Compare the distinctive features of the three synoptic gospels. How do their points of emphasis differ from one another?
The synoptic gospels are the first three gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and are so named from two Greek words that mean ‘see together’.’ Although the gospels all portray the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, our soon coming King, they are also distinctive in feature, style, and possible intended audience.
The synoptic gospels, as well as the fourth gospel, John, allow us to see the many faces of Jesus. The synoptic gospels differ from John, however, because they show the straightforward, factual timeline and events of Jesus, whereas John focuses more on the theological meaning of the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ.
The book of Matthew (listed first in the New Testament, but probably not written first) emphasizes Jesus as the King of Israel. When Jesus arrived, the Jews were expecting a Messiah King that would save them from the Romans (Matthew 24:5). Many Jews thought Jesus was this King. At his death it was evident that many still thought of Him as an earthly King, and there was even a notice above his head on the cross that read “The King of the Jews” (Mark 13:26). This may explain why Matthew wrote about Jesus in this way.
The book of Matthew also shows Jesus as the Son of David, the Lion of Judah, and the King of Kings. Matthew also accurately depicts Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Matthew’s emphasis seems to be primarily on what Jesus said.
Mark, the second gospel in the New Testament, was probably written first. Mark presents Jesus as the servant, something Jesus wanted all of His disciples to be. Mark appears to be written with a Roman mind: quick, fast, and moving. This mindset is represented by sayings such as “straightway”, “forthwith”, and “immediately”. Mark’s emphasis is on what Jesus did.
The Gospel of Luke shows Jesus for the perfect man that He is. From his writing style, it appears that Luke wrote with a Greek mindset. This is evident in his dramatic literary style. He portrays the feelings, empathy, and compassion of Jesus. Through Luke’s writings we see Jesus as the friend of sinners. To do this, Luke had to emphasize the grace of God as it was revealed in Jesus; a feat he conquered!
It is important to realize that the gospels are much more than a narrative of our Savior’s life; they are a testament of His saving grace, love, and compassion. They are proclamations and written instructions that provide the fundamental guidelines for all accurate theology.
“The gospels are like instruments in an orchestra, all harmonizing to make beautiful music, and like the four seasons of the year, all working together to make a beautiful year.” (Source unknown).
The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)