Jesus was aware that he was a subversive power. Matthew does omit the part about Jesus needing to go into hiding. This suggests that the author had less of a need to emphasize the theme of persecution than Mark did. Mark makes sure this story is told from the perspective of the oppressed.
Matthew also recounts the tale of Jesus forgiving the paralyzed man, calling into question his divine authority. As with the story of the leper, Marks version is far more dramatic than is Matthews. In Marks version, the aides had to cut a hole in the ceiling to deliver the man upon a stretcher. Matthew simply says that some men brought over a paralyzed man on a mat. Similarly, Matthew only has the crowd yelling once and not over and over, “This fellow is blaspheming!” (Matthew 9:3). It is almost as if the author expects that the audience will already be familiar with the story told by Mark. Moreover, Jesus appears more confident in Matthews version. Jesus tells the angry crowd, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” And then asserts his “authority” as the Son of Man (Matthew 8:4; 6). It becomes clear that Christianity itself was being increasingly viewed as mainstream by the time Matthew delivered his Gospel.
If Matthews Gospel is filled with a more confident tone than was Marks, then Lukes is even more so. The confidence with which Luke tells the stories of Jesuss healing does not preclude the author from using a deft narrative style. Luke resurrects the anecdote about Jesus retreating after he healed the man with leprosy. Only in Luke, the author does not imply that Jesus did this to hide from the authorities. Instead, Jesus simply “withdrew to lonely places and prayed,” (Luke 5:16).
When Jesus forgives and heals the paralyzed man, Luke tells the story quite differently from Mark and Matthew. In Lukes version it is not just a crowd of Jewish onlookers who are perturbed by Jesuss proclamation of forgiveness.
Now, the angry mob includes “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law,” who “began thinking to themselves, Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?,” (Luke 5:21). The difference between the Mark and Matthew accounts and the Luke accounts is politically momentous. Here, Luke is purposely interjecting the Jewish authorities as being directly antagonistic towards Christ. Any lingering anti-Semitism present in the Gospel of Matthew has come to fruition in the Gospel of Luke.
Mark, Matthew, and Luke convey the life and teachings of Jesus in their respective gospels. However similar the stories may seem on the surface, close textual readings reveal striking differences in the authors accounts. These differences may be traced to the historical, social, and political contexts in which the Gospels were written. Biblical exegesis clarifies the canonization of the Christian gospel and traces the evolution of Christianity from a divergent Jewish sect into a full-fledged, self-assured religious authority.
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