The Gospels

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We will now turn to the gospels and try to discover what are the chief characteristics of each; but in doing this we can only point them out, and must leave the reader to pursue the examination for his own profit, begging him to notice that the designed differences in the gospels are to be seen not only in the broad outlines, but also in the minutest details.
The first verse gives us the key to this gospel. "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." It does not say "Son of man," or "Son of God," but "Jesus Christ, the son of David"; and the genealogy is traced up to David, and thence to Abraham. We thus learn that in this gospel Christ is presented as THE SON OF DAVID; in other words, THE MESSIAH. The promise to Israel was, "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isa. 7:1414Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14). In Matthew (but in no other gospel) is this said to be fulfilled in the birth of Christ (Matt. 1:2323Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)). As Messiah He was of course presented to the Jews; and this gospel relates how He was in various ways presented to the nation, together with, alas! His rejection at every step. Indeed the gospel may be said to be a living manifestation of that one short sentence, "He came unto His own [as the promised Messiah, Jehovah-Jesus] and His own received Him not." Note too that it was in the midst of this rejection that He speaks of the Church: "I will build My Church" (chapter 16: 18; and it is mentioned also in chapter 18:17). This is the more remarkable as in none of the other gospels is the Church, as such, ever mentioned, while here it is beautifully in character with the rejection of Christ by the Jews; though even in Matthew it is not fully brought out as it is afterward by Paul.
Note too that Christ as the seed of David was to abide continually. "I have sworn unto David My servant, thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations." Psalm 89:3, 43I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, 4Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah. (Psalm 89:3‑4). And so Matthew's gospel does not record the ascension, but closes with Christ still alive on the earth.
This one fact alone ought surely to have opened the eyes of Christians to the truth that God had a special design in each gospel. Matthew of course was present at the ascension and knew all about it, and yet he omits this very important circumstance. But why? It would not have been in character with his gospel.
This gospel being the presentation of Christ to the Jews, we have here, as we might well expect, more quotations from the Old Testament scriptures than in the other gospels, with which the Jews were all more or less familiar. Here too we have the principles of the kingdom more fully brought out than in the other gospels.
To give one instance of detail, notice that on Christ's public entry into Jerusalem the cry in this gospel is, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." Chapter 21:9. This incident is related by the other three Evangelists, but none of them mentions these words—"Son of David." It is only in Matthew that this title occurs, and it is only in Matthew that this title is said to stir up the anger of the Jews: "When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased." v. 15. Surely this is not matter of accident, but will be at once seen to be in beautiful harmony with the distinctive character of the gospel.
Thus the careful student will find many instances of words and sentences and incidents peculiar to Matthew, all of which are in full harmony with the main character of the gospel, but which are different in the other gospels, or omitted altogether.
While thus speaking of Matthew's gospel, it must be guarded that it is not intended to convey the thought that Christ is never mentioned or alluded to in this gospel in other characters also. But this in no way invalidates the thesis that the Holy Ghost had a special design to manifest Christ in Matthew as the Son of David—the Messiah. And it is believed that the more it is examined and compared with the other gospels, the more it will be apparent and convincing. rut we must turn to
This gospel opens with, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," and it might be supposed that this is the key to the gospel, but it will be found that this is not the fact. Christ is here presented as THE FAITHFUL SERVANT. This may not be seen at first sight as lying on the surface, but it is believed that it will bear the fullest investigation.
Note as characteristic that here there is no genealogy, no birth of Christ, no parentage; for it is not usual to want to know the pedigree of servants (with reverence be it said of One who is our Lord). Again, masters say to their servants, "Immediately you have done so-and-so I want you"; or "Come immediately"; "Do this at once." and so on: so in this gospel we find the words "immediately" and "straightway" oftener than in any of the other gospels. There is more reference in Mark to the service of the disciples than in Matthew, but it especially exhibits Christ as the faithful servant; immediately He had done one work, He proceeds to do another. Remark too how Christ in this gospel allows Himself to be intruded upon. Here alone we read, "And they had no leisure so much as to eat." Mark 6:3131And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. (Mark 6:31).
Here, as we might expect, we have the nearest approach to chronological order; much, however, has been omitted that is in the other gospels.
Here we do not find Christ laying down the principles of the kingdom as in Matthew; they would be out of place in Mark's gospel. Nor do we meet with His judgment on the people in the words, "Woe unto you," so often repeated in Matthew. In this gospel alone a r e t he words, "neither the Son," added in the passage, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Chapter 13:32. Here too is omitted the mention of Christ's power to call twelve legions of angels; and in the closing commission the words, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," are omitted.
Note too that in this gospel Christ does not address God as "Father" but once, and this is in the agony in the garden, when His service of love is closed. It is also remarkable that in this gospel His disciples never address Him as "Lord."
The reader will not fail to see how all this is beautifully in harmony with the character of Christ as the faithful servant, which is brought out in Mark's gospel.
In this gospel Christ is represented as the SON OF MAN. Here we have a genealogy which traces back, not merely to David and Abraham, as in Matthew, but to the first man Adam. Here we get the birth of Christ, and here exclusively we have the few incidents of His early life. He was subject to His parents, and He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. All this is surely in full harmony with Christ as Son of man.
This gospel takes a wider scope than Matthew—it is the Son of man presented to men. Doubtless it is to the Jew first. but afterward it is to the whole world. This is brought out in many of the details; note, for instance, the quotation (chapter 3:4) from Isa. 40, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." Matthew also quotes this passage (chapter 3:3), and stops here, but Luke continues t h e quotation: "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." This is all the more remarkable because Luke quotes less from the Old Testament than Matthew; but here he quotes more, and there is divine wisdom in this; doubtless the reader will see how in full harmony it was for Matthew to stop where he did in the quotation, and equally so for Luke to quote more. Here it is "all flesh" which is to see the salvation of the Lord. In like manner too in Luke, when the twelve apostles are sent forth to preach, they are not charged (as they are in Matthew): "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." Here too we have the still wider commission to the seventy (chapter 10:1).
In Luke, but in Luke only, we get the great moral lesson of the good Samaritan, showing that all
men are our neighbors. Here alone we get, in answer to the objection that "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (chapter 15), the beautiful parable of the lost sheep, the lost piece of money, and the prodigal son, exhibiting God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, engaged in the salvation of man. Here alone we get the divine insight into the future world, in the account of Lazarus and the rich man, with the fine lesson that outward blessing is no longer a sign of God's richest favor; and that memorable declaration that if men hear not the means that God has appointed, neither will they hear though one rose from the dead. Here alone we get the beautiful story of the Pharisee and the publican. The reader will surely not fail to see how all these points are the setting aside of the Jewish system, and Christ is revealing Himself as for man universally—the Son of man for man. This is the characteristic of Luke's gospel.