There’s a beautiful story Matt 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. Take a moment to read it. However, there’s an odd verse right at the end of the account, a verse that could (or should) make the champions of “the perspicuity of Scripture” squirm a little.
It goes something like this:
Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Matt 26:13)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to hear someone preach “the gospel” and include this story.
So what do we make of this? Are we not faithfully obeying a command of what it means to truly and fully proclaim the gospel?
This is the problem, or what I think might be a primary problem with our gospel, and why this verse could get our knickers in a twist: We don’t believe the gospels are the gospel. We think the gospels tell the story of Jesus, mainly existing to convince us that Jesus is divine by his miracles, while predominantly focusing on the book-end events of the incarnation and crucifixion. But they aren’t the gospel. The gospel is found after the book of Acts, mainly situated in places like Romans.
And we have theologians asking somewhat anachronistic questions like: Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel?
Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel? – What?!
I think we need to ask the question the other way around, flip it over: Did Paul preach Jesus’ gospel? Of course, I think he did. But what is Jesus’ gospel?
The gospel of Jesus is found in the gospels…because, again, the gospels are the gospel. That’s why the gospels carry that lovely identifier. That’s why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are called “the evangelists,” which means “the gospel-bearers.”
The gospel is NOT the plan of salvation, meaning it’s not 4 spiritual laws or quoting a smattering verses across the letter to the Romans. And I’ve even go so far as to say a typical evangelical view of justification is not synonymous with the gospel.
The gospels are the gospel.
And, so, knowing the gospels tell the gospel – the full story of the rule of God, the order of heaven, coming in Jesus, who himself fulfilled the story of Israel (check out something like Mark 1:15) – we can make sense of what might seem like an odd passage: Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
With the gospels of Matthew and Mark embedding that story in their gospel, we have this account being proclaimed with the gospel. The gospel-ers were being faithful to the gospel. They were fulfilling their own gospel proclamation.
I think this shows the beautiful reality of the gospel, the actual story that is the gospel. It’s not cramming a few propositions into a summary presentation. But if the gospels are the gospel, then let people engage with the gospel story – the whole story.
Don’t run to Paul, or Peter for that matter. Sure, Paul, Peter and the other epistle writers contribute to the gospel story. But their words need to fall under the framework of the gospel as found in the gospels, especially upon the lips of the greatest gospel-bearer (or evangelist) to ever live: Jesus.
Then, and only then, will passages like Matt 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 make sense.