The New Testament begins with the four biographical eyewitness accounts about Jesus. Each of these accounts is written from the perspective of one of Jesus’ apostles and have very specific structures and goals. Matthew was a tax collector who was called by Jesus to stop his cheating of people and to follow him as a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). His gospel (which means “good news”) is written specifically from a Jewish perspective to demonstrate to Jews how Jesus fulfills the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. Matthew begins his book with a genealogical record demonstrating Jesus’ connection to David, Abraham, and Adam, and also pointing out his ties to other significant ancestors from the Old Testament, including three women Jews would be very familiar with – Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2), and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).
Luke, on the other hand, was written by a traveler and companion of Paul of Tarsus, who was a Jew specifically called by God to be a missionary to the non-Jews (Gentiles). Luke’s gospel, and its companion book Acts, is written by a Gentile physician to help explain the gospel and development of Christianity to people who are less familiar with Jewish customs and history. Luke opens his book with a very clear statement of his purpose in writing (Luke 1:1-4)
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Mark’s gospel was written by John Mark, who is also a companion of Paul, but later ends up spending a lot of time with Peter. Mark’s book is an eyewitness account of Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Mark’s book is a quick read. It is a book that moves rapidly from one story to the next without a lot of extraneous information, very much like a personal narrative would sound. It is written with both Jews and Gentiles in mind, emphasizing who Jesus is and what it really means to follow him and be his disciple.
John was also one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His book seeks to fill in the theological aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. John understood and clearly conveyed Jesus’ claim of being God incarnate. John begins (vs. 1-5) with
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John emphasized that Jesus is the promised Messiah who is co-eternal with God. Note that the Word (John’s way of referencing Jesus here) was present from the beginning of time, co-existent with God, and equal to God.
In the passages we read this week, Jesus’ birth is foretold and described, along with the birth of John the Baptist, whose ministry was to “prepare the way of the Lord” as referenced in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. We read of the first people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (John the Baptist, Anna, Simeon, the shepherds, the magi). We read of Jesus’ initial choices of complete obedience to God. We also read of Jesus calling his disciples and preparing for his ministry.