Bible Basics: Gospels and Acts

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Pentecost 18      24 September 2023     10:00 am
Presbyterians Sharing Sunday
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Glynnis McCrostie
Elder: Gina Kottke

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: Give thanks to the Lord for God is good.
P: We will call on God’s name and make known God’s wonderful works 
L: Seek the Lord continually.
P: We will watch and listen for signs of God’s grace.
L: Together let us worship God.
P: We will rejoice in God’s presence and praise God’s holy name.

Opening praise: Come, now is the time to worship

Prayers of approach and confession

God of all creation, you open the world around us and fill it with creatures of your love and purpose.

The wonder of each creature declares your praise –

the mountains state your majesty;

the ripened field, your generosity;

the oceans your power and the skies your grandeur.

Birds flying aloft sing of your freedom; the tiny ant works with your persistence.

And what do we declare about you in our lives?

We pray that our work will honour your justice and mercy; and our relationships speak of your love and compassion.

So may we praise you, O God, not just in this hour of worship, but in all our waking and our working.

May we live your praise and promise through Christ, our Living Lord.

God, you are the giver of all good gifts, yet our generosity is often limited.

We complain about our lot.

We compare ourselves to others and see what they have that we lack.

We share some of what we have, but we worry about running short.

Forgive us our worries about tomorrow and give us generous hearts that trust in you day by day. Amen.

Response: We come to ask our forgiveness, O God

Assurance of God’s love

The mercy of our God is from everlasting to everlasting. Believe the Good News! In Jesus Christ, God’s generous love reaches out to embrace us. In Christ, we are forgiven and set free to begin again. Thanks be to God!

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Response: Open our eyes, Lord (445)


I just have a little story. It’s from a long, long time ago. I don’t know if you know this, but when I was a kid, milk was $1.50. And now it’s what? – $7 or something like that, something crazy. Things used to be kind of cheap. It also used to be a tradition that people would go to these diners, at least where I’m from, and they would order Ice Cream Sundaes. And just Ice Cream Sundaes. Do you guys ever do that?

Not a big thing? No. Well, maybe we should start.

Well, in this story, there’s a little boy. He’s about 10 years old. And the diners are really busy and the waitresses are working hard and walking back and forth all day long.

The little boy sits down and he says: “How much is an Ice Cream Sundae?” As he’s picking through his change. (Do you have change?) And she says, it’s 50 cents. Like I said, it was a lot cheaper back then. So 50 cents for an Ice Cream Sundae.

And the little boy says, “Huh!”  He looks down at his change and picks through it  one more time.

The waitress is annoyed and says, “Just hurry up, please.” She brings him a cup of water and slaps it down and says, “Do you want a Sundae?”

He says, how much is just a plain vanilla ice cream. And that she says, “It’s 35 cents” as quickly as she can.

The little boy looks through his money. He says, “OK, I’ll take a plain vanilla ice cream.”

She says, “Fine” and she walks away, annoyed that the little boy is there. A few minutes later, she brings the ice cream.

The little boy eats it very quickly and then runs away. The waitress still a little annoyed and having a busy day walks over expecting to have to clean up a mess of sticky ice cream on the table – except what she finds is it’s perfectly neat.

And then she notices. 2 nickels and 5 pennies.

She was in a big rush and was trying to get the little boy to just order the food and go.

But the little boy was concerned about her tip. And he doesn’t get the Sundae because he wants to leave her some change.

In the book of First Corinthians it says sometimes God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chooses the weak in the world to teach the strong.

Whatever happens in life. Don’t be the person who is angry all the time. Try and be the person who is thinking ahead. – the person who leaves a couple of nickels and some pennies for the waitress.


Let’s take a moment and let’s pray. O God, you give us so much. Help us to use what we have for the betterment of the world. Help us to treat others with kindness, to not be in too big a rush and to think ahead about other people.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: When we are living (630)

Today’s Message

Scripture reading: Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:6; Luke 1 3-4; John 3:16-17

Response: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet

Message: Bible Basics: Gospels and Acts

See endnotes for additional information.

The four Gospels and the Book of Acts record the origins of the Church’s early history; beginning with the ministry of Jesus and then continuing with the ministry of his disciples. Of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are noticeably similar, covering many of the same events, using broadly similar language, sometimes quotations and narrating the history in a similar order. [i] On the whole, Matthew, Mark and Luke see things with the same eyes but focus on telling the story to different audiences and with different foci. Most experts agree that Mark was the earliest of the Gospels written and that, as a result, Luke and Matthew used Mark as a main ingredient in their telling of the events as they received them.

