We purpose in the present chapter to take up the subject of the parallel passages in the Gospels and to apply the conclusions at which we have arrived respecting the theme of each Evangelist. In this way, we will see, both whether a further examination bears out our conclusion as to that theme, and how much it assists us in illustrating each narrative and accounting for the characteristic differences which we find.
Of course, time and space would not allow our examining even partially a tithe of these parallel passages, which indeed would involve a detailed study practically of the entire four Gospels. It must suffice us to take up two or three narratives which will be illustrative of the whole, and leave further study along these lines to the individual student, for which he can find abundant material.
The narrative of our Lord's birth and events connected with the period prior to His entrance upon His public ministry is confined, with an exception immediately to be noted, to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. John indeed gives us a few introductory words, but these, instead of detailing matters connected with His human infancy and childhood, go back into that glorious eternity when He was with the Father. We need say no more upon this here, except to note how appropriate it is to the Gospel of the Deity, that His eternal power and Godhead should occupy the place which in the other Gospels is rightly given to an account of His birth and early days. Mark similarly omits all reference to this period of our Lord's life. The reason, we might say, is just the opposite to that in John. Here, He has taken so lowly a place, that the Spirit of God occupies us, not so much with the fulfilment of prophetic details, as the actual service upon which our Lord entered as Prophet and Minister to His people's need.
The great Temptation is also wanting (and for much the same reasons) in the Gospel of John, while in Mark it is of the briefest. There could be no testing of the Godhead, and even "the Word made flesh" is seen so constantly from the beginning of John's Gospel as outside Judaism and all else, in closest touch with God, that it would be both needless and an intrusion to speak of those temptations which manifested His fitness to engage in the more earthly aspect of His divine mission.
The brief notice in Mark suffices because, in a narrative of service and testimony, our Lord will manifest throughout His ministry His fitness for His work. This fitness is seen in work done and results accomplished, needing no other authorization. No one needs a title to serve, and the Prophet of God is answerable alone to the One that sent Him.
The sermon on the mount is given in but two Gospels (Matthew and Luke). Indeed, it has been questioned whether these are two parallel accounts of one address, or whether Luke does not give a general resumé of teachings given at another time. The position of each, however, seems to make it clear that they refer to the same address. Without doubt, a careful examination of the two addresses brings out the characteristic differences of subject in the two Gospels. At this we may look later, remarking here that the absence of this sermon in Mark may be accounted for by reason of its deliberate and elaborate opening up of the principles of the kingdom of heaven which is the special theme of Matthew; while in Mark, our Lord's teaching along these lines is of a far briefer character. In the Gospel of John, occupied as it is with the eternal and heavenly things, there would surely be no place for the sermon on the mount, perfect indeed as it is where it belongs.
We might say that in the transfiguration we reach the highest point in the account of our Lord's life in the Synoptists. It is most suggestive that we have no record of this in John. Here again the reason is so simple and in such accord with what we have learned of the subject of the Evangelist, that it can but confirm the view expressed. Our Lord is transfigured throughout the entire Gospel of John, but it is only to faith: "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten with the Father." No need for Him to manifest that glory visibly. His one great object throughout the Gospel is to bear witness to the truth of who He was and who had sent Him. If there is not faith to recognize Him, no halo could give that faith, and we may add, none was needed where that faith was present.
This brings us to speak of the characteristic omissions of the synoptic narratives in the fourth Gospel. There is indeed but one miracle common to all four Evangelists. At this we will look in a little while. It is significant that John, in both the teaching of our Lord which he records and the miracles in connection with which that teaching is so largely given, should dwell upon what is not mentioned in the other Gospels. The omissions in John and in the Synoptists are mutual.
When we come to a detailed examination of the fourth Gospel, the reason for its form and contents will be abundantly manifest. It will suffice us here to point it out and to be reminded that it stands alone in the uniqueness of its subject. We need hardly add that there are abundant and sufficient resemblances to show the credibility of both kinds of narrative. We have no thought that we are reading of a different Person when we come to John than the One described in the other three Gospels. It is "this same Jesus" throughout.
What has been said as to the fourth Gospel will suffice for this part of our subject: it being understood that we make very many omissions which if taken up in detailed consideration would divert us from the special subject in hand. We note now a few more omissions in the Synoptists.
