Summary: An introduction to the distinctive features of the accounts of the four gospel writers.
Note: Many of the main points in this message were developed from my reading and study of "Four Gospels, One Jesus - A Symbolic Reading" by Richard A Burridge.
Let’s suppose that for some reason someone wanted a biography of my life. So I went to four different people or groups and asked them each to write a biography – my mother, my wife, my kids and some people in this church. And let’s also suppose that all four authors had access to many of the same documents that recorded many of the details of my life – my birth certificate, newspaper clippings, things I have written, recordings of my sermons, etc.
Now we would expect that those four biographies, although there would be some overlap, to be quite different because each of the authors has a different perspective about my life. My mom knows me as a son, my wife knows me as a husband, my kids know me as a father, and the church knows me as a pastor. But even those perspectives are not mutually exclusive. For instance, my mom, my kids and the church also get to observe me as a husband, but they certainly don’t know me as a husband near as well as Mary.
And because of those four different perspectives, those four authors wouldn’t all choose to write about the same events in my life and even when they did all write about one event, their accounts would not be identical. But the advantage of having all four biographies is that by combining all of them, someone who doesn’t know me could get a much better idea of who I am as a person than if they read just one of them.
That is exactly the situation we find ourselves in when it comes to the life of Jesus. We have four different authors who have each written an account of the life of Jesus from his perspective. And when we combine those four accounts, we obviously have a much better picture of who Jesus is than if we just had one account.
This morning we’re going to embark on a journey to examine the life of Jesus. So today, we’re going to take some time to prepare for that journey. As always, our journey is not just about gathering information as we go along. It is for the purpose of allowing us to enter into the world of Jesus so that we learn more about who He is so that we can adjust our lives to live in a way that we become more and more like Him.
As we embark on this journey together, we cannot proceed in a strictly chronological manner, even if we wanted to. By now, after dealing with the Book of Revelation and the Old Testament prophets, we ought to be used to that. Not all of the four gospel writers recorded the events they cover in a strictly chronological order. And in spite of the efforts of many who have attempted to do so, it is just not possible to completely harmonize all the events recorded by these four authors chronologically.
So although we will proceed generally in the order many of these events occurred, we’ll take a more thematic approach to the life of Jesus. That will have the added benefit of allowing us to focus on certain aspects of His life in a way that will help us develop a life in which we become more like Him.
With that in mind, we’ll use the time that we have this morning to briefly overview how each of the gospel writers approached their accounts of the life of Jesus. In order to do that, you’re going to need to have your Bibles handy and you’re going to have to do some work this morning as we go through that process.
For some reasons that will become more apparent in a moment, we’ll start with Mark, so go ahead and turn to his gospel account.
There are two distinct literary aspects of Mark’s account that give us some insight into his emphasis. The first is quickly evident as we begin to read his gospel. Turn with me to chapter 1 of Mark and follow along as I read several verses from that chapter.
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Mark 1:10 (ESV)
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
Mark 1:12 (ESV)
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Mark 1:18 (ESV)
And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Mark 1:20 (ESV)
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.