power of God” (Luke 9:43) manifest in the Man of Galilee. Thanks, in part, to Luke, we too can continue to “stand all amazed.”

This seems in fact to be one of the burdens of Luke’s message: “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.” (Luke 4:32.) Even the devils recognized the Lord’s authority. How thrilling it would have been that afternoon, or morning, to have been present in the synagogue at Galilee when Jesus spoke, not with an afflicted man, but with the “spirit of an unclean devil” in that man. In a loud and chilling voice the devil, aware of the threat of this powerful man, cried “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.” Jesus, with the dignity of the Messiah, rebuked the devil and said “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” No magic. No flourish. No frenzy. Just, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” The devil, in a last gesture, threw the afflicted man into the middle of the group—but he “came out of him, and hurt him not.” Then Luke’s reiterated message rings in our ears: “What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.” (Luke 4:33–36.)

The matter of Jesus’ power is beautifully reaffirmed in the incident at Capernaum, when the Roman centurion, grieving at the impending death of his dear servant, sent the elders of the Jews to Christ to ask that he come and heal the servant. The centurion, long a benefactor of the Jewish people, had simple faith in Christ, and when Jesus approached his house sent friends requesting the Lord to stay away, for “I am not worthy,” he said, “that thou shouldest enter under my roof.” He then demonstrated his knowledge of the anatomy of power, asking that Christ say a word and heal the servant. His analogy was simple: He too had authority, and he knew that a command given was a command obeyed, if one possessed the power. Jesus, rejoicing in the faith and wisdom of the centurion, sent forth his command, and when the friends returned to the house they “found the servant whole that had been sick.” (Luke 7:2–10.) Power. The power of the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. Luke affirms this power time and again.

And Luke delights, as does each of us, in that great day, not unlike that other day when Christ walked upon the water, when Jesus and his disciples, embarked on a ship, were confronted by a sudden and perilous storm, “and were in jeopardy.” Mortally incapable of seeing that the life of Christ could not be jeopardized unless he willed it, the disciples panicked, awakened the sleeping Christ, and cried, “Master, master, we perish.” The scene must have been a vivid one: Christ awakening, reading the terror in their hearts and on their faces, arising and rebuking “the wind and the raging of the water.” Imagine the relief and wonder among those terrified disciples when suddenly the raging elements “ceased, and there was a calm.” A new fear, an awe, swept into their hearts, and they whispered to each other, “What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:22–25.) This is power, Luke insists, the same power that allowed Jesus to overlook the scorn on the doubting faces of those who wept at the death of Jairus’ daughter; the same power that wiped the scorn from those faces and replaced it with joyful astonishment when, with a simple “Maid, arise,” he called her from death to life—then charged them to tell no one. (Luke 8:41–42, 49–56.)

Luke stresses that Christ performed these miracles quietly, almost meekly, for Luke is careful to point out after many of the healings that the onlookers were asked to keep quiet about what they had seen. After the events on the Mount of Transfiguration even Peter, James, and John “kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.” (Luke 9:36.)

And when Christ began to share his power, when he sent out the seventy and gave them authority, for instance, he urged them not to rejoice so much in the fact that “even the devils” were subject unto them as in the fact “your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20.) In short, the miracle was not central to Jesus’ ministry; rather, it was the doing of his work. The miracle of Christ’s doctrine is, Luke points out, in the change in the human soul, not in the healing of the body. Christ had power to heal, but the individual was responsible for his own miracle, made possible through repentance, and forgiveness, and righteousness. Miracles were springboards to belief in Christ, doorways to learning and keeping his commandments.

Because Christ’s gospel is so personal, Luke reiterates Christ’s insistence, in the midst of all this power, on the rights of the individual and on the importance of the individual in the eyes of God and his Christ. He recounts with apparent pleasure the stories of individuals of the prodigal son, beloved despite his excesses; of the rich man and his steward; of Lazarus and the rich man; of Zacchaeus the publican and his repentance; of the little children, whose right to approach him had been questioned. Throughout the book the varying conditions of individuals are described with great care, for along with making a timeless account more vivid and specific, Luke was demonstrating carefully the worth of a soul.

And his account and his message have endured and speak to us today much as the resurrected Jesus spoke to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Walking the road, much as we walk through life, the disciples were discussing the stunning events of Christ’s death and resurrection. Suddenly, Jesus, disguised to their eyes, drew near and walked with them and explained to them how the scriptures had been fulfilled. As the trio approached the village, Jesus turned away, but the disciples urged, as we urge daily, that he should “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” The Lord acquiesced, accompanied them, and ate with them, and as he blessed the food their eyes were opened and “they knew him,” and he vanished. (Luke 24:13–31.) In our walks along the road called life, in our study of the words of Luke and the other Gospel writers, we too rejoice in those treasured moments with the Lord. And in seeking to live in accordance with his commandments, and in studying his word, we might say, as the two disciples said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32.) Our hearts do burn and ever shall, so long as we do the will of the Lord, so long as we read Luke, and the others, with an eye and a heart single to the glory of our God and the miracle of his Son.

