If we were to read accident reports by four eyewitnesses and the details matched, we would judge collusion and question whether any of them were true.
The resurrection reports in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John don’t match, as we should expect. Taken together, they supply a complete picture. Taken separately, they can be confusing and misunderstood.
Resurrection morning is the most difficult life-of-Christ event to reconcile between the four gospels. Take Mary Magdalene for example: She’s among the women who were first to arrive at the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1). The women all saw Jesus and went to tell the disciples (Matthew 28:9). Nevertheless, Mary Magdalene was somehow the first to see Jesus (Mark 16:9), and yet, later, she saw Jesus at the tomb and didn’t recognize him (John 20:14).
Naysayers will say the apparent conflicts disprove the resurrection, so we need to understand how these details prove that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.
Not surprisingly, the calamity led people to separate and run back and forth as they responded to news fragments. With that insight, we can deduce the following chronology:
- Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb while it was still dark, wondering how they would roll away the stone.
- At the empty tomb, an angel told them what had happened and sent them to tell the disciples.
- Mary Magdalene ran and told Peter and John, passing Jesus but not recognizing him as he went to appear to the other women.
- Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty.
- Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John back to the tomb.
- When Peter and John left, Mary remained outside the tomb, crying.