And I’m Tyler.
This is Come Follow Me Insights by Scripture Central.
We’re going to talk today about the time period leading up to the New Testament.
You know, if you if you open up your news, your New Testament to Matthew, chapter one, and you look at this page here next to Matthew, chapter one, and you lift it up and you turn it back, you’ll see the New Testament. And the page right before that is Malachi, chapter four. In your print scriptures, your your paper scriptures, that one page right there with no scripture on it, just with some some copyright information. That page represents roughly 400 plus years of history and people and language and cultural shifts and groups forming and people being born that are very impactful for our story once we pick it up next week with Matthew, chapter one, and Luke, chapter one. So let’s talk about some four things that are really helpful to you as a learner to prepare you to get more out of your study of the New Testament this year.
And to excuse the American reference here, but imagine the American pilgrims who showed up in North America in the early 16 hundreds. Just imagine somehow they eat a plant and it puts them to sleep for 400 years. And they wake up right now in today’s world of 2023. Would they be shocked, surprised, bewildered, and confused about all the changes, how languages change in history and political organizations and on and on? And that’s actually what happens with us when we close out the Old Testament and move into the New Testament. There’s an enormous amount of significant change in the ancient Middle East that isn’t told to us in the Bible. But luckily for us, we have lots of records, historical records and archeology that can give us an insight of how the world massively transformed so that when Jesus shows up on the scene, it’s a very different world than the Old Testament world that the people had been living in four or 500 years before.
That’s right. And one of those sources that we can rely on to help us fill in some of those blanks is the Apocrypha, which is a collection of books, many of them written during this time period. It’s discussed in Doctrine and Covenant, section 91. And so let’s jump in with these four things. The first thing that would be helpful to understand for your study of the New Testament is the history of the land and the political conquests and the different people who have come in and taken Oliver the ruling. So remember, our story focuses largely in what we call Israel. So here’s Jerusalem, and this is the promised Land, the Holy Land, as we call it today.
And for all the geographers out there, this is a perfect representation.
There you go.
Absolutely accurate, down to the edge.
Satellite photo right here. So quick timeline on that history. Remember, we go back to 721 BC. That was the Assyrian Conquest, when we lost the ten tribes in the north. Then remember 587, 586 BC. That was the Babylonian conquest. And you may ask yourself, why are we going so far back into the Old Testament? Because these have major impact on the world of Jesus that he’s born into 600 years later. Why? Because when Israel was carried away captive, the Kingdom of Judah was carried over into Babylon. There are some significant events that took place there. One is that they were speaking Hebrew. But when they go into Babylon, they all of a sudden are adopted into this bigger world culture of the day, which speaks Aramaic. And that common tongue of the Mediterranean region is going to stick for 600 years to the point where when Jesus is born, he isn’t speaking Hebrew. The common tongue of the people, of the Jews is Aramaic, the language of Babylon. So even something that far removed has a significant impact on the life and times of Jesus Christ.
Also adding to this is when all the Jews get taken into captivity, they’ve lost their temple, which had been the center of their religious life. They start to make this transition to the scriptures being an important element of their spiritual life. And they start collecting and editing and preserving hundreds of years of these prophetic works, which many of them come into what we now know as the Old Testament or the Old Covenant. So even the idea of a canon or of a set of authoritative texts really starts to see its final form during Babylonian captivity and later and not earlier, except for the five books of Moses. Primarily, yes.
So following the Babylonian Captivity, we now come down to the 530s beginning of 539 and down through the rest of that decade when Persia took over from Babylon and sends the Jews back home to build that temple and to reestablish those connections religiously. Well, then in the 330s, you get Greece, the Macedonians, Alexander the Great comes into the region and he overthrows all of the world powers that are fighting against him. And the whole region becomes what we call Helenized. Basically, to take on the Greekness, that would be Greek learning, Greek language, Greek philosophy, Greek political structures, Greek dress architecture. They dominate the whole region. Greek religion, Greek religion, the Henchion, the education.