Luke omits the call of the four disciples, Andrew, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, recorded in both Matthew and Mark. We have, however, in close connection, in Luke, the assurance to Peter that he should "catch men." Matthew and Mark, as we have already noticed, giving us that which has more direct reference to Israel; the details of the call of the disciples would be more appropriate there than in the wider Gospel of our Lord's humanity, although at the proper place a list of the apostles will also be found in Luke's Gospel. While the call of Levi or Matthew is recorded in all three Synoptists, the account of the feast with publicans and sinners and the conversion growing out of it is confined to Mark and Luke. The omission of this by Matthew is appropriate to his theme, where the kingdom is seen, we may say, in its order in the earlier part of our Lord's ministry. Therefore, that which speaks of the old bottles of an empty formalism would not be so appropriate there.
The controversy about the Sabbath (a controversy which all four Evangelists note, though in other connections in John) is given in quite similar language by the three Synoptists, although Luke omits the fuller reference to the apparent violation of the law of the Sabbath by the priests, of which, being an Old Testament ordinance, Matthew takes especial notice.
Mark omits the account of the healing of the centurion's servant (Matt. 8:5-13). The nature of that narrative brings out the faith of the centurion with special reference to Israel in Matthew, and in Luke to men at large, rather than our Lord's activities, and this may account for its being omitted by Mark. Similarly, Mark omits the account of the sending of John's messengers to our Lord (Matt. 11) so fully described in Matthew and Luke. Luke omits the wonderful invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," but gives us what is omitted by Matthew, a lovely illustration of how the heavy laden do come to Him, in the blessed narrative of the woman that was a sinner (Luke 7:37).
We pass over further comparisons of the Synoptists, having dwelt at sufficient length upon the characteristic omissions of each to see that these were not caused by carelessness, but are in strict harmony with the theme of each Evangelist.
There still remains the opposite method of examining the Gospels — for features peculiar to one. Necessarily, this has been touched upon in what has been occupying us and will also come out somewhat in what immediately follows, but we may gather up a few of the characteristic insertions in a single Gospel a little later on.
We wish under this head to look a little at the narrative of the same events recorded in two or more of the Evangelists with special reference to the differences in their form or contents, which will give us further illustrations of the general theme of each Gospel.
1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand. Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13.
This miracle is the only one recorded in all four Gospels, a thing significant in itself as indicating the importance of the event, suggesting that it contains a truth which underlies all four Gospels, a truth which could not be omitted from them. John gives us this — may we not say? — in those words of our Lord which grew out of this miracle: "The Bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33). Christ, the Bread of God come down from heaven, is the theme of all four Evangelists. It is, we may say, the most general statement of the truth of incarnation which is necessarily the substratum underlying all the Gospels. So, also, the remainder of the verse, "that giveth life unto the world," suggests the object of His incarnation, a truth also essentially connected with any narrative of our Lord.
The occasion of the miracle is given in Matthew and Mark, and implied in Luke. It was after the execution of John the Baptist. In Matthew particularly, where it would have a special bearing upon our Lord's presenting the truths of His kingdom, it would appear that He withdrew from the persecution of Herod, as He tells us in another connection it was not possible that a prophet could perish out of Jerusalem, and there still remained more to be done before the final scenes of His life could be enacted. Mark, after his manner, speaks of the pressure of work, so that they had not leisure even to eat.
Luke alone mentions the vicinity of Bethsaida as the place, and John, appropriately with the non-Jewish character of his Gospel, connects it with the Gentile name of the Sea of Tiberias. The three Synoptists tell us significantly it was a desert place, where of course no food could naturally be found. For John, the whole world was a desert place, and therefore this is not directly spoken of in his Gospel. For the same reason, the privacy is spoken of in the three Synoptists. In John, our Lord was ever alone, and therefore it is not mentioned.
All four speak of the multitudes who follow the Lord; John giving the reason why they followed Him — because of the miracles that He did. Mark, after his manner, vividly describes the running of the people ahead, outstripping our Lord and His disciples who went by ship. Matthew and Mark both speak of the Lord's compassion: the first, as the King of His people would do, healing their sick; the second, because of their being scattered as sheep without a shepherd, and in His prophetic office, He teaches them many things. Luke, setting the Son of Man before us, speaks of both the preaching and healing of our Lord.
