Why Four Gospels?
by Shane Carrington
"Take your child to work day."
What a great idea! How many young people see Dad as a father, yard-mower, car-washer, and neighbor, but never see him in his role as employee? Truthfully, we all take on different jobs that say many things about who we are. Just viewing one facet of Dad's life (husband, for example) tells only part of the story. The same is true of Jesus.
Why are there four gospel accounts? Why not just one? We may struggle to completely answer this question, but each of the accounts emphasize a different facet of Jesus, giving us a more complete picture. Jesus is King, the perfect Man of action, the greatest Teacher who ever lived, and God. Consider...
Matthew's Account - He wrote primarily to Jews, for he quotes many Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled which declare Him King. The terms "king" and "kingdom" appear more in this account than the others. In the end, Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is truly Leader, King, and Messiah. Matthew's gospel was written to Jews, showing the Kingly nature of Jesus, because He fulfilled these Old Testament prophecies.
Mark's Account - He wrote considering Gentiles, because he explained Jewish culture (see Mark 7:3,4). Mark also emphasizes the actions of Jesus. Mark records more about what Jesus did than what He said. One of the key words — "immediately" or "straightway" — emphasizes the action, which moves swiftly from one event to another. Jesus was not just King, but he was also a Man of the people. He demonstrated the servant spirit all true disciples will display. "... whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43b-45). Mark emphasizes Jesus' actions and servant spirit.
Luke's Account- Luke emphasizes Jesus as the Son of man. For example, while other gospel writers speak of Jesus' prayer life, Luke seems to show more of the frequency with which Jesus prayed. Jesus leaned on the Father in prayer and models how we should lean on God. Luke also emphasizes Jesus' teachings. While he records many miracles, there is more emphasis on what Jesus said than did. Here we see Jesus as the Master Teacher.
John's Account - The primary scope of John's account is to declare Jesus the Son of God. Jesus was a Man, yes, but John also declares Him divine. For example, this gospel begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1), followed by, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Jesus was and is God. Also, Jewish leaders correctly understood what Jesus meant when He called God His Father: "Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He ... also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18). Jesus was and is the Son of God in a way no other has or ever can be. Jesus is the Son of God by nature; that is, the Father and Son both possess the qualities of being God. As Christians we are adopted into God's family (Romans 8:14-17), but Jesus has always been divine like the Father of heaven. We possess the nature of being humans, and Jesus took "on the form of a bondservant ... coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7), but He was simultaneously God. His miracles, recorded by John, were evidence of this (John 20:30,31). The focus of John's account is Jesus' divine nature.
Conclusion - Why four portraits of Jesus? Jews needed to know Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and King. Gentiles needed some Jewish cultural concepts explained. More importantly: we need a full picture of Jesus. Your Dad is more than just a car-washer; viewing his many roles helps you better understand him. Similarly, Jesus' many facets — His heart, words, life, and mission — are all necessary to appreciating His true nature. We must see Jesus as King (Matthew), the perfect Man of action (Mark), the Master Teacher (Luke), and God (John). Let's honor Him for His every facet.