Jesus in the Four Gospels

Jeff Herrin

It is helpful to think about the intended audience for each of the gospels to gain insight into the unique perspective provided by each of these four books. Matthew has a Jewish audience, Mark a Roman audience, Luke a Greek (Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor) audience, and John,perhaps, addresses the church.

However, there is another way of looking at this that we may also find helpful. Each gospel writer emphasizes something different about Jesus. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah or Christ. Sometimes people talk about the "Jewish Messiah”; however, Jesus is equally the Messiah to the Gentiles. Messiah means anointed or chosen. He is God’s chosen one. Jesus was uniquely chosen by God both as a signal for all the nations and to gather the dispersed of Israel (Isa. 11:12). Therefore, Matthew emphasizes the fulfillment of prophecy to demonstrate that Jesus was God’s preapproved choice to take on the role of Messiah.

Mark presents the gospel of the Son of God. Approximately 45% of the verses in Mark are accounts surrounding the miracles of Jesus. Very little of Jesus teaching is recorded in comparison to Matthew and Luke (only the Olivet discourse is recorded). The emphasis is on the Son of God who has entered the world with unmatched power and authority. Demons, disease, the sea, and even death are subject to his spoken word. These mighty acts leave us with no doubt that Jesus is a mere man. Only the Son of God could do these things.

Luke presents our compassionate Savior. He emphasizes Jesus interactions with Gentiles and women. Only in Luke can we read about the compassion of the Good Samaritan, the shepherd with the Lost Sheep, and the father of the Prodigal Son. Luke likes to mention Jesus touching people. Even though he could heal with just a word our Savior’s compassion compelled him to make physical contact with suffering people. In Mark the power of Jesus drew people, but in Luke it is Jesus’ sympathy and understanding that encouraged the outcasts to approach him.

John wrote that we might believe (Jn. 20:31). Are we prone to believe in a Jesus that is too small? John alone records the “I Am” statements of Jesus – I Am the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Door, the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the True Vine. John requires our faith to encompass the full scope of a Jesus who embodied all the wonder of the Godhead, and in doing so meets our every need.