The Gospels include four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are found at the very beginning of the New Testament. These four books are all about the life of Jesus.
Gospel actually means “good news.” Since Jesus IS the good news of grace and salvation, it’s a fitting name for these writings.
If they’re all about the same story, then…
Why are the gospels different?
Each book is written by a different person and, therefore, offers a different perspective.
If you and three friends go to a Broadway play together, you will share the same experience, but I’m guessing you’ll each have a different way of remembering and telling the story. One might be obsessed with the sets. They were amazing and added so much to the show! Another might get caught up in how the script reflected historical significance. The third would be completely fixated on costumes while you were most struck by the design of the theatre and lighting effects. Meanwhile, all of you agree the main actor was perfectly cast, but none of you can agree on how tall he was.
Our personalities and priorities impact how we view the world and how we later present it to others.
What’s more: the further removed you get from the event, the more your memories and perspectives might change.
We gain knowledge and insight with time. This enables us to look back and say, “Oh, THAT’s why that happened!” or “I understand the significance of this differently now.”
None of the Gospels were written in “real time” and so we see both insight and hindsight presented.
The Gospels were written by four different men at four different times with different backgrounds, perspectives, and purposes.
Not only did the four authors have different perspectives and purposes, they also had different audiences. All of that plays a part in how they chose to present the life and messages of Jesus.
Because Matthew was written by a Jew to Jews, it highlights Jesus as King. In Jewish terms, that means MESSIAH — the promised and anointed one. Over 360 ancient prophesies about the Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus! Matthew does a great job connecting those dots. As you read through his gospel, you’ll find he regularly quotes from the ancient Scriptures saying, “This was to fulfill what was written by the prophet…”
John’s goal was to present Jesus as personal savior, so his gospel emphasizes theology more than fulfilled prophecies. He takes a big picture view, from before creation to Christ’s accession. He lights the way to salvation, as clearly as possible, while also affirming that Jesus was who he said he was.
As you read through the gospels, don’t be afraid of the different accounts. Instead investigate with wonder and curiosity what the author might be trying to emphasize with his writing and what messages God might have for you in these different tellings.