Introduction to the Four Gospels

Today's Bible reading: Matthew 4:12-25

The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is like a precious gem.  Imagine the largest, clearest, most beautiful, most perfect diamond that has been cut in such a way as to reveal all of its innate splendor.  You hold it up to the sun and you can see all of its brilliance and the way it so exquisitely refracts the light.  You look at it from one angle and you turn it just a little bit one way … a little bit the other way … and you can see its magnificence radiate.  Then you turn it to the other side, and - though it's the same stone - its cut just a little bit differently … and somehow is able to reveal even more of the identity, beauty and brilliance of the gem.

That’s what the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is like – that most perfect diamond.  Each of the four Gospel writers is looking at that gem from a different angle … a different perspective … and gently moving the stone around.  It's the same gem … but looking at it from different perspectives offers up and reveals even more of the stones innate radiance and magnificence.

The four Gospels in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - each share with us the one Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But each of them tells the story from a different point of view.  Taken together, however, they help us to get a deeper understanding of Jesus as a person and the work He did for us … they help reveal to us the magnificence, the brilliance, and the beauty of what God has done for us through His beloved Son.

In a blog post last week, we touched on the fact that the Gospels are not biographies in the strict sense … but testimonies of faith in which Christ is proclaimed.   The first three Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - are often referred to as the “synoptic Gospels” because they have a “common view” of the ministry of our Lord.  John, on the other hand, follows a very different approach – his approach represents theological reflections on the person and work of Christ at a later date.  Each of these four Gospels is a distinct portrait of Jesus … and each of them stresses certain features of His ministry in answer to special questions and problems in the Church for which it was written.

Today I would like to share together some of the special qualities and emphases that each of these four Gospels shares with us … as each one reveals something more … something special - some nuance, some insight, some hidden beauty - that collectively adds to the one Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At this point I would invite you to take a look at the study guide for the week , which can be found in yesterday's posting … and there you will find on the first page a picture of the cross along with four different figures in each corner … and each of those four figures represents one of the Gospels.  There is Matthew, the winged man … Mark, the winged lion … Luke, the winged ox … and John the eagle. 

From almost the beginning of the Christian era the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have been symbolized as a winged man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle.  The book of Revelation, chapter four, tells us of a heavenly scene: “Round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures … the first … like a lion, the second … like an ox, the third … with the face of a man, and a fourth … like a flying eagle.”  Similar creatures are mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel.  In the opening chapter of his book, it says: “Each had the face of a man in front … the face of a lion on the right side … the face of an ox on the left … the face of an eagle at the back.”  So, the imagery for these four is seen in both Old Testament and New … and I would like to share with you a little bit more about each symbol … why it was chosen … as well as some unique things about the Gospel it represents.

Prayer: Lead us, eternal God, to treasure the testimony to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ written by the Evangelists.  Help us to find the Gospel’s eternal truth and the way of salvation.  Speak Your living words to our hearts from each chapter and verse.  This we ask in the name of Your Son and Our Savior.  Amen.