by the grace of God the first evangelist for the Son of Man,
I have received a communication from the most excellent Theophilus. I am sure you recall the afternoon when the three of us, you and he and I, conferred with the Apostle Paul in Rome. That was when I first proposed writing an allegory, in which I would reimagine Pauls heavenly Christ as a flesh-and-blood teacher named Jesus.
As you know, I did write that Gospel According to Mark. Later, I authorized you to expand it with other material into a Gospel According to Luke. You dedicated that book to Theophilus, and when he received it, he immediately instructed his scribe to make a copy and forward it to me. I have been very glad to read it.
I observe that the final chapter of your gospel narrates an ineffable miracle, namely the appearance of a stranger who is later believed to be the resurrected Jesus. You say this took place on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. [Luke 24:13-49] My gospel, of course, does no such thing. It includes no such apparitions.
In my gospel, on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus tells His disciples, After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. [Mark 14:28] In other words, once Jesus has been lifted up from the grave, His disciples are not to remain in Jerusalem. They are to return to their home country. There, in their everyday lives as Galilean fishermen, they will experience Him again.
In my gospel, after the crucifixion Peter is no longer to be counted among the disciples, because he disowned Jesus in the high priest's courtyard. [Mark 14:66-72] But like the rest of the group, he has not yet left Jerusalem. They are mourning for their dead master.
In my gospel, at the empty tomb a young man tells the women, You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He has been raised. He is not here. Go and say to His disciples, and also to Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, as He told you.
But do the women follow these instructions? No. They went out and ran away from the tomb, trembling with amazement. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Mark 16:6-8] Thus concludes my gospel, kata Markon.
Was it a grave error to end the story so abruptly? Others besides yourself have thought so. Some have inquired whether I perhaps composed another page that has somehow gone missing. Some have attempted to correct my work by adding a few sentences in which Jesus appears before ascending into heaven.
These pretenders locate their miracles in the Jerusalem area, not in Galilee as Jesus promised. They condense your Emmaus story into three verses and attribute them to me. [Mark 16:12-14] They fail to emulate my writing style or my vocabulary.
More importantly, they fail to perceive my intention. Throughout my gospel, the disciples never comprehend what Jesus means when He foretells His fate. He was teaching His disciples and telling them, The Son of Man is now to be handed over into the power of men, and they will kill Him; and three days after being killed He will rise again. But they did not understand what He said, and they were afraid to ask. [Mark 9:31-32]
Therefore, at the end of my gospel, the disciples still fail to understand. And they don't learn about the resurrection, because the women are afraid to tell them.
Moreover, throughout my gospel, whenever people realize Jesuss true nature they are ordered to be silent about it yet they go ahead and spread the good news anyway. Now, after Jesus disappears from the tomb, the situation is ironically reversed. The women are ordered to tell the disciples yet they say nothing.
Let us not be afraid to ask! Let us not fear to tell! Let us dare to proclaim the risen Lord to the whole world!
However, my greater objection to your Gospel According to Luke has to do with the meekness of your Jesus.
In creating the title character for my book, I took pains to make Him a charismatic leader, strong-willed and powerful. After all, He is the Son of the almighty God! [Mark 1:1] You have heard the hymn of John of Patmos: Blessed is He with power, and wisdom, and strength! [Revelation 5:12]
In my very first chapter, the people are amazed at His teaching: He speaks with authority. When He gives orders, even the unclean spirits obey. [Mark 1:27] And if anyone doubts Him, He becomes angry. He drives the merchants and the money-changers out of the Temple.
But when you rewrite my words, you subtly change my Lord into another Jesus. Your Jesus is kind and gentle, no longer capable of anger. He seems unemotional and aloof, like an ethereal Greek god who considers himself above all the petty passions of mere mortals. Were you afraid of giving offense?
Here are some examples. I have taken the liberty of arranging these excerpts in parallel, in a synoptic manner.
You have eliminated the indignation.
You have eliminated the anger and distress.
Again in my version, when the man expresses uncertainty about Jesuss power, Jesus is insulted. He demands belief. It is only after a crowd gathers to see what the argument is about that He proceeds with the healing. But when you rewrote my story, you left out the wrath.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, anguish overwhelms my Jesus, and He moans to his disciples: My heart is ready to break with grief. Then He scolds them repeatedly for falling asleep. But your version bleaches out these emotions.
(Someone suggested your gospel would be more poignant if you added the following: And now there appeared to him an angel from heaven bringing him strength, and being in agony he prayed even more urgently; and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. That sentence is not in my copy of your gospel, and it clearly is not from your pen because it includes words like agony and sweat and drops that you never use.)
Finally, at the crucifixion my Jesus suffers in silence, even when taunted, except to quote in Aramaic a pathetic Psalm of despair that I felt appropriate for the occasion: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? But your Jesus is unperturbed, confident of Gods support, looking forward to heaven, speaking calmly and compassionately until the end.
What then are we to say? In the gospels that you and I have written, we have imagined our lead character somewhat differently.
Its true that He is a realization of the heavenly Christ Jesus, about whom we learned from the Apostle Paul. But as Paul warned one of the churches he founded, I am afraid that your minds may somehow be led astray if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached. [2 Corinthians 11:3-4]
Perhaps your gentle, non-threatening savior will appeal to the children and to the old women.
My Jesus is my Lord! He does not merely ask that I consider following Him. He demands that I follow. And I must obey.
Click here for other Bible stories I've retold in the first person.