Introducing The New Testament
The Old Testament covers over 4,000 years of time (starting from the time of Adam and Eve to the time following the Babylonian Exile). There are over 400,000 words of text in the underlying Hebrew manuscripts upon which our translations are based.
In prior posts, we've seen in that vast expanse of Divine revelation 39 examples of how the Lord Jesus Christ was observed:
1. Patterned in the Law books or Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy).
2. Anticipated in the books of history (Joshua through 2 Chronicles).
3. Personified in the Wisdom literature (Job through Song of Solomon).
4. Predicted by the prophets (Isaiah to Malachi).
We now arrive at the New Testament, which contains 27 inspired books. The New Testament books contain over 138,000 words as penned in the Greek text underlying our contemporary translations. The 39 Old Testament books took a total of 1,000 years to compose, representing just over 30 authors from all walks of life. The New Testament literature covers just fifty years of time, representing almost ten authors. Just as we did in the Old Testament, we will use general headings to guide us through the New Testament, summarizing each book by how Christ is found in all of them. We will begin in this post by noting how Jesus is portrayed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Matthew = Jesus our King.
Whenever you begin with Matthew, you begin with genealogy. Why? Matthew's purpose is to show continuity and fulfillment. The continuity of Divine Revelation is found in how Matthew's Gospel picks up where Malachi, the final Old Testament book, left off. The fulfillment is to show how Jesus Christ came to be the long awaited Messiah. Matthew's theme of Christ's kingship begins with the listing of his genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17, which serves to prove His legal right to the throne of David. Christ's regal Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 includes these words: "All power has been given to me in Heaven and on earth". The theme of Kingship resonates through this Gospel.
We note Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which is designed to show how life ought to be lived by those born again in saving faith as they live in this church age and await the age to come. Certainly, Jesus' final major address in Matthew, the Olivet Discourse, depicts Him as the King at the final judgment, bringing about the Kingdom of God here on earth. The Kingdom message of the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 and the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 have Jesus Christ as the King.
The visit of the Magi in Matthew 2 to worship the King of the Jews and the sign placed above Christ's cross in Matthew 27 which read: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", reveal the focus of this Gospel - Christ's Kingship. Finally, we find the Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead and giving His great commission in Matthew 28.
Mark = Jesus our Suffering Servant.
Mark 10:45 provides the key verse for the Gospel of Mark. Mark picks up on the Suffering Servant imagery of Isaiah's Servant Songs in Isaiah 42,49,50, and 53. Christ came to be the suffering servant who would give His life a ransom for many. Mark's Gospel is a galloping read in comparison to Matthew. Some forty times we find the term " immediately" sprinkled throughout this Gospel.
If we take the records of church history at face value, Mark came as a result of Peter's preaching a series of sermons on the life of Christ. According to historical sources (such as Papias, Irenaeus, and Eusebius in his "Ecclesiastical Church History", all writing in the first three centuries), Peter was preaching from Matthew and a then newly written Luke.
Undoubtedly, Peter was struck by Jesus' suffering and humility. No doubt, Peter never forgot how His Lord forgave Him for denying Him three times. Mark was his assistant and wrote His Gospel under Divine inspiration as Peter preached. The close connection to Matthew explains why we find 90% of Mark's contents in Matthew. More could be said, but we see the Lord Jesus acting, healing, dying, and rising from the dead in Mark as the Servant who had suffered.
Luke = Jesus our Second Adam.
Luke's audience was predominately Greek and Roman in their thinking. Both ancient cultures were obssessed with what defined the ideal man. In Luke 3, we find 77 names tracing Jesus' genealogy all the way back to Adam. In Luke 19:10 we find Jesus stating that He came as "the Son of Man, seeking and saving that which was lost". Luke's portrayal of Jesus is consistently that of Him being the Second Adam (compare Paul's teaching on this theme in Romans 5;12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).
