The Resurrection Appearances Chronologically Arranged

This blog post is a follow-up from yesterday’s blog. You can read yesterday’s post by clicking HERE

When we encounter the resurrection accounts in the New Testament we face a challenge in putting all the pieces together in a way that the sequence of the events flow in logical order. This is due to the fact that no one Gospel presents all, or even most of the data. Some of the data also seems to conflict. I tried to show in yesterday’s blog that these apparent conflicts are not, usually, true conflicts. Another problem with putting all the facts together in a coherent and reasonably complete manner is that the time line of the events is often unclear in some of the accounts. Luke and John are the clearest as to the time frame of the events they describe but Matthew and Luke give us very few parameters. Both Acts and Paul also supply data wherein the time frame is not always clear.

Nevertheless I want to propose to you a possible, dare I claim, even likely, sequence of the Resurrection events. The work is my own and I make no claim that this scenario is certain or backed up by recognized ancient authority. St Augustine has done quite a lot of work in this matter and you can read that by clicking HERE. My attempts here are simply the fruit of 20+ years of praying over and pondering the events of those forty days between the Lord’s resurrection and ascension. My reflections are based as solidly as possible on the actual biblical data with a sprinkling of speculation. I realize that the attempt to do this will irritate some modern biblical scholars who, for reasons unclear to me, seem to insist it is wrong to attempt any synthesis of the texts.

Nevertheless, I boldly press on figuring that the average believer will benefit from it and find such a synthesis interesting. Take it for what it is, the work of an obscure pastor who has prayed and carefully sought to follow the sequence of the forty days. You may wish to offer correction or alternative interpretation and are encouraged to do so in the comments. I have posted a PDF of this Document that is easier to read here: The Resurrection Appearances Chronologically Arranged

In this year’s version I have included the hyperlinks to the biblical texts so that you can simply click on them to read the text and press back to return here.

