Conflicting Bible tales on Holy Week

By Herbert Vego

PROFESSING Christians don’t “sin” during the Holy Week. We know that thieves and robbers rest. Prostitutes stay at home. No job for hired killers, too. There are places where even convicted criminals walk the streets half-naked and barefooted while whipping their bleeding backs “to secure God’s forgiveness.”

It’s as if it’s all right to sin the rest of the year, but not in the Holy Week in observance of “pamalandong”.

I wish that were not the “in” or acceptable form of hypocrisy in Christ’s name. Frankly, the world would be safer if it were the other way around: Sin for only one week and act “holy” the rest of the year.

By the way, the incongruous ideas you are about to read are not mine but are nuggets from the Bible.

As the Bible says in Romans 14:5, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

I still vividly remember that day in the 1950s when an old woman scolded us small boys running around the plaza on a Good Friday.

“Don’t you know that God is dead today?” she admonished, no doubt referring to Jesus Christ, whose crucifixion on the cross was being commemorated.

We kept quiet, wondering in our inquisitive minds how the eternal One could die every year without losing control of the universe.

Since then, I have many times read the Jesus story in the first four books of the New Testament – those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – only to end up confused because, as regards the crucifixion story, they do not always mesh.

Amazingly, the Christian churches have intentionally ignored the discrepancies by stressing only corroborative accounts.

The first question that aches for an answer: Did Jesus Christ really die on a Friday and return to life on a Sunday? If so, that would be an interval of only two days.

But Jesus himself predicted, “I, the Messiah, am going to be betrayed and killed and three days later I will return to life” (Mark 9:31).

While the apostles Matthew, Mark and Luke agreed that Jesus Christ was crucified on the “day before the Sabbath” or Friday (see Mark 15:42), John put it “about noon of the day before the Passover”or Thursday (John 19:14).

Most Christian churches today commemorate it at noon of the so-called Good Friday. Incidentally, what’s “good” about dying on the cross?

The four apostles reported that the resurrection was on Sunday sunrise.

If as universally commemorated the resurrection was on a Sunday, shouldn’t Jesus have died on a Thursday?

It is not clear why the Jewish multitude demanded for the crucifixion of Jesus, considering that they had earlier glorified him during his “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem.

According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, it was Jesus’ act of driving money changers and merchants out of the Jewish temple that infuriated the high priests, who then laid the groundwork for his arrest.

John, however, wrote a different and unique story. He interpreted the miracle of Jesus’ raising his friend Lazarus from the dead (after four days in the tomb) as the reason why the chief priests led by Caiphas had plotted Jesus’ assassination.

“For this man certainly does miracles,” said one of the priests. “If we let him alone, the whole nation will follow him. And then the Roman army will come and kill us and take over the Jewish government” (John 11:47-48).

While John said nothing about the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus, Matthew and Mark had a similar version on the behavior of the two thieves: Like the chief priests and Jewish leaders, they cursed him for being unable to bring them down the cross if he were really the Son of God. (See Matthew 27:38-44.)

“And even the two robbers dying with him cursed him.” (Mark 15:32).

But the Christian world today ignores that verse and exploits the “minority” version of Luke, where he said that while one of the robbers indeed mocked Jesus, the other begged of him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Do you know that in not one of the four gospels are present all the “seven last words” that are traditionally echoed in church re-enactments of the crucifixion? The books of Matthew (27:46) and Mark (15:34) quoted only one and the same: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Luke has three: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (23:34); “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43); and “Father, I commit my spirit to you” (23:46).

John has another three: “Woman, behold your son” (19:26); “I thirst” (19:28); and “It is finished” (19:30).

There is also discrepancy in the resurrection tales as told by Mark and Matthew. In Mark, three women – identified as Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James — visit Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning, only to find it empty; the tomb stone cover has already been rolled away.

In the book of Matthew, the same women find it closed. Then the earth quakes as an angel appears to roll the stone away, revealing an already empty tomb.

In the book of Acts, Paul briefly recalled that the resurrected Jesus had already spent 40 days on earth, many times with his apostles (minus the late Judas), when “he rose into the sky and disappeared into a cloud, leaving them staring after him” (Acts 1:9).

He has left, keeping us waiting for his “second coming” to this day.

“Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7).