The Bible presents four Gospels, which despite their commonalities are four distinct presentations of Jesus as the Messiah. Looking a little closer at each one and seeing their unique traits can help transform your writing.
Matthew wrote his Gospel for his people, the Jews. He carefully connected Messianic passages to their fulfillment in the person of Jesus. He wanted Jews to see all the ways that Jesus fulfilled prophecies of the coming Messiah. In doing so, Matthew gives a carefully crafted argument why Jesus is the Messiah. Unique to Matthew is the genealogy through Joseph’s side of the family, connecting Jesus back to the lineage of David, including a unique nod to four women in his ancestry. Even at the end of Matthew, his resurrection account is careful to point out the earliest lies about the resurrection that had spread among the Jews of the day.
Matthew had a heart for his people as he tried to communicate the message of Jesus as Messiah. Matthew had learned of forgiveness and grace from Jesus. As a tax collector, Matthew likely would have been viewed as a sympathizer with Rome, the so-called Herodians of the day. Jesus extended a call to Matthew and others who were known as sinners and outcasts of that day, proving that Jesus’ message of salvation was for everyone. Matthew even ends his Gospel with the passage that we commonly call the Great Commission, commanding the disciples to carry the message of Christ throughout the world, teaching and baptizing as they do.
The heart of Matthew’s message was not just to convince the Jews, his own people, that Jesus is the Messiah but also to move them to fulfill their mission to bless the whole world through God’s special revelation to them. This blessing was revealed to Abraham in God’s covenant with him. But like Jonah, too often the chosen people ran the other way or refused to rejoice when God wanted to bless non-Jews. There are several stories in Matthew that surprisingly reveal God is ministering to non-Jews, including the only telling of the visit of the wise men to see Jesus.
Your passion will be evident in your writing, but are you willing to expand your message in other ways? Do you likewise limit your ministry and calling to those whom you feel most comfortable ministering? Or do you equally welcome and pursue all people? Does your writing empower people to live out their life’s purpose? If your writing liberates and frees others to carry out their life calling, you will have multiplied your effectiveness many times through your investment.
Mark, according to tradition, wrote from Peter’s perspective. It is the shortest of all the Gospels but communicates the heart of the Gospel in simple form to the Gentiles. Mark’s Gospel also uses words of action, such as immediately quite often in transition from story to story. Mark’s Gospel is fast paced, direct, and to the point. Mark also emphasizes the timing of God in revealing Jesus and His work of salvation. Jesus often told others not to tell about Him yet, emphasizing a special timing directed by God that Jesus, as Messiah would be revealed.
Mark shows that good writing can be direct and to the point, fast paced, and still effective. Peter’s work in Rome to Jews and Gentiles alike grew that congregation into the strongest church in the world. Mark was most certainly used in reaching people like these to the message of the Gospel.
Good writing can do the same for you: deliver concepts directly to the point in an effective way that presents others with information, allowing them to act upon it. Like Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Mark presents readers with the Gospel directly and without apology, giving readers the opportunity to respond. Move your readers to action whenever possible. Present the calling that many will respond with action.
Luke, the physician who traveled with Paul, wrote the Gospel bearing his name. Luke’s Gospel is written to Theophilus and is described as a careful laying out of the facts and truth about Jesus. Luke references the earliest information about Jesus’ birth, the traditional Christmas story. Luke also presents the point of view of Mary regarding the birth of Jesus. There are numerous post-resurrections appearances in Luke as well. One of the fascinating theories about this document is that Luke may have written it as part of the documents representing Paul in his appeal to Caesar. Thus, Theophilus may have been a person involved in the court system of the day, hearing Paul’s appeal for Christ.
Writing that carefully lays out facts and one’s belief will appeal to those who have not heard your message or need encouragement. This approach appeals to those who like things presented systematically and logically. We don’t know if Theophilus or others who read the Gospel believed, but they heard the Gospel message and had opportunities to respond.
Luke also wrote a second volume that we know commonly as Acts. Luke carefully presents the expansion of the Gospel and early growth of the church, ending with Paul’s journey to Rome. Luke describes the early church growth in the face of persecution with missionaries like Paul who presented Christ to the Jews throughout the reach first and then to the Gentiles.
Good writing follows the same path that Luke describes in the beginning of his Gospel. It should carefully lay out the facts and truths about which you are writing. Good research is the foundation upon which your writing is built. Luke also was passionate about his writing and the truth it presented. He wanted others to respond to his writing. He was not afraid for it to break down barriers that stood between Jew and Gentile. Good writing also pushes boundaries and challenges individuals with your passion and truth.
John: The apostle John, the oldest surviving apostle of his day, wrote John. John features seven I Am Jesus taught and seven corresponding miracles. John says that he wrote his Gospel so that people would believe Jesus is the Christ and would have eternal life in Jesus’ name. John indicates that he carefully chose the stories he wrote to accomplish this purpose, remarking that all the books of the world could not contain all that Jesus had done.
John shows that good writing is focused. Like the other Gospels, it is focused on the reader and wants to move him to action. John likewise fills in gaps in some stories that are missing from the other Gospels. For example, we read the sermon Jesus preached after the feeding of the 5,000 plus. Good writing builds upon the knowledge people have and fills in missing gaps of information, motivation, and inspiration. It both informs and liberates.
Writing with a similar focus and passion as these Gospels can make your readers become lifelong followers of your work and the vision you are creating through it!