Why is John’s gospel so different from the other three?
It’s true. John is very different from
Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
In fact so different that Matthew, Mark, and Luke
have their own name. The synoptic gospels.
Meaning they're very similar
and then John’s way over here.
If you think about it, the real question is
why would any of the gospels be that similar?
When you take four different people who’ve experienced the same things
but you say, go and write your best interpretation
of your own experience of your life with Jesus
or of the experiences of others that you’ve interviewed
you’re going to get very different perspectives
and different stories told.
Why are Matthew, Mark, and Luke very much the same?
Well, it makes sense
most scholars believe Mark wrote first
and he, probably, was writing on behalf of the apostle Peter.
The early church fathers believed the Mark’s gospel
is really the remembrance of Peter.
And then Matthew says, well I’m going also
record what I remember of Jesus
but first I'm going to consult Mark’s gospel.
I'm going to see, what did he write about?
And there’s some stories that Mark told that are really well told
and I’m just going to start with those as a basis
and I’m going to either adjust
or change, or just take them almost word for word.
And then there’s some things Mark didn’t record
He didn’t say anything about the birth of Jesus
and I remember the story of the Magi coming
so I’m going to include that.
Matthew then tells more than Mark.
Then Luke comes along.
He’s one generation later.
He wasn’t one of the disciples.
He doesn’t have his own memories of Jesus
but he says I’m going to begin to interview
the living eye witnesses
who were disciples.
Who were converts.
Who met Jesus. The mother of Jesus
and after I do these interviews
and including in my research
I’m not just going to interview live people
I’m going to say, what documents are already existing
about the life of Jesus. That’s just good research.
So now Luke looks at Matthew and Mark
and says I’m going to take a lot of the material from them
plus any other material that I can get anywhere else.
So there’s a lot of similarity but then Luke also includes
new material. Like he says, wait a second
in the birth narrative of Matthew, he didn’t mention the shepherds.
I remember talking to Mary about when the shepherds came.
I’m going to include that story.
And so they’re very similar
and yet they also have their own contributions to make.
Then lastly, a decade or two later
John comes along and says
I’m going to write my reminiscence of Jesus
I was very close to him
and I’m not going to borrow from the others
I’m going to make this exceedingly personal.
Also John is a very reflective, philosophical person.
So, in his old age John thinks back and says
What was the meaning of Christ’s coming?
I’m going to tell his story but from a different angle.
People do that all the time.
And so John tells his story of his own
experience of Jesus, his own understanding of Jesus
from his point of view
and it reflects a lot of his character
reflects a lot of his approach
very philosophical. Very theologically rich
but that doesn’t make it any less true or any less accurate.
It is a person’s perspective on Christ.
In fact the vary last verse of John’s gospel
he writes this
he says Jesus did many other things as well
if every one of them were written down
I suppose that even the whole world
would not have room enough for the books
that would have been written about him.
So John says
there’s so much to the life of Christ
every one of us who has written about him
has had to play the role of editor.
What are we going to tell? What are we not going to tell?
And there’s a wealth of information out there we can draw from
John chose his.
You know, John also is very similar
to Matthew, Mark, and Luke on the most important parts
and it’s that cohesion that makes these have the
smell of history to them.
Who Jesus was, how Jesus treated
both sinners and challenged the religious establishment.
His death and his resurrection
are all recorded in the gospels
the cohere together. They give us multiple views
on the same historical person
and they work together in tandem.
I mean, it really raises the question though
why would God even trust his revelation of his
perfect son. The word made flesh
in the hands of very flawed people?
Why allow sinners? People who makes mistakes?
People who are fragile and frail, be the ones to record
preserve and then proclaim his message?
Why not do it all himself?
He’d do a much better job, wouldn’t he?
But then, that’s another question.