Saturday, January 7, 2023

Matthew Vs. Luke: Shepherds and Kings?

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Jesus told us that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). God’s Word tells us that He cannot lie. “God is not a man that He should lie…,” (Numbers 22:16), literally telling us that God never lies. Paul tells us that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,…” literally that it is “God breathed” (2Timothy 3:16), and Peter tells us that if we don’t want to believe his witness, then we should look to the prophets, for “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21).

Non-believers will argued that the two Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth do not match, so their conclusion is that the Bible’s record cannot be believed.

Matthew’s and Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth are not the same, we shall agree on that. But if we by faith believe what I wrote in the first paragraph above, then both are true, and we have found an area that calls for further study to resolve the alleged contradictions. But first we must realize that Matthew and Luke are addressing two different audiences separated by as much as 30 years; Matthew to the Jews, and Luke to a Greek named Theophilus.

Consider: because their “view” is from two different perspectives, two witnesses to the same event will never describe it exactly the same. Our system of jurisprudence in the US is based on two or three witnesses testifying of the same thing so that the truth will be established. This premise comes from scripture (Dt. 19:15; Mt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1 – notice: 3 references, 3 witnesses to the premise, and all are “God breathed.”). The truth is revealed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

What is likely lost for the non-believer is perspective: a fuller picture of the events of so long ago. So, we must have the perspective of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the scribes of the New Testament that reveal a truth.

But there is one more thing that the non-believer lacks, and the scriptures speak of it in Genesis 2:7, as God breathes His breath into Adam, and Adam “became a living soul,” and able to communicate with God’s living Spirit. The Holy Ghost’s role is to imbue His understanding to us. The Holy Spirit teaches us, so we must possess a measure of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11; Luke 11:13; John 14:26; Acts 19:1-6) to grasp His Word.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are Spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew Vs. Luke - "Shepherds and Kings?"


In comparing Matthew and Luke's account of the Birth of our Savior, there are some things you should note:  They are Different Gospels.  They are written by Different Authors.  They are written at Different Times, and they are written to Different Audiences.  

That said, "All Scripture is Inspired by God."  In other words, God is the Source or Origin of what is recorded in Scripture. See 2 Timothy 3:16.

Atheists and skeptics can throw around the words “contradict” and “contradictory” with regard to the Gospels, but is it? Only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, give an account of the happenings surrounding Jesus’ birth. Matthew's gospel is written to the Jews, and provides information about Joseph and the Magi (or Kings from the East). Luke's gospel is clearly written to the Gentiles, and focuses on Elizabeth, Zacharias, John the Baptist, the shepherds and Simeon and Anna.

Does one gospel providing information that the other does not necessarily mean that that the two accounts cannot be reconciled? Of course not.

While various people claim that the books of Matthew and Luke contradict each other, what they have failed to see is that each of these accounts is vitally important providing a fuller picture of the fulfillment of bible prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. Each writer, inspired by God, wrote the account to different audiences, at different times, providing vital details that ultimately provides evidence beyond a shadow of doubt, that Christ is the promised Messiah.

I’m sure you’ve seen the Magi (or wise men) and shepherds' side by side in Nativity scenes for a lifetime as you drive pass churches or residential areas. Unfortunately, it is not accurate.  While it is a beautiful sight to behold, biblically, it’s a bit anachronistic because the wise men and the shepherds were never present together (at the same time) when Jesus was born in a manger.

ACCORDING TO LUKE'S GOSPEL, the shepherds in the fields were told by the angels about a Savior, which is Christ the Lord, and they would find a babe (Jesus) lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

ACCORDING TO MATTHEW'S GOSPEL, the wise men came into a house (not a manger), they saw a young child (not a babe) with Mary. The wise men were not present at His birth, but rather when the child was a toddler, nearly 2 years later when they saw Jesus.

The only thing that would make these accounts contradictory is if Luke had said, “Only the shepherds witnessed the birth” and Matthew had said, “Only the wise men witnessed the birth of Jesus.”  Since neither of these statements can be found in the bible, then there is another explanation to the differing accounts. 

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke aren’t giving contradictory accounts but focusing on different aspects of the birth of our Lord. The fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies is clear.  These details are vitally important as they provide undeniable proofs of the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the birth of our Lord.

The gospels were written by four different men to four unique audiences, so it is natural that they would include different details concerning the life of Christ. But their writing was superintended by the Holy Spirit, who guaranteed that what each wrote was the absolute truth. There are differences, but they can all be harmonized. The narratives of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew and Luke are not contradictory but complementary.

God's Word is True, it is Living, it is Accurate and Infallible. All Scripture is Inspired by God. It is Historical, Prophetic, and Spiritually Discerned. The accounts of the birth of our Savior, some 2,000 years ago, provide the evidence that the prophecies concerning His first coming have been fulfilled.  The overriding message of the Gospels is that Jesus came to earth in a humble manner. The Savior of the world and God of all creation put on humanity to die for our sins and conquer death, giving the hope of salvation to all who turn from their sin and believe on Him. One day, He will return in judgment, and He will not appear as a seemingly helpless baby, but as the risen, glorified, sovereign Lord and Judge.

Today we will look at the two accounts of Jesus' birth. Let’s examine why Matthew and Luke differ.

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