The Synoptic Gospels

Welcome to our extended study of the life of Christ, stretching from this Christmas season and ending two weeks after Easter. Could we actually say that any other study we might undertake could be more important or valuable than this?  If we are to grow to be like God in our character and values, we need to know Him. And knowing Christ is to know God, as the Scriptures teach that seeing Christ is seeing God – Jesus being the visible representation (Col. 1:15 – “The Son is the image of the invisible God”) or physical explanation of God (John 1:18 – “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”).

The most necessary exercise in knowing about Christ is to know the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We call these the synoptic gospels, as there is overlap in the telling of the life of Christ. Actually, the first three are more specifically termed the synoptic gospels, as the book of John is more theological, yet it also contains many of the same life events.

Each gospel account has a different theme and original audience. Matthew is very Jewish in character, quoting the Old Testament and proving Jesus to be the Messianic Christ with an emphasis upon his teachings. Mark is more about action and is written to a general audience, emphasizing Jesus as the Son of God and suffering servant. Luke is directed to a gentile readership, presenting Christ as the Son of Man by tracing his genealogy not just to Abraham, but to Adam. And John argues for the deity of Christ, presenting his divine nature throughout.

As I set out to develop a devotionals series to accompany this extensive 4-month sermon series on the life of Christ, I attempted to put together what is called a harmony of the gospels. This puts all four of the accounts in a chronological order. But even with four months, there was simply too much material to squeeze together. Therefore, I have specifically chosen Luke’s gospel instead. Even so, as the longest book in the New Testament, it will take us a total of 97 writings to get all of the way through it. This is an almost perfect number of divisions to sufficiently cover the time we are setting aside for this study.

So we will not be covering absolutely every event in the life of Christ, as we will miss a few that are included in the other three accounts and that Luke did not choose to provide. Yet this third gospel is intensely thorough, presenting Christ’s life chronologically by a gentile writer, helping us as predominantly gentile readers to contextualize and understand the life and times of Jesus.

Previous writings in this DevotionalsTSF.org page have also covered large portions of the other gospels. There is an entire series on John’s gospel that we put together several years ago. It was called “God Up Close” and involved a total of 50 writings that take the reader through all of John. There is additionally a 67-part series called “Long Story Short” that covers all of the parables of Jesus as written in the four gospels. And multiple other sermon series include extensive sections from the gospels, particularly on themes surrounding Christmas and Easter.

So come along with us over the weeks and months, reading through Luke and growing to renew our understanding of Jesus and how it is that he makes all the difference in our lives and in all of time and history.

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