The Easter challenge, Part 2
Yesterday I presented Part 1 of what I believe is a plausible harmonization of the varying Gospel accounts of the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. I continue that today with an examination and chronology of Jesus’s appearances following those to the women who came to the tomb.
Though there is no recorded accounting of it, both Luke 28 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 indicate that Jesus appeared separately to Peter before the other disciples. The likely abrupt ending of Mark’s Gospel with verse 8 that I referenced yesterday is intriguing and this appearance to Peter may bear on its explanation. Now, it’s strictly conjecture, but consider this possibility: It’s widely acknowledged that Mark, though not an apostle himself, was a close associate of Peter and his Gospel is Peter’s recollection of events. So if any of the New Testament writers could be expected to have a record of Jesus’s solo appearance to Peter, it would be Mark. But why no mention of it there, and why does it end right before we would expect to see it?
Recall how Peter denied Jesus three times just as Jesus foretold. The Gospels record that Peter was very grieved by his betrayal of his Lord. Perhaps Mark did write down this privileged appearance to Peter but when Peter read it he excised (literally, with a knife) everything after what we know now as Mark 16:8. He was still so ashamed of himself for his thrice denial that he even knew Jesus, that he felt unworthy to be recognized as having received this unique honor. Again…this is speculation but I think it makes sense.
At any rate, after appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other women, Jesus appeared next to Peter. Luke 24 records the two disciples journeying to Emmaus whom Jesus comes alongside and after first hiding his identity from them somehow, opens their eyes before disappearing from their sight.1 So they’re next. They hurry back to Jerusalem immediately after they realize they’ve been talking with the resurrected Christ and meet up with the other disciples who exclaim that, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon (Peter)!”
While they’re all comparing notes, Jesus miraculously appears among them. Then eight days later, when poor “doubting” Thomas was with them, Jesus again suddenly materializes in their midst and invites Thomas to touch his hands and his side.
Sometime after this Jesus revealed himself to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee2, as recorded in John 21, and also to the 500 and James, the brother of Jesus. The exact order is not clear. And finally, the disciples are with him on the Mount of Olives (Olivet, in Acts) when he gives his parting instructions and ascends into the clouds.
I constructed a timeline of sorts of the events on Easter morning as well as one for Jesus’s multiple appearances. Please let me know if you disagree with my reconciliation of the records and why. I am open to correction.
1The disciples tell “incognito” Jesus that the women said they saw angels, so we might expect them to mention that the women said they saw Jesus also. But Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record that at least some of the disciples doubted the reports. So it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t mention what they likely thought was an hysterical delusion on the women’s part.
2John 21 has the disciples fishing in the Sea of Tiberius (also known as the Sea of Galilee) while Matthew says they went “to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” Were they on the sea or on the mountain? Most likely both. Note Matthew 15:29 – “Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.”