Some people are confused why there are 4 gospels. Are these gospels different and do they contradict one another?
Four witnesses were divinely chosen by god to become the writers of the four gospels.
God gave them this purpose of writing, so that each of them would present a specific portrait of Jesus.
Each gospel was meant to be a complete document/book. When you read a book, do you jump to page 154 and read the 46th line and then close the book and think you have understood the book? Of course not. You start from page one. In the same way, if you want to understand any gospel, you need to read from the first chapter to the last.
The 4 portraits of Jesus presented in the gospels blends into a perfect harmony like a four-part choir, to help us to see and know and understand who Jesus really is. I like to think of it as a 4-D portrait of Jesus!
When you understand the purpose of each Gospel, you will be amazed at the beauty and the power of the gospels and how they all fit in harmony.
Although all the Gospels are for everyone, each gospel writer had a specific focus in mind.
I urge you to please read on. Whether you’re Christian or Muslim, I am pretty sure you will be amazed if you have never known about these truths.
Matthew presents Jesus as the MESSIAH / KING. He was writing primarily to the Jews. That is why you’ll find many references in Matthew’s book to the Old Testament writings and practices which the Jews were very familiar with.
Since Matthew was portraying Jesus as Messiah, he records Jesus’ legal genealogy right in Chapter 1; beginning from Abraham, to show Jesus was the one who was promised that would come as Messiah from the direct line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.
The first miracle recorded by Matthew is of a leper being cleansed. Why? Because to the Jews, leprosy was symbolic of sin. And when Jesus healed the leper, it was not just a miraculous physical healing but it symbolic of Jesus the Messiah saving us from our sins.
Matthew focuses on what Jesus, the Messiah, SAID. That is why you’ll find chapter after chapter of Jesus teachings’ like the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, 7 and so on. (By the way, Matthew used to be a tax collector, so he was very meticulous in record keeping and he knew short-hand, so he was well-prepared to write this gospel that contains so much of what Jesus spoke.
This gospel ends with the account of Jesus’ resurrection as He Himself prophesied.
Mark presents Jesus as a SERVANT of God. The FOCUS is on what Jesus DID. That is why in this gospel you will find the most number of miracles recorded, more than the others. Mark does not write as much as Matthew did in quoting the words of Jesus. His focus was on what Jesus worked as a servant of God.
Can you understand why Mark does not place a genealogy in his account like Matthew did? Because a servant’s genealogy does not matter!
Mark was writing primarily to the Romans. Mark was multi-lingual, fluent in Latin (the language of the Romans), Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. (In fact, in this gospel, you will come across a number of “foreign” words which Mark uses but clearly explains to make sure his readers understand.)
Mark was the perfect writer for this gospel that presents Jesus as a servant because he himself was a servant and assistant to Paul and then later to Peter. He was also a helper for a brief period to Luke as well. Basically, this gospel was the eyewitness account of Peter. Mark was Peter’s scribe. This gospel is summarized perfectly in 10:45. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to SERVE, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There you have it, the story of the servant.
Luke was a doctor. He presents Jesus as a human, SON OF MAN. He was writing primarily to the Greeks. This gospel focuses on how Jesus FELT as a human being. As a doctor, he was perfect to write about Jesus’ humanity.
Luke’s focus was Jesus as a man. So it should come as no surprise that Luke records Jesus’ genealogy and his record goes back to the first man, Adam. Unlike Matthew, who traced Jesus’ legal kingly line as proof of being the Messiah, Luke traces Jesus’ human blood line through Mary (since he had no human father) and shows His humanity. Can you see why Matthew and Luke had differing genealogies and the reasons for them?
Luke ends the gospel with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, to set up his sequel, the Book of Acts where he picks up from where he left off with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, 40 days after the ascension of Jesus.
John’s gospel was the last to be written, probably around 90 AD. The 3 earlier gospels were written around 50-60 AD.
In this gospel, John presents Jesus as the divine SON OF GOD. He focuses on WHO Jesus was. You will find in this gospel glimpses of His divinity. Just like the other gospels, this gospel is for everyone but John’s primary audience he had in mind were Christians.
Many people think there is no genealogy in John. Look carefully at verse one onwards. It is speaking of Jesus pre-existence, with and as God! That’s His origin. Etenity!
Right from chapter one, John makes it clear that Jesus is divine and stepped into His own creation (John 1:14). In chapter 3, you will find that Jesus says He came from heaven. In John 5, 8, 10 and other places you will see evidences that Jesus is God.
In fact, there is no way you can miss John’s purpose in writing this gospel because he states in clearly towards the end of the book in 20:31, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” If you read a verse in John and come to any other conclusion different from what John stated, then you have missed the message of this book. YOu contradict the author and you are wrong.
John ends this gospel with the promise of Jesus’ return, thus setting up John’s sequel book, Revelation, where he picks up again on the second coming of Jesus and what will happen then.
As you can see, the gospels are not just random verses or chapters thrown together. It is a book to be read and understood as a whole. Not picking a verse here and a verse there to create your own opinion or false theology.
Now when you read the gospel, you will have a clarity you never had before of what it all actually means. You will understand why certain things are in one gospel but not in another. And most important of all, you will see Jesus for who He truly is, Messiah, Servant, Man, God.
This diagram below summarizes these points.
adapted from the lectures of Chuck Missler.