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Easter Friday was a powerful, explosive, difficult, terrible day.  As I tried to build a message around it, I wrestled with the heaviness of it all and found myself wishing it was happier or easier to read.  I got up early one morning to work on it, but instead of going back to my notes, I just sunk into the story.  I read it in every gospel and many translations and here’s what I decided: the story is dark and beautiful and I won’t make any apologies for that. It’s the story that saved our lives, so we ought to know it, remember it, glory in it.

I want to encourage you, with the bossiest voice I can muster, to please read the Friday story in all the gospels as we prepare for Easter.  You’ll find all the Fridays here:

  • Matthew 27:1-66
  • Mark 15:1-47
  • Luke 22:62-23:56
  • John 18:28-19:42

One thing you’ll notice is that they don’t match.  I think it’s a fun exercise to read them and search for all the differences, but I also really like the dewey decimal system, so this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. A cheat sheet of differences in the gospel accounts can be found here:

Some might use these as reasons to doubt the biblical narrative, but I couldn’t disagree more.  The Bible is a divine book written by human hands (we’ll talk SO MUCH MORE about this during our summer series and I seriously CANNOT wait!).  It is not a magical document, transcribed by an angel and delivered by unicorns.  These are actual, flesh-and-blood, eyewitness accounts (or, in the case of Mark and Luke, witnesses of eyewitnesses) of the Trial of the Century – the Trial of all History, in fact.  If all the accounts matched, I would suspect that some people, somewhere got together and cooked this thing up.  But they don’t match.

And neither do they contradict.

Some writers include details that others do not.  Three mention Simon of Cyrene, one does not.  One mentions graves opening up and dead people walking around town and three do not. But these are differences, not discrepancies. Even though Luke says one thief had a change of heart and the others don’t mention it, this does not mean that any of them are wrong – it only means that Luke recorded  a detail that the rest decided to skip. The Friday story has differences, but no serious contradictions, and if that bothers you, you’re going to hate the account of the resurrection. But the resurrection isn’t my problem – Pastor Steve is speaking on that one.  (And – btw – the resurrection story as told by four biographers isn’t a problem and here’s an article in case you want to jump ahead and figure out why:

If you’d like to dig deeper into this issue, here are some articles and resources I found helpful in my pre-dawn study session:

A handy table, listing all of the details of the gospel accounts and how they match up:

A look at the details of the crucifixion:

The one actual contradiction in the Friday stories is “What time was Jesus crucified?” Mark says 9:00 a.m., John says 6:00 a.m.  Pretty simple explanation found here (and lots of other places):

A Friday chronology:

Just a good, well-rounded look at the whole subject: