David Platt – from Secret Church – Overview of the Synoptic Gospels


For more in depth study, also watch – Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

Note: This clip is not from the recent Good Friday Secret Church event 2013, but of an older one.

David Platt itickets.comFrom a Secret Church event, David Platt, Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, introduces Matthew, Mark, & Luke as the synoptic gospels & describes the characteristics that define each gospel message about the life of Jesus Christ.


Three primary divisions:

  1. First of all as the story of the New Testament. About 60% of the New Testament is a story. It’s the first  5 books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, tell us the story of the New Testament.
  2. Second is the letters of the New Testament. Those are epistles, letters that are written, that help us understand the story that’s going on in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. Most of these letters are in context of what we see happening in Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 28. So you’ve got the stories of what’s happening, you’ve got the letters, and then
  3. The conclusion of the New Testament – Revelation, which is technically a letter, but is also a lot different.

There’s 2 categories in the New Testament:

1. The life and the ministry of Christ (from Matthew to John) 

All of these books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John unites them as if they were all written for the same primary purpose. They were written to show us a picture of Christ and the Gospel. I want you to hear this. These books were not written to be biographies of Jesus, that go chronologically through his life. Some of these Gospels are not arranged chronologically at all. They were written for the primary purpose to show Christ to the people that were listening to them. Why we see some differences, why we see some different stories told by some different authors is because, yeah, they were written for the same primary purpose, but, they’re written from different viewpoints and for different  audiences. These are four different guys, with four different personalities, different perspectives, talking to different people.

Now, I want you to think about how the audience is going to affect the way you write. We’ve got to realize that in order to understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of the people Matthew was writing to. Cause, whenever you communicate with someone, you take into account what they already know, you take into account what they already understand, and this is the challenge for us 2,000 years later, to put ourselves in the shoes of Matthew’s readers and to realize what was already in their frame of reference in order to understand why Matthew was doing this or that. That’s why New Testament Biblical study is more than just reading through the Bible. Not to minimize reading through the Bible, but in order to understand it, we’ve got to dive into what this meant to the people who heard it at that time.

2. The life and the ministry of the Church

..which is basically part 2 of Luke’s Gospel. So, Luke wrote both the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts (4:00)


1. Gospel of Matthew 

Matthew was a jewish tax collector. Isn’t this great? The way that the New Testament starts- that God would decide the first author should be a guy who is known and suspected for taking advantage of His people. The least likely candidate for writing the first book of the New Testament is Matthew. Aren’t you glad we have a God who doesn’t choose the most likely candidates, but He chooses the least likely candidates. Praise God that He has poured out His grace on those who can never begin to deserve it. We see that from the very beginning, in even the author here. He wrote it in the 70’s to 80’s A.D.  which meant that he wrote soon after the destruction of the  temple.

Now, this is important. What we’re gonna see is that Matthew, in his writing, is in a battle for the hearts and souls of Judaism. You’ve got Judaism, that’s gonna go one way or the other. It’s either gonna go the way of the Pharisees, or it’s gonna go the way of Christ. And he is urging Jewish christians , or those Jews who were thinking about coming to faith in Christ, he is urging them to follow Christ. That’s why he gives us this picture in this book, he wants the heart of Judaism to realize  that Judaism has been fulfilled in the picture of Jesus Christ. So, that’s why he writes this whole book. The primary theme is that Jesus is the king of the jews. From the very beginning he is pointing out over and over again the kingship of Jesus.

Practical advice for study: I wanna encourage you to  look for the focus on the kingdom of God, all throughout Matthew. When you read through this book, you’ll see either the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven mentioned over, and over again. You see this outline, this structure that’s here. It’s emphasizing the kit. What it does, Matthew does this; He puts a lot of emphasis on the teachings of Christ, and there are 5 major blocks of teaching in each one of these parts of this outline- and then his actions, which show the meanings of those teachings. So that’s what Matthew’s doing, he’s not arranging things chronologically, he’s helping highlight what Christ is teaching. Probably Christ’s most famous teaching, at the very beginning of Matthew, in the ministry of Christ – the sermon on the mount. It’s an emphasis on the teaching of Christ, throughout this book.

I want to encourage you, if you read Matthew, look up cross references. That’s when the Bible is making references to different points, allusions, quotations. There’s 129 references or allusions to 25 of the 39 Old Testament books. You see why surveying the Old Testament was important? Cause in order to read Matthew, we’ve got to know the Old Testament. 12 different times in this book he talks about how this was fulfilled, or that was fulfilled.All throughout the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, „It was fulfilled this, it was fulfilled that”- a strong link to the Old Testament.When reading about the teachings of Jesus remember to put yourselves in the hearers shows. We’ve got to get in the jewish mindset, in order to understand the book of Matthew.


2. Gospel of Mark

This was written by John Mark, who was close to Peter. He wrote it between 65 and 70 A.D. So this was written before the fall of the temple. But, it was written during a time when there was a lot of insurrection between the Jewish people and the Roman empire over them. Obviously, if something is leading up to the battle in the temple, where the city of Jerusalem were going to be ravaged, that there’s some tension that leads up to that time. And so, Mark is writing to gentile christians that are in Rome suffering persecution. Mark’s writing to gentile christians in Rome who are suffering persecution. Obviously, there’s some conflict  between Rome and Judaism, christianity is this sect of Judaism, so to speak in some people’s eyes, and so, they are experiencing some major persecution in Rome, and he’s writing to them to encourage them.