In contrast, the Gospel of John is hugely different. It was written much later and focuses on just a few events in the life of Jesus, preferring instead to look at Jesus spiritually as being “One with the Father.” And so, In John, we get far fewer speeches and quotations from Jesus and more of John’s explanation about what these events truly mean for us today.

These are the “gospels” or “good news” to the world as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

So, what is Acts? Well, the book of Acts is just the second part of Luke’s Gospel. Luke is a historian and early physician, and he created a two-part book. Part one (we call it “Luke” after the attributed author) is about the Acts of Jesus. And part two (we call Acts) is about the Acts of the Apostles.

Because Luke-Acts is a two-part and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have so much in common, we will look at things in a slightly different order than they are presented. I will talk about Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts, and then John. But let us start at the beginning – with John Mark.

Mark gives a short, action-movie-like account of the life of Jesus. The narrator moves from place to place quickly. While it is the most concise book of the Gospel accounts, it has the most stories and sayings usually facilitated by one word Mark often uses: “Immediately.” Everything in Mark happens “Immediately“. Because of this, his book is not in chronological order as modern readers might expect. Instead, he lumps similar things together into categories or themes. So, he presents a grouping of teachings about money in one place and then offers a chunk of events next It intends to focus on the major themes of Jesus’ teaching.

Of the 250 stories from the gospels which have been determined to be in some way unique, at least 89 of them appear to have been taken from Mark and used by the other authors later. John Mark, lived in Jerusalem with his mother, Mary. We know from history that his home was the first meeting place for Christians and is the location of the Last Supper. But John Mark is not one of the twelve. Mark is a student of the Apostle Peter. He is recording Peter’s Gospel. The Gospel, according to St. Mark, is the Apostle Peter’s Gospel, shared with us by Mark. In this book, Jesus tells parables but has no sermons. Later, Mark will become an influential leader, following Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey.

Probably written around 50AD, Mark includes nothing about Jesus’s birth… or his early life… nor any details about his age or length of ministry. He records Peter’s account of Jesus’ death. And he places a lot of emphasis on the place of prophecy in Isaiah 53 regarding the crucifixion.

Mark’s Gospel begins not with Jesus himself. But with John the Baptist, who is presented as a forerunner and a character like Elijah (both of which were said by the prophets to come before the Messiah, making straight the path). Mark’s theme is simple: Jesus is the Son of God. And this is recognized not only by Jesus’ followers in Mark but also by the stories of non-Jews which Peter has (probably reluctantly) shared with Mark. Take, for example, the Roman centurion and the repentant man next to Jesus on the cross. What might it mean for Peter to tell this story to Mark? In it he says that while Jesus was being mocked and tortured, the people who were supposed to hate him, were the only people who understood what he was doing?

Mark was writing for a Greek and Roman audience. He makes a point of telling people that they aren’t alone in seeing something special about this Jewish Savior despite being a part of a conquered people. Mark was meticulous in explaining the Jewish customs for us and translates Aramaic words and phrases into a more accessible language.

Also and rather important is this: The book of Mark has no original resurrection account. That deserves repeating. In the original form, Mark recounts Jesus’ life and death but says nothing of his rising from the dead. But my contention is simple: that is by design. No early versions of Mark yet discovered include a resurrection account. Does that mean Mark did not know them or did not believe them? No!!!

Mark leaves it out for a reason. His audience already knows the story. Mark and Peter, ask a question. Together, they have been preaching the “gospel” all over the known world. And now, it is written down. But the story they know is missing. They are just getting the background. And that is the point!!! [ii]

He is asking a question of them.

The book is written with the big invisible question mark at the end. The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel spends quite a lot of time telling his followers to keep the “messianic secret” and not tell the world about him until he has completed his mission. By the time people had received Mark’s Gospel, the people had already heard the story. It was well known. A man working miracles who is said to be raised from the dead with thousands of witnesses, some still alive, makes for an exciting read. When Mark leaves off the end, intentionally, he gives people what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.” Mark is saying you already know what the witnesses say happened next. I am giving Peter’s account, right? A witness!!! The only question now is this: Do you believe it?

Matthew is one of the 12. He’s Matisyahu or Levi, who was a tax collector and, in many ways, an outsider to the other disciples. He was seen as a traitor who worked for the occupying army of Rome in taxing his people. But he is Hebrew, and he speaks to others like him. Matthew is writing a commentary on Jesus more than a history. He is making a pronouncement and trying to prove to his fellow Hebrews that Jesus is the one, the Messiah, the chosen, and a New Adam.