  • I. The Morning of Day One
    • A. Very early in the morning a group of several women, including Mary Magdalene, approach the tomb to complete burial customs on behalf of Jesus (Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Jn 20:1).
    • B. They behold the tomb opened and are alarmed.
    • C. Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John with distressing news of likely grave robbers (Jn 20:2)
    • D. The women who remain encounter an angel who declared to them that Jesus had risen and that they should tell this to the brethren (Mk 16:5 Lk 24:4; Mt 28:5).
    • E. They are filled with fear at first and depart from the tomb afraid to speak (Mk 16:8)
    • F. Recovering their courage they decide to go to the Apostles. (Lk 24:9; Mt 28:8)
    • G. Meanwhile Peter and John have gone out to the tomb to investigate Mary’s claim. Mary Magdalene followed them back out to the tomb arriving before they left. Peter and John discover the tomb empty though they encounter no angel. John believes in the resurrection. Peter’s conclusion is not recorded.
    • H. The other women have reported what the angels say to the Apostles. Peter and John have not yet returned and these remaining apostles are dismissive of the women’s story at first (Lk 24:9-11).
    • I. Mary, lingering at the tomb weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes him to be the gardener. Then he calls her by name, and Mary, recognizing his voice, turns and sees him. Filled with joy she clings to him. (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16)
    • J. Jesus sends her back to the apostles with the news to prepare them for his appearance later that day. (Jn 20:17)
    • K. The other women have departed the apostles and are on their way possibly back home. Jesus then appears to them (Mt 28:9) after he had dispatched Mary. He also sends them back to the apostles with the news that he had risen and that he would see them. (APPEARANCE 2)
  • II. The Afternoon and evening of day one.
    • A. Later that Day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumors of his resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them, then sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (APPEARANCE 3) (Lk 24:13-30)
    • B. The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem and went to the Eleven. At first the eleven disbelieved them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they had experienced. At some point Peter drew apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?) And the Lord appeared to Peter (APPEARANCE 4)(Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) who informed the other ten who then believed. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the apostles) were now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it was in indeed true that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:34).
    • C. Almost at the same moment Jesus appears to the small gathering of apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus. (APPEARANCE 5) Thomas was absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as to “the eleven” this is probably just a euphemism for “the apostles” as a group) They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).
    • D. There is some debate as to whether he appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine account has significantly different data about the appearance on the first Sunday evening from the Lucan account. Is it merely different data about the same account or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say. Nevertheless since the data is so different we can call it (APPEARANCE 6) (Jn 20:19ff) though it is likely synonymous with appearance 5.
  • III. Interlude –
    • A. There is no biblical data that Jesus appeared to them during the week that followed. The next account of the resurrection says, “Eight days later” namely the following Sunday.
    • B. We do know that the apostles surely exclaimed to Thomas that they had seen the Lord but he refused to believe it. (Jn 20:24)
    • C. Were the apostles nervous that Jesus had not appeared again each day? Again we do not know, the data is simply silent as to what happened during this interlude.
  • IV. One week later, Sunday two.
    • A. Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the apostles gathered. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith who now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God. (Jn 20:24-29)
  • V. Interlude 2
    • A. The apostles received some instructions to return to Galilee (Mt 28:10; Mk 16:7) where they would see Jesus. Thus they spent some of the week journeying 60 miles to the north. This would have taken some time. We can imagine them making the trek north during the intervening days.
  • VI. Some time later –
    • A. The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “After this.” Likely it is a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee. Not all the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing, and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8 ) . Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus in this appearance and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (Jn 21).
    • B. The Appearance to the 500. Of all the appearances you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced appearance. Many accounts, it seems, would have existed and at least one would have made its way into the scriptures. Yet there is no account of it, other than it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance: 1 Cor 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (APPEARANCE 9) Where did this take place. What was it like. What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account. The Bible makes no pretenses to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book: (Jn 20:30).
    • C. The Appearance to James. Here again we do not have a description of this appearance only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen: 1 Cor 15:7 Then he appeared to James. (APPEARANCE 10) The time frame is not clear. Only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.
  • VII. The rest of the forty days.
    • A. Jesus certainly had other on-going appearances with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes: Acts 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
    • B. During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute to this time period as recorded by Matthew (Mt 28:16ff) and Mark (Mk 16:14ff). It takes place an “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. For these notes this appearance (time frame uncertain) is referred to as (APPEARANCE 11) It is here that he give the great commission. Although Mark’s text may seem to imply that Jesus was taken up from this mountain, such a conclusion is rash since Mark only indicates that Jesus ascended only “after he had spoken to them” (Mk 16:19).
    • Evidently Jesus had also summoned them back to Jerusalem at least toward the end of the period of the forty days. There they would be present for the feast of Pentecost. We can imagine frequent appearances with on-going instruction for Luke records that Jesus “stayed with them.” Most of these appearances and discourses are not recorded. Luke writes in Acts: And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4)
  • VIII. The final appearance and ascension:
    • A. After forty days of appearances and instructions we have a final account of the last appearance (APPEARANCE 12) wherein he led them out to a place near Bethany, gave them final instructions to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was sent. And then he was taken up to heaven in their very sight. (Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11).

So here is a possible and, if I do say so myself, likely chronological sequence of the resurrection appearances. It is a kind of synthesis that attempts to collect all the data and present it in a logical order. There are limits to what we can expect of the Scriptural account, and fitting perfectly into a time frame and logical sequence is not what the texts primarily propose to do. Yet such a chronological sequence can prove helpful and it is in that spirit that I present this.

Here is a video I put together based on a song sung here at my Parish on Good Friday. It is sung by one of our Sopranos, Marjorie Boursiquot. It is arranged by Kenneth Louis, our director and composed by Long and Pote. The song is titled: “You Love Me” Prepare for a real treat:

On The Spiritual Attack of our Converts and What to Do About It

Back just before Holy Week I read an interesting and provocative essay by Jennifer Fulwiler at the National Catholic Register. It is about the need to more clearly instruct Catechumens and those being received into the Church about spiritual attack. Plain and simple, the devil wants to destroy the faith of those who have newly entered the Church. And we need to be sober about this. Being sober does not mean we are in a panic. It merely means we are alert and have a mind that is clear as to the possibility, even the likelihood that the Devil will seek to snatch them from our hands. I want to quote from Ms Fulwiler’s article article and then give some personal experiences and concerns:

It’s a subject nobody wants to talk about. Even among fellow Catholics, you risk being seen as superstitious or ignorant if you acknowledge that there is a dark force whose sole purpose is to keep people away from the light of Christ. And, to be sure, some hesitation about the subject is warranted: We’ve all heard stories of people who became overly fixated on the subject of evil, renouncing personal responsibility with “The devil made me do it!” arguments or seeing demons around every corner. So it’s good not to place too much emphasis on the forces of evil. But this is a subject where we want to be very, very careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I think that modern Catholic culture has done just that.