This one cannot be overemphasized, because what happened is the Jews who are living at this time spent hundreds of years responding to this Brandt new culture in their lives. And there’s essentially four responses to new ideas and new cultures that people have. You can either fully adopt and essentially become whatever the new thing is. You can adapt and retain some of what you had in the past with some new flavor from these new insights, or you can resist, or you can run away. And we will look in a little while about four major Jewish groups at the time of Jesus that all chose different responses to these foreign cultures. And this is still going on today, this has been going on for centuries, but it has deep impact on the religion, the culture and the political structures of the Jews, all because of Alexander the Great, that one cannot be overemphasized.
And keep in mind that Alexander the Great was the star student of Aristotle, who was the star student of Plato, who was the star student of Socrates. So these Greek philosophies that began in the four hundreds, they are now 400 years embedded into the culture and the society to one degree or another that Jesus is now born into. So it’s a part of his world, this Greek thought and way of looking at life and worship and religion and sickness and sin and the body and death and the afterlife, all of these things are heavily influenced at the time of Christ by Alexander the Great coming and taking over the region in the 330s. So things get really complicated when Alexander the Great dies and there’s not a clear one cut leader to take his place.
So he’s on his deathbed, he’s about just over 30 years old, he’s got a fever and he has his generals who’ve helped him conquer the known world at this time. And they’re all wondering who’s going to be the next leader? And he says, the strongest. And he passes away. And this leads to centuries of essentially warring among these Greek generals and their descendants for all the way almost up to the time of Jesus. So had he just chosen one person, maybe that would not have been a.
Problem, it would have been simple. So one of his generals, the Seleucids, they take over the northern part, and another one, the Ptolemies, they take over the southern part in Egypt. Well, now you get Syria and Egypt as some of these capital center points of these two kingdoms and they’re constantly fighting against each other. And who’s right in the middle? All of these Jewish people who are in this the land of Israel. And it’s constant, this flow of fighting.
And imagine yourself as a Jew, right, you’re caught in the middle of these two warring parties. Who do you support? Do you support the Greeks in the north or the Greeks in the south? Now, how you choose will be the matter of life and death and it ends up completely just, just messes with Jewish society because people sometimes are supporting the northern Greeks, sometimes the southern pulmonary Greeks, and it just creates ongoing conflict for a couple hundred years for a point of connection. For those who have ever heard of Cleopatra, cleopatra is the very last leader of the Ptolemaic Greeks who live in Egypt. So her family essentially ruled Egypt for 300 years, from the time that Alexander Great died, all the way down to the time of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and of course, caesar Augustus.
So in 302 BC, the Ptolemy’s finally prevailed. And so there’s a there’s a period of kind of peace from the warfare, but you’re now under Ptolemaic rule from the south, right? And then in 198 BC, a little over 100 years later, the Seleucids have now risen back up, and they take over the region and push back the Ptolemy’s. And then something terrible happens. The the leader of the Seleucids, King Antiachus, goes into the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem, and he does the unconscionable.
He basically forces them, actually does pig sacrifices in the temple, sets up Greek gods in the temple. Now, I think this is atrocious, but let’s just talk about the psychology of what would have motivated him. You’re a leader over a very diverse population, and you really believe that your religion is pretty important and powerful. That’s what the Greeks thought. Why not just get everybody in my kingdom to kind of all play at the same religion? And so it should be that big deal. If they’re all my subjects, they all should follow my religious dictates. And the world has changed the last couple of thousand years. We believe in religious freedom. This king didn’t. He felt for his kingship to succeed, for his kingdom to succeed, everybody needed essentially to worship as he did. And it sparked a massive fight from some of the Jews against the Greeks.
So in approximately 165 BC, we get this monumental event called the Hazmonian, or you probably have heard of the Maccabean revolt. This is where the group of Jews rally around this family who who has said, this is not okay, and they fight against the Seleucids and push them out and actually win. And they’re going to gain freedom for the Jewish people for roughly 100 years. A little bit over 100 years, because it’s not until 63 BC when Rome is going to come to town under General Pompey.