John alone of all the Evangelists gives us the date: "The Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh." As has already been pointed out, John arranges his narrative around the passover scenes, and while briefest of all the narrators of the events of our Lord's life, furnishes the framework which is filled in from the other Evangelists.
We are indebted also to John for the characteristic conversation with Philip. He anticipates the question of the disciples, which the three Synoptists record, and tests the faith of Philip by asking a question Himself. The Synoptists all speak of the even-tide being upon them, which goes fittingly with it being a desert place. Again John is silent, and for the reason already given.
There is little difference in the account of the preparations for the feast. No doubt, a minuter study of the details would show that each variation not only indicates the independences of each narrative, but is appropriate to its immediate theme. All tell us of the order and rest of the great multitude, who, sitting upon the grass, were about to partake of the bounty of the One who, unknown to themselves, had fed them from the beginning, and who silently would witness that He who clothes the grass of the field provides for the needs of all His creatures.
All speak of the giving of thanks, but here again the Synoptists tell us our Lord looked up to heaven. In John, there was no need for that, for He was "the Son of Man who is in heaven."
All four make the disciples the channels of our Lord's bounty. How true it is that whatever view we have of Him, we find His people associated with Him in grace. Even in John, He says: "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you."
All speak of the gathering up the fragments, the fourth Gospel adding our Lord's words: "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost;" for the largeness of divine bounty is never to be confounded with the waste so common to man. It suggests that even in the miracles, while there is no parsimony, there is an absence of needless excess.
The twelve baskets may suggest the governmental character of the scene which is common to all four Evangelists. It is the Lord feeding His beloved people Israel, fulfilling the prophecy: "I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread" (Ps. 132:15). Matthew, the Gospel of the kingdom, adds that not only were five thousand men fed, but the women and children were not forgotten. The King does not overlook the least of His subjects. The miracle which follows, the walking upon the water, is omitted in Luke. The reason may be because, dealing as it does with the circumstances through which His disciples are called to pass, more particularly in a dispensational way, it was not so appropriate to his theme. Matthew alone records the episode of Peter's walking upon the water. It seems to fit in with the special theme of the Gospel of the kingdom, describing, we might almost say, the kingdom in the mystery form, when the Church, as typified by Peter, leaves the boat of Judaism and attempts to walk upon the waves. The threatened engulfing may suggest the enemy's work in which he seeks to mix up the false with the true, as we have it now in Christendom.
Thus we have a further confirmation of the theme of Matthew's Gospel. Entering the ship, they recognize Him as the Son of God, while Mark, though recording their amazement, reminds us that our Lord's work was not yet done. They considered not the miracle of the loaves, for their heart was hardened.
John does not speak of their worshiping Him. There is little of that in his Gospel. While everything He did would call forth the adoration of faith, it would not be so fitting to speak constantly of His right to be worshiped in the Gospel which sets forth His divine glory.
We do not here enter into details of our Lord's searching discourse in the synagogue in Capernaum, based upon the miracle of feeding the five thousand. It is peculiar to John and entirely after his manner. The Lord makes use of the occurrence to impart the most profound truths and to show that He is the true Food who alone gives life. All other life must fail. He that eateth of the bread which He gives shall live forever. The unbelief which would stumble at this transcendent truth is manifested, while for faith, He goes on to show that He is not only the Giver, but the Maintainer of life, a life which must spring from His sacrificial death. Thus, the connection with the passover is clearly seen.
2. The Transfiguration. Matt. 17:1-8 Mark 9:2-8: Luke 9:28-36.
All three Synoptists start at the same point. Our Lord was speaking of His coming sufferings at the hands of men, of His death and His resurrection and of His coming in glory. In this connection, He declares that some of those who were standing with Him should not taste of death until they should see "the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew); "the kingdom of God come with power" (Mark); "the kingdom of God" (Luke). A week after, the transfiguration takes place, and Peter in his epistle shows how the scene upon the Holy Mount set forth "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," when they "were eye-witnesses of His majesty; for He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,' and this voice which came from heaven we heard when we were with Him in the Holy Mount" (2 Peter 1:16-18).
