Gospels Show Four Different ‘Portraits of Passion’ Kelly Says

April 13, 2001

After showing Oklahoma Baptist University students four slides of himself in different situations, Dr. Bobby Kelly began his Holy Week chapel address by saying, "You know me better with four pictures than you do with one. You find out more about who I am."

Similarly, with the story of Christ, Christians read four gospels, not one.

"To understand Christ the best we can, we need all four," he said.

Kelly, OBU Rowena Strickland assistant professor of religion, called the different versions of Jesus' death in the gospels "portraits of passion."

In the gospel of Mark, the crucifixion scene is dark, Kelly said. Jesus' life is depicted as lonely, surrounded by disciples who never seem to understand who he is. Jesus cries out in the Garden of Gethsemane because he is so overwhelmed with emotion.

"He is alone," Kelly said.

Although God is depicted as remaining silent when his Son calls to him from the cross, both Father and Son suffer in different ways, Kelly said.

"Jesus suffers the pain of dying and God suffers the death of the Son," he said.

In Matthew, the portrait of passion is also dark and full of suffering, humiliation, and degradation, Kelly said. But unlike in Mark, God responded to Jesus' crying out on the cross.

"The heavens are answering the cry in Matthew and ground is shaking, rocks split and bodies come up out of the tomb," he said. "In his death, we see his power to give life."

In Luke, Jesus cries out three times from the cross. The focus in Luke, Kelly said, is Jesus' passiveness towards his enemies.

"It is clear in Luke that it is happening out of divine necessity," he said. "This is the will of God."

The portrait in Luke also points out that even in death Jesus reaches out to the lowest in society, including the thief on the cross next to him.

"There is no crying out to God but only concern for others," Kelly said. "This is an example of someone who walks the talk."

In contrast to Luke where Jesus is depicted as passive, John portrays Jesus as in control, allowing the events of his crucifixion to take place.

When he dies, Jesus says, "It is finished," not because his enemies have taken his life but because he has given it, Kelly said.

"He is doing the thing he was called to do," Kelly said. "In his moment of greatest suffering was his greatest glory."

Through the four gospels, Christians are given four profiles in glory. There is one Christ and one cross, Kelly said, and together they stand at the heart of the Christian message.

"The power of the cross of Christ has gone out into all the world," he said.

Kelly has served on the OBU faculty since 1997 and is currently interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Midwest City.

He and his wife, Angie, have one son, Luke Alexander.