All of the gospels are the story of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, but they each emphasize different things.
Adapted from The Life Application Bible, p. 1937
Jesus is . . .
The promised King
The Servant of God
The Son of Man
The Son of God
Targeted readers were . . .
Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy
Jesus backed up His words with action
Jesus was God but also fully human
Belief in Jesus is required for salvation
The writer was a . . .
Close disciple of Jesus and theologian
Greatest emphasis is on . . .
Jesus’ sermons and words
Jesus’ miracles and actions
The principles behind Jesus’ teaching and relationship
This gospel was written by the Apostle Matthew, who was a Jewish tax collector. Notice all the references to coins!
Matthew wrote this gospel for a Jewish audience that awaited the Messiah who was to be the "son of David, the son of Abraham." That is why it starts off with a genealogy of Jesus' connection to David. It also has many quotes from the Old Testament. If you have been in the Bible Club, especially Year Two, you will recognize many of these Old Testament references from the prophets. Matthew emphasizes much of Jesus' talk about the Kingdom since Jesus is the promised King. Matthew has 1071 verses.
The gospel "according to Mark" was added later by a scribe around A.D. 125. So, it is technically written by anonymous, but there is much evidence that points to Mark as the author. He was not an eyewitness, but he was a close associate to an eyewitness, Peter. He wrote down what Peter said but not always in chronological order (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3. 39. 15). It is almost certain he is the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37, 39; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24; and 1 Peter 5:13. He was a Jewish believer who lived in Jerusalem with his mother, Mary, in the early days of the church where their home was a meeting place (Acts 12:12).
This gospel was written in Rome primarily for Roman Gentile believers. That is why there is no genealogy and only a few Old Testament reference. He includes no genealogy. It is quick and fast paced, highlighting Jesus' power and authority through works rather than his words. He is seen as the servant who came to seek and to save those who were lost (Mark 10:45). You will notice the key word "immediately" repeated 39 times in the New American Standard translation. Thus illustrating the action of the gospel. Mark is the shortest of the four gospels with only 678 verses and is the most chronological of the four accounts. I love to study Mark with non-believers!
Luke's books (Luke and Acts) make up 28 percent of the New Testament. He is mentioned in Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:14; and Philemon 24. He also is part of the "we" in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; and 27:1-28:16. He was a Gentile and physician (Col. 4:10-14). He claims to be a historian (Luke 1:1-4) who carefully researched his material. It is believed he wrote it between A.D. 58 and 60.
Luke takes us consecutively through the days of Jesus as the Son of Man, fully human but fully God. Luke was careful to point out that Jesus was the fulfillment of the things written in the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. It seems he wrote this book primarily for Gentiles because he frequently explained Jewish localities (4:31; 8:26; 21:37; 23:51; 24:13) and he traced Jesus' genealogy all the way back to Adam (3:23-38) indicating that Jesus represented all of mankind and not just the Jews. Jesus preached to the Gentiles because of his rejection by Israel. Luke also used the Septuagint for quotes from the Old Testament. Since this is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is believed that Greeks were his specific Gentile audience. Luke is the longest book with 1151 verses.
As one of Jesus' 12 disciples, John gives a first-hand account of Jesus. John's gospel was the last to be written, probably about A.D. 85-90, after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and before John's exile on the island of Patmos. It is written to both a Jewish and Greek audience.
This book is unlike the other three "synoptic" gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Over 90 percent of this book is not found in the other three. It does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus' early years. It does not include the temptation (Matthew 4), transfiguration (Matthew 17), or appointment of the disciples (Mark 3). There is no account of the parables, ascension, or Great Commission. It is really relational in nature. It is the only place where the Upper Room Discourse (and subsequent teaching on the Holy Spirit) Jesus gave to his disciples is recorded (John 14-17).
This gospel is unique in that John tries to prove that Jesus is God in the flesh, born to die as a sacrifice for our sin. He does this by including the seven "I am" statements by Jesus:
1) I am the bread of life (6:35)
2) I am the light of the world (8:12)
3) I am the Gate for the sheep (10:7,9)
4) I am the Good Shepherd (10:11,14)
5) I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
6) I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (14:6)
7) I am the true Vine (15:1, 5)
A major part of the Gospel (2:1-12:50) contains seven "Signs" that point to Him as the Messiah:
1) Changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana (2:1-11)
2) Healing the officials son in Capernaum (4:46-54)
3) Healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-18)
4) Feeding the 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee (6:5-14)
5) Walking on the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21)
6) Healing a blind man in Jerusalem (9:1-7)
7) Raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany (11:1-45)
This is supported by the purpose of the book stated in 20:31, "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."