We might note, in passing, the accuracy of the inspired narrators and yet their independence one of the other. Matthew and Mark speak of it as "six days after," doubtless omitting the day on which our Lord had spoken and the actual day of the transfiguration; while Luke includes both and says, "about an eight days after." All speak of the three companions of our Lord who were eye-witnesses of His glory in the Mount.
Luke, as is frequent in his Gospel, shows that it was as our Lord was in prayer that the transfiguration took place. How beautifully appropriate that the Son of Man in the attitude of dependence should thus be glorified!
Matthew describes the glory of our Lord's countenance, as well as (in common with the other two) His raiment. It is fitting that the narrator of the kingdom Gospel should show us the beams of the Sun of Righteousness who is to arise upon Israel with healing in His wings.
Luke tells us the subject of conversation with Moses and Elias, as to the decease which our Lord should accomplish at Jerusalem; and he alone speaks of the slumber which had fallen upon the disciples. The shadow of the cross is seen thus at the very summit of our Lord's earthly career. No thought of the kingdom, no activity of service could blot from His mind the suffering and rejection which awaited Him. The notice of these is more in place in Luke than in the Gospels which speak more particularly of His final and personal place upon the earth.
We have here three different words, in the three Evangelists, ascribed to Peter when he says: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." In Matthew, it is "Kurios," Lord, the word frequently used in translating "Jehovah" of the Old Testament and suggesting the personal dignity of the Lord. In Mark, it is "Rabbi,"in keeping with his theme, where we see our Lord as the Prophet. In Luke it is "Epistata," a less frequent word than that used in Matthew, and not necessarily implying what is at least suggested in the former Gospel. It is a more human word, appropriate to the Gospel of the Son of Man.
The question may be asked, How could Peter use all three words? If we remember that he doubtless addressed our Lord in the Syriac or Aramaean language, the difficulty is removed, for either of these three words could translate the original and would include some feature of it; or, he could very easily have used two words in addressing the Lord, one of which would be "Rabbi."
Mark adds, after his vivid manner, that Peter knew not what to say, for they were all afraid. Matthew alone tells us that the cloud which overshadowed them was bright, suggesting perhaps that Shekinah of glory ("Over all, the glory shall be for a covering") which shall be displayed in the kingdom.
Luke connects the fear of which Mark had spoken with their entering into the cloud, while all three are identical in recording God's words: "This is My beloved Son;" Matthew alone adds "in whom I am well pleased;" in all there is the call for them to "hear Him." At the close, Matthew gives some glimpses of the kingdom glory: "They fell on their face and were sore afraid," but Jesus touches them and speaks to them with reassuring words. All speak of "Jesus only" being left before them.
In the conversation that follows about Elias, recorded alone in Matthew and Mark, there is evident appropriateness to the theme of these two Evangelists. All three, however, record the miracle upon the demoniac. Here, Mark is fullest, for he dwells upon each detail that sets forth the nature of our Lord's tireless activities. Matthew is briefest; the King in patience working the miracle but looking forward, we might say, to the time when unbelief would no longer make such works necessary. When, however, we come to the reasons for His disciples' unbelief, Matthew dwells more fully upon it.
3. The Syrophenician Woman. Matt. 15; Mark 7.
What has been said under the previous instances will indicate the manner in which we can take up and examine all parallel passages. The more minutely and carefully it is done, the better. We have given but samples. Space would not permit our going into further minute details. We add a few further samples, noting only the salient features.
This narrative follows immediately after the discussion with the Pharisees about defilement, a subject appropriate to both Matthew and Mark, but which, together with the narrative of the healing of the Syrophenician woman's daughter, is wanting in Luke. The entire chapter is, we might say, governmental in its form and therefore less appropriate to the Evangelist whose theme is wider. For Matthew and Mark, however, the connection between the conversation and the act of mercy is most beautiful and significant. Grace goes outside Judaism to find its subjects, while the nation is absorbed in its petty religious rites which they practise to the exclusion of the commandments of God, utterly ignoring the corrupt state of their own hearts. Thus our Lord manifests what is in the heart of man, and in going forth to an outcast Gentile shows what is in the heart of God.
