The Gospels: A Panorama of Jesus Christ
In the 18th century, English painter Robert Barker created paintings of the cities of London and Edinburgh that allowed people to experience a sweeping 360-degree view of those cities. Barker called these paintings panoramas (the word panorama is formed from the Greek pan “all” + orama “sight”). The paintings were displayed in a rotunda, and a viewer standing in the middle of the room could see not just a part of these cities but a complete view. Later, panorama was used in photography by “stitching” together individual pieces of an entire scene. Instead of looking at individual pictures that showed just a part of a wider scene, people could now view the entire scene all at once.
The Bible contains four separate Gospels, each one showing us just one view of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, which was written to a Jewish audience, we see Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew reveals the many ways in which Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah.
Mark’s Gospel, which was the first one written and may have relied heavily on the oral teachings of Peter, was written to a Roman audience. In order to convince that audience that Christ was the Son of God and win converts to Him, Mark presented Jesus as a man of power and action.
The Gospel of Luke provides yet another view of Jesus. Like Mark, Luke was writing to a Gentile audience, particularly to the Greeks. As a historian, Luke provides more historical detail than any of the other Gospel writers. His focus includes presenting Jesus as a man of compassion and a man of prayer. Luke also provides the greatest view of the teachings of Jesus.
The last Gospel, that of John, provides the picture of Jesus as God and Savior more than any of the other accounts. His account begins with the preexistence of Jesus, telling us that He was with God in the beginning and He was God (John 1:1). John also provides a hint to the divinity of Jesus through his many “I am” statements about Himself that allude to the title that God used for Himself in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.”
So, when we read the individual Gospel accounts, we can see Jesus as Messiah (Matthew), as a man of power and action (Mark), as a man of compassion and prayer (Luke), or as the divine Son of God (John). All of these views are individually important but, if we read just one of the Gospels, we see only one view, one aspect of Jesus. In order to get a complete understanding of Jesus, of who He is, the things He did, and what He teaches us, we need all four of these accounts of His time on earth. When viewed together, they present a full view, a panorama of Jesus.