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Resurrection Day Timeline

Concerning the timeline of the Lord's appearances after His resurrections given in the four gospels, Matthew says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb as it began to dawn (Luke also lists Joanna). John only mentions Mary Magdalene. Clearly there were other women there and the Holy Spirit makes that clear in the other passages. In trying to understand the sequence of events by studying each of the gospels, there appears to be a couple of different possible timelines. What are your thoughts?

The chronological order of the events surrounding the resurrection of Christ have been confusing to many. It has also been used as an argument against the validity of the Bible by some. However, the four gospels each tell only part of the story. When all four records are carefully compared, an order begins to come together. The following order may not be perfect, but it will solve the problems that some see in the order of the events.

  1. Early Sunday morning, several women brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. The tomb was empty and two angels told them to report to the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.
  2. Mary Magdalene separated from the other women and told the disciples first that the tomb was empty (John 20:2)
  3. Peter and John run to the tomb and observe the empty tomb. John arrived first but Peter entered the tomb. John believed that Jesus had risen. They then returned home. (John 20:3-10).
  4. Mary Magdalene slowly returned to the tomb and arrived there after Peter and John had left. She saw the two angels in the tomb. Then, she saw Jesus but thought him to be the gardener. Jesus revealed Himself to her and she became the first to see the resurrected Christ. She was not allowed to touch Him because he had not yet ascended to the Father (evidently, to place His blood on the heavenly mercy seat). (John 20:11-17)
  5. This point is controversial, but I believe that Jesus quickly went into heaven to present His blood at the mercy seat in the heavenly temple. (Hebrews 9:12, 24)
  6. The other women are also trying to catch up with the disciples. But, before they find them, Christ appeared to them (Matthew 28:9-10). Christ had evidently already appeared before the Father at this time because He allowed the women to hold Him by the feet and worship Him. The apparent time discrepancy can be explained in many ways. One of the women may have had to stop to catch her breath (remember, they were severely frightened). They may have missed the disciples while they were going back and forth. Or, something else might have happened. But, the time did not have to be long. The time between the appearance of Jesus to Mary and then to the women could have been as short as half an hour. Jesus did not need a duration time in order to travel to and from heaven.
  7. That afternoon, Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-16).
  8. Somewhere around this time, Jesus appeared to Peter. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  9. Before the day was over, Jesus appeared to the ten disciples (minus Judas and Thomas) behind closed doors. (John 20:19, 24).