Look at Mark 16, these believers are facing some very intense persecution, and many of them are wavering in their faith. When they start to get persecuted, they start to wonder: Is Christ real, should we really go on with this? Should we really move forward in our faith with Him? In Mark 16, you have the resurrection, and then look at verse 6. It says, „Don’t be alarmed”, this is a young man speaking to those who had come to the tomb, „Don’t be alarmed, you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they had laid Him. But, go, tell His disciples and Peter. He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you”.

If you are reading Mark for the first time, you are in a situation (where) you are tempted to read and be quiet, and not share your faith with anybody. Listen to where verse 8 leaves us, and this is that point where some people actually think the book of Mark stops. So let’s imagine if it does stop here. Verse 8- „Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled form the tomb, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” Now, what if the book stopped right there? You realize what kind of message that puts – what if the resurrection of Christ, nobody said anything because they were afraid? Mark is reminding us that this is something we must tell people. If it stops with us, then the resurrection of Christ is just a historical fact that doesn’t expand to the 2nd and 3rd century. But, praise God that the believers who read Mark did not walk away and say nothing to anyone. He wrote to these Jewish christians in Rome who were facing persecution.

The primary theme in the Book of Mark: Jesus is the suffering servant of God. We see suffering, over and over mentioned. We see the key verses there: Mark 8:31-38 is talking about the unexpected suffering, when Jesus told His disciples that He was going to experience suffering and Peter pulled Jesus aside and said, „Maybe you don’t know what you’re doing”. And Jesus said, „You don’t tell Me, I don’t know what I’m doing”. He says it pretty sternly.  And He says, „This is exactly what I’m doing”. All throughout Mark, you see what is called the Messianic secret. And this is a different point. Do you ever wonder why Jesus wanted to keep Himself a secret? As the demons start telling how He’s Jesus the Christ? And the demons recognize Him when nobody else does, and He’s like, „Shh, don’t tell anybody”. Or sometimes He heals people and He tells them, „Don’t tell anybody. Walk away, don’t say a thing”. Why is He doing that? Because He’s got a mission. He’s headed to the cross. It’s a much different mission than what everybody else had in mind for him. Everybody else’s agenda was to bring in Messiah, exalt Him, put Him up as king, and He’s gonna take Rome out. So, they were not expecting in any way this Messiah who was born to a girl named Mary. Raised in avery humble setting and then, least of all put on a cross. That’s not where the Messiah goes. So it made sense that people were not seeing Him as the Messiah. And so, when people did expose to that truth He said, „You wait, I’ve  got a mission that I’m on”.  So we see that over and over again.

Practical study advice: Keep up. Mark show Jesus constantly on the move – 41 times. If you ever think your life is busy, just pull out and read Mark chapter 1 and you’ll see a day in the life of Jesus. He starts preaching in the morning, finishes up the sermon there, and He goes home to some friends’ house,  the friend’s mom is sick so He heals her so she can get up and be a part of this afternoon, and then, all the town starts coming. And it says, the whole town lined up outside His door, to have demons cast out of them, to be healed of all their diseases, and so, all night He spent time healing everybody in the town. So, that’s one full day. The beauty of it is Mark 1:35 – Jesus got up very early in the morning and went to a solitary place, where He spent time with the Lord. That is the key. God help us to see Mark 1:35, that in the midst of a busy world, that we find ourselves in, that we go to a solitary place and that we spend time with the Father. Notice that almost 1/2 of his gospel is devoted to events of the last week of Jesus’s life. Overall structure, you see that based around the servant ministry.

Synoptic Gospels

basically, what synoptic means is to see together. And what we need to realize, when we come to the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar to each other. They see the life and ministry of Christ in a very similar way. John is sort of an oddball. The confusion, basically centers around a couple of different questions.

  1. Is Mark the primary source for Matthew and Luke? In other words, is Mark the anchor from which Matthew and Luke wrote? There’s some evidence that would seem to point to that. 97% of Mark’s words are in Matthew. Out of about 660 verses, 600 are there. If you’ve read Matthew, you’ve got Mark covered. Different perspectives, different things emphasized, but it’s pretty much Mark +  = Matthew. Then you’ve got Luke. 88% of Mark’s words are in Luke. Now, there’s another theory that there’s an unknown source. That there was a foundation for these books and they call that foundation Q. Well, we’re not sure. And obviously the life and ministry of Christ wasn’t confined to what Matthew, Mark, Luke was saying about it. But, the overall theme we need to realize is they do come together pretty clearly, those 3. Matthew Mark and Luke did not write their Gospels in isolation from one another. They were connected together. 


The Gospel of Luke

Luke was written by Luke, a gentile physician, he’s the only gentile author of the Bible. But this idea that he’s a physician, let me show you something. Go with me to Mark 5. Now, if Mark was somewhat of a foundation, these books were written from different perspectives. Mark 5:25-28 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Jesus goes on to heal her. That’s the story that Mark gives. Now, go over to Luke 8 and hear Luke’s version of the story, and what I want you to see if there are any differences in what Mark said and Luke said. Luke 8:42 As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, Do you notice what Luke wrote that Mark did not? Mark said, „She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors”. So Luke takes this and tells the story- you don’t have to slam the doctors, and so you see that left out in Luke. Mark decides the detail is important, Luke decides, for his own reputation, maybe this is not gonna be included. So, you see the different personalities coming out in these different stories.

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