Those who want signs and wonders—like the Jews of old—will most likely reap the most benefit from Matthew. Those who long to know compassion and healing will most certainly be drawn to Luke. Those who want quick cameos that capture the essence of true religion—those who move hastily from one thing to the next—will benefit most from Mark’s “immediate” movement from one account to another in the life of Christ. For those who consider themselves to be “spiritual,” who like to dabble in eastern and mystical religions, John’s Gospel is best suited to speak into their lives.
God doesn’t do anything arbitrarily. We may not be able to grasp his intentions in full or even in part, but we can be sure that everything that he does is full of eternal purpose and divine wisdom. The secret things may belong to God, but those that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever (Deut. 29:29).
Those revealed things have to do with all that God has made known to us in the Scriptures. The heart of biblical revelation is the revelation of Jesus. The chief reason why God breathed out the Scriptures is that we might come to know him in and through his Son—and that we might have life in Christ. While every book of the Bible is about Jesus and our relationship to him, the four Gospels give us the close-up shots of the Savior in the days of his time on earth.
As a young Christian, I remember wondering why it was that God chose to give us four Gospels rather than one. This is no illegitimately curious or superfluous question. It is one that we do well to consider. I have actually come to believe that there are many reasons why our God has given us four—rather than one—Gospel records. Here are three:
1. It takes more than one man’s record to capture the glory of the infinite Savior.
Interestingly, the great B.B. Warfield set out to answer this question in a short article titled “Why Four Gospels?” which he wrote for the 1887 edition of The Westminster Teacher. Using the imagery of painters observing a beautiful scene in nature and composers writing different parts of one magnificent composition, Warfield concluded the following:
No one man could stand above this mountain of grace and write out for us a description of what it is and of all the streams that flow from it to make glad the country spread at its base; neither were we to be confined to the view of it that one man, from his lower standpoint, could obtain. This would indeed have been an inestimable blessing. What one man, illuminated in his spirit by the Spirit of God, could understand of the signs and deeds that Jesus did, and, directed in his hand by the same Spirit’s inspiration, could record of what he saw, would be enough to make us believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and to bring us life in his name. But this was not all that the Spirit could give; and it is not all that He has given. He has, as it were stationed Spirit-led men around the foot of the mountain and bidden them look and write. And one tells us what it is on this side, and on, what it is on that side, until through their eyes we may catch, piecemeal indeed, but with truth and perspective some shadowy glimpse of the perfect whole…In this Divine song each evangelist has his part to sing, and each part is complete in itself; while the Holy Spirit is the composer of all, the author at once of their diversity, suiting the part to the voice that is to sing it, and of their concordant harmony by which we may get a foretaste of that vaster music which it shall be ours to hear “when we shall see Him as He is.”
It is for this reason that the first three Gospel records are often called “the Synoptics.” The word “synoptic” simply means “to see through.” We are meant to put the lens of Matthew over the lens of Luke and Mark and to focus in on what is before us. As we do so, we find that each writer is giving us a different angle shot. As we simultaneously look through the lens of John’s Gospel, we see Jesus in 3D. Warfield concluded: