The Gospels in Harmony
The four Gospels record the eternal being, human ancestry, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man. They record also a selection from the incidents of His life, and from His words and works. Taken together, they set forth, not a biography but a Personality.
These two facts, that we have in the four Gospels a complete Personality, but not a complete biography, indicate the spirit and intent in which we should approach them. What is important is that through these narratives we should come to see and know Him whom they reveal. The twenty-nine formative years are passed over in a silence which is broken but once, and that in but twelve brief verses of Luke's Gospel. It may be well to respect the divine reticence.
But 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.
This is the essential respect in which these narratives differ from mere biography or portraiture. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The student in whom dwells an ungrieved Spirit finds here the living Christ.
For the Gospels are woven of Old Testament quotation, allusion, and type. The very first verse of the New Testament drives the thoughtful reader back to the Old; and the risen Christ sent His disciples to the ancient oracles for an explanation of His sufferings and glory (Lk. 24. 27, 44, 45). One of His last ministries was the opening of their understandings to understand the Old Testament. The Gospels present Christ in His three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.
Special emphasis rests upon that to which all four Gospels bear a united testimony. That united testimony is sevenfold:
1. In all alike is revealed the one unique Personality. The one Jesus is King in Matthew, Servant in Mark, Man in Luke, and God in John. But not only so:
for Matthew's King is also Servant, Man, and God;
and Mark's Servant is also King, and Man, and God,
Luke's Man is also King, and Servant, and God;
and John Is eternal Son is also King, and Servant, and
The pen is a different pen; the incidents in which He is seen are different incidents; but He is always the same Christ.
2. All the Evangelists record the ministry of John the Baptist.
3. All record the feeding of the five thousand.
4. All record Christ's offer of Himself as King, according to Micah.
5. All record the betrayal by Judas; the denial by Peter; the trial, crucifixion and literal resurrection of Christ. And this record is so made as to testify that the death of Christ was the supreme business which brought Him into the world that all which precedes that death is but preparation for it; and that from it flow all the blessings which God ever has or ever will bestow upon man.
6. All record the resurrection ministry of Christ; a ministry which reveals Him as unchanged by the tremendous event of His passion, but a ministry keyed to new note of universality, and of power.
7. All point forward to His second coming.
Why Four Gospels?
It is very important to realize that the Synoptic Gospels were written to the three great national powers of that day. The laws were the great religious power; the Romans were the great military, governmental power; the Greeks were the great cultural power. It is in interesting to realize that the Gospel offer was made in the book of Acts in the same order in which the first three Gospels are now arranged: First to the Jews, then to the Romans and then to the Greeks.
I. Reflection: To give four different photographs of the Lord Jesus. Just as a photographer takes different poses of a person, the Holy Spirit takes four different snapshot pictures of Christ, as King, Servant, Man and God.
II. Perfection: To emphasize His life and work by repeating it four times. The Holy Spirit uses repetition to drive home great cardinal facts about the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.
III. Attraction: To show that there is far more than enough in the Lord Jesus to attract all different types and races of men. Matthew shows that there is far more than enough in Christ to attract the Jews; Mark shows that there is far more than enough in Him to attract the Romans; Luke shows that there is far more than enough in Him to attract the Greeks; John summarizes by showing that there is far more than enough in Christ to attract people in all the world.
IV. Completion: To show how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy which had pictured Christ as King, Servant, Man and God.
A. In this connection it is interesting to remember that our Old Testament Prophecies of Christ as "the Branch" correspond to the four Gospels:
1. Jeremiah 23:5 "Behold, [the] days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. (NKJV)
2. Zechariah 3:8:"For,behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch." This corresponds to Mark.
3. Zechariah 6:12 "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch." This corresponds to Luke,
4. Jeremiah 23:6 "And this is His name whereby He (the Branch) shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness." This corresponds to John.
B. It is also interesting to remember that four Old Testament prophecies of Christ which use the word "behold" correspond to the four Gospels:
1. Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of
2. Isaiah 42:1 "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One [in whom] My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. (NKJV). This corresponds to Mark.
3. Zechariah 6:12:"Behold the man, whose name is the Branch." This corresponds to Luke.
4. Isaiah 40:9:"Say unto the cities of
V. Date And Place of Writing
A. Matthew: between 50 and 60 AD, from Judea, possibly from
B. Mark: between 66 and 70 AD from
C. Luke: between 60 and 70 AD, probably from
D. John: between 90 and 100 AD from
E. It must be remembered that there are differences of opinion among orthodox scholars about the relative dates of the three Synoptics. Some assign a very early date to Mark, making it the first of all four Gospels to be written. However, if we accept the above dates as correct, it is rather easy to remember that the four Gospels were written in approximately the same chronological order in which they are now arranged in our English Bibles: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
THE GOSPELS The Lord promised that David would never lack a son to sit on the throne, and the next one thousand years present an uninterrupted, generation-by-generation list of male descendants-the longest known. None of the gospels are chronological histories or biographies in our modern sense. The Gospels record what Jesus did. The Gospel of John records what Jesus said.
The Gospels record Christ's ministry to the four groups of people then and now in the world. The Jews who loved the Scriptures and the prophecies of God. They would only listen to one of their own. So Matthew speaks to the Jews and the deeply religious of our day.
Mark spoke to the Romans. These were the leaders and leadership and action impressed them. They knew nothing of Scriptures but everything of power. So to this group comes the action packed Gospel of the powerful ministry of Christ. Mark uses the word “and” 1,375 times to tie together the endless actions of Christ. Like our modern successful business man and woman, they want a God who can powerfully meet their deepest needs.
Luke was a Greek speaking to the Greeks. The Greeks loved culture, beauty and ideas. Happiness could be found in the pursuit of truth. Luke fills his book with insights, interviews, songs and details that fascinate the inquiring mind. So today the truth seekers find Jesus in Luke!
John wrote to everyone, because everyone needs to meet God and only Jesus can reveal Him. In this book we meet an absolutely powerful God in human flesh who controls and rules the Universe He created. So the best known verse is the best of all offer that God loves all and offers all -- His Son as their only hope!
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