Each of the four gospels contained in the New Testament portrays a different and unique portrait of Jesus. Mark’s gospel represents Jesus as the suffering servant, while Matthew shows Jesus as the new Moses. Luke stresses Jesus’ inclusion of the outcasts and then John’s non-synoptic gospel shows Jesus as God’s presence and as an otherworldly figure.
Mark portrays Jesus as a powerful yet unrecognized and suffering Messiah. Stories throughout the gospel show Jesus to have control over storms, water and demons. He is able to heal lepers, cripples and people with withered limps. He also has undaunted authority over everything including sin and Sabbath laws. Yet the theme of the messianic secret is major within this gospel. Jesus often tells people “to tell no one” of the miracles he performs. This theme is part of the climax of Mark’s gospel when Peter proclaims that Jesus is Christ and Jesus responds by giving him strict orders to tell no one. He therefore is the unrecognized Messiah. Mark wrote his gospel to a suffering and fearful faith community. He wrote to inspire faith in them. That is why Mark emphasizes Jesus’ suffering to his readers so that they can relate and see that there is no glory without suffering. He therefore shows that in order to have true dominance one must first encounter suffering, just as Jesus had.
Matthew writes his gospel from a Jewish standpoint. He is careful to connect Jesus as the legitimate heir to the royal house of David in order to establish Jesus’ Hebrew roots. Matthew often refers to Hebrew scripture to show Jesus as the fulfillment of the scriptures. He says that Jesus is God present with us. Jesus is portrayed as the new lawgiver in this gospel. He is a teacher who concentrates on the overall being of a person, meaning their actions as well as their thoughts. Matthew stresses that it is just as bad to think impurely as it is to act impure. Jesus has come to perfect the law and to provide ethical teachings to guide his followers. Matthew shows Jesus to pity the under privileged in his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. He also shows Jesus scolding much of the upper class, especially the Pharisees whom Jesus is shown to argue with numerous times throughout this gospel.
Luke does the opposite of Matthew by writing from a Gentile point of view and directing his gospel toward a Greco-Roman audience. Luke concerns himself with showing that in Jesus the Gentiles are included in the promise of God’s covenant. The major theme of this gospel is that Jesus is savior. He is the savior of the whole world not just the Jews. Luke portrays Jesus as a passionate messiah by stressing his inclusion of the outcasts. Jesus associated with the tax collectors, woman and physically disadvantaged. Jesus denounces the rich and comfortable in this gospel during the Sermon on the Mount. Luke also downplays Jesus’ suffering by excluding much of it from his gospel. An example of this is the absence of the crown of thorns in his gospel. Luke does this to once again portray the more compassionate Jesus. He instead exclusively included Jesus’ praying for the forgiveness of the crowd and for the criminal next to him on the cross and to give more attention to Jesus’ resurrection and the appearances of the risen Jesus.
John’s whole gospel is a portrait of Jesus. He includes new titles and truths that are not contained in any other gospel. Two important titles John quotes Jesus using are “I am” and “the word.” By using the term “I am” John is saying that the kingdom of God has come and that Jesus has always been. “The word” is God’s “logos.” This represents the basic idea of God revealing himself to mankind. It says that Jesus is the one whom God the father used to create the world. John therefore stresses Jesus’ incarnation and emphasizes the faith factor of believing without seeing.
The four gospels are all very unique in portraying Jesus. They cover much of the same material but see Jesus from different point of views because of their different backgrounds. Luke and Matthew are perfect examples because they both believe so dearly in Jesus yet have different views because of their different cultures. The evangelists show that no matter who you are you can relate to Jesus just as they did. By studying the gospels you can see Jesus through your own lens and therefore paint your own portrait of the messiah.