Vos: "The Gospel is to (the Evangelists) neither more nor less than a Gospel of the passion and death of Jesus."
"But, while from the point of view of biography a brief statement of the fact and its circumstances would have been sufficient, what we are actually offered is a passion-epos stretched to the utmost limit of what the subject matter will bear, the length and fulness of which render the Gospels, considered merely as pieces of literature, ill-shapen through the disproportion of their parts. Apart from the question as to whether such an arrangement of the material faithfully reproduces the perspective of Jesus in regard to His own task, there can be no doubt concerning the conviction of the Evangelists on this point. They stood near to the events, and they have given them this unique interpretation. The Gospel is to them neither more nor less than a Gospel of the passion and death of Jesus.
"And we may be sure that there is expressed in this not an abstract colorless acceptance of the overwhelming facts as mere facts, undetermined as yet by any philosophy of their significance. It is a theological understanding as much as a true regard to historical happening that has inspired and penned these closing accounts of our Lord’s life.
"The modern formula: 'an atonement without a theory of atonement,' besides being self-contradictory, since the very term atonement” is already the product of theory, certainly stands far removed from the way of thinking of these earliest witnesses to the fact. The frequent representation met with today, as though a mere rehearsal of the bloody scene, a mere holding up of the martyred figure of the Saviour, could have had the tremendous effects caused by the Gospel of the Cross, savors far more of modern sentimentality than it does of a sound historic knowledge of the mentality of those to whom the evangel of the cross was first presented. Some theory must be put behind and into it, if its religious efficacy is to be made at all understandable. True history, worthy of the name, does not live without philosophy. Nor does Sacred History live without a fundamental theology incarnate in it.
"But this is not only true of the early interpreters of the fact; after the fact had become a matter of the past; it is equally applicable to Jesus Himself, while as yet the fact lay before Him in the future. He certainly cannot for any length of time have regarded it as a blind on-coming fate. To assume this, or merely to think it possible, would endanger our conviction of the transparency of His religious mind. The fact itself would remain intolerable, until some theological construction rendered it otherwise. At this point theology and apologetic necessarily run into one, as the first sermons on the death and resurrection of Jesus, recorded in Acts, clearly illustrate.
"And what is thus psychologically certain a priori receives ample support from the record. It appears that the main illumination brought by Jesus to bear on the mystery of His death issued from the consciousness of His Messiahship. The fact was too tremendous and strange a fact, and the Messiahship was too comprehensive and centralizing a life-category, for the two to have been kept from entering upon the closest of unions. Whoever acknowledges the historicity of the Messianic consciousness is thereby ipso facto precluded from placing the prospect of death in Jesus’ mind in any other than a Messianic perspective. And a death Messianically viewed cannot but acquire the character of absolute necessity with reference to the fulfilment of the Messianic program. A thought scheme that would render it barely tolerable, or let itself become reconciled to it alter some peripheral fashion, would be next to worthless for a mind like that of Jesus. To Him the Messianic interpretation of His death was from the outset the only one that could possibly be entertained." -- Geerhardus Vos, "The Self-Disclosure of Jesus", pp. 273-274