The four Gospels are neither histories of the life of Christ nor biographies. They are portraits of the person and work of the long-promised Messiah, Israel’s King and the world’s Savior. As portraits, they present four different poses of one unique personality.
Matthew by the Holy Spirit presents Christ as King, Mark as Servant, Luke as Man, and John as God. Although featuring Christ as King, Matthew sketches His role as a King in the closest connection with His character as Servant, as Man, and as God (Matthew 13:53-19:30). Likewise, although featuring Him as Servant, Mark depicts Christ’s servant role in the closest connection with His character as King, Man and God (Mark 11:1-16:1-8).
Similarly Luke focuses the spotlight on Christ as Man and John as God, but like other evangelists, they do not separate Him from His full-orbed character (Luke 4:14-9:50, John 1:19- 2:50). The four Gospels narrate, largely, the same things, but with some differences.
Only Matthew and Luke tell of the Birth and childhood of Jesus (Matthew 1:14-9:1, Luke 1:5-4:13). Matthew and Mark dwell on the Galilean Ministry; Luke, the Perean; John, the Judean. John omits most of the Galilean Ministry and records visits to Jerusalem that the others omit (Luke 9:51-19:27).
The others omit the Judean Ministry, except the Last Week, which all four cover rather extensively. The Last Week occupies one-third of Matthew, approximately one-third of Mark, one-quarter of Luke, and one-half of John. John devotes seven chapters, about one-third of his book, to Crucifixion Day, sunset to sunset. Thus all four writers present the one and same Person: the God-Man, Servant of the Lord, King of Israel, humanity’s Redeemer.
The special emphasis of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah foretold by Old Testament Prophets. As he quotes from the Old Testament repeatedly, he seems to have had Jewish readers in mind. Mark’s special emphasis is the Superhuman power of Jesus, by demonstrating His Deity by His Miracles (Mark 1:14-9:1). Omits most of Jesus’ lectures. Narrates things Jesus did rather than things Jesus said.
Seems to have had Gentile readers in mind. Luke’s special emphasis is the humanity of Jesus. Representing Jesus as the Son of God. Luke features His kindness toward the weak, the suffering, and the outcast (Luke 9:51-18:27). He seems to have had the Greeks, who represented culture, philosophy, and wisdom, in mind.
John places special emphasis on the Deity of Jesus. Consists mostly of Jesus’ lectures and conversations. Discusses things Jesus said rather than things He did (John 1:1-18). By describing the eternal pre-existence, human birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ and His life and teachings, the four Gospels present a living, dynamic, unique personality. God became man to work out man’s redemption from sin.
These four portraits present Him as Lord and Savior, rather than describing all He did and in the precise order in which He did it. They introduce us to Him, rather than to His life as a whole. The Gospels are incomplete as a story but marvelously complete and purposeful as a divine revelation of the Son of God, our Savior. And this is faith’s need. It is also disbelief’s stumbling block.
National,”The Holy Bible”, Authorized (King James) Version. Philadelphia: The National Bible Press (1963). Cambridge, “The New English Bible”, The New English Translation. Cambridge: The University Press (1972).
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