ADDoration Ministries
Friday, December 15, 2017
God is SO GOOD; although I have ADD.

Four Gospels

THE FOUR GOSPELS

God sent Jesus to us, in the form of man. Jesus was on our level while demonstrating what God is all about. Praise God, Jesus came to love, to forgive, to heal, and to teach. Finally he was a sacrifice on the cross to free us from our sins. He arose and still appears to us today. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is still alive.

Here is what Jesus was not -- a writer. None of the Gospels were personally written by Jesus, and that was God's plan. Writing is time consuming, and it was more so before the days of typewriters or word processors. God had other plans for Jesus. By not being a writer, Jesus had more time for the earthly ministry of healing, teaching, loving, forgiving, and most importantly for praying.

How is it that two thousand years later, we can open our Bible to read about Jesus's earthly life? For the first three decades after Jesus died on the cross, word of mouth preserved the stories of Jesus. Paul came along and began to spread the Good News of Jesus's life. Paul began to write his letters to the early Christian churches. In fact, the first New Testament scripture written was not a Gospel, but was instead one of Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians.

The need became obvious for putting the stories of Jesus into writing, to preserve for posterity. Word of mouth is likely to be distorted over the centuries. There was then no verbatim recording of Jesus's words. That was before the days of tape recorders. Whether any secretary took dictation from Jesus, I doubt it. That was also the days before shorthand.

There are people today who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Get serious -- do you really believe that any mortal can thirty years later recall and write exactly what was said? The Bible is the inspired word of God. The Gospels are the way that God inspired the Gospel writers.

THE FOUR DON'T COINCIDE

As for using the four Gospels to come up with one coherent chronological story of the life of Jesus, forget it!!! Many Christians have tried, but found inconsistencies. Even for individual instances in Jesus's life, such as the feeding of the five thousand, you find variations. The Last Supper, Crucifixion, and Resurrection vary among the Gospels.

An example of trying to fit the Gospels together is about when Jesus called the fishermen. The Gospel John has it toward the end, when Peter jumped overboard to cover his nakedness. John also has the "Feed my lambs" dialog. The other three Gospels have it early in Jesus's ministry, when Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men" (or fish for people). Maybe John tells of a different incidence after the Resurrection.

A further example is also relevant to Jesus calling the fishermen. Luke 4:38-39 tells of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law, but Luke 5 tells of Jesus calling the fishermen. In other words, Luke mentions healing mother-in-law before calling fishermen; however I have my doubts whether the two events happened in that sequence. Clouding the picture is that the Gospel John reports that Andrew told his brother, Simon Peter, about Jesus.

As for sequence of Jesus's happenings, John 13 is about The Last Supper; however the Crucifixion doesn't come until John 18. In between, John 14-17 is rich with some of His most renown sayings, such as "In my Father's house are many rooms," "I am the the way, the truth, and the life," "Peace I leave with you not as the world leaves with you," and "I am the vine." John 16-17 is concerted prayers for the disciples. Did Jesus say all this between The Last Supper and Gethsemane -- I doubt it. My educated guess is that they occurred at some point toward the end of Jesus's earthy ministry -- perhaps after the triumphal entry into Jersusalem.

Another inconsistency is in the story about the woman who broke a bottle of expensive ointment over Jesus's head to annoint his body for burial. The inconsistency is WHO protested that it was a waste and the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. The Gospel John says it was Judas Iscariot who protested. Matthew and Mark say it was some bystanders who protested. That Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus -- is that relevant to the gospel writers reporting differently?

When four friends get together thirty years later to tell what happened back in those days, do you really believe that they would tell the same story? There would be interrupting with, "No, it wasn't quite like that -- instead it was like this."

HOW MANY GOSPELS?

There were a number of Gospels written, but only four became canonized. For instance, Peter and Thomas also wrote Gospels, but their's were not selected for canonization.

Each of the four Gospel writers had a unique personality and a unique emphasis in their writing. They each had their slant to the story of Jesus. Let me introduce each of the Gospels.

MARK

Mark was the first Gospel written, as for the date it was written. It is the shortest Gospel. It is an action story of Jesus's earthly ministry. It omits anything before John the Baptist's ministry; hence Mark's story of Jesus begins with his baptism at about age 30. Mark does give you the quickest overview of Jesus's earthly ministry.

As for who was Mark, he appears in Acts, as a sidekick to Peter and Paul. His real name was John Mark.

As a comment about Mark's style of writing, the word "immediately" appears 28 times, according to the count on my Bible software. Mark sounds like Jesus's life was fast paced. It sounds like event one -- boom immediately -- event two -- boom immediately -- event three -- boom immediately -- event four -- boom immediately -- etc. Did Jesus really quickly jump from one activity to the next? I am not so sure that his life was that fast moving. Many scriptures tell about Jesus taking taking time out for prayer and mediation. In order for there to be periods of prayer and mediation, it must be that there were times that Jesus was not-so-immediately.

WHICH WAS WRITTEN NEXT?

The next two Gospels written, Matthew and Luke, used Mark as a pattern. Either Matthew or Luke was the second Gospel written; however which one is not certain. In places, Matthew and Luke expanded on Mark's story. Matthew and Luke added other stories, that Mark didn't mention. There are some stories that appear in both Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark.

