As we talk about the different gospels, each one kind of has a different perspective or story. You go, “Why is there four gospels; written by four different people (obviously)?” But also for four different targets and four different methods or approaches they had for writing the Gospels. As we go through the Gospels these couple of years, let’s keep in mind just the perspective that they took.
Matthew, by the way, doesn’t ever say his name so some have questioned whether Matthew wrote it. Of course he did. Other early church fathers all ascribed Matthew to him. He was one of the first Gospels written. He was a tax collector.
He approaches Matthew (this gospel of his) about the Lord as a lawyer. He’s not a lawyer, but he really takes into account the Old Testament and the proving that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He has over one hundred different references to the Old Testament. Many are quotes exactly from the Old Testament and point to Jesus as the fulfillment of that.
He’s really a lawyer making a case for the Messiah; Jesus as the messiah (here it is). He will bring up a verse and then explain in his show in the story how Jesus is the fulfillment of that scripture in the Old Testament. And so it’s a great transition book from the Old Testament to the new as we look at the gospels. Matthew is looking to give proof for Jesus’ Messiahship. Let’s look at this and we’re going to have a lot of cross references to the Old Testament through Matthew as he makes the case for Jesus as the Messiah.
Then Mark was a little bit different. He was not a firsthand witness to it as Matthew was. But Mark is really dictating Peter’s telling of the story. Peter, no doubt, told the story and told all these different stories about Jesus and Mark really took that dictation from Peter and put together the gospel of stories there that Peter was telling. So he approaches it more as a story teller. And many say he’s kind of the eyewitness to the Gentiles (if you will).
Mark’s a good one for the gentiles. Matthew is a good one for the Jew. It could be like that too. He gives a good narrative story from Peter’s perspective. And so he was a storyteller. The first one, Matthew is a lawyer type and he was a he was a tax collector so was able to really account for things very well.
Luke was a physician and he also was not an eyewitness, but he was more of a detective. And so as we look at Luke, Luke is taking in investigating and really talking to a bunch of different people and then putting together this account. Luke went and discussed with Mary her account and so you get a lot more of this early account; this Christmas story if you will of the early life of Jesus and what had happened during that time because Mary was giving that to Luke.
Luke went and was a detective and asked “what happened?” and they wrote those things down to different people who were right witnesses to that account. And so he was a documenter or detective.
Then John – he was a fisherman – but he was the poet of the group. He is completely different than all the rest and he’s talking about love and light. If you were a hippie, you would love John because he talked about love. And just be the light. You can almost get the hippie accent going if you will.
But he was really the poet of the group and in he was the one that Jesus loved him as he accounts it. But he really brings words to life with analogies and word pictures.
You have different gospels from a different perspectives. Why? Because I’m sure if four of us were to be around the time of Jesus men we would have different focuses it would hit us differently based on our perspective of life and so the Lord allowed for different accounts of this. As one of them puts it (I think John) if we were to write it everything down that there wouldn’t be books to hold it. There’s too much and so they tried to boil it down for us.
We’re obviously missing. It wasn’t like we’ve got a videotape of Jesus’ life you know all the way through it would be too much to hold because Jesus was God walking on earth here as a man and all the things that he would have done. We just can’t fathom what the life of Jesus would have been in all of its view, but we were given a view of it by faith. We’re to believe these accounts.
We’re going to start following this account with Matthew and then after we’re done with Matthew we’ll go to Mark and then Luke and John. A lot of time in the gospels, but it will give us a great foundation for our faith over the next couple years.
Let’s get into Matthew here. Before Matthew was written and actually before the account from John the Baptist that you find in Luke in the other gospels; before this time here with John the Baptist the Lord was really silent after Malachi for 450 years. Malachi was written.
I believe Chronicles might have been the last book actually written as they chronicled everything. That’s why Chronicles and Samuel are a little bit the same, but Malachi from the Prophet’s perspective was the last real you know Scripture being written there as a prophet there.
After Malachi there is 450 years of silence from the Lord as far as scripture is concerned. The Old Testament ends and the New Testament picks up right before Jesus. What happened during this 450 years? Why was there silence? A lot happened during this time.
You had the Jews come back from captivity from Babylon, but as they were there in the land they were taken over by the Greeks. Alexander the Great reigned for a very short time – like three years – over this area. And he came and conquered the area.
Then you had his kingdom split up into fours. That area was ruled by the Egyptians or the commander that had taken over Egypt. Israel that it called Judea was annexed into that area. So they were conquered and ruled by them. Then there was a fight between that commander and the one that took over Syria and guess who was in the between – it was Israel. They were fighting there and it was taken over then by Syria and those who were really there.
Then you had the Maccabeans and they took over. If you look at the story of the Maccabeans and you have these apocryphal books that were written during this time. Apocryphal means books that aren’t inspired by the Lord. They were there as history.
The Catholics keep them in their Bible, but they were only brought in in the 1500’s. But they took them as scripture so does Eastern Orthodox Christians. But they’re really historical books for us as we see the Maccabeans and them being raised up to overthrow the rulers there. And they ruled for over one hundred years there as well.
What set them off was and Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtering pigs in the Holy of Holies there in the Temple. They rose up in a rebellion and ruled for a number of years and I tell you this because of what happened next.
Then you had a ruling of the Maccabeans. Then you had two factions that really broke off that were both political and they were part of part of the religious leadership there. The Sadducees rose up and they were part of the Hellenize group.
There was a group that really started living there in in the area of Israel and they became Hellenistic. Hellenistic means that they were part of really the Greek culture or the Grecian culture that had come out.
They were all about living pleasure. Kind of like our society – very focused on just living in the moment. And so this Hellenistic group led by the Sadducees in the religious sphere rose up and against them rose up the Pharisees. They were their more traditional.
There were three or four factions there that kind of rose up, but the Sadducees and the Pharisees rose up. And the Pharisees were all about the law in the Torah and in living truly to the sacrifices of the Lord; not this Hellenistic life, but this Jewish life. There were these factions that raised up in between here.
Then we get to the time of Jesus and we see these groups fighting. That’s why I brought all this history up. Because it kind of lends its ear into Jesus speaking to these groups.
With these two groups you had the high priest then who ruled over everything instead of the high priest coming out of the Aaronic line or that the line of Aaron it became a political position. So whoever was put into power there as the high priest was not of the line of Aaron anymore, but it was a political position going forward. And not what the Lord had put in place.
You have this all happening here as kind of a perfect time where Jesus could come into the world and be able to have the gospel spread. Because the Romans took over from the Maccabeans and then they put people in power. The time and the person who was in power at the time was Herod the Great. That’s who we find in power at this time in Matthew chapter one.
I’ll try to get through the history stuff very quickly so that we could get to the scripture but I wanted to just get that part the history lesson out of the way and that’s a very quick history lesson. There’s obviously much more that happened during that 450 years, but it kind of sets the stage for us.