Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "MATTHEW"
Comparison of the Four Gospels


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


Properly there is no such thing as a Gospel BY Matthew or Luke or John. There is only one Gospel. Various aspects of that Gospel, as embodied in the Lord Jesus, are portrayed in the writings of the Evangelists. So actually we have before us what might be described as the Spirit-breathed Gospel THROUGH Matthew.

Old Testament prophecies pointed toward a Coming One. There were innumerable prophecies made as to what He would be and do, but all of these come under the general heads of: Christ as a King, a Servant, a Man, and God. This is the purpose of  Evangelists (as the writers of the four gospel narratives are called). They present Christ in these aspects of His life and death and subsequent events. For this reason seeming discrepancies disturb people who look at the Gospels as merely four Lives of Christ.

But this same situation would be presented if one read books about Dwight Eisenhower in the aspects of Statesman, Traveler, Soldier, and Golfer. There would be seemingly glaring contradictions between the view of him as the dignified statesman in full dress and as a rough and ready infantry major, etc. Or take, for instance, our main College building. If a different man were to describe its appearance from each of four positions--front, back, east, and west sides--when these descriptions were compared, there would seem to be ample ground for concluding that they did not refer to the same building, although there would be some points in common. So it is with the Gospels. These books give us the complete view of Christ that the Holy Spirit intended. We therefore need no Apocrypha.

Some very significant words in Old Testament prophecies indicate the distinctive viewpoint from which each gospel writer foresaw Christ's person and ministry:

"Behold THY"
"Behold MY"
"Behold THE"
"Behold YOUR"
Zechariah 9:8 Isaiah 42:1 Zechariah 6:12 Isaiah 40:9

Matthew - the Zechariah passage does not say "Behold THE king, or the king of the ROMANS" or anything of the kind, because He is King of the Jews, to whom the passage was spoken: "Behold THY King" Matthew is not writing a life of Christ. He is merely setting down those things which set forth Christ as Israel's^ long-promised Messiah King.

Mark - "Behold MY Servant." God is speaking. Christ is not man's servant but god's. He served FOR God at HIS bidding. Christ could have healed all at the pool of Bethesda, but He healed only one; for some inscrutable reason God gave orders that way; He was not the servant of man. That's where these humanitarians go wrong; they think Christ served man primarily. He served God primarily; man incidentally and secondarily.

Luke - "Behold THE Man." Christ is THE second MAN; He has no connection with the FIRST man. His supernatural birth affirms this. He is the Head of a new creation of men. It is the only way He could redeem man.

John - "Behold YOUR God." His deity is emphasized throughout. "The Word was God" (1:1).
For the simple reason that the books are not LIVES of Christ, there can be no such thing as a complete chronological harmony of the Gospels (e.g., Tatian's Diatessaron).

Each Gospel might be compared to a painting. On the canvas of Matthew we have the striking face and carriage of Christ as King, with flashes in the background of Christ as Man, God, and Servant. So correspondingly with others. The characteristic of the particular book dominates the painting, but other phases can be seen at times.

Some peculiarities of each Gospel may be noted:

MATTHEW - King - Jews - (Key question: Who are His ancestors?)

  1. Genealogy; Abraham - David
    Jews were not interested in anything beyond that.
    In Abraham, they have the land; in David, the throne.
  2. "Kingdom of Heaven.": phrase peculiar to Matthew, (cp. Addendum IV)
    Used here32 times and nowhere else in the New Testament.
    It is not a Kingdom in heaven, but the Kingdom of heaven ON the earth with One as King who is Himself ruled by heaven.
  3. "City of Great King," 5:35.
  4. As King He asserts authority.
    Our Lord says: "Ye have heard … but I say unto you." He does not abrogate what has gone before, but assumes higher authority.
  5. As King He exercises His authority.
    Sending forth disciples; performing miracles.
  6. He was "born King of the Jews," 2:2.
    Herod was not; he was only an Idumean.
  7. In Matthew He is recorded to have been crucified because He said He was King of the Jews, whereas, e.g., in John, because He said He was the Son of God.

MARK - Servant - Romans - (Key question; What can the man DO?)

  1. No genealogy.
    "I don't care who my servant's grandfather was."
  2. "Straightway!".
    Forty of the eighty times the word is used in the NT are in Mark. No record of His birth.
  3. No record of His birth.
    Would be out of place in Mark; nor is childhood recorded.
  4. Four Parables.
    Each is a parable of SERVICE.
  5. He is not called "Lord" in Mark until after resurrection.
    (Once in AV (9:24) but RV omits.)
  6. Continual action.
    All chapters begin with “And” except 7 and 8, which tell of rejection BY Israel, and 14, which tells of His rejection OF Israel. He was always on the go!
  7. No Sermon on the Mount.
    "A servant has no business telling people what to do.
    No "Our Father" in Mark.

LUKE - Man - Greeks - (Key question: What is the IDEAL MAN?)

  1. Genealogy -- goes back to Adam, the first man, head of race.
    He is our Kinsman-Redeemer.
  2. Dependent -- prayer prominent; sign of TRUE humanity.
  3. "Everywhere" (9:6). The Twelve and the Seventy are not sent to Jews only.
    Contrast Matthew 10:5-6.
  4. Parables -- no need of thinking Christ spoke them only once.
    Parables similar to Matthew, but adapted to the object of this book.
    The "king" in Matthew is made "a certain man" in Luke.
  5. Humanity -- here dominant.
    "Weeps" over Jerusalem; heals Malchus's ear. There is the tender incident of the repentant thief on the cross. There is more emphasis on women in Luke than in the other three Gospels.
  6. Sermon on the Mount (Plateau). No allusion to old times, prophets, laws, etc.; these things were peculiarly Jewish and did not belong to whole race.
  7. Garden of Gethsemane -- unique experience as man.

