Easy question. What connects the Old and the New Testaments? Jesus of course. Where do we find Jesus? In the Gospels. So what’s the difference between the gospel and the Gospels? The word gospel means very simply – good news. It could have been any good news, but the NT authors meant specifically the good news of Jesus. (Sadly, today we’ve changed the gospel to mean something much more complicated about the process of gaining salvation). But how was a person ‘good news’?
This is the question posed in the Gospels – the four different perspectives of the life of Jesus. A Gospel is a unique literary genre patterned closely on the classical ‘ancient biography’. Unlike modern biographies, they focused exclusively on three things: birth, great achievement, and death. Birth established ancestry, nobility, identity – a great man had to come from a great family. Achievement highlighted the person’s greatest triumphs, abilities, qualities. Death cemented the person’s world-changing legacy – it had to be glorious, meaningful, worthy. Ancient biographies would only have been written about exceptionally great men – a Caesar, a conquering General, someone who changed the course of history. Jesus was none of these. He was a nobody from nowhere, who died a shameful death. An ancient biography of such a man was unfathomable. And yet…
Jesus was not who anyone thought he was. His genealogies and miraculous birth showed that he was not merely a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, but was in the line of David – worthy to be King of Israel – and further that he came from heaven as God’s son! His life achievements were his words and works – words of truth and eternal life, works of healing and miracles. His death was the worst imaginable – executed and shamed, a criminal. But the story didn’t end there. His resurrection changed everything – and gave meaning to his death. Salvation had come to the world! Jesus is the gospel in the Gospels!
For the Jews, Messianic fever was in the air. Israel had spent 400 years under foreign dominion, but God was moving. A new temple, new priesthood, God’s people in the land, perhaps a new king? A prophet had emerged; expectations soared that God would raise up a Messiah to overthrow the Roman oppressors, restore Israel to its former glory, and reclaim the throne of David. Hope was on the horizon! Yet Jesus did none of these things. Who then was Jesus?