Since this is my last post before Christmas, let me wish everyone a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!
I’m beginning a new sermon series on the Gospel of Luke. Since most movies and story books tend to tell a unified story of Christ’s birth, I thought I’d use this post to highlight how each Gospel tells the story in different ways, highlighting different events.
- Doesn’t mention the birth of Jesus at all. The book begins with the ministry of John the Baptizer, then the baptism, temptation, and ministry of Jesus.
- In his first 18 verses John presents the deity and incarnation of Jesus. He makes it very clear that Jesus was divinely present at creation, but “became flesh and lived among us“. But John never mentions Bethlehem, or gives details of Jesus birth.
- Begins with a genealogy linking Jesus with David and Abraham.
- We’re simply told that “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.“
- An angel appears to Joseph, reassuring him of Mary’s fidelity.
- The birth of Jesus is never described. Chapter 2 begins after the birth of Jesus with the visit of the Magi.
- Only Matthew tells of Jesus’ flight to Egypt and Herod’s execution of Bethlehem’s baby boys.
- Begins with the promise of a son to Zechariah & Elizabeth.
- An angel visits Mary predicting she would bear a miraculous son, even though she’s a virgin.
- Mary’s song.
- Birth of John the Baptizer.
- Zechariah’s song.
- Joseph & Mary travel to Bethlehem where Jesus is born.
- Singing angels appear to shepherds and announce the birth of a Saviour, a Messiah.
- 8 days after his birth Jesus is presented at the temple where Simeon and Anna prophesy over him.
- Luke tells the only account of Jesus childhood when in 2:41-51 he describes Jesus’ visit to the temple at Passover when he was 12 years old.
I appreciate the efforts people make to consolidate these four accounts into one story. I think that having one story makes it simpler to remember all the facts. But generally, I’m cautious of efforts to harmonise the Gospels.
It seems to me that when we attempt to consolidate the Gospel stories we’re saying that the four writers made mistakes, or overlooked information. While harmonisation may simplify the story, we do ourselves a disservice as Bible students in the process.
- Did Luke really not know that Jesus’ family spent time in Egypt?
- Was Matthew completely unaware of the angels singing to the shepherds?
- Did Mark not know how or where Jesus was born?
- Did John forget important arguments to support his statement that “The Word became flesh.”?
Each of the Gospel writers told the story differently because they were writing to different audiences with slightly different emphases. While Matthew highlights fulfilled prophesy, Luke fills the pages with people rejoicing at the birth of a Saviour. The two Gospels present two perspectives of the same event and we can dwell on each perspective and benefit from it. We lose something important when we merge the separate accounts into one generic story.
- Have you considered the role each of the Gospels have in telling of Jesus birth?
- Do you have a favorite one? As I said in my sermon, I relate to John who gets straight to the point and doesn’t require me to interpret his story.
- Since only two Gospels describe the birth of Christ, does this mean it’s unimportant? Where does his birth rank in importance compared to other events in Jesus’ life?