Luke's Gospel, along with Matthew and Mark, are what we call "Synoptic Gospels", with the term "Synoptic" meaning "seen together". Matthew is more Jewish in nature, and thus is concerned with proving Jesus Christ as Messiah and King of the Jews. Mark is written to a Roman audience, thus being more life-practical and brief. The Roman pre-occupation with slaves, and Jesus Himself coming as the suffering Servant, would had caught the attention of any Roman. Luke, on the otherhand, was a first-rate historian.
Luke wrote his Gospel in the Greco-Roman method of doing history, which tended to be somewhat autobiographical. In the Greek and Roman mind, the ideal man preoccupied their statues and philosophy. As Luke wrote to Greeks and Romans, he also wrote to a Jewish audience who would had understood the the person of Adam as the first created man. Both audiences are in view. Of course, Luke drew from the Old Testament to fill out his portrayal of Jesus Christ as the Second Adam.
In Luke, Jesus is shown as the Son of man, an Aramaic phrase drawn from Daniel 7. Remarkably, the title " Son of Man" was Jesus' favorite self-designation (mentioned by Him over 80x, and not found in any New Testament book, except the Four Gospels).
The title refers to Jesus in two incredible ways. First, "Son of Man" reveals that Jesus is the perfect, representative humanity as the Second Adam. Luke was Paul's associate in ministry. Paul taught of Jesus being the Second Adam in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. Whenever you consider Luke's geneaology in Luke 3, tracing Jesus' humanity back to Adam, you can see the " two-Adam" motif. Jesus was and still is the " Son of Man". perfect in humanity.
But we also note that this title " Son of Man", as deriving from Daniel 7, points us to Jesus' uncontested Deity as the eternal Son of God. There in Daniel 7, we see "The Son of Man" gloriously and eternally approaching another figure, another Person within the Godhead, called " The Ancient of Days". Since Jesus identifies Himself as "The Son of Man", He is identifying Himself as that One equal in glory, and one in nature, with the "Ancient of Days" - i.e. The Father. The richness of this "Son of Man" title carries much weight, richness, and meaning in unfolding to us Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man.
John=Jesus the Son of God
John's Gospel functions as a supplement to the first three Gospel. To say "supplement" does not imply inferiority. If for anything, John's Gospel captures the sublime reality of Christ's undiminished Deity and undiluted humanity as "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14). Roughly 90% of the contents of John are unique to His Gospel. Some wonder why John's Gospel is so different, as well as what if any relationship he has to the first three.
Although I won't get into that discussion here, I will say that the portrayal of Jesus we find in John does not conflict with the depiction of Jesus we discovered in the first three Gospels.
For instance, Luke's Gospel contains material unique to his Gospel (Luke 10-19, what is otherwise known as Jesus' Perean ministry on the Eastern side of the Jordon River). The events in that section of Luke help us line up the chronology of the first three Gospels with John's Gospel. In as much as each Gospel is different, the underlying unity of all four Gospels is found in the general outline of Jesus'life, death, and resurrection from the dead.
John explains in John 20:31 why he wrote his Gospel: "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."
What is meant by this title "Son of God"? John tells us in John 1 that the Son of God was and still remained "the Word", eternal with the Father in co-equality of glory, being, and substance. In other words, the Son of God shared in the same undivided life and essence with the Father and the Spirit as the blessed Holy Trinity (see, for instance, John 10:30).
We then find out that this "Word" came to be flesh in John 1:14. He ever remaining God came to be man. He as "Immanuel", God with us, came to be also "man for us". The first twelve chapters of John are called "The Book of signs", alluding to the seven miracles or "signs" done by Jesus. The latter part of the book, chapters 13-21, is often called "The Book of Glory", detailing how Jesus increasingly revealed His glory. He as the " Word made flesh", the incarnate Son of God, would make known His glory, beginning in the Upper Room (John 13-17), followed by His trial and crucifixion (John 18-19), and then of course His resurrection and subsequent appearances (John 20-21).
More next time....