ARemember we are reading four Gospels, not just one. Three, the synoptics, follow a similar pattern. They tell us the story of the earthly life of Jesus in a general sequence ending with his death and resurrection.
Mark was the first; Matthew and Luke followed using Mark and adding other material. As each wrote for a different community of the early Church, they chose different aspects to emphasize.
THE EARLY YEARS
Matthew and Luke present an infancy narrative much as we often look back at the early life of famous individuals. They have used all but one of Mark's few parables, adding others, some common to the two of them and others differing between them. Matthew has eight Beatitudes; Luke has four Beatitudes and four woes. They differ in some of their healing and preaching stories, as well as in monetary references and locations.
John's Gospel is quite different from the synoptics, although he too presents the life and death of Jesus. He uses some of the same miracle stories but his are clearly signs of Jesus' divinity, exemplifying his assertion in the prologue that Jesus came from the Father.
His Last Supper has the washing of the feet while the Eucharist is proclaimed in chapter 6: "unless you eat my body and drink my blood . . .".
Who is Jesus for each of them? Mark emphasizes Jesus' humanity, a Jesus who doesn't know everything, a lonely Jesus who is misunderstood, a Jesus who is afraid to die. Mark's most frequent title for Jesus is Son of Man (14 times) but he doesn't neglect to tell us that Jesus is Son of God at the beginning (1.1) and at the end (15.39).
Matthew's Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets, as shown by frequent OT quotations, even at his birth; a Jesus who is a rabbi who proclaims five long discourses to the Jews.
His Jesus is the saviour, master and model of his community. At Jesus' death, the earth trembles, a sign of the end times when the dead rise and all will recognize Jesus as the Son of God.
FULL OF SPIRIT
Luke's Jesus is full of the Spirit by whose power he is conceived, is manifested at the Baptism, is led into the desert and remains with us. Jesus reveals God as tender and loving who cares for the suffering, the sinners and the poor. He lives constantly in the presence of the Father as shown by his prayer and his works.
John shows us a human Jesus who tires and thirsts, stops to rest and asks for a drink. But he is God, pre-existent with the Father. When asked, he responds that he comes from and is going to the Father whose work he was sent to do.
Jesus reveals God since as God's Son, he knows the Father; he uses "I am" the name God gave himself to Moses. This Jesus is light, food and drink, resurrection and eternal life. In John, Jesus passion, his "hour" is a time of glorification, exaltation and triumph over evil to which all the signs were pointing.
John's Gospel focuses on that unique relationship of Jesus as Son of the Father and the work the Father sent him to do. John uses "Father" 120 times, more than the other Gospels combined. We are the children of God, adopted, as it were, while Jesus is the true Son. Only once, after the resurrection, does Jesus speak of God as Father of the disciples (20.17).
John does not give us the Our Father prayer. The other Gospels do not emphasize this Father-Son relationship as John does and so we find the Our Father in Matthew with its seven petitions which is the form we pray. It is also in Luke with five petitions but not in John.
WHOM DO WE BELIEVE?
In which Jesus are we to believe?
We believe in the living Jesus of the whole New Testament, in the Jesus revealed as the Son of God. This was the belief of the early Church as told by Jesus' followers, the witnesses of his life, death and resurrection and which was recorded in the Scriptures.
(Questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)