John

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1.)

In the first four lines we sense already a quality unique to the Gospel of John. It is the same Savior that we knew in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but now we see him in a new light, with new dimensions of greatness and godhood unfolding before our understanding. This is not just the Messiah of the Jews; this is “the light” of the whole world, the creator of “all things.” He “was with God.” He “was God.” But he was a God who “was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), and so was known to men—to some only at a distance, to some secondhand. But to a few he was known closely, intimately. And it is the voice of one of those intimates that speaks to us in this Gospel. John, the beloved apostle, had not only heard the words of the living Lord, he had “leaned on his breast at supper.” (John 21:20.) He not only knew the teachings of Jesus, he knew, in a way we can hardly appreciate, the stirrings of that divine heart. It is the profound depths of that heart and the infinite heights of that divine glory that John presents for us in his Gospel.

No other single piece fuses so remarkably the mortal and the immortal, the finite and the infinite: a draught of water from a well becomes a metaphor for the living water of the gospel; the bread to feed five thousand becomes a lesser symbol for the more significant bread of life after partaking of which there will be no hunger. The sheep and their shepherd, the vine and its branches, the very stuff of human existence is shown to have meaning and significance far beyond what our own dull senses have suggested.

It is the eternal message of the moral world that Jesus points to in his remarkable conversation with the intent and serious Pharisee, Nicodemus. In a series of statements and queries, the Lord tries to show Nicodemus what it means to be changed to a new man by the power of the gospel. But for Nicodemus it is hard to understand. He sees first only the finite denotations, but he apparently struggles on, trying to comprehend the eternal connotations: “How can a man be born when he is old?” And the Lord patiently explains, “I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Perhaps because Nicodemus still looked perplexed, the Lord draws attention to the nighttime breezes which, like the Spirit of God, we hear and feel but “canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” (John 3:1–8.) And finally, with a moving discourse on his own mission from the Father, and knowing that Nicodemus had come to him in the darkness of night, Christ concludes the conversation with a remarkable reference to himself and to the light and understanding that this important man had come for:

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

“But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:18–21.)

But if the discourses and sermons are more complex in the Gospel of John, they are also more complete. Chapter by chapter the central themes of the opening verses are taught and retaught: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14.)

This is not another synopsis of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. John seems to realize that this had been done. In this book we feel, through the prophetic sensitivities of John, the great soul of Jesus. We sense perhaps more intimately than any other place in scripture the divinity and godhood of the living Son of God.

Particularly is this true of the last chapters of the Gospel, where, given our own willingness and desire to share the great experience with John, we may watch and listen at the Last Supper: The Lord arises from his place at the table where the Passover meal is being eaten. He wraps a towel around him, pours water into a basin, kneels, and begins to wash the feet of each disciple. There are whispered wonderings, Peter’s protestations, and the Lord’s quiet remonstrance on service and condescension. Seated again at the table, Christ quietly converses with those around him, even placing an affectionate arm around John, who leans on the master. The sop is given to Judas, and he leaves. Then, perhaps raising his voice only slightly so that he can be heard all around the table, the Master begins to talk for the last time to his “children” who at present “cannot come” where he must go. (John 13:33.) Simply, profoundly, with altogether more of patience and sympathy and love than any one can possibly absorb, the Lord tells them who he really is, and what he hopes for them:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you:

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1–3.)

In this quiet moment, this last respite before the suffering, noise, and violence that he knows are coming, the Savior pours out his heart:

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:9–11.)

And then, as the Spirit fills that upper room, as faces glistening with tears of fulfillment lovingly turn to him, the Savior’s voice stops. He looks up, and, speaking this time to his own Father, to God himself, he prays:

“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1–3.)

When we reach this point, we have come to the center of the Gospel—to the center of Christianity. It is to this height that John, and Luke, and Mark, and Matthew have written, to lead their readers, each of us, “to know … God, and Jesus Christ, whom [he] has sent.” And just as “the world itself,” writes John, “could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25), if we were to know and understand all the things that Jesus said and did, so we who humbly listen in these latest of the latter days to this divine quartet of testimonies, these four remarkable voices, could not contain the joy that can be ours if we but act according to the knowledge that their testimonies bring. For who cannot, being in tune with the same Spirit that prompted these four great books, say of each of them as John wrote in closing his own book, “… we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24.)

[illustration] Christ painted by Carlo Rosa (?–1678)

[illustration] Matthew painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)

[illustration] Peter painted by Peter Paul Rubens

[illustration] Peter painted by Marten de Vos (1532–1603)

[illustration] John painted by Peter Paul Rubens