The Gospels - What Are They?

The word ‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’, and the four gospels that begin the New Testament section of the Bible contain the ‘good news’ about the life of God’s Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.

The four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – each writing as a result of being inspired by God – give us four specific, but complementary views of the Lord Jesus Christ that emphasise different aspects of his life and work. Together, they combine to give us a representative picture of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew was a tax gatherer. Luke, a physician. John, a fisherman. We are not told what Mark was. Matthew and John were companions of Jesus – part of the first group of 12 disciples. Mark was a companion of another of those first disciples, Peter. Luke was a companion of a later follower of Jesus, the Apostle Paul.

Matthew focuses on events where the actions of Jesus had been foretold in Old Testament prophecy. He shows Jesus to be a great teacher, and in a systematic manner presents the teaching and miracles of Jesus and people’s reaction to them.

Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, gives attention to Jesus’ work of service, recording what he did for others, the miracles and acts of love that he demonstrated, and shows Jesus to be a man of strong emotions and decisive action.

Luke sets out the facts of Christ’s life in chronological order, and emphasises Jesus’ humanity, and compassion for the disadvantaged people of his day.

John is very different from Matthew, Mark and Luke as he concentrates on the essential meaning of Jesus’ life and death, detailing particular events and sayings of Jesus not recorded elsewhere. He presents to us Jesus’ righteous character and shows him fulfilling the work of The LORD God, His Father.

The Four Gospels record essentially the same things, but with some particular differences. Only Matthew and Luke tell us of the birth and childhood of Jesus. Matthew and Mark dwell on the first stage of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. Luke looks at the next stage of Jesus’ activity. John doesn’t mention any of the earlier events in Galilee but looks at the last stage of Jesus’ work in Judea and records visits to Jerusalem with the others do not mention. Matthew, Mark and Luke do not refer to what was happening in Judea at all other than recording in full (as does John) the events of the last week of Jesus’s life prior to his crucifixion, death and resurrection.

These ‘Last Week’ events occupy one-third of Matthew’s gospel, about one-third of Mark’s, one-quarter of Luke’s, and one-half of John’s. John also devotes about one-third of his gospel record to the events on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

These four accounts of Christ’s life provide a balanced view of the life and work of the Lord Jesus. They tell us the good news that Jesus has come to save his people, to deliver them from the power of the grave and to bring about the future kingdom of God when the will of God will be done on the earth.

‘And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written’ John 21:25).

But what is recorded enables us to know about ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent’ (John 17:3).