And what’s interesting about this is that for 100 years, you have this Jewish family in power. There are both kings and priests. Now, the Jews living here have a long history of what it means to be a king and a priest. And it turns out that the has been enos, or the Maccabeans didn’t come from a David family. So many Jews didn’t feel that they were appropriate, that the Maccabees were legitimate kings. And many of the priestly families who could trace themselves from some of the major priestly families also said, you guys actually aren’t from the most important priestly families. So it turns out there was a lot of debate among these Jews about, are these guys legitimate? And then the Maccabee started fighting among one another about who’s going to be the next king. And one of these sons who’s fighting for the throne appeals to Rome to come intervene. And Rome is like, what invitation to come in and take Oliver the city and get all your wealth here? We’ll do that. And that is where you now have Rome controlling Israel and Jerusalem, really for hundreds of years. And Jesus is born onto the scene about 60 years after this happened, so well into the Roman domination against the Jews that was brought upon the Jews by these leaders that some Jews felt were illegitimate in the first place.
You have a lot of complexity now, just for some perspective. We live in a world of a lot of political and language, diversity and even complexity, and the world was just as complex, anciently. So we can have some empathy that the people back then were dealing with very difficult challenges and perhaps they could have chosen better, but in their most difficult moments, sometimes they chose to do disastrous things, like having wars with one another. And hopefully we can learn from history that if we can find a way to move forward with choosing leaders and following good leaders instead of fighting each other all the time, perhaps we can avoid some of the disastrous consequences of centuries of warfare because people could not find a way to be unified. Right? Zion won one heart and we see this playing out where people just couldn’t get the lesson about how to be unified.
So you’ve seen on the board multiple conquests, which has a major effect on language. So what started with Hebrew as just the tongue of all of the tribes of Israel, then it became Aramaic. Then Persia is going to keep the Aramaic going, greece comes to town and all of the learned people are going to speak Greek. When you open your New Testament, there are 27 books in the New Testament. Guess which language those books were all written in. Originally, based on our best information, all 27 were written in Greek. It was the language of learning. In fact, at the time of Jesus, there were some important books that were written and being written. One of them is called the Septuagint. So at the time of Jesus, any time that somebody is going to quote the Old Testament, often it would be from the Septuagint, which is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament. Written in Hebrew. They’ve translated into Greek. It’s called the septuagint. And at the time of Jesus, they’re working on developing a written form of Aramaic, the common vernacular, the common tongue of the common people, and those are called the Targum.
Those are being developed even as Jesus is doing his teaching. So very rarely is that going to come into the scene. It’s usually sometimes Hebrew in the synagogue, but Greek is the language of learning that all of these books are going to be written in. And you’ll notice Rome took over in 63, and they bring with them Latin. But the Greek culture is way stronger than the Roman culture. And so they just take the Greek gods and goddesses and give them Latin names. They take the Greek architecture, the Greek dress, the Greek learning, and they just kind of rebrand everything with a little bit of a Roman flavor. But that’s how Jesus is going to come onto the scene in this mixing pot milieu and as Taylor mentioned, with a whole group of people, the Jews, and we’ll call them the sects of Judaism, who are all trying very hard to live their religion and be true to the God that is taught to them in the Old Testament and still navigate life in this culture that is becoming increasingly more complex and difficult for them. And as he mentioned, we’re going to see a wide variety and a wide spread of how those different groups choose to react.
So as we introduce these different groups, these various sects, if you understand these in this historical setting, you’re going to be able to make a lot better sense of what you read in your serious study of the New Testament this year. The first group we’re going to introduce are the Sadducees, and this group dates back and get their name largely from the root of Zadok, a high priest hundreds of years before. These are the elite. These are the highborn, if you will.
