Have you ever noticed the change that Luke 24:6 makes on Mark 16:6-7? Below are the two passages (in the King James Version). See if you can catch what Luke has done to the words spoken by the angel to the women at Jesus’s tomb. Here’s Mark 16:6-7:
And he [the angel] saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Notice the present tense of the angel’s statement in Mark (“he goeth before you”). Also notice that the disciples are very specifically commanded to go to Galilee to see Jesus. Now look at what Luke does in rewriting Mark’s version of the angel’s words (Luke 24:6):
He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you [about his resurrection] when he was yet in Galilee . . .
Do you see what Luke has done? He has changed Mark’s present tense and command to go into Galilee into a past tense observation (“remember how he spake . . . in Galilee”). And notice that Luke has thereby absented from the passage the angel’s command to go into Galilee.
Isn’t that shocking? Why did Luke do this?
Here’s a plausible surmise: Luke did this because all of the resurrection stories in his gospel take place in and around Jerusalem. For reasons we can only speculate on, Luke does not want the disciples leaving Jerusalem. It messes up his version of the story. So he changed Mark’s angel-statement from a command to go to Galilee (to see Jesus resurrected) into a recollection of what Jesus (while in Galilee) said of his resurrection. In Luke’s version, the apostles meet Jesus in Jerusalem, not Galilee (see Luke 24:33; and Acts 1:4). By contrast, Matthew follows Mark’s narrative and puts the disciple’s post-resurrection encounter with Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 28:16).
Sometimes people put forth the idea that Luke was a careful historian. But by simply looking at the free way that Luke made use of one of his sources (Mark), it is not difficult to conclude that, in fact, Luke probably played loose with at least some of his other sources as well. In the service of his own peculiar narrative purposes—and far from being a dispassionate and objective user of his source—Luke treated Mark exactly as he pleased. He probably did the same with other sources as well.
Does this mean that Luke and Mark are, indeed, in contradiction?
Well, yes, it does. Mark had his purposes. Luke had others. Sometimes the straightforward explanation is the best (and arrives with its own clarities and pleasures).