Throughout the Old Testament we read of God’s work with His people. The ups, and the downs. His plan through the ages. And through it all – there were prophecies, predictions and foreshadowing of what was coming – a Savior who would take upon himself the sins of all men and make a way for mankind to be reconciled (brought back together) with God. Some have counted over 350 Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament, everything from: born in Bethlehem, came out of Egypt, praised while riding on a donkey, performed miraculous healings , not a bone of his body broken, etc…. Jesus fulfills everyone. He is God’s plan that began in Genesis, or actually before the creation of the world. And, we have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 accounts of his life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection in the Old Testament – they are the gospels. And here’s a little bit about each one:
MATTHEW – Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled in Jesus
Matthew is an excellent link between the Old and New Testaments because Matthew is writing particularly to the Jews to convince them that Jesus is the promised Messiah from God, the same Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had said would come. Matthew, who knew his OT well, included 53 direct quotes and 76 other references to the Old Testament. Matthew, originally a tax collector, left his work to follow Jesus’ call. He became one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples who were Jesus’ closest students and followers. His new life mission was to persuade the Jews that the Savior they had been waiting for had arrived and his name is Jesus. This book is an excellent introduction to Jesus! Here we read of Jesus’ geneology, his birth, the visit from the Magi, his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and the great Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7). Many more teachings (often about his favorite topic – the coming Kingdom of God) and miracles are included. Then Jesus is put to death so we can be forgiven, and then miraculously resurrected 3 days later. In the final verses the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world and make disciples. And that is just what Matthew did when he wrote about the man who changed his life.
MARK – To the Gentiles: A Suffering Servant Has Come
This is the shortest of the 4 gospel books, packed with action, and perhaps written first. The author, perhaps called John Mark, was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, but was likely a close associate of Peter. It is thought that Mark listened to all of Peter’s preaching about Jesus and carefully recorded them in what would become the book of Mark. Mark would also accompany Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. This book was written to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience – perhaps specifically the church in Rome, at a time (60 AD) when powerful Rome was persecuting Christian believers. It was important that the church be strong in their understanding of who Jesus was and what he did. In the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the sick, controlling nature and battling the powers of Satan. And yet, the Jewish leaders plot to kill him (and do), his neighbors don’t understand him and his family thinks he is crazy. Jesus is the Ultimate Suffering Servant – with his life – and his death. Mark is perhaps preparing the church for a little suffering of their own.
LUKE – Jesus is Savior of ALL – Jew and Gentile
The author, Luke, was likely a Gentile by birth, and a well-educated doctor. He also was known as the missionary Paul’s dear friend and fellow missionary. His introduction states: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may now the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (1:1-4). Luke was writing to not only tell of Jesus, to strengthen the believers’ faith, but also to assure people that Jesus had come to save the lost – both Jew and Gentile. He is the only gospel writer to include several parables (one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach using earthly stories with earthly meanings) including: the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son.
JOHN – Jesus is the Son of God who Saves
The author is likely John, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, and the one sometimes called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John and James had left the family fishing business when Jesus called them to follow him. They would become 2 of the 12 disciples. This gospel is the most unlike the other 3 gospels. Over 90% of John is not found in the other gospels. John does not include any of Jesus’ parables, or his birth or temptation or ascension. Instead, he emphasizes who Jesus was – the Son of God. He includes only 8 miracles, 6 of which are not recorded elsewhere (including water to wine and the raising of Lazarus). John includes many of Jesus’ “I Am” statements explaining Jesus and his mission. “I am the good shepherd” (10:11). “I am the bread of life” (6:35). “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (14:6). And John is the only author to include the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 14-17) which was Jesus’ last teaching to his 12, as well as his prayers for himself, his disciples and all believers who would follow – including you.
How many people today think they know who Jesus was – but haven’t read the gospel accounts? Read them to see God’s plan in action. See for yourself Jesus’ love and compassion for the lost, as well as his insistence for a changed life (go and sin no more – John 8:11). See his love for His Father and his commitment to God’s Word and His Will. See his excitement and teaching about the Kingdom of God and who will be a part of it. To properly carry on your mission from God – you MUST be in tune with what Jesus’ mission was. Find it – in the gospels – and you too can share in God’s good news – for yourself and for your hearers.
Seek His Mission,
Come back tomorrow – we will have just one book to cover as we see the history of the early church. What will they do when Jesus is no longer in their physical midst?