One of my last articles, The Apostles of Christ as Breakfast Cereals, gained significantly more attention than I had expected (which, admittedly, is not saying much, seeing as though it started out as a blog post I wrote for my friends at 3 AM while very sleep deprived and munching on a bowl of Mini Wheats), and it has led me to think that I may have just tapped into a popular niche in the field of Biblical Studies, with my combination of the New Testament scholarship and breakfast foods. As such, allow me to present my latest thought experiment, wherein I shall seek to encapsulate the essence of each of the four gospels using your favourite Starbucks coffee- based drinks as my chosen metaphor. For the sake of this experiment, we shall say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself is represented by pure caffeine, completely raw and unsullied. Each of the four Biblical Gospels, then, will act as four different beverages, which allow us four unique perspectives, profiles, and presentations of the world’s most widely used stimulant. So, without further ado, lets grind up some beans and open up the word!
(Note: Please be assured that I have the highest respect and love for all four gospel accounts found in the New Testament – This article is purely for fun and is not meant to discredit or deride any of the NT writings!)
The Gospel According to Mark – Double Shot of Espresso
The wonderful and highly concentrated concoction of stimulation from which so many other drinks have evolved. No time to mess around here – we need the straight caffeine, and we need it NOW. No water, milk, or sugar necessary. We don’t need any layers of froth or foam, we don’t need any fancy Latte art, just a single verse of crema on top and then it’s straight down to flavour town, my dudes. We’re gonna gulp it back in one go and let our hearts palpitate away. The son of God is HERE and that is GOOD NEWS for us and BAD NEWS for the worldly powers of sin and darkness that wanna hinder God’s Kingdom. Why would anyone feel the need to add any steamed milk to that message? Mark certainly doesn’t. Mark gives us a quick and powerful jolt that, when read properly, will make you wanna get right out of bed and get down to business. God is very much HERE, and I am very much AWAKE.
The Gospel According to Matthew – Black Americano
Okay all of the above may be true, but c’mon, why don’t we add just a little bit of water to make it go down easier? Yeah, there’s still a pretty powerful message that’s gotta be shared, but we can slooow it on down a little bit and take a second to appreciate just who this figure of Jesus is and what exactly he was all about. Maybe we’ll do this through some careful literary structure that takes some time and meditation to appreciate, or maybe we’ll do it by adding some important historical context. We don’t need to dilute any of the caffeine here, but maybe downing it in one gulp doesn’t really do full justice to the possible flavour here, y’know? Let’s try to get a fuller picture and a bigger drink out of this universe-changing event that the Gospel is.
The Gospel According to Luke – Café Latte
“I’ve got a Café Latte here for Theophilus!” The Barista shouts across a crowded room. Sure, “Theophilus” is misspelled on the cup, but the cup’s contents could not be more nicely or professionally prepared. There’s even some wonderful angel-shaped latte art delicately poured into the top it to welcome you in! The drink Theophilus now holds in his hand does indeed contain the fullness of the gospel, even if it also contains a hefty amount of milk that our boy Mark didn’t think was necessary (Mark sits in the corner of this hypothetical Starbucks holding his very tiny espresso cup in extremely jittery hands and condescendingly glancing at the inferior cups around him. Theophilus is not particularly concerned by this). Even if there is more milk in this drink than you might need in order to get fully caffeinated early in the morning, there’s no doubt that it is delicious milk, and it brings a richness out of the raw espresso base that may not have otherwise been noticed. When this drink is made well, the richness and the mouthfeel make the extra prep time very much worth it!
The Gospel According to John – Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
Upon encountering the blended sweetness of John’s gospel, we can only imagine that Theophilus would stare aghast, thick latte milk mustache adorning his upper lip, and Matthew would be startled into spilling his Americano, scalding his lap. Mark would have collapsed from a caffeine-induced heart attack a few minutes ago and would thankfully be spared from the shock which his colleagues now endure.
But nobody (not even Mark) could deny that this monstrosity of a potation that we call the Gospel of John does indeed contain all the same fundamental claims as the other gospel accounts – it is no less caffeinated than Mark, so to speak. What makes it unique, however, is that it also seems to contain chocolate chips, a hefty dose of whipped cream, and not one single parable.
What I’m getting at is that John stands out as something of a creative when you compare his account to the other three. Where the other gospels contain historical information, genealogies, and relatively straight-forward narratives, John’s gospel usually contains poetry, metaphor, and mystery. John also stretches Jesus’ ministry out over a longer period than the other gospels do and includes some neat stuff (such as the raising of Lazarus from the dead) that the other gospels don’t mention. Does this make John any less truthful than his buddies? Absolutely not! Even if it is a bit painful for the espresso purists to admit. In fact, it would probably be good for the Mark fans to indulge their sweet tooth in John a little bit, just like it might be good for the John fans to lay off the sugar occasionally and just sip some straight coffee. This drink contains all the same caffeine as the others, even if it is blended up with some sweetness and beauty that the other drinks didn’t think was necessary.
I’m not sure exactly how to wrap this one up, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey as much as I have! Next time you open the New Testament or pull into the Starbucks drive thru, I hope this article encourages you to shake things up a little bit and get a new perspective on the substance that fuels your entire life.
I’m a graduate student working on my Master’s Degree in Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and I’m most passionate about studying and teaching the Bible. Outside of my academic life I enjoy caffeinated beverages, books, movies, and punk rock.