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the puzzle of the resurrection day

02-05-2014 - Posted by Andre Piet

Four accounts are available to us concerning the events of the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. But what we lack is a summary of the chronology of all events. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each from their own perspective, give us their report. These partly overlap, but in other parts, they also describe different events. And even when they describe the same events, there are apparent contradictions. What one evangelist reports, the other evangelist leaves out. One evangelist speaks of one angel at the tomb (Mat.28: 2) and the other evangelist speaks of two angels (Luke 24:4). John speaks of one woman who went to the tomb (John 20:1), Matthew of two women (Mat.28:1) and Mark of three women (Mark 16:1). Of course, unbelievers seize such variation to conclude that the reports are not reliable. But with them it is never any good, because if the accounts harmonize, they claim that the evangelists conspired to write the same particulars… But the differences do not speak against each other, they confirm the very well-known phenomenon that independent eyewitness accounts of a single event, as a rule, differ greatly from each other, without this creating real contradictions. For example, where two angels are mentioned, there, of course, is also one angel. Such kind of differences, in information, do not inhibit each other.

In the list below, I’m attempting to place the different puzzle pieces, together. Sometimes that is fairly easy, but in a number of cases it is not so easy. The evangelists did not intend to present a complete, chronological record. Therefore, we are missing some pieces of the puzzle, when we try to place all the events in a neat row. That is of course no defect of Scripture, at most, a flaw in our urge wanting to know everything. At what time, did occurr the one event and at what time, the other happening? What is the sequence of events? Are “the women” in Mat.28:5 and 9 the same as in Mat.28:1? Does the word “eleven”, in Luke 24:9 and 33 refer to a specific number or is it the name of a group? I certainly do not pretend that my reconstruction is the end of all contradiction. On the contrary, I will gladly consider suggestions and improvements. Only by accurately comparing Scripture with Scripture, can we get a complete picture.

One more note. The information we find at the end of Mark 16, I have not included in this overview. Mark 16:9-20 is missing from the majority of the major, New Testament manuscripts and, apparently, is a later addition. That is why in some Bible-translations, this passage is placed within square brackets. The reference to the supper at Emmaus, in Mark 16:12, is difficult to harmonize with what we read in Luke 24. Mark 16:13 says that the Emmaus-travelers were not believed by the disciples, while Luke 24:34 and 35 say they were greeted enthusiastically, saying to them, “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon!” An overview of the happenings on Sunday:

  1. At least four women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, Salome and Johanna, Matt.28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10) went, at the break of day, to the tomb with spices (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).
  2. While they are on their way and are wondering how the stone must be rolled away (Mark 16:3,4), an earthquake occurs and an angel descends to roll away the stone. The guards, in great agony, flee the scene (Matt. 28:2-4).
  3. The women see that the stone is rolled away (Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1) and that the tomb is empty (Luke 24:3).
  4. The women are perplexed (Luke 24:4) and Mary Magdalene races to Peter and John (John 20:2).
  5. The other women see two men in shining garments (Luke 24:4): one sitting on the stone (Matt.6.28 2) and the other (a youth) in the tomb, sitting on the right side (Mark 16:5).
  6. The women hear the angels say: do not fear (Matt.28:5; Mark 16:6), why do you seek the living among the dead (Luke 24:5), Jesus has been resurrected, see the place where He lay (Matt.28:6; Mark 16:6), remember how He, in Galilee, has already spoken of the resurrection on the third day (Luke 24:6.7). Go to the disciples and Peter (Mark 16:7) and tell it them. And Jesus will go before you, into Galilee; there shall you see Him (Matt.28:7; Mark 16:7).
  7. The women hasten themselves to the disciples, frightened and yet happy (Matt.28:8). On the way, they dare not say anything to anyone (Mark 16:8).
  8. Alerted by Mary Magdalene, Peter and John go quickly to the tomb (John 20:3). John arrives first (John 20:4) and looks from the outside in and sees the drapings lying, without going inside (John 20:5). Then comes Peter entering the tomb and sees the head bandages rolled up in another place (John 20:6,7; Luke 24:12). Then John also enters the tomb and seeing, he believes (John 20:8.9). John was the first of the eleven who believed. John and Peter return home (John 20:10).
  9. Mary Magdalene had followed the men and stood weeping, close to the tomb (John 20:11). Meanwhile, again there are angels and Mary sees them sitting: one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain (John 20:12). They ask her why she’s crying and she answers: because they have taken away my Lord (John 20:13). Then she turns around and sees Jesus standing, but she thinks it is the gardener. “Whom are you looking for?” she hears him say. Mary answers and, suddenly, she hears her name: “Mary”. She turns around and calls “Rabboni!” (John 20:14-16). Jesus says to her not to touch Him, but that she must go to His brethren and tell them that He will ascend to the Father (John 20:17). This is Jesus’ first appearance after his resurrection.
  10. The soldiers arrive in the city and report to the chief priests about the events (Matt.28:11). In a meeting with the elders, the decision was made to give the soldiers much money for spreading the rumor that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, while they slept (Matt.28:12,13). The chief priests ensure the soldiers that they will not come into problems with the governor (Matt.28:14).
  11. When the women tell their story to the eleven and all the others (Luke 24:9), they were not believed (Luke 24:11).
  12. After the women apparently (cp Luke 24:24) went away, the Lord comes to meet them and greets them (Mat.28:9). They fall down before him and grab His feet. Jesus confirms what they had previously heard from the angels, namely, to inform the disciples that they were to go to Galilee (Matt.28:10 and 7). This is Jesus’ second appearance.
  13. Mary Magdalene also recounts her experiences to the disciples (John 20:18).
  14. Later in the day (Luke 24:29), the Lord appears incognito to two of them (Luke 24:13) one of which is called Cleopas (Luke 24:18). They are on their way to Emmaus, which was more than 10 kilometers from Jerusalem (Luke 24:12,13). Along the way, they have a conversation about the events of the last few days (Luke 24:15-21). They tell with distaste of the messages from women, claiming to have seen apparitions of angels, but not Jesus Himself (Luke 24:22-24). Since they have no knowledge of the two appearances, they seem to have left the company of the disciples after the women had told their experiences (Luke 24:10, #11). The Stranger berates them for their unbelief and opens the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). When at the evening meal, their eyes are opened for the identity of the Stranger, He suddenly disappeared (Luke 24:28-31). This is Jesus’ third appearance.
  15. In the course of this day (Luke 24:24), Jesus also appeared to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34). This is Jesus’ fourth appearance.
  16. At the return of the Emmaus-travelers to Jerusalem, in the evening, they find the eleven gathered together and they say: the Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon (Luke 24:33,34). The Emmaus-travelers also relate their experiences (Luke 24:35).
  17. While the doors were locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), Jesus suddenly appears in their midst (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36), and says, “Peace to you!” (John 20:19). Those present are terrified and think to behold a spirit (Luke 24:37). Jesus chides them for their unbelief (Luke 24:38) and invites them to see His hands and feet and to touch Him in order to convince them that He is not a spirit (Luke 24:39,40). Overjoyed, they cannot, yet, believe and, therefore, the Lord, demonstratively, eats a piece of fried fish (Luke 24:42,43). With additional words, He encourages and instructs them (John 20:21-23). This is the fifth appearance of Jesus after his resurrection.