Two Portraits of Jesus

In John 17, Jesus prayed with confidence and clarity.  After finishing the Last Supper  Jesus looked to heaven and prayed, 

Jesus looked to heaven

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:5)

This confidence is such a strong contrast with the prayer he prayed in Matthew, Mark and Luke when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane a short time later.  As the disciples slept, Jesus prayed for strength to face the cross:

Jesus praying in Gethsemane by artist He Qi

Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.  (Mark 14:36)

In John’s Gospel there is no prayer in the Garden.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke there is no extended prayer at the Passover meal.

Such contrasts can be disturbing for some.  I believe that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are more like portrait paintings than historical biographies.  Whereas John’s Gospel  paints a portrait in which Jesus had a laser-like focus on his “hour” to be glorified on the cross (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 13:1, 17:1), Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus wrestling with this cosmic decision as he approached the cross (Mark 14:32-41).  Both portraits are true, yet they reveal different insights.

Mark reveals that Jesus was truly human; his emotions were raw and deep.  On the cross he would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34).  Jesus understood our own human dilemma, our trials, our brokenness.  Mark’s portrait is so brutally human.

John reveals the divine purpose of Jesus and his constant trust in God’s purpose.  Jesus accomplished God’s purpose of reconciling the world.  As he breathed his last breath, Jesus said, “It is finished, (accomplished, completed).” John’s portrait is so beautifully divine.

In my own life, at times I find support and comfort in Mark’s raw intimacy.  At other times, I am inspired and uplifted by John’s cosmic vision.   Together with Matthew and Luke, I have a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.

What stories of Jesus do you turn to most often?  What stories do you try to ignore?

Lord Jesus, be my light in the midst of whatever confusion or darkness I experience this day. 

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