Christ in the Synoptic Gospels

I. We have seen that the message of the Bible, brilliantly, organically, and finally, concerns the kingship of God through Christ, who, as Son of God taking our nature, defeated sin, death, and the devil, brings fallen image-bearers into a state so as to reign with Christ now and forever.
II. The gospels confirm this message. In fact, among all the books of the Bible, they give historical testimony and eye-witness proof to the essential accomplishment of this purpose during the space of Christ’s time on earth.
III. As such, the gospels have essentially the same message, and the first three especially (synoptic – seeing together). It concerns Jesus. It concerns his mission and person. It concerns the message He brought and the apostles are bringing. It concerns the mediatorial work of Christ, accomplishing obedience, suffering and dying, being rejected by religion, power, and people, and procuring a full redemption that brings mercy to poor sinners, declaring them just on the basis of Christ’s satisfaction and death, and conquering their foes, one and all.
IV. The best word to describe all this is gospel. Gospel is the announcement of salvation that comes from the battlefield, where the enemy’s death is celebrated as victory. It is fundamentally cruciform in the sense that the cross marks the victory, though the whole war itself in hindsight appears to have a cruciform shape.
V. The four-fold witness of the gospel is unique in the world’s religious canons. It is not unique, however, in terms of the Old Testament canon. There we see how the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Prophets, and Psalms all celebrate from four different vantage points the victory of God over the slavery of sin and death. Even within these four witnesses, there are groups of witnesses, such as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which though from the same hand, witness in different ways to the deliverance of the Lord. Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and the Psalms likewise cover a range of history from four different vantage-points.
VI. Matthew is most like the Pentateuch and hooks into it already in its opening verses: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David. Its long discourses, interspersed with quiet but potent historical narrative, shows how the Scriptures have been fulfilled, Israel’s journeying is over, and the Abrahamic covenant should now reach the Gentiles in full.
VII. Mark is most like the prophets in a powerful, authority-radiant, exhibition of the glory of Christ, which Isaiah saw, and prophesied, but which served equally to blind many others, that seeing they would not see, and hearing they would not heart. The King the prophets presented as coming gloriously, but mysteriously, clad not just with garments of might and victory, but garments stained with treading grapes of wrath, and working redemption in the earth – that’s Mark. Mark the gospel with the Son of Man and the Son of God, the suffering One as well as Him coming on the clouds with a kingdom. Mark takes a place between Isaiah and Daniel.
VIII. Luke reads like the historian of Ruth, or Samuel, or Kings, the man who documents God’s history of salvation in the small villages where no one thought any thing of any importance could happen. Luke writes with skillful tenderness, like that of a surgeon, a man aiming at healing and deliverance, but a man who has a heart for the suffering, poor, and wronged. He has a radar for Christ’s dealing with women, with the likes of the woman was a sinner, Mary, Martha, and others. But his real focus is Christ’s bringing salvation to all, Jew and Gentile; a salvation which is not of works lest any should boast, a salvation that publicans and sinners experience when a shepherd puts a sheep over his shoulders and brings them back, or a prodigal in the embrace of his reconciled father. Luke is the gospel writer, who is only half way done when he comes to the Ascension, for there is so much more to write about what Christ continues to teach and to do.
IX. When it comes to Christ, Matthew loves to show Jesus as the

A. Anticipated Messiah of God’s people. The chronology of chapter 1 shows that Jesus belonged to the royal line of “David the king” (Matt. 1:6). Jesus’ birth disturbs “Herod the king” as the scribes speak of a time when a Governor “shall rule My people Israel” (Matt. 2:6b). In His baptism, temptation, teachings, and miracles, Christ brings announces and brings into view the kingdom of heaven. Over Jesus’ head, on the cross, hangs the epithet announcing his kingship (Matt. 27:37). Jesus’ final commissioning of His disciples, in the Great Commission, rests on Jesus having “All power … in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). He is the king, the Messiah of God who has come into the world to save His people from their sins.

B. Emmanuel, that is, God with us (Matt. 1:23) and the son of David (Matt. 1:1). At His baptism, the heavens are rent open and God proclaims, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Throughout his earthly ministry, Christ shows that the Temple will no longer be the place of God meeting with his people, but that God now communes with His people in the Person of Christ. Matthew highlights how the veil of the temple was rent in two at the death of Christ (Matt. 27:51). Jesus is God dwelling in the midst of His people.

C. Third, Jesus is the son of Abraham (see Matt. 1:1), the friend of God, who commanded his house after him (Gen. 18:19). Christ is the culmination of God’s promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 28:19-20). He commands his house after Him (Gen. 8:10–12; 15:27).

