Reading the gospel accounts is good. Having help to read the stories of the life and work of our Lord is even better! Peter J. Leithart’s The Four: A Survey of the Gospels (Canon Press, 2010) is going to be creative, if nothing else. I say this based on the sampling of his interpretive theory used in his extended analysis of John 9 throughout his very enjoyable work, Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture (Baylor, 2009). Consider two recent blog posts by Leithart:
There are three “quakes” in Matthew. Twice the earth quakes, at the cross and at the resurrection (27:51; 28:2). The other quake is a quaking of the sea (8:24).
The quake of the sea in chapter 8 foreshadows the resurrection. Jesus is in a boat, on the sea, sleeping; later, he will sleep the sleep of death, having been tossed into the Gentile sea, tried, and executed. Jesus “rises” from sleep (8:25-26), as He will “rise” from the dead (28:6-7). Jesus demonstrates His authority over wind and sea by rebuking it, just as He will proclaim His authority in heaven and on earth after rising from the tomb. When the boat gets to land, they are in Gentile territory, where Jesus casts out a legion of demons from two demoniacs; after Jesus rises from the tomb, He will send the disciples out to make disciples of the demon-infested Gentile nations, the Roman empire with its legions.
As soon as the Twelve are called, they begin to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:20, 22, 25), but until Matthew 8 we never actually see them follow Jesus somewhere. Discipleship is a large concern of chapters 8-10; the word “follow” is used 10x, climactically in 10:38, where following Jesus means taking up the cross, encountering threats and dangers.
The disciples have already learned that lesson, though. The first time the disciples are said to follow Jesus somewhere is in 8:23. They follow Him into a boat, into a storm, into a sea-quake, and, when they’re out of danger on the sea, Jesus takes them to a country of demoniacs.
This is where Jesus leads.
I suspect Leithart will draw out the beauty of the four different, yet consistent and fully agreeable, portraits of Christ and his work on the Cross to redeem his own.
Doubling as both scholar and guide, Leithart dives deep into the fascinating web woven by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Four covers everything from running themes within each book to more technical issues like the “synoptic problem.” Written for high school students and beyond, this book includes review and thought questions throughout each chapter, as well as a bibliography and scripture index.