Matthew notices that the woman addresses our Lord by His title "Son of David," a title which belongs to the kingdom and which could not rightly be used by those outside. So He answers her, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." All this, we need hardly say, belongs to Matthew. In what follows, he and Mark are very similar, except that our Lord notices what is so conspicuous by its absence amongst the leaders of the people, the faith which lays hold of Him in spite of the obstacles which He Himself suggests.
4. The miracle of the seven loaves, and the sign from heaven. Matt. 15:32 to 16:12; Mark 8:1-21.
These also are peculiar to Matthew and Mark, and for reasons much the same as those already given. Matthew particularly dwells upon the sign of the prophet Jonah, connecting it with their ability to read natural indications of what weather may be expected and yet failing to see how judgment threatens them.
5. The Olivet Discourse. Matt. 24 and 25 Mark 13; Luke 21.
There is no mention of this discourse by John. His Gospel we may say is beyond dispensations, in a certain sense, and its entire theme is above and outside the events appropriately foretold in the Synoptists. What takes the place, to a certain extent, of this prophetic discourse, is our Lord's address to His disciples in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters, and we need not say how contrastive the two addresses are, nor need we add they are without the slightest contradiction.
All three Synoptists connect this prophetic discourse of our Lord with the temple whose beauties had been pointed out to Him. Predicting that the time would come when one stone should not be left upon another, He continues the subject in the retirement of the Mount of Olives, where, sitting with His disciples, as Mark points out, "over against the temple," its imposing grandeur before His eye, He pronounces the doom upon it and, we might say, upon the entire Jewish nation.
The Gospel of Luke gives the address in its briefest form, with certain elements peculiar to itself and especially appropriate to His more general theme. The first destruction of Jerusalem is more dwelt upon than its final overthrow, which in Matthew and Mark seems to be more closely linked with that first destruction. Matthew particularly looks on to the end and dwells in detail upon the presence of false prophets who shall deceive many, while Mark and Luke speak more particularly of the opposition from without and the assurance that they should be delivered when brought before kings and rulers for His name's sake.
The closing period of the Great Tribulation, the latter half of Daniel's "week," is almost if not entirely absent from Luke; while Matthew gives a fuller account than Mark, dwelling specially upon the suddenness of the Lord's appearing. The comparison with the days of Noah is peculiar to Matthew, though it is well to remember that in Luke our Lord, in another connection, gives this comparison as well as that of Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Luke 17:20-37.) We may remark upon this in passing, that, as has already been mentioned, Luke does not follow a close chronological order, but rather one that is illustrative of his theme. It must also be remembered that, doubtless, our Lord often said the same things in different connections and at different times. One Evangelist might record the one, and another give that spoken upon a different occasion.
Mark dwells at greatest length upon the necessity for watching, while Matthew enlarges upon the solemn contrast between the faithful and unfaithful servant, a comparison which is wanting in the other Gospels.
The parable of the ten virgins and of the talents is peculiar to Matthew alone and especially appropriate to his general theme. The kingdom is about to be set up and the Bridegroom to appear. While including the present dispensation, the setting is cast in the predominant mold of the Gospel of the kingdom.
We notice again, that in different connections, a somewhat similar parable is recorded by Luke, that of the pounds. As our Lord points out, this was in view of their thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He therefore shows that a period must intervene during which faithfulness in the use of entrusted responsibilities would meet its sure reward at the coming of the kingdom.
Matthew is alone in describing the judgment of the nations, and gives the fullest outline of this great prophetic discourse. Thus, in the dispensational Gospel, we have the Lord's coming and appearing in relation to Israel, to the responsibilities of the present dispensation and to the gathering together of the Gentiles after the rapture of the Church.
With these few illustrative passages, we leave this part of our subject, with the deepened conviction in all our minds, we trust, that a careful comparison of the various Gospel narratives would bring out much of a most profitable and suggestive character. It remains for us, in this connection, to point out those portions of each of the Synoptists which they record alone.
Matthew 1:18-25 is alone in the annunciation of our Lord's birth to Joseph, giving, as he also does (vers. 1-17), the genealogy of our Lord from Abraham down to Joseph, the legal heir to the throne of David.
