16 of the Most Important Facts about the Gospels (Including Some Surprises)


Mark: The Gospel of the Suffering Son of God

  1. Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion in Mark are scenes of betrayal, desertion, and rejection. The disciples flee at his arrest; his opponents mock and scorn him. He dies in agony on the cross, forsaken by all, even his Father in heaven.
  1. Yet the informed reader knows that Jesus’ death is not in vain but is a messianic act of atonement, the ransom sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  1. Interestingly, the role of the disciples is primarily negative in Mark’s Gospel. They demonstrate ignorance, pride, and wavering faith. Jesus instead provides the true model for discipleship.
  1. The earliest and best manuscripts conclude with Mark 16:8! How does this ending change your perspective on the story, when you compare it to the other ending in 16:20?

Matthew: The Gospel of the Messiah

  1. Matthew’s Gospel is the most Jewish of the four Gospels, presenting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who brings God’s people salvation from their sins.
  1. In his Great Commission (Matt. 28:18 – 20) Jesus tells his followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  1. The religious leaders play a more negative role in Matthew than in Mark. They are wicked and hypocritical opponents of God’s plan.
  1. Matthew’s central theological theme is that salvation history finds its climax in the coming of Jesus the Messiah, inaugurator of the kingdom of heaven.

Luke: The Gospel of the Savior for All People

  1. Luke and Acts form a theological and narrative unity (Luke-Acts), sharing common purposes and themes.
  1. The central theme of Luke-Acts is the arrival of God’s end-times salvation. Through Jesus the Messiah, God has acted to save his people, Israel, and this salvation is now going to the whole world.
  1. Luke provides the only account in the Gospels from Jesus’ childhood (2:41 – 52).
  1. The account of the Emmaus disciples, where Jesus reveals the suffering role of the Messiah, is Luke’s most important contribution to the resurrection narratives (see 24:13-35).

John: The Gospel of the Son Who Reveals the Father

  1. John provides a dualistic perspective where Jesus represents light, truth, and life, and stands over against Satan and the evil world system, which represent darkness, deceit, and death.
  1. The main theme of the trial and crucifixion in John is that Jesus is in control of his destiny and is acting according to God’s plan (chaps. 18 – 19).
  1. John’s resurrection narrative is unique in Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene alone and in appearances to the disciples first without and then with Thomas present.
  1. John’s Gospel presents the most exalted Christology in the New Testament. Jesus is the preexistent Logos, the Son of God who perfectly reveals the Father.

— Mark Strauss, adapted from resources in his Four Portraits, One Jesus Pack: A Comprehensive Resource for Studying Jesus and the Gospels

How to Use This Book

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The pack includes several tools:

  • Read and discuss the bestselling book on the Gospels: Four Portraits, One Jesus
  • See and hear expert video lectures, taught by Mark Strauss (20 lectures in all)
  • Strengthen your learning through the study exercises in the Four Portraits, One Jesus workbook
  • Refer to the laminated “cheat sheet” that summarizes essential information about Jesus and the Gospels

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