Four gospels do not automatically mean four accounts of everything. In fact, most of the ministry of Jesus is told in less than four gospels (except for the feeding of the 5000). But once you get into passion week, then you have four gospels giving their all to get the story across. This is both a goldmine and a potential distraction for preachers.
After all, we can piece together so many details of that first Easter. At the same time, we can easily lose the theological emphasis of whichever gospel we are wanting to preach.
It is good to check all the gospels for accuracy. You don’t want to preach from John and make an error according to Matthew or Mark. The passion narratives do harmonize, but it is not always immediately easy to see how. So be sure to check and be fresh on the historical harmonization, but . . .
Preach the passage, not the historical harmonization. I am preaching from John this year. I want to make sure that the listeners hear what John intended to communicate. The gospels are not a transcribed video script, they are carefully crafted presentations of the history artistically woven to achieve something specific in the hearer. Our task as preachers is not just to tell the history, but to trust that the Gospel writer knew what he was doing (since the capital “A” Author was fully at work in each of the Gospels), and to preach accordingly.
It is a privilege to have the Bible in our language and to be able to preach one of the accounts. Even if you rotate through the Gospels each Easter, it will be four years until you come back to this year’s Gospel. Be sure folks get to hear it this time around!