What Do We Know about the Gospel Writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Brad Simon
What Do We Know about the Gospel Writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Words. They inform us, they inspire us, they shape our very lives. Written words endure through time for generations to come. But no words have had greater influence than those penned by the men known throughout church history as the Four Evangelists. Four pillars of faith, entrusted to share the greatest story ever told.

From the windswept shores of Galilee to the scholarly halls of academia, they emerge from the shadows of history. Each shared from their unique perspective, yet they blend together in one grand symphony orchestrated by the hand of God. Their words have shaped our faith and guided our beliefs.

But have you ever wondered about the lives of the men behind these sacred texts? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not just names on the pages of the Bible; they were real people with extraordinary journeys. Behind their inspired words lie tales of personal sacrifice and steadfast faith, along with a message of hope and inspiration for each of us today.

Matthew, a Sinner Turned Saint

The day began like any other, as Levi sat at his booth. Yet on this day, something felt different. His heart was heavy with doubt and discouragement. He was always good with numbers and finance, and tax collecting seemed like the perfect job. However, his religious background led him to question the common practice of overcharging taxes and keeping the extra money. And his fellow Jews saw him as a traitor, collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government. A religious outcast, Levi was forbidden to enter the synagogue. Not only was he cut off from his people, but unable to offer sacrifices and to worship, Levi felt cut off from God.

As he carefully stacked his coins in neat rows, maybe he wondered if it was too late to change professions. If he did, would it make a difference? Just then, a large crowd approached and drew his attention. There in the midst stood the itinerant rabbi he had heard about.

“Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:27-28)

No longer called Levi, Matthew was chosen as one of the twelve apostles. From the shores of Galilee to the streets of Jerusalem, Matthew walked alongside his Master. As one of Jesus’ twelve closest companions, he witnessed the miracles and teachings defining the earthly ministry of the Son of God. 

As an apostle, evangelist, and missionary, he traveled far and wide, spreading the good news of salvation. Tradition holds that he evangelized to the east as far as Persia. Despite being persecuted and martyred for his faith, Matthew proclaimed the gospel message with unwavering devotion. The man who abandoned a lucrative career remained willing to give his all for Christ to the very end.

Matthew knew the Scriptures well, as he quotes from the Old Testament more than the other three gospel writers combined. He presents Jesus as the King of kings, fulfilling prophecies of the coming Messiah. His gospel account provides the perfect bridge between the Old and New Testaments.

Today, the life of the Apostle Matthew serves as a reminder that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy. His journey from tax collector to apostle is a witness to the transformative power of faith and the boundless love of a Savior who calls each of us by name. May we, like Matthew, respond to the call of Christ with open hearts and willing spirits. 

Mark, the Eager Servant

As Jesus and His disciples left the upper room, a young man sleeping downstairs awoke. Quickly he arose and followed. Hiding in the shadows of Gethsemane, he watched silently. When Jesus was arrested and the others fled, “a young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind” (Mark 14:51-52). Perhaps with these two verses, Mark shares his first encounter with Jesus and identifies himself as the author of the book.

Born into a devout Jewish family in Jerusalem, Mark, also known as John Mark, was raised in the cradle of Christianity. Surrounded by the fervent prayers and steadfast devotion of his relatives, he learned about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Although we know nothing about his father, Mark grew up in a wealthy family in Jerusalem. His mother’s house was large enough for many in the early church to gather. After being released from prison, Peter “went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying” (Acts 12:12).

In this nurturing environment, the Apostle Peter discipled Mark, and he assisted him in his ministry. Peter lovingly called him “my son Mark” (1 Peter 5:13). But despite his close relationship with Peter, Mark’s journey was not without its setbacks.

Eager to serve his Lord, Mark traveled with his cousin Barnabas to Antioch to help develop the church there (Acts 12:25). When Barnabas and Paul left on their first missionary journey, Mark went along to assist them (Acts 13:5). 

Mark was always willing to serve, but his eagerness sometime surpassed his preparation for ministry. In a moment of weakness, he abandoned Paul and Barnabas and returned home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Deserting Paul strained their relationship and cast doubt on his credibility as a disciple.

When Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their second missionary journey, Paul refused (Acts 15:36-41). However, Mark would redeem himself through his faithful service to the gospel. Later in his life, Paul wrote, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). 

Mark never teaches or leads a ministry, but he is always there behind the scenes, assisting others in their work for the Lord. In his gospel account, he reveals Jesus as God’s servant, sent to die for the sins of the world. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Mark’s journey from disappointment to faithful servant reminds us God’s grace surpasses our failures and His plans exceed our doubts. His life is a testament to the love and forgiveness of a Savior who calls us to overcome our failures and rise above our circumstances. Like Mark, may we find strength in adversity, courage in uncertainty, and hope in the promise of redemption revealed in his gospel.

