Why don’t the stories of Jesus match?

It happened on my first day of seminary.

I was 21, younger than everyone else working toward a Master of Divinity. Moreover, my college major wasn’t Bible, so I was unprepared.

I remember the bell ringing, dismissing my first class. The New Testament professor had just said that Mark hadn’t written the ending of the Gospel of Mark. I was MOR-TI-FIED.

My classmates got up and left like nothing had happened, but I stared at the page.

“God, am I supposed to mark out this page?”

The Lord answered within minutes. I am not kidding —here are the first words of my next class:

“It doesn’t matter who wrote the Bible,” Dr. Clyde Francisco boomed across his large classroom. “These are God’s words. Scripture is exactly as God intended it to be!”

He made me so happy.

And let me tell you something more. When Scripture appears to disagree, God has a reason. Consider these three stories.

First, Palm Sunday.

Matthew says Jesus asked for a donkey and a colt. But the other Gospel writers say there was just the colt.

Was that a minor discrepancy? No.

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 two stories that also don’t match.

Stay with me. I promise you, 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 asks his name and the man says, “… Legion, for we are many.”

Then Jesus heals him. Mark 5:1-7, Luke 8:26-39

Matthew tells the story differently. There’s no mention of Legion, and there are two demoniacs.

“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 …’”

Then Jesus heals them. Matthew 8:28-34

Now look at the story of Bartimaeus, 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’ Gospel says there were two blind men.

“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 what Matthew is doing? Why are there two donkeys, two demoniacs, two blind men?

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 their names or making his report memorable. Matthew counts.

But Mark, by focusing on just one man, brings the story to life. We remember Legion. We remember Bartimaeus.

Neither Gospel writer is wrong — but don’t these three stories give us an answer? Because Matthew counts, we know Jesus asked for the donkey and the colt.

But it’s the other writers who tell us more: That Jesus rode the colt, which had never been ridden before.

All of those details are needed to show that Jesus fulfills a hidden prophecy in Genesis.

Learn about it here under the “Digging Deeper” tab.

Tonight, give thanks for Scripture. Read a passage from the Bible with your family.

Always remember that when stories don’t match, God has a reason. The Bible is exactly as He meant for it to be.

The Rev. Mathews is a nationally-published faith columnist. Contact her at [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.



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