Four Distinct Views
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
You have probably gone to the theatre to see a movie with friends. You likely sat in a row, perhaps passing a bucket of popcorn back and forth. Every eye intently absorbed the highly crafted images, every ear tuned to catch every word. When it was over, the conversation bounced back and forth. Then you hear a friend say, “I just loved seeing…?” You realize you might have missed something and saw the movie altogether differently. As time goes by, maybe around an after-movie pizza, it’s discovered that while the film’s storyline was the same, the nuance and message were different for each person.
How They Saw Him
Today, we have four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that tell the story of Jesus. They present four distinct views of the singular life of Jesus. There are similarities. Some passages appear to be precisely the same, word-for-word. However, each Gospel author presented his Jesus story uniquely. Some of the events of Jesus’ life are recorded in only one account, like the accounts of Nicodemus learning about the second birth and the Samaritan woman at the well. Other events (demon-possessed man in Gedara) are presented in two or three versions. There are only a few details of Jesus’ life included in all four Gospels (death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus).
Gospel of Luke
Disciple Daily’s approach to equipping disciples for ministries of their own is to demonstrate an easy method of telling the story of the Bible, one individual account at a time, in chronological order. In the opening verses of Luke’s gospel, he tells Theophilus that he is laying out the life of Jesus in chronological order so that he “may know the exact truth about the things which you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4.” The primary audience of Luke’s gospel was the Greek world. The Greeks were very interested in sequential order and how one event led to another.
By using Luke’s story of the life of Jesus, we can “unbundle” the events of the other three gospels and lay the individual stories side-by-side for a complete picture of what happened.
Gospel of Matthew
Matthew’s primary audience was his Jewish people. It was always God’s plan that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be the avenue by which God reclaims Creation and blesses the entire world. The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, were written by Jewish authors. Matthew’s account relies more heavily on the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) than any of the other gospels. Matthew’s particular interest was that the Jewish people would see what Jesus did and said, compare it to what the prophets wrote, and conclude that Jesus was their long-expected prophet like Moses, the eternal Son of David, and their coming Messianic King.
Gospel of Mark
Mark was a close associate of the Apostle Peter, perhaps even a relative. This account of Jesus is more concerned with what Jesus did than what He said. Like those who built Roman roads and cities, enslaved people were expected to do what their masters commanded immediately, without question. Jesus is portrayed as the Father’s ultimate “servant/slave.” See Mark 10:45. The Father sent Jesus into the world to serve Himself and humanity. The Father commanded. Jesus obeyed… immediately.
Gospel of John
John’s gospel record fills in some blank spaces not covered in the other three. We discover more about the earliest days of Jesus’ ministry from John. Luke was written for the Greeks, Mathew for the Jews, and Mark addressed Roman concerns. John was written for everyone. Most scholars place the writing of John around 90 A.D., sixty years after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. By the time John completed his report, all of the other authors had passed out of this life into their reward on the other side.
John spent the latter years of His life in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), most likely in Ephesus and on the island of Patmos, where the Revelation was given to him by the Lord Jesus. The gospel John wrote focused on seven sign miracles that Jesus performed. Throughout His ministry, Jesus made seven declarations of being the great “I am” of Moses’ encounter on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3:14-15).
Like all other Scripture, the Gospels are “God breathed.” Miraculously, the Gospel accounts convey each author’s unique thoughts and concerns. At the same time, every word in the original documents is inspired by God. No word or idea was inscribed that didn’t directly come from the mind of God. Because of this two-fold truth, the Gospels present four distinct views while at the same time communicating one singular Good News. Taken together, they communicate everything God wants His followers to know about “His only begotten Son.”
New Testament Lessons
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- For about 100 years following Greek rule, Israel self-ruled, until Rome conquered the region about 40 years before the birth of Jesus.
- Jesus told critics “if you believed Moses, you would believe in Me.”
- 1st Century Jews hoped for a deliverer, the Son of David, who would throw of the oppression of Greece and Rome.
- Many Jewish men wear a small round cap in their heads at important times to identify themselves as religiously observant sons of the Mosaic covenant.
- Think back to a familiar family story, something that happened years ago that everyone talks about. What are the different ways family members remember the details? What are the similarities.
- Do the various viewpoints of your family story change the reality of what actually happened?
- If the story is old enough to be a family legend, something second and third generation family members are now telling, who does the family go to for accurate details?
- How does the exercise above enrich our understanding of the four accounts of Jesus’ life in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
- In what ways are the cumulative gospel accounts of Jesus’ life similar to your “family story?” How are they completely different both in content and formation?