This is a general overview of the Gospels.
As we read through the Old Testament, we see abundant evidence of the rebellion of men in general and Israel in particular, along with many promises and foreshadowings of a coming Redeemer, like bright stars against a midnight sky.
The New Testament is the story of that Redeemer.
Two questions might be asked: “Why do we have the Gospels?” and, “Why are there four Gospels?”
We have the Gospels because without them we would have virtually no record of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. It is necessary that we have some such account in order to validate His teaching. The Gospels provide the DEMONSTRATION of Who He was, in order that we might better pay attention to the DECLARATION of what He said, both during His life and in the later NT writings, including Paul’s, for all those are much His words as what He spoke while in Israel. We include Paul, because some charge him with taking the Jewish Jesus and turning Him into something that was never meant to be.
A second reason we have the Gospels is to impress upon our minds the truth that Christianity revolves around, is founded and rests upon, and proclaims Jesus Christ Himself, and not just certain historical facts, doctrinal viewpoints or important “leaders” in the church.
There are several reasons why we have four Gospels. Mainly, we have them because it is God’s will, but there are secondary reasons.
1. To give a more complete and satisfying portrait of the Lord Jesus. Each Gospel has its own distinctive presentation of the life and work of Christ.
2. Each Gospel was written with a specific audience and purpose in mind. No matter where a son or daughter of Adam finds themselves, they will never come to God on God’s terms to find that God cannot or will not help them.
We want to spend just a moment considering the men who wrote the Gospels and the unlikeliness of any of them ever writing words from God.
Matthew, the publican, the tax-gatherer, the traitor to his own people, in league with their oppressors the Romans, yet was used to write to those same Jews of their great Messiah-King,Who would ultimately deliver them, not from the hated Roman, but from a far greater oppression and bondage – sin.
Mark, that one who deserted his fellowlaborers Paul and Barnabas, going back from service to God to the easier life at home, yet was destined to write the Gospel of the Servant-Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke, probably the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, educated, polished, but, for all that, a Gentile, hence a stranger “from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Ephesians 2:12, yet brought to know and write about that God, in the person of the Lord Jesus, presented by Luke as ideal, perfect Man, sent not merely to the house of Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every kindred, nation, tongue and tribe.
John, an uneducated, rough fisherman, his Gospel in the original language is by far the simplest grammatically, insomuch that beginning Greek students translate its verses in their first translation attempts; simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing thoughts that 2000 years of church study and wisdom have not begun to fathom.
As we noted above, each Gospel presents a different view of the Lord. Adapting Pilate’s exclamation to the crowd prior to the Crucifixion (John 19:5), we might summarize each Gospel like this:
Matthew: Behold the Sovereign! Matthew wrote to Jewish readers of their Messiah, their King.
Mark: Behold the Servant! Mark wrote for the Roman mind, picturing Jesus as “the Servant of Jehovah”.
Luke: Behold the Sympathetic! Luke addressed the Greek mind, portraying Jesus as the Ideal Man. As such, Luke is the “human interest” Gospel.
John: Behold the Son! John wrote to Christians, to declare and to defend the truth of Jesus as “God manifest in the flesh”.
The distinctives of each Gospel:
Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s AUTHORITY. Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18
Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s ACTIVITY. Mark records only one discourse and four parables, but eighteen miracles.
Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s AVAILABILITY. Though there times of withdrawal in the Lord’s life, yet through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.
John is the Gospel of Christ’s ANTIQUITY. Not only in the prologue does John refer to the eternal dignity and existence of Jesus as The Word, but Jesus Himself does so: John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’.” Skeptics today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but the Jews who heard Him make this statement knew that that was exactly what He was claiming. That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot.