“This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” – John 21:24, 25
How can you contain the message of the wonderous love of God in one book? It would be impossible! Print and pages cannot adequately express the fullness of the mercy and grace He has for His creation. Yet, God has used the written testimony of the Bible to communicate His message throughout history. This verbal testimony, inspired and “breathed” by God through His servants (2 Timothy 3:16) continues to point people to the ultimate revelation of God through Jesus Christ our living Lord! From Genesis to Revelation God has revealed Himself and the good news of His plan to redeem His people!
Therefore, we should not be surprised that the New Testament begins with four accounts of the ministry of Jesus and the disciples. It is common knowledge that it is valuable to have more than one witness when we are investigating a particular event. For example, when there is an accident, the police arrive and want to collect information from as many witnesses as possible. Different people have different perspectives. They have seen the accident from many different angles. The pedestrian on the corner noticed something that the motorist passing on the other side of the road missed. The car behind the car involved had a unique viewpoint and so on. In a similar way there is a beauty to having four Gospels. It is like taking a 2-D, black and white photograph and making it a 4-D movie in living color! The life of Jesus takes on a depth of expression that makes it fresh every time we read it. God works through each writer and their personalities to give a balanced testimony of their experience with Jesus.
The starting point of each Gospel is a great example. Matthew quotes and refers to the Old Testament Scripture more than the other Gospels because he is writing to a Jewish audience. One of his goals, then, is to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophesies concerning the Messiah. So, it is important for his lineage of Jesus to go back to Abraham, the Father of the Jews (Matthew 1:1-17)! Luke, on the other hand writes to the common man and his genealogy of Jesus goes back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38) in order to show that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. The Gospel of Mark skips Jesus’ heritage and jumps right into the ministry of Jesus. For him, it is the activities and ministry of Jesus that is the best witness to who He was. John’s priority in his Gospel is to show the divinity of Jesus. So, he takes us back to “the beginning” before creation in order to show that Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:14). It is John’s Gospel that emphasizes Jesus as the everlasting Son of God (John 3:16).
Together these four Gospels give us a beautiful well rounded picture of the life of our Lord. This is why a story that occurs in all four Gospels can be better understood by reading all four accounts. Each writer giving the story from their perspective. This is also why some stories occur in only one Gospel as well. None of the authors could include everything! As John said in the Scripture above, he found it a challenge to decide what to write because there was so much to share.
In our journey through the Bible the Gospels are central. They are not only the fulfillment of everything that has gone before, they are also the foundation of everything that comes after. It is a true statement when we say, “It is all about Jesus”. When Jesus explained the Scriptures to a couple of confused disciples on the road to Emmaus, it says,
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”. – Luke 24:27