Harmony of the Gospels

 

Luke’s Introduction to the Gospels

Scriptures (Acts 1:1) Luke 1:1-4

Luke wrote both Acts, and of course, the [1]Gospel that bears his name.  Here is what he had to say by way of introduction.

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us,  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,  that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. (Lk. 1:1-4, NKJV)

 

Alternate Translation (NLT): Most honorable Theophilus: Many people have written accounts about the events that took place among us. They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises. Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you, to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught.

 

We must be confident that all those things that are spoken of in the Bible are true.  That is the starting point for any study of scripture.  If any part of it can be shown to be false, then all of the Word of God is suspect.  The truth is very important to you and me and it was very important to the Gospel writers.  Matthew and John were Apostles and wrote about what they saw.  They were right there when Jesus did His miracles and when He taught; they saw and heard it all first hand.  But Mark and Luke were not there; they were not privileged to be apostles.  Dr. Luke researched what he wrote and he interviewed eyewitnesses to the events that he recorded.  Some of the apostles were still alive, and there were many still living that had witnessed the miracles and heard Jesus speak, so Luke talked to them, as any good reporter would do.  But even more than that, what he wrote and what the authors of the other 65 books of the Bible wrote, was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Every word is truth; it is the Word of God. 

 

How can I know that the Bible (and for our purposes the gospels), is true, you ask. You can do three things:

1.      Test it to see if its promises are fulfilled in your life. 

2.      Verify that there is agreement between the Gospel writers. 

3.      It has stood the test of time and the scrutiny of men.

The revelations of God stopped prior to the coming of Christ.  Heaven had been silent for more than 400 years, when the angel Gabriel made the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins with this message: Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:13-17, NKJV).

Luke begins his narrative by introducing us to the parents (See Article #1) of John the Baptist. They lived at a time when the wicked Herod the Great was king of Judea. He was an Idumean, that is, a descendant of Esau.

 

Article #1: Zacharias and Elizabeth

Zacharias (means the Lord remembers) was a priest belonging to the division of Abijah, one of the twenty-four shifts into which the Jewish priesthood had been divided by David (1 Chr. 24:10). Each shift was called on to serve at the temple in Jerusalem twice a year from Sabbath to Sabbath. There were so many priests at this time that the privilege of burning incense in the Holy Place came only once in a lifetime, if at all. Elizabeth (means the oath of God) was also descended from the priestly family of Aaron. She and her husband were devout Jews, meticulously careful in observing the Old Testament Scriptures, both moral and ceremonial. Of course, they were not sinless, but when they did sin, they made sure to offer a sacrifice or otherwise to obey the ritualistic requirement. This couple had no children, a reproachful condition for any Jew. Doctor Luke notes that the cause of this was Elizabeth’s barrenness. The problem was aggravated by the fact that they were both well advanced in years. One day Zacharias was performing his priestly duties in the temple. This was a great day in his life because he had been chosen by lot to burn incense in the Holy Place. The people had gathered outside the temple and were praying. No one seems to know definitely the time signified by the hour of incense. It is inspiring to notice that the Gospel opens with people praying at the temple and it closes with people praising God at the temple. The intervening chapters tell how their prayers were answered in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. With priest and people engaged in prayer, it was an appropriate time and setting for a divine revelation. An angel of the Lord appeared on the right side of the altar—the place of favor. At first, Zacharias was terrified; none of his contemporaries had ever seen an angel. But the angel reassured him with wonderful news. A son would be born to Elizabeth, to be named John (the favor or grace of Jehovah). In addition to bringing joy and gladness to his parents, he would be a blessing to many. This child would be great in the sight of the Lord (the only kind of greatness that really matters). First of all, he would be great in his personal separation to God; he would drink neither wine (made from grapes) nor strong drink (made from grain). Secondly, he would be great in his spiritual endowment; he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. (This cannot mean that John was saved or converted from birth, but only that God’s Spirit was in him from the outset to prepare him for his special mission as Christ’s forerunner.) Thirdly, he would be great in his role as herald of the Messiah. He would turn many of the Jewish people to the Lord. His ministry would be like that of Elijah, the prophet—seeking to bring the people into a right relationship with God through repentance. As G. Coleman Luck points out: “His preaching would turn the hearts of careless parents to a real spiritual concern for their children. Also, he would bring back the hearts of disobedient, rebellious children to the “wisdom of the just.”  In other words, he would strive to gather out of the world a company of believers who would be ready to meet the Lord when He appeared. This is a worthy ministry for each of us. Notice how the deity of Christ is implied in these verses. In verse 16, it says that John would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Then in verse 17, it says that John would go before Him. To who does the word, Him refer? Obviously, to the Lord their God in the preceding verse. And yet, we know that John was the forerunner of Jesus. The inference then is clear. Jesus is God.

