The Synoptic Gospels and Jesus

Based on the literary structure of the Gospel of Matthew consisting of five distinct sections of Jesus’ teaching,  Jesus is emphasized as a teacher in comparison to Moses (traditional author of the five books of the Law). Matthew presents Jesus as a new Moses-like figure who gives authoritative teaching. Jesus is presented as greater than Moses because he will save his people from their sin and initiate a new covenant with them (Blomberg 146).

Matthew uses the phrase Son of David throughout his Gospel, which refers to the Jewish conventional expectation of a kingly Messiah who would come from the house of David. With this designation, Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the King of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the promised King from the Davidic line, and he will carry out his rule and reign for all eternity. He will deliver his people from bondage and gather them into his eternal kingdom. He will restore and heal his people from all their afflictions and sins (Blomberg 146).     

The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus’ mighty deeds in the first half and his suffering and death in the second half. The focus is “Jesus’ glory and the centrality of the cross” (Blomberg 131). This may be due to Mark trying to balance and emphasize Jesus’ divinity and humanity. At crucial points throughout the book, Mark introduces the greek terms Χριστός (Christos) meaning Christ (ex. Mark 1:1; 8:29) and υἱοῦ θεοῦ (hyiou theou) meaning Son of God (ex. Mark 1:11; 3:11; 9:7; 15:39). Both of these terms are quivalent to the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (māšǐaḥ) meaning Messiah.

Thus, Mark portrays Jesus as the Messiah, but he also presents this as something to be kept secret. More than any other writer, Mark tells of Jesus commanding people not to reveal his messianic identity. This may be due to Jesus attempting to prevent “premature enthusiasm to overwhelm his mission because popular christological expectation did not leave room for a suffering Messiah” (Blomberg 133). Furthermore, Mark advances the idea of a suffering, servant Messiah (related to Isa 52:13-53:12) when he portrays Jesus as saying, “…For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Mark emphasizes Jesus’ suffering for the sins of humanity (Blomberg 133).

While the Gospel of Luke has several of the same Christological themes as Matthew and Mark, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and compassion for social outcasts. This can be seen in his narratives which are focused on Samaritans. For example, unique to the Gospel of Luke is the recording of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and the story of the Samaritan leper returning to gives thanks (Luke 17:11-19). Luke often uses the phrase “tax collectors and sinners” to characterize those who gathered near Jesus and who were welcomed by him. In fact, only Luke tells stories of two tax collectors who are portrayed as upstanding (i.e. Luke 18:9-14; 19:1-10). Furthermore, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ concern for the poor by compiling teachings (Luke 14:7-24) and parables (Luke 16:19-31) that speak to the plight of the poor. One of the most powerful statements by Jesus concerning the poor is in Luke 4:18 where he claims to fulfill the mission of Isaiah’s servant “to proclaim good news to the poor” (Blomberg 164).

Another significant emphasis in the Gospel of Luke is Jesus as “Savior.” In Luke 2:11, the angel Gabriel announces, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (ESV). For Luke, the title of “Savior” is the most distinctive title for Jesus. Luke’s use of the greek words σωτήρ (sōtēr) meaning Savior, σωτηρία (sōtēria) and σωτηρίον (sōtērion) meaning salvation appear nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels. Luke 19:10 sums up this emphasis stating, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (ESV) (Blomberg 165).


Works Cited

Blomberg, Craig. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, 2nd edition. Broadman & Holman Publishing, 2009.