The educated, the wealthy, the aristocrats. These are the ones who’ve been running the temple for hundreds of years after the Persians allowed the Jews out of Babylonian captivity, and the scriptures were starting to emerge as a core source of authority. But the temple still was the center of religious life and worship, and they controlled it. And the word Zadok means the righteous ones. Now, it’s interesting when the Greeks came on the scene, the Sadducees were more likely to accept, adopt, and adapt the Greek culture to their own lives.
So again, in an organization where you see one group of your larger society gravitating one direction and doing things that you’re scratching your head saying, wait, is that okay? They shouldn’t be doing that. They’re misrepresenting us. You can’t be a good Jew and send your children, your boys, off to the gymnasium or to the bathhouse and to the Greek schools. Can you still be a good practicing Jew and have your children learning all about Greek society and speaking Greek and writing in Greek and learning about the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses? And while the Sadducees were saying, yeah, we’re still keeping our religion, and in fact, we’re only going to focus on the Torah, we’re only going to focus on the five books of Moses, and we’re going to kind of disregard the other writings that appear later on. They didn’t see them as important. And so, ironically, the Sadducees, because they become so hellenized, so entwined with the Greek elites of the city, because the more you’re friends with them, the more likely you are to be appointed to political power and to positions of authority. And so you adopt. Have you noticed that you usually become more like the people that you spend most of your time with, the way you think, the philosophies you have?
Well, that’s exactly what happened with them. They adopt Greek philosophies to become part of their religion to the point where they preach, there is no such thing as angels, there is no such thing as life after death in a physical body. There’s just your spirit then gets to go and ascend and progress, all of which come to us from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These are Greek philosophies that they’ve now brought into their religious belief structure. So anytime an organization watches one segment of that group go one direction, human nature is such that that group will want to become even more cautious and careful about how they interpret scripture and live their religion. And so the ancestors, the predecessors to this group, the Pharisees, hundreds of years before Jesus, they’re watching what’s happening with this group of elites, and they start moving the pendulum the other direction.
So the word Pharisees means to be set apart or separated. So they see themselves separate from the elites that are kind of being sucked into other foreign cultures, and they’re connected to a group called the Hasidim or the pious ones. And you might imagine these as the general commoners who’ve doubled down on their religious traditions. And it’s their job to live a life set apart and to live with such piety and exactness to the laws of God that they demonstrate what it truly means to be God’s people. And it’s interesting I’m jumping ahead slightly when Jesus spends time talking about the different groups, he spends much of his time talking about the Pharisees. Because Jesus’s audience is primarily represented in the audience of the Pharisees, most of the Jewish commoners, including Jesus Day, found themselves most in harmony with and sympathetic to the viewpoints of the Pharisees. And so when Jesus is preaching, it’s often two very similar audiences, even though he does address the Sadducees and other groups as well. So this is a group who, when something new happens, you adopt it, and you basically become subsumed in that you adapt. It where you retain a little bit of yourself and something in the new you resist or you run away.
The Pharisees seem to be a bit more around resisting. So these guys adopt and adapt. The Pharisees seem to be trying to.
Resist Greek influence and Greek culture and philosophically doctrinally. Theologically, the Pharisees take all of the Hebrew Bible and accept it. All the words of the histories and the prophets and the wisdom literature, and they love all of it. And in the law of Moses, you have the 613 specific laws given in the Torah. Well, what the Pharisees do is they create boundaries and borders around that law called the oral tradition, and it is free to keep growing, and it does keep growing. So by the time Jesus comes onto the scene, that oral tradition taught to the common people, largely by Pharisees, is so big and so complicated that it’s no longer remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. But they’ve developed all these rules and regulations and checklists for people to keep so that many of the stories where Jesus is going to interact with the Pharisees, it’s on them questioning him for why he doesn’t make his. Disciples or why he allows his disciples to break certain of these commandments that they’ve put in place through the oral traditions through many years. And Jesus keeps bringing them back to the core, to what was given on Mount Sinai.
