The first four books of the NT (the Gospels) pass down the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. These four books all draw from the same material (the Life of Jesus), and so there are several questions that we must ask as we seek to understand specific passages in the Gospels.
Why did the author say what he said?
We must remember that each gospel writer had to pick and choose what accounts he wanted to include in his gospel, and what he did not want to include. The question that we must ask as we approach specific passages is “why did the author choose this account?” Specifically we must attempt to understand how our specific passage fits within the entire Gospel. For instance, if the Gospel writer has told us why he wrote his gospel then we must attempt to determine how our passage fits into the author’s purpose.
Why did the author say what he said how he said it?
This is particularly important when we come to accounts that occur in multiple Gospels. Obviously different men are going to present the same account from different perspectives, but why? Here we need to determine if our passage is different in any way from other parallel passages, and if so then why? Why did the author of our passages present this account they way that he did?
Why did the author say what he said when he said it?
Here we need to determine if there is any significance to a passages inclusion in a Gospel at a specific point. Not only did the gospel authors present the same accounts from different perspectives, but they also include the same account in different places within their gospel. Here we need to determine if our passage is in a different context than the other presentations of this same account, and if so then why? In other words, why did the author choose to include this account right here?
The key in all three of these steps is to be observant, and ask good question as you read through the Gospels.