I only have one Bible that has red lettering to indicate the words spoken by Jesus. It’s an NIV, which is one of the versions I least trust. But, because I wanted to look specifically at the words spoken by our Savior, I reluctantly opened the long-ignored, leather-bound book.
Starting with the gospel of Matthew, I took note of the first words spoken by Jesus. I did the same for the rest of the Gospels, and was reminded of the pattern I had been investigating several months ago. In a series of videos by Ministry Revealed, the point was made that each Gospel addressed a certain group of people.
While I don’t agree with everything said by that ministry,
and see some hubris in its presentation, their founder has a very interesting
understanding. He said the Gospel of Matthew is addressing the Jews who have
rejected Jesus and will endure the Tribulation. Mark addresses the group who
have accepted Jesus as Messiah, but who also go through the Tribulation. He bases this, in part, on the scarlet and purple colors used to describe the robe Jesus wore, which was taken from him.
NOTE: If you are of the belief that the entire church
will get raptured at the same time, regardless of how a church-goer lives his or her life, all I can suggest is that you ponder the idea of working out salvation in fear and trembling. I know that's controversial.
Then there’s the Gospel of Luke, which has a very different description of Jesus’ “gorgeous” robe (not scarlet, not purple, but rather white), and if you understand how humbly Jesus lived, the idea of him being captured in a gorgeous robe will seem incongruous, indeed.
Just as these robe colors offer clues as to whom the Gospels address, so too might the first, and last, words spoken by Jesus. Let’s take a look.
Mt 3:15 (RSV)
But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he consented.
The context is commonly referred to as the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, though he was about 30 years old at the time, according to Luke 3:23. This verse describes Jesus approaching John the Baptist, and submitting to water baptism in repentance for his sins, then having the Holy Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove. That’s an interesting point, as Jesus was completely without sin. But, just as this marks an important new chapter in the life of an observant Jew, so could it be a foreshadowing of a new chapter beginning in the lives of Jews who have rejected their Messiah, and who are here during the Tribulation.
Will this group of people “fulfill all righteousness” during
the Tribulation by finally accepting the fact that victory and deliverance must
first be spiritual, and not physical, over the enemy? Will they get baptized?
Mk 1:15 (RSV)
and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."
The first words are the time is fulfilled. There’s a lot of finality conveyed here. Last call, folks, this is it. It’s now or never. Repent. Believe.
A lot of folks say the Tribulation marks the end of God’s grace. I don’t think I can subscribe to that idea. What Jesus didn’t say here is, “Hey guys. Too bad you didn’t believe in my salvation. Forget the Gospel because now you have to earn your salvation on your own.” No. He specifically said “believe in the Gospel.” If the idea that this Gospel is addressing the left-behind church, then the Gospel still applies. Those are just my observations. Take it to God in prayer. I think we’ve already established that I’m not an expert.
Notice that there’s no mention of Jesus saying anything during his baptism, as in the Gospel of Matthew. If this is foreshadowing of a particular group that does go through Tribulation, such as the portion of the church that isn’t totally ready to meet the Bridegroom, then the lack of conversation at baptism hints that this group may already have been baptized. Again, it's controversial, but I don't believe water baptism is the same thing as salvation. Anyone can go through the physical ritual of getting dunked in water without it affecting their heart whatsoever.
Believe me. I’ve seen it in someone very close to me who has engaged in theft, adultery, fornication, covetousness, ignoring the Sabbath, bearing false witness, idol worship, and more. All of it took place after he was “baptized.”
The good news is that the next words of Jesus, in Mark 1:17, are an invitation to follow him and to become fishers of men. Even during Tribulation, people can still repent and be blessed with an opportunity to participate in the building of God’s kingdom. It may not be easy, but I firmly believe God will provide in miraculous ways. Perhaps there’s another clue in this Gospel, pointed to by Jesus being driven out into the wilderness (with wild animals, no less) by the Spirit immediately upon being baptized, and angels ministering to him.
Lk 2:49 (RSV)
And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
Not only are these the first recorded words of Jesus in all the Gospels, being that he’s only twelve, but they are the only words recorded outside of his physically present ministry on earth. Besides the number twelve being a number of completion, the context is remarkable. Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem, with other friends and family, in order to celebrate the Passover. They left Jerusalem without him, not realizing he wasn’t with the company.
Look, I’m sure Mary and Joseph were amazing parents, or they would not have been chosen by God. This story stands out because there must be some very good reason that they “lost sight” of their firstborn son, miraculously entrusted to them by the one true God. He wasn't physically present with him, but rather was in his Father's house. Can you imagine the conversation they had?
Mary: “What? You lost your son, the precious Lamb of God? You never pay attention!”
Joseph: “My son? All of a sudden he’s my son when he’s lost? No way, Miriam. He’s God’s son.”
OK, I’m just kidding. They probably didn’t say anything like that. The point is, this was a divinely ordained moment and I believe it took place just as described, but specifically to provide a clue as to who this Gospel is addressing. Mary and Joseph, who believed with all their hearts, found Jesus in his Father’s house – just like those who are raptured will find him in Heaven immediately following their own Passover moment. Don’t forget that the gematria value for The Passover is 153…just like the number of fish in the Gospel of John.
Who else will be clothed in white, gorgeous
robes? The Bride. Even most brides today are wearing beautiful white dresses.
Some grooms even wear white tuxedos. Jesus loves his spotless bride, and
interestingly, I think all of the "bride" references in scripture refer to
gentiles. Look it up. Let me know in the comments if I'm wrong.
Jn 1:38-39 (RSV)
Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
I have never total understood what Ministry Revealed has said about the group that is addressed by the Gospel of John. But, if I were to speculate, I’d say for a few reasons that it’s the folks who are already dead in Christ.
First, Jesus doesn’t offer in this Gospel any instructions
about repenting, fulfilling righteousness. He doesn’t offer explanation about
why he’s been located after being sought for three days. Instead, he simply
asks the people following him what they’re seeking. Once they acknowledge who he is, he gives the early A.D. equivalent of “let’s go!” Jesus then takes
them to where he’s staying, and they remain there with him. There's no mention of the actual location.
Second, the Gospel of John is the only one in which the story of Lazarus, Jesus' dear friend and follower, is resurrected from the tomb. It’s specifically stated that Lazarus was in the grave for several days, already. He’s the only one raised from the dead that was called out from a grave.
Consider what 1 Thessalonians on the matter of the dead in Christ rising. I think verse 16 is the group addressed in John, and that verse 17 is the group addressed in Luke.
1 Thes 4:16-17
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
And finally, there’s the account of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand people some time before Passover, and subsequently walking on water. As soon as he gets into the boat, it’s immediately translated to the opposite shore. There’s no rowing, no conversation, no talk of Peter getting out the boat. All Jesus says during this significant event is, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” If you’re wondering how this compares to the account in Luke, there isn’t one. In its place is an account of the transfiguration of Jesus from his earthly body to his heavenly one on the mountaintop. Very interesting, given both the Bride and the dead will experience sudden changes. The Gospels of Luke and John seem to echo this pattern.
Well readers, this is an analysis of the first words of Jesus. Part two will be a similar conversation, but will focus on the last words of Jesus in each Gospel.