And then with his disciples, he’s going to give them the upgrade, the higher law at the Sermon on the Mount. When we get to Matthew, chapter five.
One of the things that Jesus seems to be trying to deal with is let’s not add cultural things that keep people from truly what God wants. Let’s just focus on what God wants and not claim that some cultural way of doing things is God’s command. That’s a lot of what Jesus is dealing with.
So and we can see that in our world today. Are there forces at work that are trying to encourage us to tear down the laws of God and to disregard some of the things that come to us in the Scriptures and from the words of the prophets and say no, you can still be a good member of the church and participate in these activities or do these particular kinds of things as the Sadducees had given into. And then there are others who in our church today maybe are trying to complicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ a little too much with the best of intentions. But the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon will use the phrase that they looked beyond the mark, they missed the mark. So in this case they fell short of the mark. And then in this case, the Pharisees seemed to be looking beyond the mark. They’re looking for more. And sometimes in the church we can complicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ with procedures that are man made and added as a boundary to the real core elements of the Gospel.
I was raised by loving and goodly parents, as Nephi used a similar phrase. So when I went off to grad school, I had learned from my parents that a way of showing devotion to God and being more aligned with Him on the Sabbath was to wear my Sunday clothes all day long. And one, one Sabbath day, a friend of mine from the war had come over and we were having dinner and he was just dressing, you know, normal casual clothes and I’m in my Sunday clothes still. And he asked me the question, why do you wear Sunday clothes? And I explained that for me, this is a way of how I show I’m devoted to God. And I asked my friend, well, how come you dress casually. He said. When I was growing up, we really didn’t have a lot of money and my parents really wanted us to look nice on the Sabbath day at church. And the last thing they wanted us for, to come home and to wreck our Sabbath clothes. And we wouldn’t have money to buy new ones, so we would always quickly change into clothes that we wouldn’t care if they got wrecked.
And it’s interesting, both of us were very dedicated to God, trying to find him in our lives. And suppose I’d been more a pharaohsaical. Like, how can you really love God and not be wearing a white shirt and tie all day long, 24/7 on the Sabbath day? And it was a very important lesson for me that the culture that I had received from my parents, which was very powerful and useful for me, didn’t mean that I needed to impose it on somebody else. It’s nowhere in the scriptures that people need to wear a white shirt and tie for 24 hours on the Sabbath day.
It’s a great example. Now, Doctrinally, the Pharisees, they are going to believe in angels. They believe in the resurrection, they believe in all of these things that would probably, quite frankly, align with our beliefs as a church today, significantly more than the Sadducees, because again, they don’t believe in resurrection, they don’t believe in angels. And that’s sad. You see, it’s an easy way to remember their name. So our third group is the Essays. These are the ultimate separatists. These are groups of people who think that both of these have sold out those to the Greeks and the Romans and these to their own beliefs. And so they spend their entire time living in what is called an ascetic lifestyle or in a separate community where they don’t get any kind of worldly pleasure. They have one pair of clothes and that’s all they have. They eat a communal meal in silence on a wooden plate that everybody has the exact same wooden plate. They’re sitting on the ground in silence, eating just enough to satisfy the hunger, but not to provide enough where you feel really full. They don’t really season their food so that it tastes really good.
They don’t marry. They have no real relationships with people other than they spend their entire time trying to learn, memorize and record the words, the pure words of God in their Hebrew Bible.
And they’re waiting for the Messiah to come because they believe their society has become so corrupt with people who’ve fallen off of foreign cultures or people who become so far religiously idiologs that they aren’t even fun to be around. These people fled society. If you go to a place like Kumaran today, near the Dead Sea, this is likely one of their key locations. If you’ve heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it’s this group that seems to have been producing those Dead Sea Scrolls hoping for the Messiah to come, to clean up the mess of society and to welcome them who have been so pure and totally loyal to God’s word.