D. Fourth, Jesus is the new Moses. The many discourses, especially the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. Matt. 5-7) picture Christ as the Prophet sent by God. He has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). The New Covenant is not an abrogation of the Mosaic law. Rather, Jesus’ teaching gives the correct interpretation of the Mosaic Law, showing the seriousness of the curses and the blessings. At the mount of transfiguration, the Father speaks the words: “Hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5), which recalls Moses’ words concerning the great prophet like himself, whom God would raise up (see Deut. 18:15).

X. When it comes to Christ, Mark ties the term “gospel” right to him (Mark 1:1). His coming is heralded by John the Baptist, who comes as the last of OT prophets called for repentance. In the water of the Jordan, as He is baptized, the heavens rends over Jesus, declaring him to be

A. The Son of God, of whom John has said that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is confirmed when after being tempted by the devil, He comes forth from this temptation preaching the gospel with power and doing miracles. As the Son of God, he will not be understood by most, but some, such as Peter and the centurion will confess him as such, and the gospel of Mark will end at the right hand of the Majesty on High (Mark 16:19-20)

B. The Strong man Armed. As he shows the glory of the kingdom by teaching and healing, opposition grows. Among controversies over the Sabbath, and who can forgive sins, some accuse him of working through the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Christ proves that He is the Strong One who has entered the strong one’s house and bound him.

C. Mysterious Teacher: Christ begins to teach in parables, whereby the distinction between insiders (disciples) and outsiders becomes more pronounced. Even the disciples, however, are slow to understand. Christ’s multiplying the loaves to the 5000 and 4000 become occasions that reveal the disciples’ hardness of heart. Though Peter confesses Christ to be the Son of God, and on the mount of Transfiguration, the Father shows the glory of Christ, the disciples don’t yet see the glory of Christ, especially as it involves the suffering and death of Christ. Christ enters Jerusalem hailed as the Son of David, but, mysteriously to the disciples, pronounces the end of the temple.

D. The Suffering Servant. The significance of Christ’s sufferings come into view as Christ is anointed by Mary, and as He institutes the Lord’s Supper with his disciples.

E. The Enthroned King. The arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Christ proceeds in rapid succession, and climaxes as a Roman centurion confesses that this was the Son of God (Mark 15:39). The gospel ends with the report of the resurrection and the appearances of Christ until we see him seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Mark 16:19), working through His disciples as they preached and performed signs (Mark 16:20).

XI. When it comes to Luke, he presents

A. Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of salvation history. Throughout the history of redemption, God has been preparing the world to receive the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. From the beginning of the bible until the end of John the Baptist’s ministry, God was promising to fulfill his covenant plan of redemption. As Jesus began his earthly ministry and later, his heavenly ministry (Acts), God was fulfilling these promises made since the time of Adam and Eve, and fulfilling the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed (Gen. 2:34; 7:1-10; 10:25-37; 19:41-44). Luke brings this out clearly in his account of Jesus’ Person and work (cf. Luke 3:38; 16:16). Luke’s presentation of Jesus fulfilling salvation history focuses on Jesus’ three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king (see Luke 1:21-33, 69; 4:18, 40; 5:13-14; 24:51; etc.).

B. Luke not only shows that Jesus is the culmination of salvation history, but also that all previous revelation centered on Jesus’ Person and ministry. From Moses to the prophets, all the biblical authors wrote and testified to Jesus. Luke shows that all revelation was about revealing Jesus to God’s covenant people (Luke 24:27, 44-49). In conjunction with this, Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of God’s (suffering) Servant, Messiah, and Prophet (cf. Luke 4:18-19; 7:16; 9:7-9, 20; 11:47-51; etc.).

C. Luke also makes much of prayer and the prayer life of Jesus, as well as in Acts at the prayer life of the church. As he was baptized, he prayed (3:21). After helaing the leper, he went to a desert place and prayed (5:16). Before calling the apostles he spent the night in prayer (Acts 6:12) and before Peter’s confession, he prayed alone (Acts 9:18). On the mount of transfiguration, he as praying (Acts 11:1), and he told Peter, “I have prayed for you.” On the cross, Luke records the first and the last prayer, Father, forgive (Acts 23:34) and “Father, into thy hands” (Acts 23:46). It’s no wonder that Luke has been seen to stress a spirituality or piety akin to Paul, whose letters were full of prayers and thanksgivings.

D. Jesus ministry is carried on in the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and born through the virgin Mary. At his baptism, Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and driven into the wilderness by the Spirit (Luke 4:1). Jesus testified to the crowds that the Spirit of the Lord had anointed him (Luke 4:18). And Jesus ends his earthly ministry in Luke charging his disciples to await the coming of the Spirit (Luke 24:49). The Spirit plays an integral role in Luke’s gospel as applying the work of redemption to individual hearts (see Luke 1:76-77; 7:27; 10:20; 16:30; 17:3-4; etc.).

XII. The Holy Spirit has seen fit to put to Scripture the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ so that the church reads it in four part harmony, and has to read it through four times, in case we who are slow of heart to believe, would fail to see Him, the Son of God, the King come to rule victoriously.