Why don’t the stories of Jesus agree?
It happened on the first day of seminary.
I was 21, younger than everyone else. Moreover, my college major wasn’t in Bible so I was woefully unprepared.
I remember sitting in stunned silence as the bell rang, dismissing my first class. The New Testament professor had just said that Mark hadn’t written the ending of his Gospel. Then everyone got up and left.
I stared at the page — Mor-Ti-Fied. Was I supposed to put a red X over those words?
Nearly late for my next class, I remember taking my seat. Immediately, I heard these words.
“It doesn’t matter who wrote the Bible,” Dr. Clyde Francisco boomed across that large room. “These are God’s words. Scripture is exactly as God intended it to be!”
See how simple it is.
And let me tell you something more. When Scripture appears to disagree, God has a reason.
Consider three completely unrelated, unmatching, and problematic stories — or are they?
First, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, what we call Palm Sunday.
Matthew says Jesus asked for a donkey and a very specific colt. But the other Gospel writers say there was just one donkey.
Some explain this away, “It’s just a minor discrepancy and doesn’t matter.”
Whether it was one donkey or a donkey and its colt is extremely important to prophecy. Moreover, God gives us the answer; it’s in the other two stories that also don’t match.
Stay with me. I promise, this is really good.
Legion is one of the most memorable of Bible characters. Remember how he runs naked through the tombs, having lost his mind?
“They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes. When (Jesus) got out of the boat, immediately a man… with an unclean spirit met Him. He lived among the tombs, and no one was able to bind him, even with a chain… Constantly, night and day, he was screaming… and cutting himself with stones… Shouting with a loud voice he said, ‘Son of the Most High God… do not torment me…’”
Jesus then asks his name and the man says, “Legion, for we are many.”
And Jesus heals him. Mark 5:1-7, Luke 8:26-39
Now look at how Matthew tells the story.
“And when (Jesus) came to… the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men confronted Him as they were coming out of the tombs … saying, ‘Son of God … have you come here to torment us…’”
And Jesus heals them. Matthew 8:28-34
The story of Bartimaeus is also told in two different ways.
“As (Jesus) was leaving Jericho… a beggar who was blind, named Bartimaeus,… was sitting by the road… (He) began to cry out, ‘Jesus… have mercy on me!’ Many were sternly telling him to be quiet...”
Jesus calls for the man and heals him. Mark 10:46-52
But Matthew says, “As they were leaving Jericho… two blind men sitting by the road… cried out, ‘Lord have mercy on us…’ (And) the crowd sternly told them to be quiet… (but) Jesus touched their eyes, and immediately they regained their sight …” Matthew 20:29-34
Do you see the pattern?
Two donkeys. Two demoniacs. Two blind men.
So what’s happening?
I’ll give you a hint: How did Matthew make his living?
Matthew was the accountant, the tax collector. He paid attention to numbers. If there were two, Matthew reports two. He doesn’t care about making his report memorable. Matthew counts.
But Mark, by focusing on just one man, brings the story to life. You remember Legion, you remember Bartimaeus.
Neither Gospel writer is wrong - but don’t these three stories give us an answer: Matthew counts. Over and over again, Matthew carefully counts.
There appear to be two blind men, two demoniacs, two donkeys. And those animals fulfill a hidden prophecy in Genesis. Learn about it at 247Xn.com.
This Thanksgiving, gather around the table, read a passage of Scripture, and give thanks for the word of God. Always remember what I learned my first day of seminary: The Bible is exactly as God meant for it to be.
The Rev. Mathews is a nationally-published faith columnist. You may reach her at Letters@RAMathews.com. Read more about the intriguing Palm Sunday prophecy of the never-ridden colt at 247Xn.com. Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.