Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thoughts on the relationship between Matthew and Mark's Gospel

Image result for Matthew and Mark's Gospel
Matthew 21:5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

In past posts we have featured looking at the Person and work of Jesus Christ in both Matthew's Gospel here: and Mark's Gospel here:

Today I thought it would be edifying to consider how Jesus is portrayed in both Matthew and Mark. Whenever we study Jesus in the the Gospels, it is worthwhile to keep in mind each Gospel on its own merit. Equally important too is consideration of how the Gospels interrelate to one another. Such a consideration has been labeled by Bible scholars as the "synoptic problem" ("synopitic" referring to how the first three Gospels "see-together" the life of Jesus in basically the same way). In this post we will consider out each relates to one another, how each was composed and how the testimonies of Matthew and Mark aid us in seeing Jesus Christ in their gospels.  

Lining up how Matthew and Mark present the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection

Eusebius of Caesarea, the greatest church historian of the first three centuries, was one of the first Bible scholars to put together a series of tables that outlined how Matthew and Mark relate together. Such efforts have been studied for centuries in an attempt to understand how Jesus can be seen in two Gospels, three Gospels or all four. 

Today a person can buy a tool called a "Harmony" and study how all four Gospels line up with one another. The one I consulted is based off "The NIV Harmony of the Gospels", edited by Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry. This particular tool is helpful to the Bible student in how it features all four Gospels side-by-side in continuous, running text.

When we consider how Matthew and Mark relate, as well as what they together show us about the Lord Jesus Christ, here is what we find (note the chapter designations under each Gospel and the themes connecting them all together:

    Matthew's Gospel                  Mark's Gospel
1:1-17 Genealogy

1:18-25 Jesus' virgin birth

2:1-23 Magi and early years

3:1-4:11 baptism, temptation, ministry starts 1:1-13

4:12-22; 8;9;12 Galilean ministry           1:14-6:26
                        Choosing of the 12

5-8  Sermon on the Mount

13                Parables of the Kingdom         4
8-9,14            Feeding of the 5,000            6
15-16  Peter's Confession of Jesus as the Messiah 9
17                      Transfiguration                         9
18   Jesus' first instructions about the church       9
19-23                Jesus final week                   10-12
24-25                Olivet Discourse                   13-14
26                 Condemnation by the Jews         14
27                   Crucifixion of Jesus                  15
28       Jesus resurrection and appearances       16

Other than the omission of the birth accounts from the first two chapters in Matthew and the extended versions of Jesus' sermons, Mark's Gospel represents virtually the same material in slightly different form! Bible scholars have noted that there is 92-93% agreement shared between Matthew and Mark. The question is of course, why?

The relationship between the first three Gospels helps us to understand the relationship between the first two

Early church history tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was composed first. As the Gospel of Matthew came to be used throughout the region of Jerusalem and Judea by the early church, it became apparent that the church was going to need at least one more written Gospel to meet the growth of Christianity across the first century Gentile world. The Apostles Paul and Peter had been preaching the Gospel and eventually, their traveling ministry partners (Mark for Peter and Luke for Paul) would each write down summaries of their preaching. As the Holy Spirit so led Luke, he composed a Gospel for Gentile readers that would be roughly based off of Matthew. In like manner, Peter's preaching of a series of messages on Jesus' life would be recorded by Mark under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

According to New Testament scholar David Alan Black, Mark's Gospel was specifically composed to record Peter's preaching from his usage of an already extant Matthew and a new written Luke. We can picture Peter literally consulting both of these Gospels, in effect delivering a shortened version of Matthew, in combination with his eye-witness accounts, to a Roman audience, while at the same time validating Luke's then-newly composed Gospel to be used throughout the Gentile world. This scenario may best explain why Matthew and Mark line-up so well together.

What Matthew and Mark's testimonies tell us about the Jesus they portrayed in their Gospels

Matthew was a tax-collector, considered among the lowest-of-the-low on the social ladder of Judaism. His position would had precluded him from participation in the spiritual life of His people. Matthew's testimony of his call to follow Jesus in Matthew 9:9-13 culminates in that section with one of Jesus' statements about the purpose for which He came in verse 13: "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:12-17 also records this same scene.

Mark records himself in a rather awkward episode in Mark 14:51-52 at the scene of Jesus' arrest: "A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked." Years later Mark would sign onto the first missionary journey of the Apostle Paul, only to defect and leave Paul in the midst of the work, resulting in a near jeopardizing of the work (see Acts 13:13; 15:38-39). Thankfully, Mark would at some point repent of his defection and be restored to Paul as one who was deemed "useful" for the ministry in 2 Timothy 4:11. Undoubtedly by the time Mark would had been composing his Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he would had written with a humility befitting one who knew the Savior's love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Closing thoughts

Both Matthew and Mark's testimonies as men who had checkered pasts, men who were considered the refuse of society or failures, were given the privilege to record the life, death and resurrection of the One who saved them. Both Gospels in their own right present Jesus Christ in incredible ways. Matthew would record Jesus as the matchless King. Mark would depict Jesus as the suffering servant. Both together give us a beautiful composite of Jesus that seeks and saves the lost. These thoughts represent a taste of the Jesus we see in Matthew and Mark's Gospel.

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