To Luke, on the contrary, we are indebted, in his first two chapters, for the annunciation of the birth of John to Zacharias; of our Lord to Mary; the visit of Mary to Elizabeth and the birth of John, together with the precious details of the birth of our Lord at Bethlehem, with the annunciation of His birth to the shepherds, and His circumcision and presentation in the temple.
Matthew alone records the flight into Egypt, while both he and Luke narrate the beginning of the life in Nazareth. Without going into detail, or repeating what we have noticed elsewhere, we see that the human element predominates in Luke, and the dispensational or kingly in Matthew. We notice in Matthew's Gospel, in several places, that in the account of a miracle, he shows that it was wrought upon two subjects, while from the other Evangelists we would have suspected but one: as in the healing of the demoniac of Gadara, recorded by all three Synoptists, Matthew alone tells us there were two (Matt. 8:29-34). The same is seen in the opening of the eyes of Bartimaeus, where two beggars are healed in Matthew (Matt. 20:29-34); and the same feature occurs in the healing of the two blind men (Matt. 9:27-31).
Evidently, the purpose of the first Evangelist is not to single out some special feature in the healing so much as to show the power of our Lord. The fact that two were healed emphasizes this, while in Mark and Luke the details connected with the healing of one of the individuals are brought more prominently before us.
The solemn address to the disciples in Matthew 10, is found practically there only, though Mark and Luke also tell of their being sent forth. Their mission was "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and looks on beyond the present interval of grace to the resumption of that ministry which closes only at the Lord's return.
Peter's noble confession of the Lord at Caesarea Philippi is recorded in all three Evangelists, but Matthew in addition shows how "the Christ, the Son of the living God" — confessed here by Peter, is the foundation upon which the Church will be built, a building which was not begun until Pentecost. This is appropriate to the dispensational Gospel.
So, too, is the governmental section (Matt. 18:15-35) peculiar to Matthew alone. Here it is not exactly the Church, but the Kingdom and responsibilities connected with it. The attitude of one to a brother who has committed a trespass is pointed out. Failing in the endeavor to win him privately, the one is permitted to go further, taking one or two others; failing still, the Church was to be notified and if this does not succeed, one can only leave the case in the hands of God. It does not go further, except to point out that whatever is bound according to God on earth is bound in heaven, and this would include those necessary acts of discipline which the Church may be called upon to perform.
Following this, and we may say as a guide in carrying out the directions just given, we are warned against the unforgiving spirit which would render nugatory any mere formal attempt to follow the directions thus given. If we have not the spirit of forgiveness in our hearts, we cannot expect God's blessing with any action of ours, no matter how correct in form it may seem to be.
We leave a comparison of the parables to the chapter which specially treats of them.
The solitary instance recorded by Mark alone (Mark 8:22-26) gives us confirmatory illustration of his manner and object. It is the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida. The brief narrative is most vivid and illustrative of the tireless activity of the faithful Servant, with attention to detail of a most instructive character. The two stages in the healing are peculiar to this account and furnish a suggestive thought as to the character of the work of grace. It may not always be instantly manifest in its full results.
Coming to the Gospel of Luke, as we have already noticed in the narrative of the early life of our Lord, we have many scenes peculiar to this Evangelist, as the scene at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). It is a fitting introduction indeed to the entire Gospel, where, as we have seen, our Lord's grace overleaps dispensational and national distinctions. His appearing in the synagogue at Nazareth and recalling God's past ways of grace, when in the days of Elijah a Gentile widow was fed in the time of famine, and of Elisha when a Syrian and an enemy of Israel obtained the grace which many lepers in Israel failed to get, was more than their prejudice could stand and they then and there practically cast Him out and would have destroyed Him, had God permitted. Thus, we may say, our Lord is seen on the outside morally from the beginning, although of course His patient love ministered wherever He found an entrance among His own people.
Matthew 13:54-58, and Mark 6:1-6, record an apparently later visit to Nazareth, where our Lord was rejected. This may be profitably compared with what we have said of the occurrence given in Luke. The special peculiarities are marked.
We have already remarked on the lovely scene in the Pharisee's house with the woman that was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50), illustrating that religious formalism which remains barren and unforgiven while the sins of the penitent are washed away.