Luke, the Meticulous Historian

Trained in the art of medicine, Luke dedicated his life to the alleviation of suffering and the restoration of health to those in need. Luke’s compassion knew no limits, as he cared for both the physical and emotional needs of the downtrodden.

As Christianity spread to the gentile world, Luke heard the message of hope and spiritual healing that only Jesus can provide. We don’t know when or how Luke converted to Christianity, but by the time he met the Apostle Paul in Troas, he had a firm understanding of the gospel message (Acts 16:10).

Luke remained in Philippi after Paul and his companions departed for Thessalonica. He likely served as the first pastor of the church meeting in Lydia’s home (Acts 16:40). Luke would rejoin Paul later when he returned to Macedonia and continue with him through his journeys and imprisonment in Rome. Luke played a vital role in spreading the gospel message, providing support and encouragement in times of trial and persecution. 

Luke was a physician, historian, theologian, missionary, and pastor. Like all Christians today, Luke believed even though he had not seen or met Jesus in the flesh, and he made it his mission to share the good news with others.

Inspired by the power of Jesus’ message, Luke embarked on a journey of spiritual exploration and scholarly inquiry. He sought to understand and document the life and teachings of the Son of God. Drawing upon his background in medicine and his keen observational skills, Luke researched and compiled the Gospel that bears his name.

“Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).

Luke’s writing is as scholarly as if written by the mind of a scientist, yet filled with compassion from the heart of a pastor. His meticulous research, compassionate heart, and devoted faith, provide hope and light in a world overshadowed by darkness and despair.

Dr. Luke’s life serves as a powerful reminder that faith and intellectual thought are not mutually exclusive, but complementary aspects of a dynamic spiritual journey. His legacy of compassion, healing, and scholarly inquiry continues to inspire and uplift believers around the world.

May the life of Luke inspire us to diligently study Scripture and church history to ascertain what we hear is true and provide a firm foundation for our faith. May we be as passionate as Luke to use our God-given gifts and talents to communicate His truth, strengthening the church, encouraging believers, and spreading the gospel.

John, the Transformed Disciple

The early morning sun glistened on the water as they pulled at their nets. Born into a family of humble fishermen, James and John work with their father, Zebedee. The rugged landscape of Galilee shaped their lives, and the sea breeze weathered their skin. As they prepared their nets, “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:22).

Along with Peter and James, John became one of Jesus’ closest companions. They walked alongside Him and witnessed the miraculous signs and wonders accompanying His teachings.

Besides being rugged fishermen, James and John evidently had a sharp temper. On one occasion, when Jesus was not welcomed in a city, they ask, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). Jesus gave them the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). They even had the audacity to ask Jesus in front of the other disciples, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37).

However, John’s deep and abiding love for his Master would distinguish him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). From the tender moments of shared fellowship throughout the gospels, we witness an intimate bond shared between Jesus and John. The depth of Jesus’ relationship with John is most clearly seen on the cross

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

Peter and John became leaders in the early Church, and later they went to Samaria to pray for believers to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). John continued to proclaim the message of salvation to all who would listen, guiding believers into a deeper relationship with the risen Christ.

The Gospel of John paints a portrait of Jesus Christ unlike any other. Rather than describing the events in the life of Christ, John’s focus is to emphasize the meaning of the events. John tells us the why behind the what of the other three Gospels, inviting readers into a deeper experience of God’s love and grace.

From a rugged fisherman with a quick temper to the person known as the Apostle of Love, the life of John exemplifies the transformative power of God’s love. May we be inspired by his example of faithfulness, devotion, and unwavering love, as we journey ever closer to the heart of God.

The Four Evangelists

Their words enrich us, and their lives provide an example for us to follow. Each surrendered their life in service to their Lord. Each followed a unique path as guided by the Holy Spirit. May their lives inspire us to fully commit ourselves to follow His leading in our service to Him.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/FotoDuets

Brad Simon has shared God’s Word for over forty-five years, with a unique blend of storytelling and Bible exposition. He is a retired Master Jeweler and relies on the God-given creativity that won him several national and international jewelry design awards to craft Biblical Narratives and Life Stories that are engaging and thought-provoking. Once a speaker, author, and publisher for the jewelry industry, now he is putting those skills to work to promote the beauty and appeal of God’s Word. Download a free copy of his devotional on prayer.