Matthew is easily the most Jewish of the Gospels. While Mark was writing to the Greeks, Matthew was preaching specifically to Jews about a prophesied Savior of the Jews. Matthew believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah spoken of in the books of the prophets. And this book is his argument as to why Matthew believes this. Because of this, Matthew is highly concerned with the fulfillment of the prophecy. And it is fair to say that he sees proof everywhere in Scripture. He emphasizes Jesus’s family and links with David as the Messiah was said to hold.

Matthew looks at the fulfillment of specific prophecies in the prophets and deeds. Matthew believes the Jewish faith finds its purest expression of God in Jesus, who can be seen and followed. In short, the Messiah is the Word of God come alive. As a result, Matthews’s portrayal of Jesus often reflects the idea that he is King to be worshipped. Suppose you hear a scripture reading about Jesus and people, come bearing gifts, put a crown on his head, gather to listen to his teaching, call him lord, or see him bowed down to, or giving commands. In that case, it is a quote from Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew’s Gospel reflects his Jewish heritage. In his Gospel, Matthew gives the male lineage of Jesus. An angel appears to Joseph. There are visitors from the east who bow down to baby Jesus and call him King. The family must escape the murder of the first-born sons (like Moses), escape to and from Egypt (like Moses), wander in the desert for 40 days (like Moses’ 40 years) gives his message from a Mountain and much more. Matthew focuses on complete sermons and gives us the five messages (5 books of Moses) of the “Sermon on the Mount” from the “Son of David.” The Jesus of Matthew is baptized by a Jewish teacher, dedicated in the temple, preaches in the Hebrew region of Galilee and he calls Jewish fishermen to follow him as their Rabbi. [iii]

Matthew saw the prophecy fulfilled by: Jesus being born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, by his triumphal entry to Jerusalem, by his rejection, condemnation, silence before accusers, attacks and being spat upon, by being betrayed by his own, tried and condemned without sin, mocked and insulted, hung on a tree to die, by his suffering with criminals, by him being given vinegar and gall, by how he loses his clothes by casting lots, is hung on a tree, has no bones broken at death, participates willingly as a sacrifice and finally, by how he is raised from the dead.

Next is Luke. Luke is an educated man, a physician, and a historian. He also appears to have taken great care to interview many people before writing his Gospel. His Gospel is also the most prominent because it has two parts. The author’s name does not appear in the book. It was probably written around 70 to 80 AD. Luke’s point is to proclaim the good news specifically to the oppressed and the poor, to the woman and the foreigner. Luke is obsessed with pointing out how Jesus interacts with non-Jews and deals with social constraints. He (a doctor) is also the one who talks primarily about works of healing.

Luke aims to write a proper history of what happened. He declares this at the very outset of his book, saying he has “set out to create an orderly account”. Luke’s Gospel is full of tax collectors, prostitutes, people with leprosy and thieves. News of Jesus’s birth comes first to poor working shepherds in the fields and other humble people. Significantly, Luke’s Gospel shows respect for women in highly unusual ways. Luke is without question a first-century feminist of sorts, and so is Jesus in his Gospel. Luke’s Gospel begins with two mothers celebrating pregnancy. Much of this is exclusive to Luke’s account.

The heroes of this book, along with the Messiah, include Gentiles, a Samaritan rescuer, a persistent mother and more. Luke also contains poems and songs written by women. Luke has Elizabeth’s song and the Magnificat of Mary. In Luke Jesus speaks of the blind who see, lame who walk, and (political and religious) prisoners who are to be set free.

In Mark, Jesus is the Servant of God and brings a message to the Gentiles. In Luke, he calls Jesus the “Son of Man”, God but human. He focuses on Jesus’ humanity as “Emmanuel” or God with us. Unlike Matthew, who wrote to Jews and recorded Jesus’ lineage, Luke gives Mary’s lineage instead. The angel in Luke appears not to Joseph but to Mary. John is imprisoned, Harod Kills John and Jesus raises to life a widow’s son. Women gather at the grave, are the first to hear of the resurrection and pay the bills and provide the homes the disciples meet in.

