Since noticing the differences among the various Easter stories in the Gospels, I’ve become increasingly interested in the differences among the Gospels generally. Today I thought it might be nice to look at the various beginnings of Christ’s message in his own words — through the words of the four evangelists.
Jesus’s First Words according to St. Matthew
Jesus goes to be baptized by John the Baptist, who (in Matthew’s Gospel only) initially refuses to baptize one so much greater than he. But Jesus convinces him by saying, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”
Jesus’s First Words according to St. John
Jesus spends time among the followers of John the Baptist in Bethabara, beyond Jordan. Every day, when John sees Jesus, he declares him to be the Lamb of God. Once he says it by a couple of his disciples. They decide to tag along after Jesus, who turns around, sees them following him, and says, “What seek ye?” They ask where he lives and he says, “Come and see.”
Jesus’s First Words according to St. Luke
Jesus is twelve years old. Mary and Joseph have been with him to Jerusalem and as they leave the city, they can’t find him. They go back to search and find him in the Temple, amazing the theological doctors with his brilliance. He asks Mary and Joseph, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
Jesus’s First Words according to St. Mark
Jesus has been baptized, has experienced the Theophany, and has been tempted in the wilderness. Then after John the Baptist is put into prison, he goes into Galilee and begins preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
The First Words of Jesus from each Evangelist match their respective Easter stories amazingly well.
Matthew’s First Words of Jesus show both Jesus and John obeying the order of righteousness. John’s concerned about overstepping his bounds within the hierarchy, but Jesus gives commands, and both participate in the sacrament as ordered.
In Mark’s First Words of Jesus, obedience to hierarchically administered sacraments is nowhere to be seen. Instead, individual repentance and faith are paramount. And note that it’s not repentance of sin, but repentance of unbelief — Mark’s Jesus starts his message by telling us to give up obstacles to our faith, with no mention of works.
Luke’s First Words of Jesus show him teaching and, as ever, using reason to correct the confusion created by the mortal cares of those closest to him.
John’s First Words of Jesus are surrounded by mystery. John hails this stranger daily with “Behold the Lamb of God!” A strange salutation, to be sure. His disciples sneak their way after the stranger, who responds with incredible love — who else would say, “Come and see,” to two unknown men following him asking where he lives?