Mary Magdalene

John the Apostle


Three Gospels

The New Testament starts with the three Gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three are known as the Synoptic Gospels. Gospel means “Good News”, and Synoptic refers to the fact that all three give an account of the same general events from the same point of view. The fourth book, John, is distinctly different from the three Synoptic Gospels, and includes much information not in the other three Gospels.

The four gospel books differ in what stories they include and how the stories are told. None of the four Gospels are meant to be a complete, detailed life of Jesus. Rather, as John wrote, “Jesus truly did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that by believing you might have life through his name.” “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should all be written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”

Together, the four Gospels comprise the vast majority of the direct information we have about the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Last Day

All four Gospels record events from the last week of Jesus’ life. Reading about this time period in a parallel Gospel account is very helpful, mindful that each writer has his own information sources and goals, and the Holy Spirit inspired them. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses of this time period, while Mark got his information from other sources, with Peter probably being his primary resource.

During his last week, Jesus generally entered Jerusalem in the morning, taught the people and jousted with the authorities during the day, and then retired from Jerusalem in the evening to the Mount of Olives.

Although the order of events is not perfectly clear, it is likely that Jesus’ last week begins with his triumphal entry, an event recorded in all four Gospels. Possibly the next events are the cursing of the fig tree, and the cleansing of the Temple when Jesus challenged the moneychangers.

Another well-recorded event is known among scholars as the Olivet Discourse, when Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives and gave a long discourse about the future events, especially the future of Jerusalem. Matthew 24-25 is the most detailed of the recordings. Jesus tells at least five parables, and ends with the well-known story of the separation of the sheep and goats when the Son of Man comes.

All four Gospels portray the Last Supper, but John 13-17 provides the most details of the evening. At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus leads the apostles to Garden of Gethsemane, located on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Jesus prays in the garden and prepares his apostles for the end, then Judas and a contingent of up to two hundred men arrive to arrest Jesus and take him back to Jerusalem for trial.

Although the order is not absolutely certain, events probably transpired as follows: the trial before Annas, the trial before Caiaphas while Peter denies Jesus in the courtyard, the trial before the Sanhedrin, the first trial before Pilate, the trial before Herod Antipas, the second trial before Pilate, the approximately six hours of crucifixion, and the burial of Jesus.

Joseph of Arimathea
Primary Scriptures:
Matthew 21-27, Mark 11-15, John 18-19
Story Summary:
The last week of the life of Jesus
Kingdom of Judea (Israel)
Circa 30 AD