God gave the Law to His chosen people, the Jews, who persistently strayed to worship other gods. Refusing to listen to the prophets God sent to call them back, they were sent into exile to serve their enemies. After Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, there were 400 years of silence. God was no longer speaking.
And then God acted! The divine story unfolded that was all about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and the Messiah promised to the Jewish people. We will look at Old Testament prophecies about Him at a later time.
Gospel means “good news“. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John brought the good news about Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, in the respective books of the New Testament they wrote.
It is thought the book of Mark was written between 55 and 65 AD. Eusebius, a church historian, indicated that Matthew, upon leaving the area of Palestine, first left his written record of Christ’s life from his recollection. But if Mark was actually first, Matthew is believed to have written the book bearing his name in 60-65 AD, and Luke in 60 AD. John wrote his book last in 85-90 AD. This was after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD that Jesus taught about in Mark 13:2, Luke 21:6, and Matthew 24:2. Some time after, he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called synoptic gospels because they are much alike in structure, stories they told, sequence, perspective, and wording. Matthew and John, being apostles, were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and so wrote what they had personally witnessed. Mark was closely aligned with the apostle Peter, for one – so much so that Peter referred to him as his son in 1 Peter 5:13. Mark likely related the gospel story from Peter’s and other apostles’ recollections. Luke researched and gathered his information from eyewitnesses, carefully preserving it. There is much in the book he penned (most of Luke 9:51-18:35) that is not in the other gospels. Over 90% of John’s gospel is only in John, as well.
Matthew Purpose: To prove to the Jews Jesus was Messiah. Throughout the book, he emphasized the fulfillment of prophecy, and so began in Matthew 1:1-17 with Jesus’ legal genealogy through Joseph. He recorded it back to Abraham, in order to prove Him in the line of David as prophesied.
Mark does not begin at the beginning of Jesus’ life, but starts his gospel with John the Baptist, and Jesus’ baptism.
Luke Purpose: “So you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” Luke 1:4 Luke was an educated Gentile, physician (Col. 4:14), and historian. He also wrote the book of Acts to Theophilus (See Acts 1:1). Theophilus means “one who loves God”, and may have been a person Luke wished to know the truth about Jesus, but his exact relationship to Luke is unknown. Luke records more of Jesus’ parables than the other gospels, and points out Jesus’ concern for women and His treatment of them. Jesus elevated women, who until that time were as property.
Where Matthew began his book with a genealogy going back to Abraham, Luke recorded Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3:23b-38 all the way back to Adam. This is presumably because he wrote to Gentiles, who would need to know that Christ was for everyone.
John Purpose: To show that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believers have eternal life
John 1:1-18 It seems apparent John was speaking of Jesus in this passage. Jesus was fully human, and fully God – Eternal, Creator, and Sustainer (Col 1:15-20). To place Jesus on a par with God would have been blasphemous to the Jews, but this is also stated by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:6-7: “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
John the Baptist was sent to tell about the Light, as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 4:5. He not only told his own disciples who Jesus was, but expected and wanted them to leave him to follow the Savior. He succeeded in his mission when he was left alone.
Many would not believe or follow Jesus, but those who did were rewarded with new life and adoption into the family of God! It is the same today. We must be born again (John 3:3). The law came through Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. The law was given “…to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” Romans 3:19b-20 NLT
God sent Jesus, “…not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stand condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:17b-18 NIV
Jesus paid the ultimate price for everyone who would trust in Him, the Lamb without blemish, and turn from their sin.
As Peter told the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “…Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38