By: JIL Education and Discipleship Dept.
The beauty of the Gospels resides in the fact that even though each contains essentially the same basic information about Jesus, each Gospel account is remarkably distinct in its presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Each of the four books is actually complete in itself. Yet, taken together, the four Gospels give us a holistic view of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. To fully grasp Jesus’ life and earthly ministry entails knowing Him as Servant as He is presented in the book of Mark, understanding His humanity as Son of Man as He is presented in the book of Luke, recognizing His Kingship and Royal identity as presented in the Gospel of Matthew, and acknowledging His Deity as presented in the Gospel of John. This only goes to show that in each of the four Gospels we can find one motley splash of beauty and emphasis that contribute a particular viewpoint that is absolutely necessary in understanding the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Mark gives us a vivid picture of Jesus as “Son of God.” It should be noted however, that the title Son of God is not used to denote His “Deity or Divinity.” The title carries with it Messianic connotations, giving emphasis to Jesus’ Messianic role, that is, to bring the outcast and the marginalized back to society. The book of Mark also presents Jesus as “Son of Man.” As Son of Man Jesus came to the world to suffer and die for the redemption of mankind. The title Son of Man is used to give emphasis to Jesus’ calling and mission that is characterized by mortification, suffering, martyrdom and servanthood. As Son of God and as Son of Man Jesus exemplified true servanthood. In Mark He is always at work, doing miracles and teaching people. The book is actually characterized by fast-paced action and a sense of urgency as evidenced by the reiterative use of the words “immediately,” “at once,” “quickly” and “just then” that are mentioned no less than 41 times.
In the Gospel of Matthew the genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham the father of the Jewish nation and to David, Israel’s greatest king. Both are recipients of covenantal promise. This is to prove that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was spoken through the prophets, that He is the long expected King and Deliverer of His people. In this book, Jesus has the following Royal titles: King, Messiah, Christ, Son of David. It is in fact in this Gospel that the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned 31 times. Not even once does the said phrase appear in the other Gospels. The Royal identity of Jesus is recognized by the multitudes that he preached to and even by the little children. Another prominent feature of Matthew’s Gospel is the predominance of Jesus’ ethical teachings that are radical in nature- radical in the sense that His teachings openly denounced the hypocrisy of His contemporaries, the Pharisees. As a matter of fact, in chapter 23, Jesus reserved His strongest and longest sermon not for struggling sinners, discouraged disciples or wealthy people but for hypocrites, glory hogs and legalists.
The book of Luke highlights Jesus’ ministry to the poor. Here we find proof that Jesus is specially attentive to the plight of the marginalized- those who were generally looked upon as insignificant members of society in the first century: women, children, the poor and the disreputable. Luke also clearly establishes that Jesus is strongly opposed to love for riches as much as he is ardently concerned about the poverty of the needy. In this Gospel account Jesus emphatically warned against riches. Luke’s Gospel utterly denounces an order of society in which riches are highly esteemed and poverty despised for what is highly valued among men is detestable to GOD (Luke 16:15). Another dominant theme in Luke is the special role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary bore a child. Furthermore, Jesus Himself was baptized by the Holy Spirit before His earthly ministry began.
The Gospel according to John gives prominence to the Divinity and Deity of Jesus Christ. In this book we find the preexistence of Jesus. Only in John is Jesus given the Christological title I AM. Jesus Himself declared, “Before Abraham was I AM.” He is also referred to as “Son of God.” But unlike in the Gospel of Mark, the title speaks of Jesus’ Divine nature. He is the “Son of God” whom the Father sent to do His work. The writer of this Gospel sets forth to prove that Jesus, although 100% human is “undiminished deity.” Among the four Gospels, John is considered a “primer” for it contains the very heart of Christianity – that eternal life is obtained through faith in the one and only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
To have a thorough understanding of the Gospels one has to take each record independently and take into account that they were written by different authors, in different languages, in different cultural settings, and at different time periods. As one probes deep into the Gospels, he is to uncover one absolutely amazing truth - that despite their distinctiveness, the Gospels in its entirety point out to one and only astounding truth – “that God loves the sinful humanity so much that He gave His Son Jesus to be the Savior of the entire humankind.”