Now, Jesus doesn’t spend a lot of time in our New Testament account interacting with Essex by name. He’s not going to give you a lot of interactions. Most of them are with the Pharisees and then when he goes to Jerusalem, mostly in and around the temple, a lot of interaction with Sadges. Our fourth group are the Zealots. So they see themselves as the means whereby God is going to overthrow the Romans and all of these worldly kingdoms that have been oppressing the Jewish people and restore the ruling to the House of Israel.
So we mentioned you can adopt a foreign culture, adapt to it, you can resist it or you can flee. So they fled. They kind of resisted by the way they doubled down on the religion. These guys adopt and adapt, these guys resist onto war and sword. And ultimately they led to the destruction of many of the Jewish people because they were so zealous, thinking it was their job to fulfill God’s prophecies. They believed that God would show up when society was super messed up. And when God didn’t arrive, they made things worse, thinking it would force the Messiah’s hand to show up and save everybody. If you’ve ever heard of Masada, masada is based on these people, the Zealots. Their last stand was a Masada. And it’s a very sad story, sad story down there.
So are you noticing something here when you use the label the Jesus? Are you noticing that it’s not a monolithic or a homogeneous group, it’s a very diverse group and they don’t love each other, they don’t even speak to each other in some cases. So this is a very big label over these different leaders. And then there’s this huge group of Jews, the masses of the people that Jesus is going to spend most of his time among. And quite frankly, most of his disciples are going to come from that group because Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, all of these men, they aren’t necessarily leaders or active participants in any of these four groups. These are what you might call the influence groups among the masses of people. But you’ll see how Jesus comes on the scene and every one of these, to one degree or another, are going to have philosophies and approaches to life that Jesus is going to have to correct to one degree or another. And he doesn’t fully agree with any of them. You can find elements of truth in all of them to one degree or another, but Jesus comes on the scene to show them what it means to be a true Israelite, a true follower of God through the law of Moses and to fulfill the law of Moses.
I take this as a lesson for today that we can identify ourselves by. Colleges we like, or universities or business we are attached to, or a political affiliation you might find good in any organization. And this is not a call for us to abandon organizations, but just to hold all those identities a bit more lightly, that the real identity we need is a child, a God. That’s what Jesus was teaching and I think he was trying to point out, listen, generally I think you guys are all motivated to be doing God’s work, but you’re kind of so fixated on your group, your tribe, your identity. You’re doing it in such a way that it’s making hard for other people to see their relationship to God, their identity as a child of God. And so I even asked myself like, am I being tribal in my own life and creating boundaries that I have joined some group? And that’s made it harder for other people to see their identity as a child of God or for them to see that I try to live my identity out as a child of God. So these things sometimes repeat in our own day.
This is alive and well. It’s very, very applicable to our day. And I love on this identity idea that President Nilsson has counseled us to take three elements of our identity and have those be at the core. And you mentioned the first one as a child of God, as a child of the covenant, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. So as we embark on this year of study in the New Testament, what an amazing thing to keep those three at the front and center of our study. To say, I’m not trying to establish a nationality identity or a gender identity or like you said, a business or corporation or university or whatever those other identities and labels that the world wants to put on us. We’re going to focus on the big three identities that our profit has shared with us as the central focus of our life and consequently of our study. So there are other groups that we’re going to be talking about as the year progresses and as we come to them. Groups like the Samaritans, the Sanhedrin, the tax collectors called the publicans. So there are these other elements that we’re going to run into that are subsets or additional groups within the larger Jewish label that Jesus is born into this society and they don’t all love each other and so he’s going to have to be a peacemaker in a lot of settings.
