If ever involved in a police report as a victim or bystander, you probably recall the investigator having many probing questions. The purpose in the SAME STORY, DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS is to gather credible evidence to create the most accuracy. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John tell a story of Jesus being anointed by a woman days prior to his crucifixion. The woman used spikenard, a precious and costly perfume imported from India made from plants that grow in the high elevations of the Himalayas. Jesus received the extravagant gift and display of her love towards him.
Matthew 26: 6-7 NKJV reads, “And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.”
Mark 14:3 says, “And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He (Jesus) sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.”
John 12:3 states, “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
Matthew and Mark’s narratives are synchronized reporting that the woman poured the spikenard oil on the head of Jesus. John adds that the woman was named Mary, but says nothing of the oil touching Jesus’ head. Instead, it was His feet that were anointed and wiped with her hair. Why would two Gospels describe details differently than the third? Is there an inaccuracy here? The beauty of the Gospels, other than the obvious good news of salvation, is that they are full of authenticated eye witness accounts. We get to be the investigators asking the questions. Is it possible that Jesus’ head AND feet were anointed? Just like an police investigator looks at all angles, let us use an example of a car accident and everyone involved. The drivers of each vehicle have a version of what occurred. Those present at the scene may have come from four different locations-north, south, east, and west. Each will recall what they saw and experienced, and depending on their personal perspective will have variations. Location, visual acuity, and timing all factor into play. This concept transfers to our story of Mary, who anointed Jesus. Since we know from Proverbs 30:5 NIV that “Every Word of God is flawless,” and 2 Timothy 3:16 NASB “All Scripture is inspired by God,” we can be assured that Matthew and Mark saw the woman (Mary) anoint the head of Jesus. Perhaps they looked away when John saw Mary anoint His feet and wipe it with her hair. He was also correct. Maybe the room was crowded and the view to Jesus was obscured. Whatever the circumstances, both portrayals are true.
In practical terms, how does this look in everyday life? We carry opinions based on our interpretations of events as to how we perceive truth. Do we leave room for anyone else to see that same circumstance differently? Do we take offense without probing other options? Do we need to be right? Are we willing to have a conversation with another who has an opposing view? Do we really listen to one another? Whether it is a close family relationship, colleagues, neighbors, friends, or strangers, take the advice from Hebrews 12:14a NLT “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life.” To work at living in peace, we need to practice civility and hear the perspectives of others. This begins our investigative process. Since we have confidence in the accuracy of the Scriptures, we can then test the validity of the content or at least the fruit of the one reporting a claim by how the Word is manifested in behaviors.
Learn to see through another’s eyes. Recognize that it is possible for both perspectives to be validated as the SAME STORY, DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS. Many needless arguments could be avoided utilizing this simple test with resulting peace.