Tag Archives: Four Gospels

Four Gospels: Matthew

Born in Palestine, Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum before preaching God’s Word. Writing primarily to a Jewish audience who had Messianic expectations, the Gospel of Matthew was most likely the second Gospel, written somewhere between 40 to 60 AD.

Matthew’s goal for this book was to convince reads that the King of Kings has come, using words and names his audience would be familiar with and presenting Jesus of Nazareth as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one and rightful King. In fact, Matthew sprinkles quotes from the Old Testament (over 60 in all) throughout the book, presenting various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry as the fulfilment of Old Testament messianic prophecy with the unique expression, “that it might be fulfilled” which is spoken by various prophets.

The structure of Matthew’s Gospel is divided into three parts: the prologue (1:1-2:23), the body (3:1-28:15), and the epilogue (28:16-20). The prologue focuses on Jesus’ genealogy, linking Him to Israel’s greatest King, David and to Abraham.

The main body of the book is constructed around five distinct discourses or sermons for strengthening faith and evangelism:

  • The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29)
  • The Commissioning of the Apostles (10:1-42)
  • Parables about the Kingdom (13:1-52)
  • Relationships in the Kingdom (18:1-35)
  • Olivet Discourse (24:1-25:46)

Each of these discourses end with a recognizable closing statement such as “When Jesus had finished saying these things…” or “After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples…” Another interesting aspect of the book are the intricate parallels made between the first discourse (Sermon on the Mount) and the fifth (Olivet) discourses, and the second (Commissioning of the Apostles) and fourth (Relationships in the Kingdom) discourses. By doing this, Matthew made the third discourse (Parables about the Kingdom) the focal point of this book.

Of special note… some biblical scholars have also compared Jesus’ baptism with his death, with a rather striking parallel between “That they shall call Him Immanuel”, which is interpreted as “God with us” (1:23) in the prologue with Jesus’ last words, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20) in the epilogue.

What is your favorite parable?
What is clear is that the Holy Spirit served as the driving force for these four men and for these four gospels to show us in very real ways the truth about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior from different vantage points. With each writer emphasizing different themes of Jesus’ life, these four historical testimonies provide a powerful, incredibly beautiful portrait of Jesus as servant and teacher, and as Son of God and Son of Man to convey God’s love for humanity.

Four Gospels: Mark

When I first read the first four books of the New Testament … the Four Gospels… I wondered about their backstory. You know… who Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were behind the scenes, how they came to know Jesus, and how their experiences with Jesus influenced their point of view. I also wondered how their individual works compared and contrasted with one another. So this past week, I did a bit of research on each of their backgrounds to shed some light on what they witnessed and the aspects of Jesus’ life they chose to focus on.

For starters, I learned that three of the four gospels (that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke ) are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. With synoptic coming from the Greek word, synoptikós meaning seeing all together, these three gospels include many of the same stories, are often similar in sequence, and at times use identical wording in their accounts of events Jesus’ life and his teaching. Meanwhile, only the Gospel of John stands out as being distinctively different in its focus.

The following is a beautiful graphical depiction I found on Wikipedia that highlights the relationship among the three synoptic gospels.

Gospels

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_Gospels>

As you can see, over three-quarters of Mark’s content is found in Matthew, and much of Mark is similarly found in Luke. Additionally, Matthew and Luke have material in common that is not found in Mark. So it is that I begin with Mark.

Mark was a disciple of Peter. Well educated, some sources say Mark served as Peter’s scribe. What most sources agree on is that the Gospel of Mark was likely the first Gospel (40 to 55 AD). His work targeted a Gentile audience, primarily Roman and Greek, and explained Jewish terms, customs, and Aramaic terms to a non-Jewish audience. The focus of this gospel was on Jesus’ works rather on His words, highlighting Jesus’ miracles and actions. The frequent use of “immediately” and “then” keeps his narrative moving rapidly, portraying Jesus as a Servant who came to suffer for the sins of many.

While many Greek and Roman authors would freely re-write their source material in their own way much like today’s authors, Mark did not. In fact, he took the utmost of care as he knew his sources were precious traditions, carefully passed on in memorized form or in written notes. He respected their contents and even, whenever possible, their formulation. It is with this mindset that Mark arranged and linked all this existing material into a chronological sequence to formulate a compelling narrative. In fact, during my research, some compared Mark to an artist who painstakingly fit existing pieces into a beautiful mosaic or to a composer who arranged existing melodies into a new symphony. Viewing his work not as his own, Mark saw himself as an arranger rather than a writer who compiled and presented Jesus’ work into a simple geographical structure:

Mark 1,1-13 Introducing Jesus and His baptism
Mark 1,14 – 6,6a Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee
Mark 6,6b – 9,50 Jesus’ apostolic journeys
Mark 10,1 – 52 Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem
Mark 11,1 – 16,20 Jesus’ ministry and passion in Jerusalem.

Once arranged, Mark bound all this material together into a compelling story that focuses on the mystery surrounding Jesus’ personality. Beginning with His baptism, Mark cites Jesus’ calling as a servant to humanity. Both a teacher and a healer, the common thread woven throughout His ministry is the question: ‘Who is this man they call Jesus?’ This mystery only intensifies when Jesus tells demons, disciples, and converts alike not to reveal His identity. The turning point though is when Peter cites Jesus’ profession as “You are the Christ!”. It is in this powerful statement that prepares us as the reader for Jesus’ declaration in Jerusalem before the High Priest: “You will see the Son of Man Jesus) sitting at the right hand of Power God)” and the centurion’s admission after His death: “Truly, this man was the Son of God!.”

Why do you think Jesus did not want those who were healed not to tell anyone?

What is clear is that the Holy Spirit served as the driving force for these four men and for these four gospels to show us in very real ways the truth about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior from different vantage points. With each writer emphasizing different themes of Jesus’ life, these four historical testimonies provide a powerful, incredibly beautiful portrait of Jesus as servant and teacher, and as Son of God and Son of Man to convey God’s love for humanity.