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Synoptic Gospels

QUESTION: What are the Synoptic Gospels?


The first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories. The Gospels were written primarily to unbelievers so that they might be introduced to Jesus.

The writers of the synoptic Gospels had their own unique way of phrasing things. For instance, one writer might say that Jesus went to this or that place, while another writer would say Jesus walked to this or that place. God, in great wisdom, made sure that all of His potential audiences were covered when He had Matthew, Mark, and Luke write down their accounts. Matthew is the first Gospel and was primarily written to Jewish people. This Gospel starts off with a lineage the Jewish people would have been familiar with. This Gospel also records the famous Sermon on the Mount. Starting in chapter 9, Jesus starts to talk about the New Covenant that God is offering to Jewish people. In verse 17, Jesus differentiates between old wineskins and new wineskins. This is reference to the new covenant God will offer to all people. Starting in chapter 11, Jesus has chosen His disciples and starts going around to the neighboring towns trying to get people to see that they are corrupt to the core in their hearts. Jesus starts talking in parables in chapter 13. He is drawing in those who have started to make a commitment to Him. His words start to become more vague and undecipherable to those who have rejected His more understandable approach. The next 10 or so chapters deal with Jesus encounters with the Pharisees, interactions with His disciples and even more vague parables for those who have stayed with Him and followed Him thus far. Chapter 24 talks about the future and the end times. Some scholars have said that the parables in these chapters, such as the ten virgins and the sheep and the goats, refer to how the tell the true believers from the false ones during the time of the tribulation. The last part of Matthew is spent giving a historical account of Jesus’ betrayal and death.

Mark was written for a Roman audience. In today’s vernacular, Mark is written for those who need a simpler view of Jesus’ life. The beginning of Mark starts out with a synopsis of the start of Jesus’ ministry. Mark chapters 4-8 contain parables that Jesus spoke and some of the healing miracles Jesus performed. Chapters 9-10 lead up the time when Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the final week of His life. Chapters 11-13 contain a record of the first half of His last week. The last three chapters of the book of Mark deal with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Luke is the last of the three synoptic Gospels. In its day, Luke was written to Greeks, the intellectuals of his time. Luke is a personal letter written to someone named Theopolis. This gospel starts off with an account of the birth of John the Baptist. Chapters 2-3 give account of the birth of Jesus and genealogy that a Gentile would understand. Most of the middle section of Luke, chapters 4-21, give a detailed account of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus shares some parables, heals people, and talks specifically on certain subjects (sin, faith, duty, etc.) The last several chapters give the reader a complete work of the very last days of Jesus. Subjects include the Passover, Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus’ several court appearances, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

God has not left anyone out. There is no excuse in coming to know Jesus, about Him and His salvation.

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We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

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