In Luke, Jesus sends out 72 messengers he calls “disciples” and not just 12. He tells us about the “Good” Samaritan (a foreigner), the healing of a crippled woman, Mary and Martha’s day-to-day life, he teaches us one version of the Lord’s Prayer, speaks of light within, criticizes specific religious leaders, speaks against hypocrisy and false accusations, shares the parable of the rich fool, tells his followers not to waste life away with worry and recalls the woman at the well and more. He notes a call to repentance, teaches what “the kingdom of God is like,” over and over again and cries physical tears over Jerusalem. In Luke, Jesus goes to a funeral, teaches about the Lost Sheep, Coin and Son, upturns the honour and shame society and describes a great feast in heaven where all God’s children might share in His blessings.

After the resurrection and the beginning of the Church’s early life, it was a time of great conflict. There is conflict between Jewish and Roman authorities, conflict within Christianity, and conflict within the Jewish community of which the Christians were also a part. In the late first century, there were two general camps of Judaism worshiping together in the synagogues: Jews and Jews who believed in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. There is a conflict between the Messianic-believing Jews and the non-Messianic-believing Jews. In case it is lost on you – we are the messianic-believing Jews. And this is the great sadness of antisemitism from Christianity – it is just a self-hating ideology which completely misunderstands who Jesus is.

In Acts, the book’s primary power comes from the giving of the Holy Spirit. At the end of Luke (part one), Jesus promised to never leave and that His Spirit would come upon all his people. From Acts, we learn about how the Holy Spirit fills and empowers the people. Here, we find out about a man named Saul who is killing Christians. We understand that Saul becomes Paul. We find Paul’s missionary journeys and where he came from. And finally, we see how the apostles travelled to “all the ends of the earth” (meaning, at that time – Spain) and preached the Gospel. And lastly, we move to John.

John, the Apostle and close friend of Jesus is said to have authored the book of John to proclaim that Jesus is God and that faith in him saves all who believe. In John, Jesus is the Son of God, meant for all people. He is not only human but Divine in every way. His only decree is that you “believe” and then behave as a believer naturally would. The focus is on Jesus’ teaching and the meaning of Jesus in a cosmic sensein seeing Christ as the crux of all human history and all future.

In John, God becomes flesh, calls disciples, turns water into wine to demonstrate who he is, turns over the tables at the temple because people it is literally His Father’s house. He heals the blind, teaches to the Jews, confronts his people, and claims to be eternal. He heals Hebrews at the pool of Shiloh, and Gentiles in their towns, claims divinity, sees his followers reject him, heals on his journey, and suggests that everything is spiritual. John also presents Jesus’ bold “I AM” statements. At the time, these were seen as blasphemy because Jesus claimed the name of God given to Moses which no person was supposed to speak. Metaphorically, Jesus says 7 times, “I AM the bread of Life,” “I AM the light of the world,” “I AM the door of the sheep,” “I AM the resurrection and the life,” “I AM the good shepherd,” “I AM the way, the truth and the life,” “I AM the true vine.”

John is vastly different from all the other gospels and has the least in common. It tells “history” but does so as it views history cosmologically. So, for example, many people will say John’s Gospel has no birth narrative for Jesus. But this needs to be more accurate. It is different, for sure. John’s birth narrative is about meaning rather than events. So, where Matthew and Luke talk about the birth of the Christ child and him being laid in a manger and about visiting worshippers, John tells the story of creation. To John’s Greek audience, he announces Jesus’ birth by introducing Jesus as the God of creation and as the Greek idea of “message” or “thought,” “meaning,” “purpose,” “speech,” and narrowly defined as “the Word” (a title used for Jesus 330 times in the NT). John writes, “In the beginning (Like in Genesis) was the Word (logos).

Next, John says that this “Word was God” and took part in creation and that everything is made through Him. He says that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God. And in Him, all things were created. And nothing that is created was created without Him.” In other words, John does not see Jesus so much as being “born” as he was “relocated.” For John, Jesus is a part of everything from beginning to end. For this this is why people are “saved by no other name,” and why John 3:16 is so pivotal to John’s view.

John was written withe imagery, and the style of the book is like none of the other Gospels. Furthermore, where John agrees with the synoptic gospels and lays out the same material, he always holds a different perspective. In John, Jesus never speaks a single parable. Instead in John, Jesus gives a series of speeches. The book uses complex language and imagery at times. The author also gives comments and explanations or interpolative notes. In John, Jesus also makes some divine statements, using the Holy name for God about himself. He has “I am the true vine”, “I am the door of the sheep”, “I am the way, truth, and the life,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the Good Shepherd,” “I am the light of the world” and “I am the bread of life.”

Mark asks – Do you believe what the witnesses said happened next?

Matthew shows us a new Adam and a new Moses who fulfilled the law and the prophets and came to save.