The raising of the widow's son at Nain in the first part of this chapter (vers. 11-17) is also peculiar to Luke, in which the Lord's tender sympathy and compassion are so marked.
Luke 9:51 introduces a section in this Gospel which goes on, we may say, almost to the healing of Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35) in which Luke stands almost alone — a rich portion indeed, in which the special theme of our Evangelist stands out strikingly in wonderful narratives of grace. This portion includes the parable of the Good Samaritan, encouragements to prayer, solemn warnings as to eternity, calls to repentance, the gospel's great feast; then the matchless parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, the solemn issues of eternity, the healing of the ten lepers, the Pharisee and the publican, and other features. We do no more than mention these here. In the outline of the Evangelist we will endeavor to point out their special characteristics. The call of Zaccheus is also peculiar to this Evangelist, illustrating again the gospel which he loves to present in so many varied ways.
This completes our general examination of the characteristic differences of the three Synoptists as compared with each other.
Recurrence of the same word or phrase
Our previous heads will suffice to give a general introduction to the comparison of the Gospels by a study of their parallel passages. What we have to say under the present head is brief, not because there is not abundance of material, but the detailed work had best be done by the student in the closer study of each Evangelist.
We have certain expressions and words peculiar to certain Gospels which indicate the general theme. Thus, the expression "kingdom of Heaven" is found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew, where it is of frequent occurrence, as a reference to a concordance will show. It expresses, we might say, the thought which underlies the entire Gospel. It is the kingdom, not of earth, and therefore not of man. It is not even the kingdom of David according to the flesh, but that which John the Baptist announces as at hand when he, as the forerunner of the King, declared the first principle essential to its establishment, that of repentance, and announces the heaven-appointed Ruler of the kingdom.
We look for a moment at this expression. As we have said, it is the kingdom of heaven or of the heavens in contrast to the earth. Throughout Scripture, whether in the introduction of light, the separation of the waters, or the elevation of the earth, the heavens have always the preeminence. Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of earthly rulers, and whose dominion was widest, became as a beast because he failed to recognize this elementary principle. He must, therefore, be driven out from his place of authority, typical indeed of all human power, until he learns that the heavens do rule. It is this spiritual rule of the heavens which the Gospel of Matthew inculcates, and which this phrase indicates as its characteristic theme.
When we come to the Gospel of Luke we find an equally appropriate expression parallel with this. It is now, "the kingdom of God" which, while in some connections is apparently synonymous with the parallel phrase in Matthew, in others evidently indicates a more general and moral aspect. Thus, in the invitation: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me," Luke says, "for of such is the kingdom of God." Of course, the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God, and yet the latter expression suggests that which is according to His nature rather than the seat of His power and the sphere of His reign. As we have already had occasion to notice, the apostle Paul uses this same expression, "the kingdom of God," with the same thought, excluding any thought of mere administration such as is given to us in Matthew.
Returning to the first Evangelist, we must point out, as will appear later, that the kingdom of heaven is looked at in various aspects: being first introduced, its principles announced, and its works performed. When the Jews rejected it, the Lord in those prophetic parables which look forward to the time of His absence upon earth, describes the kingdom in a mystery form, which will come before us later. The remainder of the Gospel dwells upon various thoughts of the kingdom until we find it finally established after the judgments in the millennial kingdom of our Lord.
Coming to Mark, as has been said, while he largely parallels Matthew in his narrative, his theme is not so dispensational. There is, however, at least one word which is so frequent in its occurrence that we cannot fail to notice it. It is the word translated "straightway" or "immediately," and suggests the readiness, promptness and capacity for service which marked our blessed Lord in His path here.
We leave this most interesting feature of word study as applied to the Synoptists, and turn for a moment to note that, particularly in the Gospel of John, we have characteristic phrases and expressions. Here, "eternal life" stands out as expressed in the life of our Lord and communicated by Him. It is received by faith, and therefore "believe" and "faith" are of frequent occurrence. Our Lord's one great object here was to reveal "the Father," therefore we find this blessed word constantly upon His lips, together with the phrase "Him that sent Me," reminding us of how He was sent forth from the bosom of the Father. "The world," "love," "light" are other characteristic words which we will only mention, and which all unite to show the one predominating theme of this precious portion of the word of God.