Each of the four Gospels differs in its record of the birth and ascension of the Lord Jesus.
Matthew records the birth, but not the ascension;
Mark records the ascension, but not the birth;
Luke records both the birth and the ascension;
John records neither the birth nor the ascension.
We will look at some of the reasons for these differences.
Matthew, appealing particularly to Jews, sets out to prove that Jesus is Son of David, that promised Messiah. He shows at the outset that He is truly of the kingly line, and thus the genealogy is given, ch. 1. Traced through the line of the kings the genealogy begins no earlier than with Abraham the father of the Jewish nation. And to show why this One in particular can be identified as the anticipated Seed of David, Matthew brings out all the detail of the virgin birth and cities the promise given to the house of David in Isaiah 7. 14, ‘behold the virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel,’. Matt. 1. 23. Other Old Testament citations are given throughout Matthew to add to the proof of Messiah’s identity.
Israel on the whole, having rejected their Messiah-King, entirely overlooked the Lord’s coming, now still wait for Him. But to the faithful remnant of that nation who did recognize Him, He is indeed Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ and so Matthew does not show the Lord ascending into heaven but as telling His disciples, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age,’ Matt. 28. 20.
Mark, in showing us the Servant gives no genealogy or birth details, for these are unimportant for a servant. Rather, we are introduced to the Lord as a man ready to embark on a sphere of public service as an ox made ready for the plough.
He does, however, show us His ascension. All God’s interests in the world having been potentially recovered, He returns to present a completed work to His Master. His ceaseless activity as recorded in the Gospel culminates in His sitting down on the right hand of God. Much increase is by the strength of the ox, Prov. 14. 4, He has left the wilderness, and the wild beasts and Satan, but He gives signs which point to a millennial king-dom, where animals will not be harmful, where there will be no sickness and from which Satan will have been cast out. How essential are these last verses of Mark’s gospel to show the outcome of the Servant’s labours!
Luke introduces the last Adam, the second Man. Hence the genealogy as given is traced back to Adam, showing the Lord to be truly man. As in Matthew’s Gospel the virgin birth is recorded, so it is here, but here to show that the Lord is indeed the Seed of the woman, Gen. 3. 15, and a unique Man.
Not only does Luke show the Lord as Man, but also as being of priestly character. (The epistle to the Hebrews shows the necessity of manhood to our Great High Priest). There is a Man in the glory, and we shall follow Him there before long. He ascends into heaven with His hands upraised, pronouncing a blessing on His disciples. We clearly see in that last view of Him the character of His work on our behalf now as our Great High Priest; ‘we have a great high priest, that is entered into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God’, Heb. 4. 14; ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec’, Heb. 6. 20; ‘Having therefore, brethren boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near’, Heb. 10. 19-22.
John, presenting the Son of God in all His personal, intrinsic glory, says nothing about the Lord’s birth, as Melchisedec foreshadowed Him for He is ‘without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life’ Heb. 7. 3. These words were spoken of Melchisedec, but in order that he should be shown to represent the eternal Son of God.
Nor is anything told us in This gospel of the ascension, since the Son is ever in the bosom of the Father, John 1. 18.