The greatest story ever told is found in the gospel accounts of the Bible. This story is true. It is historical. It is about the greatest man who ever lived. This man was God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. This account begins with His birth. It reveals the toil of His ministry on this earth. It is filled with His teaching. It contains a record of his cruel and unjust death. Finally, it amazingly records how He arose from the tomb to ascend to Heaven, restored to His rightful place. This gospel account is found in the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
As one reads the gospel accounts, a fascinating plot unfolds to give an intimate look at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. There is much to learn. Let us focus our attention on the following things that can be learned from the gospel accounts.
Jesus is God in the Flesh
Matthew records how an angel came to Joseph and told him that Mary would give birth to Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). The angel Gabriel had previously appeared to Mary and had told her that she would conceive a baby through the power of the Holy Spirit. He told her that baby would be called the “Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Matthew reveals how that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy by Isaiah (Isa. 7:14) that one would be born of a virgin, and His name would be Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:22-23).
The gospel account of John begins with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3, NKJV).
This bold statement by John declares that Jesus was not only pre-existent with God but was God and was the one through whom all things were made in creation. Jesus is a person of the triune Godhead. He was present and active in the creation of the world. In His “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him “with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (John 17:5). Paul wrote that Jesus existed in “the form of God” before he came “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). Paul goes on to say that God has “highly exalted Him” and given Him “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). The prayer of Jesus was answered, and He was restored to His rightful glory! Jesus has always existed. He has always been God. He never lost His deity. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
The Cost of Discipleship
Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the event of Jesus’ baptism by John. After His baptism, Jesus came up out of the water and began praying (Luke 3:21). While He was praying, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove and rested upon Him (Matt. 3:16). A voice from Heaven said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Following this, Jesus was led by the Spirit to the wilderness, where He fasted in the wilderness for forty days and was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4; Mark 1; Luke 4). These events marked a crucial time in the life of Jesus, as it was after this that He began His ministry as recorded in the gospels.
Jesus began His ministry by calling those who would be His closest companions, the twelve apostles. The first ones He called were Peter and Andrew, who were brothers. These men were engaged in their trade of fishing. When Jesus called them to follow Him, the scripture says, “they immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matt. 4:20; Mark 1:18). Jesus then called the two brothers James and John, who were also fishermen. They were mending nets with their father, Zebedee. Jesus called them to follow Him, and they immediately left their boat and their father to follow Him (Matt. 4:22; Mark 1:20). As Jesus called each of His apostles, they each left their livelihood, families, and possessions to follow Him. Jesus demonstrated the sacrifice that was to be made by following Him when He told one who would follow Him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). The apostles of Christ made great sacrifices to accompany Him in His ministry. Not all disciples were called to make such sacrifices. However, Jesus made it very clear that being a disciple of His means being willing to make whatever sacrifices must be made. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
In a time when it seems the popular view of Christianity is “do what makes you feel good,” those who would be disciples of Jesus would do well to heed His warning. Jesus made clear the cost of being His disciple. He said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 10:37-39).
How to Live for Christ
Jesus preached the greatest sermon that anyone has ever preached, as recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6:20-49. In this great “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus revealed the character of the person who would follow Him. The sermon begins with what is known as “The Beatitudes.” The Beatitudes speak of the blessedness of those who have the heart of Christ. These characteristics certainly were not what the Jews were looking for in a Messiah and are not in keeping with what the world today celebrates. They are, however, what God is looking for in the person who gives their heart to Him.
Jesus speaks of the blessedness that comes from being poor in spirit, having godly sorrow, being meek, having a hunger and thirst for righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Jesus knew that one who follows Him would be persecuted, reviled, and falsely accused, yet He said that such was reason to rejoice because God would reward that faithfulness in Heaven!
Jesus likened Christians to salt and light and encouraged his disciples to have a good influence on those around them. He speaks of how sins like murder and adultery are matters of the heart. He reminds us to not swear or take oaths, but to “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ‘no’” (Matt. 5:37). He tells us not to retaliate but to love our enemies. He commands us not to do our good works to be seen by others but to do what we do to please God.
In like manner, Jesus preached that our prayers are not to be hypocritical or to please men, but rather to pray only for God to hear. He then gave an example of how to pray. He reminds us to forgive those who wrong us and tells us that if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven by God. He speaks of those things that will help us in our spiritual life, like prayer and fasting. He reminds us to not trust in wealth or worry about what we need in this life, but rather to trust God to take care of us.
He tells us to not judge others with our own standard, but rather to make sure we are right with God first, and then to help others in their spiritual lives. Our Lord reminds us that God wants us to pray to Him for our needs. He tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated. He admonishes us to not take the easy more popular way of the masses, but rather to follow the difficult way through the narrow gate that leads to life. He warns of false prophets and that we must do the will of God if we would make it to Heaven.
Jesus concludes His sermon with a parable of two men who built houses, one on rock and one on the sand. Building a house on the good foundation of the rock is akin to hearing and doing His will for us. All else is sand and will end in destruction.
Jesus Went to Heaven, And You Can Too!
The gospels tell of the great events, teachings, benevolence, and miracles that composed the ministry of Jesus Christ on this earth. They reveal how He suffered a horrible death on a cross and arose the third day, proclaiming victory over sin, death, and Hell. He then ascended back to Heaven from whence He came. Before Jesus left this earth, He gave the great commission which is found in Mark 16:15-16 and Matt. 28:18-20. The message of the great commission is that Jesus gave us a way to be saved, become His disciples, and go to Heaven to be with Him for eternity. That is the greatest message ever told! We must not fail to fulfill His will and tell the gospel message to all!