Ezekiel 1 gives us a picture of Jesus. The end of the chapter says, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”
An interesting facet of the appearance of the Lord are the four living creatures that each had four faces. Ezekiel 1:10 says, “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.” It was above the heads of these creatures that there was a likeness of a throne where there sat one with a human appearance. The appearance of this one like a human is similar to the appearance of Jesus described by John in Revelation.
So, four living creatures seem to carry the throne on which Jesus sits. In a way, they present Jesus. What do the four faces – a man, lion, ox, and eagle – represent? I think the four faces or sides to Christ presented in the gospels.
Four is the universal number in the Bible. It’s the number that represents the totality of something. Think of the four corners of the earth or the four kingdoms of man described by Daniel. The four gospels represented by the four creatures and four faces give us a universal, complete, or total picture of Jesus.
Each living creature had four faces – one of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. The gospel of Luke is a picture of Jesus as the son of man. Just one indication of this is the genealogy of Jesus given in Luke 3, which goes all the way from his father Joseph back to Adam (and God). Indeed, Jesus was the son of the man, the first man, Adam. The differences in Luke from the other gospels highlight Jesus as a man.
The gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as a lion, the king of Judah. Matthew’s genealogy only goes from Abraham to Jesus. At the center of the genealogy is David, king of Israel. Matthew presents Jesus as the new King David that Israel had been waiting for. In Matthew, Jesus gives long speeches that are like declarations of a king. One of these speeches is the sermon on the mount, which is Jesus as king giving his “law”, recapitulating the story at Mt. Sinai and God giving the law through Moses.
The gospel of Mark presents Jesus as an ox. The ox was the creature that served. It was used by man to plow. The ox is presented this way all throughout scripture. Notice that in Mark there is no genealogy of Jesus. Does anybody care what the genealogy of a servant is? Rather, the gospel begins with the start of Jesus’ ministry as God’s servant. Also, Mark says everything happened “immediately.” Jesus as the servant is always busy and his work never ends.
Finally, the gospel of John presents Jesus as the eagle. Did you ever notice that John has a genealogy? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” As the son of God, Jesus is the one that soars through the heavens but comes down from heaven to the earth.
Read each of the gospels with the thought of these four faces of Jesus and you will pick up on many little details that would otherwise be missed.
Revelation 4:7 says, “the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.” Did you notice the order given by John to the creatures in Revelation? The lion then the ox then the man then the eagle. That’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The order of the gospels.
The Bible wasn’t even put together when John wrote Revelation. There are so many little things like this in the Bible that it becomes obvious that it is divinely inspired…for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see.