The Gospels and the Good News
The Gospel is the good news. Its most certainly the best news the world has ever received! It tells the story of God’s grace and truth and His power to transform lives – back in the time of Jesus and in your own life today. Jesus forgives sins, allows us to move beyond our past, empowers us to be better, and heals folks of physical and physiological problems today (John 20:30-31; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Gal. 1:6-9).
The first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called the Gospels. These men lived in the time of Christ and they each recorded and shared the Good News with the people they knew (Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30-31). Together they help us meet Jesus and hear the truth that has the power to transform our souls, and form our faith and behavior (Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Gal. 1:6-9).
Read alone, each of the Gospels gives us a unique perspective of Jesus, the people he met, and the life of the first disciples. Each of the authors had a purpose and a people in mind while they recounted all the events of Jesus’ public ministry, his death, resurrection and ascension. Each of the books were shared widely among the earliest of believers to be read in the houses where they met.
One noble man, Taitian, compiled a chronological account of the four Gospels in about 170A.D. calling it the Diatessaron – from which the Harmony of the Gospels was created. The version we use in this study series retains the voice and intent of each writer, and helps today’s disciple hear the voice of each writer as the story unfolds in chronological sequence.
Matthew (the former tax collector who became a disciple, and apostle) probably wrote his account between 50-70 A.D.. He seems to have been writing to his Jewish friends as he highlight that Jesus is Christ the Messiah, and that he is the fulfillment of the prophecies they hold dear, the King of kings for whom they have long awaited. Given his emphasis, Matthew helps us better understand Jewish thought, culture, and religious traditions, based in their identity as Israel and their hope in the ancient prophecies of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. Matthew begins his account giving genealogical evidence and then provides accounts of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. Together these helped early Christians meet Jesus through the eyes of those whose lives were transformed and then helped them live as Christ followers. Matthew was written using a Jewish pattern of themes (not chronologically). He uses five major themes to convey his message: The Kingdom of Heaven, the Church, End Times, missions, and discipleship (Matt. 1: 5-7, 22-23; 2, 10, 13, 18, 24-25). Matthew (and John) use a classical “polemic” Jewish approach to storytelling that flashes forward and back again to cause the listener to rethink their concepts of truth. To better understand Matthew’s Gospel you may want to look at it using the following thematic structure: 1. Eternal nature and Prophetic basis of the Messiah. 2. Introduction to the Kingdom of Heaven (chapters 3 and 4) 3. Sermon on the Mount, following Jesus (chapters 5-7) 4. Jesus’ miracles (chapters 8 and 9) 5. Mission Discourse, the duty and trials of missioners (chapter 10) 6. Opposition to Jesus in Galilee (chapters 11 and 12) 7. The Parable Discourse (chapter 13) 8. Final ministry of Jesus in Galilee (chapters 14-17) 9. Discourse on the Community (chapter 18) 10. Ministry in Jerusalem (chapters 19-23) 11. Eschatological Discourse (chapters 24-25). (Video introduction by The Bible Project)
The Gospel of Mark was probably the first of all the Gospels to be written (60 A.D.). He wrote an action-packed account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Mark (John-Mark) was not one of the apostles, he was a disciple of Jesus. He was the son of a certain Mary of Jerusalem and cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). After the ascension and Pentecost he accompanied Peter throughout the known world to share the good news. It was during this time that he drafted his Gospel record (Acts 12:12, 25). Having met thousands on those travels he recorded a near chronological account that would help all those who would read or hear the message understand that Jesus had the power and desire to make them whole, healthy, and well (Mark 10:45). He provides sufficient evidence to convince Romans and Gentiles to honor and follow the Lord of life.
Luke probably wrote his account between 60-70 A.D.. Perhaps as part of his nature or his training as a doctor he too provided a near-chronological portrait of the life and ministry of Christ. Luke wrote his account to compel his Greek and Gentiles friends, the learned scholars and doctors of the region. Luke was not an apostle, He begins his account clarifying that he has sought out first hand witnesses and the those who met Jesus so that he could help his friend Theophilus be sure that Jesus is the savior of the world, not just the Jews. Luke became a trusted companion of Paul and the other disciples on their missionary journeys. Luke highlights Jesus humanity and great love for all peoples. He also places an emphasis on his good character (servant-leadership, meek, truth, peaceful, peace-keeper, personal authority, commanding presence). Luke also makes clear that Jesus was not was not merely a exceptional human baby, but that he was God incarnate, the Light of the World. His account is offers his readers a more pragmatic record including themes such as personal behavior, and righteousness, what to do when Christians gather, and what is expected of those who place the priorities of the Kingdom of God first. He continues his teaching in his sequel, Acts (Acts 16:10; 28; Col. 4:7-18).
The Gospel of John was the last to be written (85-90 A.D.). John filled in the gaps and portrayed the intimacy and love of the Savior. He expounds on the Deiety of Christ, his eternal nature, and the solution for humanity who has been lost, lonely, and powerless in a dark world. With poetic prose John implores the world to come meet the Savior, who alone is the Word, “Logos,” God Eternal God, who created the world and has now redeemed it as well. John wrote a deeply heartfelt gospel to help new Christians endure during the reign of Nero and growing oppression from the Jewish leaders (John 1.1-14; 20:30-31). He devotes one chapter to the eternal nature of Jesus, ten chapters to talk about the public ministry of Christ (chps. 2-11), eight chapters to expound on the last week of Jesus’ life on earth (chps 12-20), and one more chapter to help us know that the Savior lives and has charged the disciples (then and now) to further the mission in the ministry of reconciliation.
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS
So as you will come to understand The Gospel writers shared “Good News” with the Romans, Jews and the world beyond. Jesus’ message is dwarfed by what he did for all of humanity – reconciling us to God, to ourselves, and with one another.
Today as in the first century the Good News is just as relevant, because without it we struggle to love ourselves and our neighbor. Jesus’ helps us know God, and knowing God and feel his absolute love for us – and that will transform your life for the better. Your relationship with Jesus will set you free from guilt, fear, confusion and your bad habits.
You can begin that relationship right now – just by telling God that you’re his. Once you do, you’ll need to do what you do in any good loving relationship – make loving Him your main priority, align your identity to be in Him, with Him, and the power and reason your do things to be for and with Him. Reading the Gospels, immersing yourself in them and personalizing the message of each of the Gospel writers, is how you’ll know the truth and be set free, transformed and empowered to live a life that honors the God you love. Depending on what your life looks like now and how devoted you are to your own personal transformation you’ll feel the power of the Gospel changing your life, your worldview, feelings, actions – and other will too. As you spend more time with Christ your character will begin to reflect Christ. You’ll have more and more of what Paul calls fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Gal 5:22).
Most people find that joining a small group or meeting one-on-one with another Christian helps them realign their perspectives, understand more Scripture, and feel closer to God. We hope you’ll use the Harmony of the Gospels as your text to know Jesus, and a resource to share the Good news with others. As you begin experiencing God transforming your own mindset and life you’ll have even more stories to share with other – times when Jesus has comforted you, healed you, empowered you, and set you free. Soon enough we expect that you’ll feel compelled by your own experience of the Gospel to share His love (Phil. 3:1-14) and the Good News with those you love and meet.
This infographic designed by Harold Vann provides a nice overview of each of the Gospel writers intent, and the people with whom they wanted to share the Good News. With whom would first want to share the Good News?