This week we turn to the four gospels. First, let’s define that word, “gospel.”
In the time of the New Testament, when Rome conquered a new territory or won a great battle, a messenger would announce “euangelion” or in English, “Good News” to the people. Gospel just means “good news”. We read in the New Testament other occasions when people announce “euangelion/good news”, but not in regards to Roman victory. Instead, we hear the Angels announce to the shepherds that they have, “Good news of great joy,” that Jesus was born (Luke 2:10). Jesus begins his work and ministry by preaching “good news” (Matthew 4:23).
The first four books of the New Testament are four different tellings of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They are the most ancient existing documents that give a “full” accounting of Jesus life (though the letters of Paul are older than the four gospels). Each of the books have their own flavor and perspective on Jesus.
- MATTHEW – The person who wrote Matthew has the largest collection of Jesus teachings and sayings, and he was very concerned with drawing connections between the life of Jesus and the Old Testament. Scholars think Matthew wrote his gospel mostly for Jewish Christians.
- MARK – Probably the earliest Gospel, written around 70 AD in the city of Rome, tradition tells us that it was taken from the memoirs of the Apostle Peter. It’s the shortest gospel. It emphasizes the action of the story of Jesus ministry. It doesn’t tell us anything about his birth or childhood. It is mostly the stories of his miracles, his actions, his healings, and then his death and resurrection.
- LUKE – The second longest gospel. Probably written by a Greek Christian either in modern day Syria or modern day Turkey, written from a collection of eyewitness testimonies to be presented to an important Roman citizen named “Theopholis”. Luke tells us the most details of Jesus’ birth and early life, the most parables, and speaks more about the women who followed Jesus. “The Gospel According to Luke” is part 1 of a two-part work, the second half called “The Acts of the Apostles”.
- JOHN – is considered the last Gospel, written near the end of the first century. It is most unlike the other three. It may have been written by John the disciple, or one of his close students. It tells stories not found in the other 3 gospels, it doesn’t record any parables, and puts emphasis on the miraculous work of Jesus.
Matthew/Mark/Luke are called the synoptic gospels. Each is different, but they are very similar. They tell a lot of the same stories and include a lot of the same sayings of Jesus.
Most people believe that Matthew and Luke were written after Mark, and they used some of Mark’s gospel as a source for their material.But Matthew and Luke also have some identical stories and sayings that aren’t in Mark. Where did they get those? Scholars think there might have been a document that recorded the sayings and stories of Jesus that both Matt/Luke used that has been lost to history called the “Q source”, in addition to their own unique records of Jesus life and teaching.
The Four Gospels together give us a picture of Jesus Christ, not simply as a biography, but as an argument that the best news the world could ever hear is that God has come to us in Jesus Christ: to save his people, to fix what’s broken, and to make right what was wrong. It’s the ultimate hero story, but it’s not just a story, it’s an invitation to follow and believe Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Its an announcement that there is a new king, and he wants us to follow him.
Journaling Assignment this Week
- What could someone tell you today that would be “good news” to your ears?
- What do you think “the Lord’s favor” means?
- What is Jesus claiming about himself in this passage?