The book of the generation of Jesus Christ— Matthew 1:1
The Fact of Jesus—Mark’s Gospel
It is generally agreed that the Gospel of St. Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels, and it is notable that there is no genealogy at all in this earliest Gospel. St. Mark does not give the ancestry of Christ, nor does he say a word about His lineage. He stands beside the flowing river and never seeks to trace it to its source. From the very outset, St. Mark has his gaze fixed upon the Savior, bringing the reader face to face with Him. There is no attempt to explain the fact of Christ by relating it to the long past. For unrelated facts, all that will come in season can never satisfy. The first thing is to have Jesus show us, to be confronted with Him as a living person, which is St. Mark’s divine office.
His Relation to the Old Testament—St. Matthew’s Gospel
And in the following Gospel of St. Matthew, we have our Lord related to the past, because man is a reasonable being that can never find rest in isolated facts. St. Mark plunges into the heart of things. He confronts us with the Savior. He says: “If you want to understand the Lord, the first thing is to fix your gaze on Him.” Matthew takes that isolated fact and traces it back to David and Abraham: Christ is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). St. Matthew is thinking out what Christ implies, the Christ who had changed his life down to the deeps, and the great truth which dawns on him is this, that it takes David and Abraham to comprehend Him. In other words, St. Matthew says that if you want to understand the Lord, you must take in the whole of Jewish history. To St. Matthew, Christ is the crown of Jewish history. Without Him, it is inexplicable. It was to Him that the sacrifices pointed. It was of Him that all the prophets wrote. That is why, for all the difficulties, we can never dispense with the Old Testament. Christ is the son of David, who is the son of Abraham.
His Relation to Adam—Luke’s Gospel
Then we come to the Gospel of St. Luke, and we have a more prominent setting in St. Luke. St. Luke does not trace the lineage to Abraham. He traces it back to Adam: “which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam” (Luke 3:38). Beyond the parent of the Jewish race stands the parent of the human race. Beyond the representative of Israel stands the representative of man. And St. Luke sees that comprehending the Lord calls for more than the history of Israel; it calls for the long story of humanity. Much in Christ will always be unintelligible unless you know the page of the Old Testament. But it takes more than a page of the Old Testament to reach His full significance. Christ is the son of Adam, says St. Luke. He is vitally related to humanity. He is in living touch with all humankind. St. Matthew says: “If you want to understand Jesus, you must lay your hand upon the Jewish heart.”
St. Luke says: “If you want to understand Jesus, you must lay your hand upon the human heart.” And one of the beautiful features of St. Luke’s Gospel is the stress it lays upon that larger setting of Christ as the Savior of humankind. The Gospel is full of tender human touches, making the whole world kin. Roman officers march across its avenues. The Good Samaritan is there. In the Christ of St. Luke, neither Jew nor Greek nor barbarian nor Scythian bond nor free. He is the son of Adam.
His Relation to God—John’s Gospel
Lastly, we come to the Gospel of St. John, the last of the four Gospels, written after years of constant brooding on everything the Lord had meant. How, then, does St. John begin? What is the lineage he gives? Is he content to trace Christ back to Abraham or to set Him in a relationship with Adam?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” St. Mark gives the fact of Christ and bids us start by contemplating that. St. Matthew relates that fact to Jewish history; St. Luke to the whole history of man. Then comes St. John, after the lapse of years, and says, “All that is not enough. To understand the Lord, you must relate Him immediately to God.”
That is the final setting—that is the ultimate relationship. The glory of the Man St. John had known that of the only begotten of the Father. He comes from Abraham. He comes from Adam. Yes, says St. John, but there is another lineage: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”