[Originally published April 4, 2010]
Two years ago, I was challenged by an atheist to compose an exact chronological account of Christ’s resurrection. He claimed that when you put all of the different books together, there are unavoidable inconsistencies. So, I put them together and, (surprise!), they can create one, coherent, chronological account. Note: I would like to thank the many websites on the internet, without which I am not sure I could have done this.
(Mt. 28:1-20; Mk. 16:1-20; Lk. 24:1-53; Jn. 20:1-31, 21:1-25; Ac. 1:3-12; 1 Cor. 15:1-9):
There might be more than one way to interpret the chronological order of the story, especially with events after the first day, but to save time (and my sanity!), I will only give one interpretation.
First, some background from the previous chapters:
After Jesus’ arrest, His disciples scattered, in fear for their lives. Peter and John followed Him to Jerusalem, the others ran off. Most likely they went to Bethany; it was in the opposite direction to the city, only a mile away, and they had good friends there: Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus. The one exception to all of this is Thomas, who is missing for many of the following events. [Visiting his family, maybe? Working? Hiding? The Bible doesn’t say.]
Among those watching the death of Christ were Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ aunts Salome and Mary (wife of Cleopas), His mother Mary, and His cousin, John. Jesus committed His mother into the care of John, and it is recorded that “from that hour” John took her into his home, which was in south Jerusalem. Her sister Salome probably also went to John’s home, to comfort Mary in her grief. John had already taken Peter there, who is a distraught and broken man after his triple denial of Christ.
The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They took the body to the nearby tomb owned by Joseph, where the Jewish burial custom of wrapping the corpse with spices and linen was begun. However, because of the impending high Sabbath, this task was not finished. Several women, including both Mary’s, watched this, and as the Sabbath drew on they retired back to the house of John, where, as recorded by Luke, they “rested on the Sabbath”.
However, for obvious reasons, the authorities were very concerned this Sabbath. While they had killed Jesus, they were worried about what His disciples might do. Because Jesus had taught that He would rise from the dead after three days, they began to worry that His disciples might somehow try to steal His body from the grave and claim He resurrected. So the Jewish authorities obtained permission from Pilate to place a Roman guard on the tomb.
Jesus’ friends, passing the Sabbath in the homes of John in Jerusalem and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany knew nothing of this at this time. Joanna, wife of Herod Antipas’ steward, and [Suzanna?] would have been in the Hasmonaean Palace.
[Note: If one reads about the crucifixion and burial of Christ, there seems to be an inconsistency regarding the Sabbath. The reason for this is that there were two Sabbaths, the “High Sabbath,” or Holy Day, and then the regular Sabbath. In addition, there is also another feast, which was also called a “sabbath.”]
Now that the locations of the various characters are in place, I can commence with the narrative:
Early in the morning at the end of the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb, and sat upon it. Out of fear, the keepers collapsed into unconsciousness.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, and some others with them, went early, while it was yet dark, to see the tomb, and bought sweet spices, to anoint the body. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone over the door for us?”
And when they (the women) looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away. Then Mary Magdalene ran to John’s house to tell Simon Peter, John, and Cleopas and his friend. She told them that “they have taken away the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.” Peter and John then start out for the tomb.
Meanwhile, at the rising of the sun, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, entered the tomb, but could not find the body of Jesus. They were very perplexed, but just then they saw two men standing by them in long, shining white garments, sitting on the right side. [Note: Some passages say “standing,” others say “sitting.” It could be that one was standing and the other sitting, or that they stood up or sat down at some point, or some other combination of the like. Exactly what positions they were in is unimportant.]
The women were afraid, and bowed their faces to the earth, so one of the angels said unto them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? For I know that you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said, saying, ‘the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead and that He goes before you into Galilee: there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
And the women remembered His words, and they left quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring the disciples word, telling no man they met on the way anything.
Now when the women left, the Roman guards came out of their unconsciousness and went into the city, and told the chief priests all the things that were done. And when the priests were assembled with the elders, and had counseled together, they gave large money unto the soldiers, telling them, “Say, ‘His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we were sleeping.’ And if the governor hears of this, we will persuade him, and take care of everything for you.” So they took the money, and did as they were told: And the saying the soldiers told became a common story.
Meanwhile, the women arrived at John’s house, but found only Cleopas, his friend, and Mary (the mother of Jesus.) They waited for Peter and John to return.
Peter and John came to the tomb. And they both ran together: and John outran Peter, and came first to the tomb. And he stooped down, and looked in, and saw the linen clothes lying; but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter went into the tomb, and saw the linen clothes lying there. And the napkin, that was about his head, was not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Then John also went in,, and he saw, and believed. [What John believed I am not sure. It could be that he believed that Jesus rose from the dead, but could not convince the others, or it could be that he believed Mary’s story.] For they did not yet know the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
Then Peter and John went away again into their own home.
There, they met the other women, who told them about the angels. The women then went to tell the other disciples at Bethany[?]. Cleopas and his companion set out to Emmaus, very discouraged.
Back at the tomb, Mary stood outside, weeping. And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the tomb, and saw two angels in white. They were sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laying. And they said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?” And she said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” And when she had said this, she turned around, and saw Jesus standing, but did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are seeking?” She supposed Him to be the gardener, and said to Him, “Sir, if you have taken Him, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned herself, and said to Him, “Rabboni;” which means, “Master.”
Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say to them that I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” And Mary went to go tell the Peter and John, and the other disciples.
