Week 4 – Study

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The Gospels

Jesus Christ stands at the center of the Christian faith and life. That is why it important that we become familiar with him and study his life and teachings, his ministry and miracles.

Jesus wrote no book about himself or his teachings. He left that for other people to do, people who followed him and knew some of the facts about his life. Such books are called Gospels.

The word “Gospel” in the New Testament means “Good News”. The Gospels are our primary and practically only sources of information about the life of Jesus, who people called the Christ.

Strictly speaking, the Gospels are not biographies but memoirs whose purpose is stated in John 20:31:

“…that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this faith you may have life in his name”

Each Gospel writer gives us a picture of Jesus, as he influenced that group of people. NOT ALL of the Gospel writers knew Jesus personally – some were not born when Jesus walked the earth. The Gospel of Matthew is the first Gospel in the New Testament, but not the first Gospel written. Matthew was written to the Jewish community to convince them that Jesus was, indeed, the long waited Messiah.

The second Gospel (Mark) is regarded as the earliest of Gospels and contains the recollections of the Apostle Peter about Jesus as told to John Mark. Mark’s Gospel tells us much about the events of Jesus’ life.

The third Gospel was written by a physician, Luke, after whom the Gospel is named. Luke portrays Jesus primarily not as the Messiah of Israel, but as the Savior of the world. The Gospel of Luke is sometimes regarded as the “Missionary Gospel”.

Finally, the fourth Gospel – John – stresses the eternal aspects of Jesus and his work, and has recorded within it many of the private conversations of Jesus with other people. Unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of John contains no parables.

With these books as our resource, we will study the story of God’s Son, and through that story, we will attempt to hear God’s call to us to discipleship and faith.

The birth of Jesus Christ came as a climax to centuries of waiting and anticipation by God’s people of the Messiah. In Isaiah’s day, as in centuries later, the world was filled with much evil and sin. There was war, revolution, cruelty and injustice. Morally speaking, it was a pretty bad time for the world.

Then one night, the light came to the dark world in the form of a baby, born in a manger, in a little town called Bethlehem. Ever since that birth, Christians have seen the prophetic words of Isaiah describing the coming of Jesus: “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light“.

Even Jesus would later say of himself:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.”

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we read the familiar accounts of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many of us have heard that story since we were small children: the account of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, their finding no room in the inn, the birth of the baby Jesus in the manger, the angels appearing to the shepherds with news of the birth, a bright star and the visit of the wise men.

It is the story of God becoming like one of us – fully human in order to know our life and so that we could know God.

King Herod, the governor of Palestine, was deeply disturbed by the news of Jesus birth. Being an insanely jealous person, Herod reacted hatefully when he was told of the birth “of the one to be born King of the Jews“. And though he told the wise men to make a careful search for the child “… when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him“, his real plan was to murder the child.

Herod worried that the little child was going to interfere with his power and position, so Herod’s reaction was to try and murder the infant Jesus.

The Scribes and the Pharisees reacted to Jesus’ birth with indifference. They had their own business with which to be concerned. What was the birth of another baby to them?

The Shepherds reacted with curiosity first, followed by praise. They wasted no time in hurrying to Bethlehem to see the One of whom God’s angels had informed them. And once they had seen him, Luke writes that they went back “singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen“.

All four Gospels agree that John the Baptist was the person who did the work which prepared for Jesus’ ministry to begin. John was a man of God to whom the crowds came to hear his words. In a real sense, he was the voice in the wilderness crying “get the Lord’s road ready for him“.

Mark tells us that “everybody from the region of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins and he baptized them in the Jordan River

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