The Four Gospels
The first four books of the new testament, are referred to as “The Gospels”. They are the books written by Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s interesting to note, that only Mathew and John were apostles of Jesus Christ. Mark and Luke were disciples, but were not among the twelve chosen apostles. It’s known from the book of Acts, which Luke also wrote, that he was a traveling companion of Paul on his missionary journeys.
And Mark, who is also called John, or John Mark, is thought of as having been a very close companion of Peter. One time, after Peter had been arrested and put in prison, an angel of the Lord came and caused the chains to fall off Peter, and the prison gate to open, and he led Peter out to safety, and then the angel disappeared. And we’re told in Acts 12, verse 12; “And when Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.”
At the end of 1 Peter, in chapter 5, verse 13, Peter writes; “She who is in Babylon.. some manuscripts say; The church which is in Babylon.. chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.” Peter calls Mark, “my son”, so you can see the closeness and fondness there.
Barnabas, who was a companion of Paul, was a cousin of Mark, according to Colossians 4, verse 10.
Several very early church historians and writers from as early as the beginning of the second century, refer to Mark as “Peter’s interpreter”. By the word “interpreter” they mean that Mark wrote down what Peter had experienced first-hand. Mark is never mentioned in any of the gospel accounts as ever having been present with Jesus. And so, it’s said that all of what Mark wrote, is from the words of Peter, relating his own experiences, to Mark.
The early Christian writer named Irenaeus, who lived from 130 to 200 AD, wrote this; “After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing, what had been preached by Peter.”
However, not everything that historians have said, can be trusted 100%. And when we read what is said about Peter and Mark, the writers never seem to give any credit to the inspiration of God. In other words, since Mark wasn’t personally “with” Jesus, historians attribute his knowledge of Jesus, to Peter. And it very well could be the case, that Peter had told Mark all the things that Mark wrote, but if we view the book of Mark to be inspired by God, like all the rest of the scriptures, then it wouldn’t matter what Peter had told Mark, the words that Mark wrote, would be God’s words, not Peter’s words.
I sure wouldn’t want to accept the book of Mark as a guide for my soul, if Mark had been relying solely on his memory of what Peter had told him. But even though we believe the book of Mark to be inspired by God, and even though it’s called “the gospel of Mark”, it’s commonly thought of as being “the memoirs of Peter”, as recorded by Mark. So then in reality, it’s the “memoirs of Peter”, as told by the Holy Spirit, and recorded by Mark.
The gospel is of course, the “good news” about Jesus Christ. The “good news” is that Jesus is the promised Messiah, who would come and save His people. Mathew gives us the genealogy of Jesus, beginning with Abraham. And he begins with Abraham, because the promise of salvation had originally been given to Abraham. And so Mathew gives the whole genealogical history, from Abraham all the way down to Jesus, going through Joseph. Now of course Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, but “technically” Jesus was of Joseph’s lineage, by virtue of Joseph being the husband of the biological mother of Jesus. Mathew 1, verse 16 puts it this way; “And to Jacob was born Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called, the Christ.”
Verse 17 says; “Therefore, all the generations from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations. And from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ, fourteen generations.” So 14 + 14 + 14 generations, 42 generations, between when the promise was first given, and when the promise was fulfilled. That’s approximately 1680 years. That’s a long time isn’t it? Of course, that was just until the seed came, through whom the promise would be fulfilled. Galatians 3:16 says; “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. He does not say; And to seeds, as to many, but to ONE, and to your seed, that is Christ.”
We’re still waiting for the final fulfillment of the promise, which will be eternal life in heaven. It’s already been another 50 generations, just till today. How many more generations will go by, before Jesus comes again, and the promise is completely fulfilled?
But, at any rate, Mathew writes to Jewish Christians, and he traces the genealogy of Christ, all the way back to Abraham, because the physical bloodline was very important to the Jews. They didn’t know yet, what it says in Galatians 3, verse 14; “..That in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit, through faith.” So we see that you don’t have to actually come from the physical bloodline of Abraham, to inherit the promise, but rather, as long as you belong to the spiritual bloodline, the promise is yours. Verse 29 says; “And if you belong to Christ, then are you Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Even Jesus Himself, wasn’t literally from the bloodline of Joseph, the husband of Mary. But yet, Jesus is traced through that bloodline, all the way back to Abraham, who is sometimes referred to as “the father of the faithful”. The scriptures don’t use that exact term, but here’s what they do say, in Romans 4, verses 13 & 16; “For the promise to Abraham, or to his descendants, that he would be the heir of the world, was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”
“For this reason, it is by faith that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” And so Abraham is called, “the father of the faithful”.
And just like Jesus was considered to be “the seed of Abraham”, by virtue of Mary belonging to Joseph, we too are considered to be “the offspring of Abraham”, by virtue of belonging to Christ.
It’s kind of an interesting situation isn’t it? And of course the gospel of Mathew, goes on to tell all about the birth of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus, the temptation of Jesus, and the teachings of Jesus. And many of the parables of Jesus, and the miracles of Jesus. And it was all for one specific reason. And that reason was to create faith in the Jews, that just like Peter had confessed, in Mathew 16, verse 16; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Next, the gospel of Mark, has the same purpose as the gospel of Mathew, which was to create faith in jeus Christ; Except for the fact that Mark wrote basically to the Romans, or gentiles, and not to the Jews. The very first verse of the gospel of Mark says; “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”
Then Mark goes right into the baptism of Jesus, by John the Baptist, and he writes in chapter 1, verses 9 thru 12; “And it came about in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove, descending upon Him. And a voice came out of the heavens; Thou art My beloved Son; In Thee I am well-pleased.”
Then Mark goes directly to some of the miracles of healing that Jesus did. All of this, to prove, the deity of Jesus. Of course Mark goes on then, just like Mathew did, and he records the teachings of Jesus, and many more miracles. And then he also records the event that we call the “transfiguration”, where the voice of God once again comes out of heaven, and declares in Mark 9, verse 7; “This is My Son, Hear ye Him!”
Testimony from both Mathew and Mark, for the purpose of creating faith in Jesus Christ. The testimony of Mathew, directed specifically toward the Jews, and the testimony of Mark, directed mainly toward the gentiles.
Before I leave the subject of Mark, I want to read you something from a very early Christian writer. There was a bishop named Papias, from the region of Heirapolis, which was around the present day country of Turkey. And Papias wrote about the work of the apostles. Papias lived from somewhere around 60 or 70 AD, to about 130 or 135 AD. And he was said to probably have know the apostle John, and he called him “elder John”. The only thing that remained of the writings of Papias were some fragments that later Christian writers quoted from in the third and fourth centuries.
And so there was a writer in the fourth century, named Eusebius, who supposedly had some of the fragments of the writings of Papias, and here’s what he claims one of these fragments said; “And the presbyter said this; (the presbyter he refers to, is probably the apostle John) Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, whatsoever he remembered. It was not however, in the exact order, that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord, nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For he made it his one concern, not to omit anything he had heard, or to falsify anything.”
Do you see what makes this quotation disturbing to me? If this was really written by Papias, who lived in the latter part of the first century, why does he treat the gospel of Mark, as something that Mark wrote down from memory, from what Peter had told him, instead of treating it as something that Mark was inspired by God to write? Did the early historians not believe in the full inspiration of the scriptures? Or did Eusebius not believe in God’s inspiration, and did he really have fragments of the writings of Papias? There’s lots of questions to be answered about church historians. On the other hand, we never have to question the word of God!
Let’s go on to the gospel of Luke. Now Luke is known to have been the frequent companion of the apostle Paul, and Paul travelled on his missionary trips. Paul himself affirms as much in his own letters. He says in Colossians 4:14; “Luke the beloved physician, sends you his greetings..”
He says in 2 Timothy 4:11; “Only Luke is with me..” And in Philemon, verse 24, he refers to Luke as one of “my fellow workers.”
So you can imagine that Luke had seen a lot. And he had heard a lot directly from Paul, who was instructed directly from Christ Himself. It’s like Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:23; “For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you..”
Paul addressed his letter to the Galatians like this; “Paul, an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.”
So this is who Luke spent a long, long time with. And this is how Luke begins his gospel; Luke 1, verses 1 thru 4; “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and servants of the word have handed down to us; It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you, in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the exact truth, about the things you have been taught.”
Luke’s purpose, was to make the exact truth be known, concerning the things we were taught. And Luke starts with the prophecy by an angel, concerning the birth of John the Baptist, followed by the prophecy by another angel, of the birth of Christ; And then he tells of the fulfillment of those prophecies. And then he tells of the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus the Christ, and then he tells again, about the baptism of Jesus, when the heavens opened up, and the voice of God declared; “Thou art My beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Luke 3, verse 22.
And then, beginning with verse 23, Luke gives the genealogy of Jesus, in reverse order, beginning with Jesus, and then going back. However, as Mathew’s genealogy began with Abraham, Luke genealogy goes all the way back to God Himself. Showing that Jesus actually originated with GOD! Luke ends the genealogy in verse 38, with these words; “..the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of GOD.”
Then Luke tells some of the same stories that Mathew and Mark told, and he even tells some that had never been told before. He quotes discourse after discourse of Jesus, and he repeats parable upon parable, all telling about faith in Jesus, and about the kingdom of heaven. And at the end of his gospel, Luke quotes these words of Jesus, from chapter 24, verse 44; “These are My words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things which are written about Me, in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms, must be fulfilled.”
And Luke closes his gospel with the ascension of Jesus into heaven, in verse 50. All this, for the purpose of creating faith in Jesus Christ.
And then there’s the gospel of John. Probably the one human being, that was the closest to Jesus. And to create faith in Jesus, this is how he begins his gospel; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD!” You couldn’t make a more powerful claim than that.
And John tells us how the Word was made flesh, and how it dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. John 1:14. Then he tells us of the testimony of John the Baptist, who said in verse 29; “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
He tells about Jesus’ teaching concerning the new birth, in John 3;3 thru 8. And then he quotes probably the most famous of bible verses ever, John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
And John goes on and on, about all the things that Jesus did, and all that he said, but he sums it all up, in chapter 20, verses 30 & 31, with these words; “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these have been written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.”
The four gospels, preserved for us, by God, for the purpose of creating faith, in Jesus Christ! May your faith grow always, as we journey toward eternity.