JOHN - God - Church - (Key question: What is His nature?)

  1. No human genealogy. Deity BECAME flesh when He came into world.
    Not “made” flesh.
  2. Garden (John 18) – no bloody sweat here; when He says "I am, " they fall back.
  3. All shows deity!
    1. Unique signs -- heals at a distance; heals eyes of man BORN blind; raises man four days dead; etc.
    2. Unique words -- "you must be born again," chapter 3;
      "I that speak unto thee am He," chapter 4;
      His address on His own deity, chapter 5.
    3. Unique claims --
      1. 3:13 Equality of place with the Father
      2. 5:18 Equality of nature with the Father
      3. 8:58 Equality of existence with the Father
      4. 10:30 Equality of essence with the Father
  4. ONLY here is life. See 20:31.
    The way of LIFE is made clear. We don't get eternal life by obeying the King, nor serving after the manner of the Servant, nor by following in the footsteps of the perfect Man, but by believing and receiving the Son of God.

Matthew was led by the Holy Spirit to reveal our Lord Jesus as the long-promised Messiah-King. This aspect of our Saviour's ministry was especially aimed at meeting the — need of the Jewish people. Jesus Christ's right to be king is asserted in many different ways in 1:1-11:1.

Philadelphia College of Bible teaches that our Lord was first of all "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the (Jewish) fathers" (Rom. 15:8). These promises included the land (through Abraham) and a kingly house and throne in perpetuity (through David). So in Matthew our Lord’s genealogy is not traced to Adam (as in Luke's gospel--3:38), but to Abraham and David,

Our Lord Jesus was "born king of the Jews". (2:2) and came into the human family with the throne rights of His father David (Lk. 1:32-33). His herald and forerunner, John announced the imminence of the setting up of that kingdom (promised to Israel in numerous Old Testament prophecies) and conditioned it only upon the repentance of a covenant people who had drifted far from God (3:1-2). Our Lord Jesus took up this message when John was cast into prison (4:12, 17) and .later selected apostles to go over all Israel bearing that message (to Israelites ONLY, 10:5-7). Our Lord announced the principles upon which He would rule when that kingdom is established (The Manifesto of the Kingdom, 5-7). Both John and He warned Israel of the judgment that would follow if repentance was not forthcoming (3:9-10, 12; 10:13-15).

Thus the long-promised Messianic kingdom was offered Israel, but the growing opposition (9:34) of Israel's religious leaders led them to blaspheme the Holy Ghost (12:24), which moral rejection our Lord recognized and responded to with solemn warnings of judgment (12:31-45: 11:20-24). Our Lord anticipated the nation's formal rejection of Him which would lead to the cross (16:21; 27:22, 25), and prophesied a form of the kingdom of heaven (called "the mysteries of the kingdom") which would run its course between the time of His rejection and that of His coming again (13:11,16-17, 34-35). A "mystery" means literally a secret, thus something in relation to the kingdom which had been unrevealed previously.

We are now living in this intervening period between the King's rejection and the King's return. As a result of Israel’s rejection of Christ as King, the nation has been set aside by God in age-long discipline, and the kingdom has been put in abeyance (until the time of its manifestation), until the seed sowing of wheat and tares has produced a harvest (13:36-43). Our Lord pre-announced and identified the Church as His instrument of witness during the period of the setting aside of Israel (16:18-19).

Israel will not "see Him again" until a substantial portion of them repent (23:39) in response to the re-announced message of the coming King and kingdom, which ministry will be interrupted by Christ's return (10:23). At the close of that period of Tribulation, climaxed by Christ's return to earth, the hearers of that message of a returning King will be judged on the basis of their attitude of faith or disobedience toward the bearers of the message (25:31-46). This is more properly called the Judgment of the Gentiles.

The book closes with the great facts of our Lord's death and resurrection, 26-28.

Here is a chart of major Bible events, showing the relation of the book of Matthew to them:

Here is a bird's-eye view of the main transitions of the book of Matthew which you should learn before memorizing the fuller outline on page 7

I. The Kingdom OFFERED  1:1-11:1 (and His rights DISPLAYED)
II. The Kingdom REJECTED  11:2-12:45 (and Israel DISQUALIFIED)
III. The Kingdom POSTPONED  12:46-28:20 ( and the Church DISCLOSED)


  1. THE KINGDOM OFFERED 1:1-11:1  (and His rights DISPLAYED)
    1. His LEGAL right to be King 1-2 ("born King of the Jews" 2:2)
    2. His PERSONAL right to be King 3 ("my beloved Son" 3:17)
    3. His MORAL right to be King 4:1-22 ("get thee hence" 4:10-11)
    4. His JUDICIAL right to be King 4:23-7:29 ("authority" 7:29)
    5. His PROPHETIC right to be King 8:1-11:1 (He did what the prophets said He would do 11:4-5)
  2. THE KINGDOM REJECTED 11:2-12:45 (and Israel DISQUALIFIED)
  3. THE KINGDOM POSTPONED 12:46-28:20 (and the Church DISCLOSED)
    1. From the King's rejection to the King's return to earth 12:46-13:52
    2. The Church anticipated 13:53-16:20
    3. The way to the cross 16:21-23:39
    4. The King answers questions concerning His coming 24-25   (The Olivet Discourse)
    5. The King's trial, death, and resurrection 26-2


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