Thank you for choosing to join us again at 2017. This year, our goal is to gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word. One strategy is slowing down. This means consuming fewer pages of scripture so that we can fully digest what we take in. Sounds good, right? As you have seen in our previous email, this begins today. For the next few months, we are going to read through the Gospels.
Rather than dive right into Matthew 1, today we want to look at what the gospels are. Have you ever wondered why there are four books in the Bible that say pretty much the same thing? Or, maybe you are the one wondering why they don’t say the same thing. Looking closer will give us a better picture.
First, the gospels, like the entire Bible, are intended to be a collection, standing together not separately. Utilizing their own, unique perspective, each writer shares his perspective of Jesus’ life. But, that simplistic description leaves it short. C.I. Scofield expounds, “the four Gospels, though designedly incomplete as a story, are divinely perfect as a revelation. We may not through them know everything that He did, but we may know the Doer. In four great characters, each of which completes the other three, we have Jesus Christ Himself. The Evangelists never describe Christ–they set Him forth. They tell us almost nothing of what they thought about Him, they let Him speak and act for himself.” I find that statement remarkable. When listening closely, we can detect the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He, working in us, through the gospel writers, enabling us to know the doer, Jesus.
So, we can conclude that these four accounts are an opportunity to share Jesus with the world. That is a tall order. Partly because people are separated and segregated by physical boundaries and cultural norms. Every group operates with its own ideas, customs, and social behaviors. To fully communicate any message, a writer must know the cultural implications of that message. It comes as no surprise then that God divinely appointed writers that were uniquely able to overcome these cultural barriers. These writers are unique in their cultural perspectives, individual callings, and relational influences. Consider how each of these four uniquely penetrates social groups:
- Matthew writes primarily to the Jewish nation. He focuses on the fulfillment of prophecy and the Mosaic law. He successfully resets Jewish expectations of an earthly king, paving the way for the Holy Spirit. Additionally, Matthew takes on the challenge of opening the Jewish people to acceptance of the Gentiles. We could classify Matthew’s testimony to be focused on our past beliefs and practices
- Mark, on the other hand, talks more to the Gentiles. One strategy he uses is talking about miracles. In fact, he talks more about miracles than any other writer. Because of the opposition and persecution that Christians faced from the Roman empire, he carefully explains how and why to be a Christ-follower in the midst of this opposition. Additionally, Mark focuses on what Jesus did more than what he said. He is also characterized by his often call to action, “immediately.” This leads us to the conclusion that Mark is also writing for our present lives.
- Luke provides us with more detail and style in his writing. It is known that he was thoroughly steeped in Greek culture which is highly focused on style and beauty. Additionally, the Greeks were historians. Luke, therefore includes eyewitness testimony to resolve any doubt of its accuracy. Luke works diligently to present Jesus as the Savior of all men. This leads us toward Luke focusing on our future selves.
- John does not follow the format or content of his fellow gospel writers. Therefore, his book is not included in what are called the “synoptic gospels.” Instead, Mathew Henry explains that John gives us more of the mystery of Jesus while the others only give the history. John, then, is building upon the foundation of the other writers. He brings into focus the spirituality, specifically the divinity, of Jesus. It is fitting to read what John writes in Revelation 12:1, when a loud voice from heaven says “come here.” From this, we see that John is calling us toward eternity.
Admittedly, relative to the Gospel’s full message, this summary is embarrassingly small. Ironically, John understood this too. He writes that the world could not contain all the book written about Jesus if they were written in detail (John 21:25). Even so, I am excited to learn them each, a little better. Each of them is, in fact, “good news.” Even better, these writers are just as relevant today as they were nearly 2,000 years ago. Prayerfully, over the next few months, we will experience the gospel writers’ message as “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).”
Resources and References:
Matthew Henry’s Commentary. http://biblehub.com/summary/luke/1.htm
(2010-08-10). The MacArthur Study Bible (Kindle Location 226693). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Stob, William S. (2015-06-17). The Four Gospels: A Guide to Their Historical Background, Characteristic Differences, and Timeless Significance (Kindle Locations 4590-4592). Ambassador International. Kindle Edition.
Guide to the Four Gospels. http://overviewbible.com/four-gospels/
Why Are There Four Gospels? A.W. Pink. http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/the-gospels/why-are-there-four-gospels.html