CHRIST The Only Way
When we read the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we see the same stories and the same parables in most, but they all seem to differ in some small way. This causes some people to be confused and think the Bible to have irregularities or mistakes in the translation because Matthew worded a parable different from Luke, or Mark says something and John doesn’t even mention it. There is a very simple explanation in God’s Word of why these four slightly different versions of the same story seem to be so different, yet so alike. To understand the reasons behind the variations, we must begin in the book of Ezekiel.
We see in Chapter 1, Ezekiel standing on the bank of the river Chebar. He sees in the sky, a vision of the throne of God coming in the distance. Around His throne are living creatures which guard and watch everything in the way.
Ezekiel 1:5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. V.6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. V.7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. V.8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. V.9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. V.10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. V.11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. V.12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. V.13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. V.14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. V.15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.
These are amazing creatures. They follow God wherever he goes. There are four creatures beneath the throne, and they all have four faces. These four faces are the key to the four gospels.
"...they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle."
The four gospels seem to have the same attributes of these four faces which line up as follows.
Matthew carries the theme of the face of the Lion. The Lion stands for kingship.
Hosea 5:1 Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.
Hosea 5:14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.
When the gospel of Matthew was written, we see every attribute of Jesus as the King of Israel. As Jesus comes into Israel on the back of an ass, he comes as the King of the Jews.
Matthew 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
In the other gospels, Jesus is called the Lord.
Mark 11:3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
Luke 19:31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.
The gospel of John does not record anything about the entry on a colt. Many places are noticeable in the gospel of Matthew that refer to the kingship of Jesus.
The gospel of Mark has the theme of a servant or a laborer. This would be the Ox, as the face on the left side of the living creature. Throughout the book we see the labor of Jesus that Mark has recorded. There is no geniology or elaborate record of Jesus’ birth and early life, but after baptism goes straight to work with the sick and hurting of the people.
Mark 1:33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. V.34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
More than any of the other gospels, there is an emphasis on the message Jesus was trying to get out to the people. It is recorded he preached to the people the good news and that was the message of the servant or laborer for God.
Mark 1:38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. V.39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
Mark 2:2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. V.3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
Mark 6:6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching. V.7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits.
Mark 6:12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent. V.13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Mark 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
The gospel of Luke has the theme of the face of a man. This face is on the right side of the living creatures, seen by Ezekiel. This gospel was written by Luke, and he was the only author that did not see Jesus but investigated the information to be recorded. Luke was a physician and took very high regard to details. He began with the actions of Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, acting out his priestly duties in the temple and took careful detail to record as much of the information he could find. He also recorded a lineage of Christ that is unlike the one in Matthew that follows Joseph’s lineage. Luke’s list follows Mary’s lineage. The Jewish customs refuse to acknowledge the women’s lineage, so it is labeled as Joseph’s according to Jewish custom. That is why it is recorded as (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, Luke 3:23. Heli was the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Joseph was not the true "father" of Jesus anyway. God was the Father of Jesus Christ.
The lineage was divided at King David. The list in Matthew left David and went through Solomon and proceeded to Joseph. Matthew 1:7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa.
With the list in Luke, it shows the lineage going a different way. Jesus was to come from the tribe of Juda. The list is shown in reverse of the list in Matthew and goes from David to Nathan.
Luke 3:31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, V.32 Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, V.33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda.
The list is shown in reverse because of it being Mary’s lineage. Both of the lists pass through Juda, as to fulfill prophecy.
The gospel of John carries the theme of the Eagle, which stands for "divinity." Most of the book of John centers on showing the divinity of Jesus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. V.2 The same was in the beginning with God. V.3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. V.4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. V.5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. V.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. V.7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. V.8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. V.9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. V.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. V.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. V.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: V.13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. V.14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
All scripture was inspired by God. For this reason, we know the Bible is true. As you read the gospels, notice what version of the four faces you are reading. The story you are trying to understand can easily be understood if you know which aspect of Jesus God is portraying, the divinity of Jesus or the Servanthood of Jesus or the man part of Jesus or Jesus returning as the King.
One parable that confuses a lot of people is the one about the fig tree.
Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: V.33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. V.34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13:28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: V.29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. V.30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
Luke 21:29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; V.30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. V.31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. V.32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
Notice in the Matthew (king) and Mark (servant), the parable is exactly the same. It speaks only of the fig tree and applies to Israel. Only in Luke (face of man) does it change. The words "all the trees" is added. This was to ensure that when we see Israel become a nation in the spring of 1948, on May 18, and we would know the fig tree has begun to bud. This is not spoken of in the John (divinity) gospel.
Another story that has big differences in the details is the story of Jesus walking on the water.
Matthew 14:24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. V.25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. V.26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. V.27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. V.28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. V.29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. V.30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. V.31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? V.32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. V.33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
The King of the Jews walked on water and allowed Peter to come to him, walking on the water also. As soon as they entered the boat, the water calms down. Not only is Jesus King of the Jews, but the elements obey him also.
Mark 6:47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. V.48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. V.49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: V.50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. V.51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. V.52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. V.53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. V.54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, V.55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. V.56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.
Jesus is walking to the other shore, but when the disciples see him, they are afraid. So the "servant-laborer" Jesus turns from his way and comforts them and comes into the boat with them. Mark does not record the walk of Peter on the water. Mark only records what relates to the servanthood of Jesus. Mark puts more emphasis on the healing Jesus does throughout the land of Gennesaret than the gospel of Matthew does, and John doesn’t mention the healing of the people at all.
John 6:16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, V.17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. V.18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. V.19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. V.20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. V.21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Notice that the book of John with its "divinity" theme shows the boat being translated to the other shore as soon as Jesus gets in, nothing about the "king" controlling the elements to allow Peter to walk on water, and nothing about Jesus stopping to help his disciples. It just shows a God able to translate from one place to another a boat full of men.
The book of Luke, or the face of man, saw no reason to record this event.
Another important event that shows the Divine nature of Jesus is the betrayal of Judas. When the men came to arrest Jesus, it is recorded in all four gospels.
Matthew 26:49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
Mark 14:45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
Luke 22:48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
Now notice how the gospel of John recorded the event to show the Divinity of Jesus.
John 18:5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. V.6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
The power of the Holy Spirit coming forth from the words of Jesus knocked the men down to the ground, helpless. Jesus Christ, announcing that he was the great I Am from Mt. Sinai with Moses, having all power in heaven and earth, went willingly to the cross to save us from the penalty of sin. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
Enjoy reading the gospels with the understanding now that if you want to study on Jesus coming back as the king, read Matthew; if you want to see more of Jesus as the servant-laborer, read Mark; if you want a very detailed analysis of the entire story of Jesus’ birth and death, read Luke; if you want to see the Godly or divine side of Jesus, read John. All are great and all have messages that we should apply to our lives. Remember, to totally understand every aspect of the stories in the four gospels, we need to read all of the books to get a total picture of what God is telling us.