Which now brings us to the fourth thing that we wanted to share with you as we prepare for a serious, deep and meaningful impactful study of the New Testament that we think will make a huge difference is a better understanding of the gospel writers and their audience. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are a million ways that you can look at them and you can understand them. The beautiful thing for me is to recognize their unique contributions and the fact that they are all going to give you a distinctly powerful testimony that Jesus is the Christ and they seem to be writing to slightly different audiences as well. So we’re not going to COVID everything here. This is a very brief 30,000 foot overview, but you have these first three, matthew, Mark and Luke, that we often call the synoptic gospels. Synoptic, if you look at the English word, comes from syn, which is the same kind of the same root as synonym or symphony, symphony and optic is the view, the view of so it’s the same view these three are going to see largely the same kinds of things tell you largely the same kinds of stories.
John is not a synoptic, he’s 93 94% unique in his writing. Our friend and colleague Hank Smith, who has shared this fun analogy that just makes sense when you’re trying to understand the four gospel writers. Here’s the analogy of a stage, that you go to the theater to watch a stage play and you have the balcony here at the back, and then you have the two sections down on the floor and then you have the stage. The Gospel of Mark is a beautiful description of what somebody would notice about the life of Christ from the balcony. Mark is probably the first gospel written based on the synoptics of these three. He’s probably first because we can see a lot of comparisons with Matthew and Luke from the sayings of Mark. His story begins quite late. The very first thing out of the Gospel of Mark is the baptism of Christ, 30 years. It’s almost as if the person in the balcony got there a little late and said, hey, are there any more tickets available? And they said, yeah, there’s one. So he got there late, missed some of the opening scenes, and we don’t get anything from the first 30 years of Jesus’s life in Mark’s gospel.
He picks it up at the baptism and his gospel ends very abruptly in the original text and we’ll talk about that many months from now when we get to that story. And because he’s up in the balcony, he might have a little harder time hearing than the others. And so what is he going to focus on? He’s going to focus largely on what Jesus does. So if you want to read about the miracles that Jesus performs, mark is a really good place to go because he gives you a very beautiful overview and he gives you more detail. He seems to see more of what’s going on with the miracles of Christ than some of the other gospel writers who maybe are closer to the stage and focusing on other aspects. So that’s mark. Matthew is sitting down here and he’s writing largely to the Jewish men and the Jewish audience trying to convince them that Jesus is the Christ. Consequently, what is he going to focus on. He’s going to see elements from the Old Testament that Jesus is now fulfilling. So in Matthew’s gospel, he is focusing a lot on the sayings. So if there’s a speech in all of the gospels, matthew of the synoptics, matthew is the one you’re going to want to go to because he finds the greatest meaning in what Jesus is saying and how that fulfills Old Testament prophecy.
As if to say it’s as if Matthew’s sitting here at the front and he stands up and turns to his group in his audience saying, did you hear what Jesus? Or did you hear what just happened on the stage that fulfills the prophecy from Isaiah. And so he’s constantly showing us how Jesus is the son of God or the son of Abraham, the son of David and the new Moses, because those are the people that the Jewish people, largely in his audience would find the most compelling to believe that he was the Christ. Luke, he’s sitting here and he’s a gentile, he’s a convert. He’s not likely. It’s possible, but it’s not likely that he’s a first hand witness of all these events that he’s writing about. He tells us that he’s gathering his information from a whole bunch of other people from firsthand sources, putting it together. But he’s a gentile convert who happens to be a physician. And he is going to give you a very balanced approach between the sayings and the doings of Christ. And he’s also going to give you a very balanced view of Jesus being a very kind and tender healer.
You’re going to notice it’s in Luke’s gospel that if he teaches a story or shares a story about Jesus healing a man, look, because either right before or right after, you’re very likely to find Jesus healing a woman. Luke will give you example after example of Jesus reaching out and blessing people who are often on the margins of their society, people who are very easy for maybe the Jewish people to overlook at first pass. Well, Luke is this gentile doctor who’s focused on suffering and relieving that suffering. He’s going to focus on a lot of those stories. Which leaves one place for John, our final gospel writer. And John seems to be right on the stage with Jesus. He’s giving you a backstage pass. You get to see Jesus in settings that you don’t get in the synoptics conversations, one on one miracles, parables little instances with Jesus’s confrontation with the leaders of the Jews, the sanhedrin, or the chief priests. So when we can understand that each of these four writers, they’re not trying to compete with each other, and they don’t seem to be writing their gospel in the same room, around the same table, saying, hey, let’s all collaborate on this, they seem to be giving their unique perspective, their unique testimony that Jesus is the Christ.
