all four gospels

During the past week since Easter, my Bible reading plan has taken me through the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As much as I love simply reading through these words of Jesus and stories of His miracles, I wanted to do a little more than just read. I’ve always been a bit curious about which stories are documented by all four gospel authors, so I wrote down each story as I read through. Matthew is the most detailed, followed by Luke, both full of story after story of healings, miracles, and parables. Mark is shorter, far more to-the-point, and I love reading about Jesus in his matter-of-fact tone (many scholars believe Mark is compiled from the memoirs of Peter!). Last is John, different in many ways, mainly because there are far fewer accounts of Jesus’ miracles (and almost no parables), but more verbatim records of Jesus’ words to the crowds, the Pharisees, and His disciples. Comparing the four, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. It turns out that while the gospels are incredibly consistent with each other, they also contain such a rich number of stories that only 19 factors actually overlap in all four! Here are the basic (imperfect) results found in all four:

1. John the Baptist’s teaching (Varies by book, but basically, “Prepare the way for the Lord!”)
2. Jesus’ baptism
3. Feeding the 5,000 (Matthew and Mark also have accounts of feeding 4,000 people!)
4. Jesus walks on water (And all the books but John also have accounts of Jesus calming a storm – until now, I thought the books had one or the other, not both!)
5. Blind man healed (though it’s accounts of different blind men in different scenarios throughout the gospels)
6. The Triumphal Entry (When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, fulfilling lots of prophecies all over the Old Testament!)
7. Cleansing the Temple (Turning over the tables of the cheating money-changers and driving them out with a whip – Jesus hates injustice getting between people and God.)
8. Woman anoints Jesus (In more than one of the accounts, Jesus tells the people around that this woman’s story would be told wherever the gospel is preached – since it ended up in all four gospels, and most translations of the Bible begin with only one of them, I’d say His word is being fulfilled!)
9. Jesus’ betrayal
10. Peter cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear
11. Jesus tried before the high priest
12. Peter denies Jesus
13. Jesus before Pilate
14. The Jews choose to free Barabbas
15. Jesus mocked by the soldiers
16. The Crucifixion
17. Jesus is buried
18. The Resurrection
19. Jesus appears to His disciples

I’m still pondering and studying a bit to find even more of the significance of these 19 stories. But as of right now, I’m interested to see that out of all the various stories of Jesus’ miracles (dozens and dozens that we know of, not even considering the unwritten ones!), only three are in each gospel: feeding the 5,000, walking on water, and healing a blind man. What is so significant about these three? Maybe I’ll write about that next week.

But beyond those three miracles and John the Baptist’s teaching and baptism of Jesus, nearly every overlapping account is from Jesus’ final week before His death and resurrection. What the gospel authors considered most significant is reflected in what they all were sure to record: the details around how Jesus was accused, killed, buried, risen, and appeared to His followers. They wanted the readers, us, to be absolutely sure of the details that are absolutely most vital to our faith. And I find it comforting to know that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were just as set on proving Jesus’ authenticity as our scholars are today. (And poor Peter managed to have all his blunders documented as well. But read John 21!)

The gospels are incredible, and I’ll enjoy each of their own individual accounts even more now. And I’ll also read with more and more confidence in the sacrificial and risen Jesus that I’m growing closer to every day.


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