You open up your New Testament, and you encounter Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—four different gospel accounts to tell us basically the same things: Jesus’ life, His ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection. Why do we have four different accounts of all of this? Why not just one? Good question! This lesson will not give us the entire reason, but here is one benefit to having four different accounts of the same things. And in the end, we will briefly see how it helps us create a case for the historical Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament to our skeptical friends.
So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”Luke 23:4
Pilate is Caesar’s governor of Judea. It’s his job to keep the peace, bring swift justice, and honor the emperor. Here, he has an accused criminal (Jesus) in his interrogation room. After speaking with Jesus for a while, Pilate declares he finds no fault with Him. Therefore, He’s innocent. Right?
Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”Luke 23:1–2
This is a serious accusation. If Jesus of Nazareth truly was claiming to be king in Caesar’s kingdom, that’s treason. That’s worthy of death. But we know Pilate found no fault with Jesus, so Jesus must have denied this accusation. Right?
Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”Luke 23:3
Wait a minute. Jesus admits to claiming to be king? Did Jesus just say to the emperor’s governor that He is king, and yet the governor also said, “I find no fault in this man”? Pilate, what are you thinking? That’s grounds for execution!
John 18 gives us a fuller picture—another piece of the puzzle, if you will.
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”John 18:33–38
Ah! Jesus was not a threat to Rome after all! There was no risk of insurrection from His disciples, for His kingdom is not of this world. Pilate may not have fully understood what Jesus meant, but he knew claiming to have an other-realm kingdom was no threat to Caesar.
Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Unfortunately, he didn’t take the time to hear the answer. You and I, however, will, won’t we? We’ve got four gospel accounts and the rest of the inspired Scriptures to lead us to truth. Aren’t you thankful? Not only does this help us see a benefit to having four gospel accounts, but it also helps us make a case for the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament. If four witnesses in the court of law testified using the exact same words, it would seem suspicious at least. However, if they tell the same account from different perspectives, you should be able to uncover different details in each account that paint a fuller picture. If all are telling the truth, the additional information should be corroborative, not contradictory. So it is with the gospel accounts. Sometimes, a question is raised in one, and it is answered in another.
In the next lesson, we look at three gospel accounts to put together two puzzles.