And the fact that maybe they’ll tell stories from a slightly different angle or give you some different details in a different order than a different writer does, doesn’t mean that we can then discount everything that they’ve all said and said. Well, they’re not agreeing with each other any more than when you go to a fastened testimony meeting. You don’t say, well, everybody’s testimony has to be word for word exact. And their experiences with Jesus have to line up perfectly because we’re all coming at this from a different angle. And what an amazing blessing to have four unique and powerful brandt Malone but powerful when you pull them all together as well. Testimonies that Jesus is the Christ. Whether you’re a Jew or a Gentile, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re bond or free, it doesn’t matter where you live, you can benefit from these different writers. Which brings us to a new concept, this idea of Christology, just a fancy.
Term for the study or discussion of Christ. Whenever you see lo g y at the end of something, it comes from the Greek word logos, which means to study or the knowledge about something. You get in lots of different fields. I want to mention that could you imagine how much poorer we would be in our knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ, if any one of these books was missing? So what if we only had these three, or just only John? There’d be so much we wouldn’t get. So as you jump into the New Testament this year, instead of looking for discrepancies or where they seem to be saying things different from one another, also look for what am I learning from their unique voice that can matter to me today?
Beautiful. So with this Christology, a study of who is the Christ, the person, his mission, who is he? You’ll notice that there’s high Christology and then there’s low Christology, and it’s a range. High Christology would be those things that would emphasize the Savior’s divinity, His Godliness. So if you look at the four Gospels, you’ll see that John has by far the highest Christology. Jesus doesn’t show very much weakness, if any at all. In the Gospel of John, nobody ever carries his cross for him. He doesn’t fall to the ground in Gethsemane in the Gospel of John, he doesn’t need anyone to do anything for him in His Gospel. And you’ll notice the lowest Christology, which emphasizes more of his humanity, more of his mortality, more of the things that you and I can really quite frankly relate to is Mark. So he’s going to be much more sandals on the ground, if you will, in the Gospel, Mark very relatable. And you’ll notice in Mark also keep in mind he starts late. Jesus only is going to go to Jerusalem one time in the Gospel of Mark that’s at the very end of his life for the infinite, atonement the week of the Atoning sacrifice, all of his stories and movement are among the poor common people up in Galilee.
And Mark is just going to immerse you in that very relatable, those very relatable to us humans, parts of Christ’s life and mission.
Another way of looking at this is to say when we look at Jesus from this perspective, he’s a very relatable Jesus that we’d feel like, Boy, I could imagine being around him. And this perspective on Jesus is the aspirational, I want to be more like him, and I aspire that stretch goal of like that’s so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. But now I can see it. I want that as well. I want to be like him. So this is a very helpful framework as we consider the four Gospels that we’ll be spending multiple months on. And this is important that we do, because the four Gospels is the essence of revealing to us who Jesus is as a divine God in fleshed on Earth.
So as we come to a conclusion of this second episode this week, with this introduction to the New Testament, we hope this is helpful to set the stage as you begin your study of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In these first six months of of our year of study, we just want to add our testimony, as simple and as plain as they may be, they’re profound to us that Matthew, Mark and Luke and John have given us their testimony of Christ and we want to add ours to theirs. That he is the Christ, the son of God, the son of Abraham, the son of David, the new Moses, but more importantly, he’s your Savior and he’s your Redeemer. And he came in all of this cultural and late linguistic and Jewish sect mixture, all of the struggles of just his mortal life, he came to save. And we leave that with you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Know that you’re loved and spread light and goodness.