Luke and Acts reveal Jesus’ humanity and care for all as well as a challenge to us his followers to do the same.

And John reveals the Divinity and majesty of the one we worship; explaining what Jesus means today – Savior of the world.


Song: For God so loved the world

We respond to serve God

Specifically, In 2022 the PCC • hosted over 300 websites • posted 50+ leadership webinars on • helped 135+ congregations invest in the consolidated portfolio • facilitated over $1.2 million gifts of securities to 100+ congregations.

Presbyterians Sharing is how we support each other’s congregations and new initiatives in the denomination. Most of this is intended to be used as funds within Canada and missions here locally including our new area ministry which is currently serving four Alberta congregations.

This Sunday The Presbyterian Church in Canada celebrates the ministry and mission we accomplish together through Presbyterians Sharing. Your gifts to our shared work in Jesus’ name accomplish amazing things across Canada and in different parts of God’s world. So give with generous hearts.

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

Generous God, you are the source of all good things, of life itself and all that sustains it. Bless the gifts we offer and the gifts of fellow Presbyterians this day. By your Spirit, multiply their impact to support your purposes in the world you love in the name of Christ, our Saviour and Friend. Amen.

God of mystery and wonder, we look around at the beauty of the world and sense that you have given each precious thing its place and a way of sustaining itself.

Thank you for your attention to the details of creation.

Yet we also see an aching world and sense that many precious things are under threat.

Bless the work of faithful people everywhere to care for the climate and environment.

Show us how we can protect what is at risk for the health of your whole creation.

God our Maker, make us a sharing people.

God of energy and life, we look around at the peoples of this world and see your imagination and dignity in every variety of face and culture.

Thank you for the gifts you plant at the heart of humanity.

Yet we also see the aching of the hungry and hurting, and hear the groans of parents whose children die in their arms and the cries of children who fear tomorrow.

Bless the ministries of our church across our country and around the world that bring healing and hope to lives at risk.

God our Maker, make us a sharing people.

God of promise and possibility, we look around at the places where people collide with each other and hear the grumbling of nations locked into old rivalries and new grievances.

We watch the jousting of leaders impressed more by polls than effective policies.

We worry about the future of our communities and our children.

Thank you for the ministries of advocacy our Church undertakes and the witness for justice and peace we make together in Jesus’ name.

God our Maker, make us a sharing people.

God of faithfulness and surprise, we look at ourselves and sometimes doubt we can make a difference or have an impact.

Challenge us to recognise the kinds of power we do have:

The love and compassion,

The courage and commitment,

The laughter and friendship,

The generosity and mercy.

In all of these gifts we know your power at work within us and among us.

Call us to keep serving together, trusting you can do more than we can ask or imagine through our denomination, our congregation, and our own lives, blessed by the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Song: May the God of hope (726)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Go, remembering God’s generosity to us in Christ and in creation. Be generous in kind and in kindness to all who reach out to you. May the power of the Spirit strengthen you, and the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge fill you with the fullness of God this day and evermore.

Response: Go forth into the world

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

[i] This has led Matthew, Mark, and Luke to be dubbed Synoptic Gospels, or “together seeing gospels,” due to their overlap about this “Good News.”

[ii] Later, during the Dark Ages (while the Roman Catholic Church provided no way for ordinary people to read the Bible independently), some people became nervous about this question and added an ending. They still need to add another later one. None have been considered original at any point except by King James. BUT NO ancient manuscript includes this ending. Not ONE. It is not authentic. The only other place where this is true is the story of Jesus saying to the adulterous woman (let ye who has no sin cast the first stone). Those two stories in the entire NT were never intended to be in our Bible.

The Ending of Mark. More endings. It is not Original and was invented in the early Middle Ages. It was a well-known story when only catholic priests could read the scriptures. King James loved the story. His translators would not include it. He demanded it. They would only do it with an ancient copy of the report. Lo and behold – one appeared. It has been in the Bible only since, but also ever since – in the KJV. Know this: every translator has included a note to kindly suggest it is unoriginal to the text. There are only two stories like this in the entire New Testament.

[iii] Matthew is where we find Jesus, talking about Salt and Light, the Law, anger, lust, divorce, retaliation, loving enemies, giving to the needy, lessons on prayer and fasting, worry, money and “knock and the door will be open unto you.” It’s also where we find the parables of yeast, weeds, hidden treasure, pearl of price, fishing nets, ten virgins, loaned money, and the Day of Judgment.

Posted in Recent Sermons.