Now as the other women were running to Bethany to tell the disciples, Jesus met them, and said, “All hail.” And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid: go tell My brethren that they are to go into Galilee, and there will they see Me.”
So they went to tell the disciples.
And also Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples [Peter and John], as they mourned and wept, that she had seen the Lord, and what He had said to her. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen by her, did not believe. [Note: There was probably much traveling back and forth between locations at this time. At some point, all of the disciples, except Thomas, gathered together in Jerusalem, probably at John’s house. At some point during this time is when Jesus appeared to Simon Peter.]
As all this was going on, Cleopas and his traveling companion were still going to Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about sixty furlongs. And they talked together about all the things which had happened. And it happened, that, while they talked together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were held so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What are you talking to each other about, that makes you so sad?” Cleopas answered Him. “Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem, and do not know what things have happened there these past few days?
And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “About Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in His deeds and words before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers sent Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him.
But we believed He was the One who would have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since this has happened.
And certain women who were also of our company went to the tomb this morning, and what they found astonished us: They could not find His body, and they came to us, saying that they had seen a vision of angels, and these angels said that He was alive. And certain ones of those with us went to the tomb, and found it as the women said: but Him they did not see.”
Then Jesus said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, Jesus explained and taught to them in all the scriptures the things about Himself.
And they came near to the village, and Jesus made as though He would have continued on farther.
But they asked Him to stop, saying, “Stay with us: for it is near the evening, and the day is mostly spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
And it happened, that as Jesus sat at dinner with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, “Did not our hearts burn inside us, while He talked with us on the road, and while He talk to us about the scriptures?”
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven, and them that were with them, gathered together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. And the disciples told them that “the Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” And Cleopas and his friend told what things were done in the road, and how Jesus made Himself known to them in during the breaking of bread.
And as they spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them. And He said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and thought that they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts rise up in your hearts? See here My hands and My feet, and that it is I Myself: touch Me, and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.”
And He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they wondered in joyous disbelief, Jesus said to them, “Have you here any food?” And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and a honeycomb.
Then Jesus chided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believed those who had seen Him after He was risen.
But He also blessed them, saying, “Peace be to you: as my Father has sent Me, in this way I send you.” And when He said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Now all of you receive the Holy Ghost: Whoever’s sins you refer, they are referred for them; and whoever’s sins you retain, those sins are retained.”
But Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Except I see the holes of the nails in His hands, and put my finger into the holes of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
And after eight days again the disciples were gathered in the house, and Thomas was with them. Then Jesus came again, even though the doors were shut. And He stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be to you. Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand, and put it into My side: and do not be faithless, but believe.” And Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
And many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in the Gospel of John.
[At this point, the chronology is more fuzzy, as it is not as detailed, and specific days are not given. (I.e., eight days after this, etc.) We know that the fishing incident at Galilee Lake was the third time Jesus was seen by the disciples. Whether this was before or after He was seen by five hundred we do not know. The main problem is that we do not know if this is the final time Jesus was with His disciples or not, as John does not say. At some point, either before the disciples have gone to Galilee or after, Jesus appeared to five hundred people who were gathered together. At some point after that He was seen by James. As the exact chronology for these events is unknown, I will only give one of many ways it can be put together.]
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee.
And Jesus showed Himself a third time to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberius (Galilee Lake), and this is how He showed Himself:
Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples, were gathered together. And Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” And they said to him, “We will also go with you.”
So they went and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning came, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Throw the net on the right side of the ship, and you will find fish.”
They tossed the net, and they were not able to pull it back out because of the vast number fishes. So John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Now when Simon Peter heard that it, he put on his fisher’s coat, (for he was naked,) and jumped into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, only about two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
As soon as they came to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring of the fish which you have caught.” Simon Peter went and drew in to land the net full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three. And even with so many, the net was not broken. And Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are You?,” knowing that it was the Lord.
Jesus then took bread, and gave it to them, and the fish the same way.
So when they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these?” Peter said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” And He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?” And Peter said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” And Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” And Jesus asked him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?” And Peter was grieved because Jesus had asked him this a third time, and he said to Him, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Truly, truly, I say to you: When you were young, you clothed yourself, and walked wherever you would: but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will clothe you, and carry you where you would not want to go.”
And Jesus said this to signify what death Peter would glorify God with. And when Jesus had said this, He said to him, “Follow me.” Then Peter, turning about, saw John following. Peter then asked Jesus, “Lord, and what will this man do?” Jesus said unto him, “If I will that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You, follow Me.”
So a saying went abroad among the brethren, that that John should not die: yet Jesus had not said, “He will not die;” but, “If I will that he stay till I come, what is that to You?”
Now forty days after the resurrection, the disciples went into the Mount of Olive Groves, where Jesus had appointed them.
[Note: Matthew mentions in a passage that they went up into a mountain and worshipped Him, “ but some doubted.” Because of Matthew’s use of telescoping, he condenses most of the final events, making it difficult to know exactly what he is referring to, or when it happened. It is most likely he is referring to the incident with Thomas.]
And Jesus came and spoke to them, commanding them that they should not leave Jerusalem, and instead wait for the promise of the Father, “Which,” said Jesus, “you have heard from Me. For truly, John baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days from now.”
So they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power. But you will receive power, after the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and you will be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”
And He lifted up his hands and blessed them.
“All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. So go all of you, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you: and I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
And when He had said these things, while they watched, He was snatched up; and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were looking intently into the sky, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into the sky? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the way you have seen Him going into Heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olive Groves, which is a sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem. And they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
And last of all He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.