September 28 – Hard Questions – Why are there 4 different gospels?

Read John 20:30-31

“Our tendency in approaching the Gospels is to think of them as modern biography. We want them to give us all the facts about Jesus and especially to get the chronology of His life right…Yet, the Gospel writers did not set out to write modern biographies. They did not even know about it or realize that people would be interested in such issues in hundreds of years. What they did know about was ancient biography.

The point of such works was not to give a chronology of a life but to present selected facts so as to bring out the significance of the person’s life and the moral points that the reader should draw from it. The point is that, as was the case in ancient biography, the Gospels are not photographs of Jesus but portraits.”

When I walked into The Great Commission Bible Institute (GCBI) in August of 2011, I had no idea the amount of God’s Word I was about to get to know. I was a fairly new surrendered follower of Jesus and still trying to grasp and understand His truth and, boy, was I hungry to know more! But like most new followers, I was confused by a lot of things at first, especially why the Lord gifted us with 4 different portraits of Jesus’ ministry and time on earth. 

The Overview:

The Book of Matthew – The Words of Jesus 

The Book of Mark – The Works of Jesus

The Book of Luke – Chronology of Events

The Book of John – The Conflict of Jesus

Matthew’s gospel was focused on the words of Jesus. I say this mostly because its backbone was the main 5 sermons taught within its pages. (Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5, True Witness in chapter 10, What Heaven is like in chapter 13, Forgiveness in chapter 18 and The Olivet Discourse in chapters 23-25).

Mark’s pages skip the first 30 years of Jesus’ life and focus mostly on the workings of Jesus’ ministry

Luke enters in during the first church; think the book of Acts. He collects interviews from first-hand accounts and puts them in order chronologically (Luke 1:3).

By the time John’s writing Matthew, Mark and Luke’s writings had been already circulated through the church and Jews were trying to turn Gentiles to Jews. In my opinion, John is a Polemic Biography, meaning “to make a point” and the point being where we started:

So then, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31

I don’t say all of this for just the sake of knowledge and knowledge alone, but to give you context. Each God inspired writer (2 Timothy 3:16) has a purpose and that was to tell you the whole story.

Think of it this way; when you walk into a tattoo shop, what the artist does before he begins to tattoo skin is draw on translucent paper. Say someone wants an in-depth intricate piece that will take four sessions; each session has its own piece of paper. On its own, it may look great, but it doesn’t give you the fullness of what was intended. Once the artist stacks all four pieces on top of each other, you see the beautiful piece it was intended to be. 

Alone, each gospel tells the story of Jesus and it is good. However, God intended for us to have four different perspectives of Christ’s life and ministry that fit together to give us the entire perspective as it was intended to be.

Kelly Lawson

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