 

Luke wrote his gospel to give certainty and assurance about the Lord Jesus Christ.  He writes to [2]Theophilus and says, “When you read this it will confirm what you have been teaching about Jesus Christ.  It is true!  I know it is, because I have gone to the people who were eyewitnesses and they have told me their stories.  I have put it all together in this book after much consideration and prayer.”  He was a doctor, he had a scientific method to his writing and to the way, he presented the details.  If you do not believe in Jesus, it is not because there is not enough information.  It is right here in the Bible, all you need to know.  Your problem may not even be that you do not have enough faith.  Your problem may be that you just do not know enough.  You see, “…..Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).  If you really knew the word of God, you would believe it.  Those that are ignorant of the Bible have a problem.  The problem is not with Jesus Christ or with the word of God; the problem is with them.

The Gospel is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ; that He died to redeem humankind, that He was buried and that He rose from the dead.  Believing in this Gospel brings salvation and eternal life to the believer.  The Gospel can be found throughout the Bible, however the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are what we call the Gospels, because they present the person of Jesus Christ as the perfect, divine man and Savior of the world.  Jesus was God made known to us in the flesh. 

The gospel can be found in both Testaments. For example, in Genesis there are these two verses:

  • I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15).[3]

  • I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).[4]

 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are what we call the gospels, because they present the person of Jesus Christ as the perfect, divine man and Savior of the world. Jesus was God made known to us in the flesh.

Four different men wrote the Gospels and they each wrote from a different point of view and each had a different approach in how they presented Jesus.

·         Matthew emphasized that Jesus was born the Messiah.  He presents the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, King, and Redeemer.

·         Mark emphasizes that Jesus was the servant of Jehovah.  He presents Christ as the Mighty Conqueror and Ruler of the world.

·         Luke stresses the fact that Jesus was the perfect man.  He presents the perfect divine Son of God as our Great High Priest, touched with feeling for our needs and able to extend help, mercy and love to us.

·         John presents the fact that God became man.  He presents Christ as the Son of God.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic Gospels, because they are written from the same viewpoint and with a similar pattern.  The fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, is different.  It alone does not contain any parables, but it does give a chronological order to the three-year ministry of Jesus.  The Gospels are the word of God written by four different men and with the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit.  They do not contradict each other in any way, although many will try to point out what at first may appear to be contradictions, however, if you understand what each Gospel is presenting about Jesus these seeming contradictions actually work to bring more truth to the event.  Many events in the life of Christ are reported in more than one of the Gospels and in this way, we are given more information and the Gospels build upon each other.  There is “harmony” in the Gospels.

Do you think that the Gospels report everything that Jesus did while He was here on earth? John 21:25 has the answer—And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  We have no fear in taking verse 25 literally! Jesus is God and is therefore infinite. There is no limit to the meaning of His words or to the number of His works. While He was here on earth, He was still the Upholder of all things—the sun, moon, and stars. Who could ever describe all that is involved in keeping the universe in motion? Even in His miracles on earth, we have only the barest description. In a simple act of healing, think of the nerves, muscles, blood corpuscles, and other members that He controlled. Think of His direction of germs, fishes, animal life. Think of His guidance in the affairs of men. Think of His control over the atomic structure of every bit of matter in the universe. Could the world itself possibly contain the books to describe such infinite details? The answer is an emphatic “No.”

And so, we begin our commentary on The Harmony of the Gospels. Perhaps we will come to realize why they have come to be one of the best-loved parts of the Bible. Certainly, one can scarcely read it thoughtfully and prayerfully without falling in love afresh with the blessed Person whom it presents.



[1] The word “Gospel” means “Good News.”  The “Good News” is that Jesus was the Son of God; that He died for your sins; was buried; and rose again from the dead.  Salvation comes through faith in Him.

 

[2] Theophilus [thih AHF uh luhs] (lover of God) — A Christian to whom Luke dedicated the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). The fact that Luke spoke of Theophilus as “most excellent” indicates that he was a prominent man of high rank and possibly a Roman. He may have chosen the name when he was converted to Christianity. According to tradition, both Luke and Theophilus were natives of Antioch in Syria. Much speculation surrounds Theophilus, but little is known for certain about him.

[2]

 

[3] This verse is known as the protevangelium, meaning “The First Gospel.” It predicts the perpetual hostility between Satan and the woman (representing all mankind), and between Satan’s seed (his agents) and her Seed (the Messiah). The woman’s Seed would crush the Devil’s head, a mortal wound spelling utter defeat. This wound was administered at Calvary when the Savior decisively triumphed over the Devil. Satan, in turn, would bruise the Messiah’s heel. The heel wound here speaks of suffering and even of physical death, but not of ultimate defeat. Therefore, Christ suffered on the cross, and even died, but He arose from the dead, victorious over sin, hell, and Satan. The fact that He is called the woman’s Seed may contain a suggestion of His virgin birth.[3]

 

[4] The call of the Lord had come to Abram when he was still in Ur. Abram was called to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house, and to embark on a life of pilgrimage (Heb. 11:9). God made a marvelous covenant with him which included the following significant promises: a land—that is, the land of Canaan; a great nation— namely, the Jewish people; material and spiritual prosperity for Abram and his seed; a great name for Abram and his posterity; they would be a channel of blessing to others; friends of Israel would be blessed and anti-Semites would be cursed; all the families of the earth would be blessed in Abram, pointing forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, who would be a descendant of Abram. This covenant was renewed and enlarged in 13:14–17; 15:4–6; 17:10–14; and 22:1

 

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