MATTHEW

Matthew's uniqueness was to emphasize the Jewish side of Jesus. Mark and John were also Jewish, but Matthew especially focused on the Jewish perspective. Matthew often quoted Old Testament, for that reason. Matthew begins with genealogy going back to Abraham, who is the patriarch of Judaism. Matthew especially quoted the prophets, to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophesy. For instance, the scripture about Emmanuel is almost identical in Isaiah and Matthew. That was to emphasize Isaiah's prophesy of Jesus being, "God with us."

The Christmas story in Matthew focused on the magi (The Wise Men). Next after Matthew's Christmas story is King Herod's wrath and Jesus's escape into Egypt.

Matthew had other uniquenesses (especially toward the end), such as his slant on the end times in Chapter 24, parables of the bridesmaids and the talents in Chapter 25, that also has the Great Judgment (feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and clothing the naked). Matthew ends with the Great Commission ("Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit").

Matthew 5-7 is The Sermon on The Mount. Bits and pieces of The Sermon on The Mount are dispersed in Luke. I am not so sure that Jesus preached one long speech that was all of The Sermon on The Mount. Maybe this was a series of several sermons that Jesus preached. And maybe the sermons were all preached on that mountain.

As for whether Matthew was written by the disciple Matthew (who had been a tax collector), scholars do not agree on that.

LUKE

Luke was a Gentile and the only Gentile who wrote scripture. That Luke was a Gentile is why that book differs from Matthew considerably. Luke also wrote Acts. Luke was a physician, who was a friend of Paul.

Luke begins with angels appearing to the Virgin Mary and also to Elizabeth, the mother of John The Baptist. Mary's Magnificat is unique to Luke. Luke's Christmas story focuses on the shepherd visit. Immediately after Luke's Christmas story is the christening and Simeon. Luke 3 gets into genealogy going back to Adam.

Luke especially emphasized Jesus's compassion and tenderness to the needy and downtrodden. The parable of The Good Samaritan is unique to Luke. Luke also emphasized God's salvation of the despised, as evidenced by the parable of The Prodigal Son, the parable of The Pharisee and Tax Collector, and Jesus visiting the tax collector, Zacchaeus. In the parable of the Great Banquet, the despised were invited after the favored were too busy to come.

The Walk To Emmaus is told in Luke 24, immediately following the Resurrection. Mark mentions Emmaus in only one sentence.

Four times Luke says, "Your faith has made you whole." With each of these four times, again it was Luke speaking about Jesus's compassion for the needy, such as needy for forgiveness. "Your faith has made you whole" appears with: (1) The sinful woman who washed Jesus's feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and also put oil on Jesus's feet, (2) the hemorrhaging woman who touched Jesus, causing him to ask "Who touched me?", (3) the one leper out of ten who thanked Jesus (while the other nine just took off), and (4) the blind beggar who kept shouting "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" while others said "Shut up" to the beggar. In all four cases, the person had perseverance in reaching Jesus, and that manifested the faith that made them whole.

JOHN

John was the last Gospel written; however John is almost entirely different from the other three Gospels. John used a different approach. While John does record events, he went into interpretation, as to why it happened.

Deep profound theology is especially typical of John. Why did God send us Jesus -- John gave particular attention to that question.

John begins with, "In the beginning was the word." The beginning of John is a puzzlement to many people because, "I thought Jesus was born about six or seven BC." That the word is Jesus from the beginning -- that can blow your mind. John begins with the spiritual beginning of Jesus. John 1:3 does say that the word is the creator. However John 1:6-8 speaks of John The Baptist pointing to the word (Jesus). John 1:9 speaks of the word becoming flesh (as per Eugene Peterson's The Message paraphrase).

John 3 especially delves into the difference between the spiritual and physical. The dialog with Nicodemus says that you must be born again. To Nicodemus, that was ludicrous. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that he must have a spiritual birth, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Nicodemus conversation came to a climax with John 3:16, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that we may have eternal life by just believing in Jesus. Verse 17 went on to say that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world.

John 14 is also heavy with theology. It begins with the scripture that is most often used at funerals, that in my father's house are many rooms (King James Version "Many mansions"), and God will prepare a place for you. Then John 14 describes the Trinity. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," and that was incredulous to Philip, who demanded, "Show us the father." Then Jesus explained the relationship between he, the Son, and God, the Father. Later in John 14:16 Jesus begins to describe The Holy Spirit portion of the Trinity, with "I will give you another advocate, to be with you forever." Peace I leave with, not as the world gives it.

Another uniqueness of John is the "I am" statements. The "I am's" all tell about Jesus's nature. I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am not of this world. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. I am the vine, you are the branches. However, all these "I am's" were John's style of quoting Jesus. To the ancient Jews, "I am" was reserved for God.

John also uniquely tells about some events, such as (1) changing water into wine, (2) the Samaritan woman at the well, (3) forgiving the adulterous woman ("Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone"), (4) Lazarus being brought back to life, (5) Jesus washing feet at the Last Supper, (6) doubting Thomas, (7) and Peter's "Feed my lambs" dialog.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So you see that each of the four Gospel writers were unique. Each fulfilled special needs to bring Jesus to us. Thank God for all four.

As for what actually happened during the life of Jesus, let The Holy Spirit and your relationship with the Lord reveal that to you.

More important is what does Jesus mean to you today?

<*(((>< your ADD brother in the Risen Christ,
Lester Hemphill
Founder of ADDoration Ministries