In my own journey, an understanding of the reality of demonic activity has been critical to my spiritual life. I’ve been fortunate to have a spiritual director who has helped me learn to recognize when these kind of forces may be at work, and to act accordingly. …it was helpful for me to learn to recognize and reject those thought patterns that are not of Christ.

This advice has been particularly critical in times of doubt. Twenty-five years of atheistic thinking patterns don’t go away overnight, and since my conversion I’ve had plenty of periods where I experienced doubt or spiritual dryness. In these moments, it’s been extremely important to understand how to parse through my thoughts carefully, separating reasonable points from lines of thinking that seem to stem from spiritual attack, bad moods or other distracting forces (I once summarized what I learned about that here). Thanks to this understanding, each period of exploring my doubts has only led me to a deeper knowledge of God and greater faith in the Church.

And so, as a new group of converts (and “reverts”) prepares to come into full communion with the Church this Easter, I hope that our RCIA directors talk to them about this issue. I hope they make Dr. Peter Kreeft’s recent article about the reality of spiritual warfare required reading, and emphasize the benefits of finding a trusted priest or trained spiritual director to help navigate the ups and downs of the ongoing conversion process. Because while the path to sainthood is a beautiful road where we find peace and fulfillment as we grow closer to the Lord, we must never forget that it is also a battle.

The Full Article is Here: On Spiritual Attack

I must say, this article caused me to pause and repent. For I, who know better, have not made it a practice to speak to my Neophytes and Newly Received about this. That has to change. And I also need to extend longer care to those who have newly entered the Church.

It is sobering for me to consider how many of the people I have baptized quietly slipped away from the Church in the years that followed. A couple of years ago I was looking at my notes from past Easter Vigils and gradually my mouth came open. For as I looked back over those notes going back fifteen years, I saw the names of many I had prepared for baptism and reception. But more than half were gone now. And of only a very few could I say, “Ah, they have moved and I know that they are in a parish there.”

I was, frankly, stunned. Some of them had been intense, joyful and excited to be baptized and received. I remember the joy of those congregations gathered at the vigil as, one by one the catechumens went down into the water. “Alleluia!” went forth the song, as each of them emerged from the font. And joy too was expressed for those received into full communion. And now half of them gone, quite certainly lapsed.

I cannot find any hard data on line, but, I have talked to RCIA “experts” who do work at a national level and they quietly affirm that, within five years, 50% of those who came through RCIA are no longer practicing the faith in any real way. I cannot show you the hard numbers, but I have personally found this to be true.

I have tried to be better about following up with those who have come through my classes who later go “off the radar.” I call them in, or speak with them on the phone: “You know what I taught you about Mass attendance, I’m worried about you….Jesus wants to feed you!” “Adam where are you….Eve, why do hide your face?” I get their sponsors on the job too. But it’s strange, a kind of lethargy seems to come upon some of them. They make promises to return, but often don’t. Or they come once, but then disappear again. Maybe I’ll see them in the store later on and josh with them, or be very serious, depending on the situation. But something has come over them. Most didn’t have some terrible experience, they just drifted away, they just lost the joy, or things just got routine.

But Jennifer Fulwiler, above, is on to something very important: they are likely under some level of spiritual attack. Demon, thy name is lethargy, thy name is boredom, thy name is sorrow and sloth, distraction and forgetfulness. Jesus warned:

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mk 4:15-19)

Yes, spiritual attack is real. So is the world and the flesh.

I think, in the early days of RCIA we figured that those who entered in this way had a great advantage over “cradle Catholics,” for they had come to the faith as adults, and made a mature decision to follow Christ. Yes, they would remain firm. But we are waking up from that notion. We need to be more vigorous and sober in our assessment of what new and returning Catholics face. Satan is sure make some moves on them and, as Ms Fulwiler says, Twenty-five years of….thinking patterns don’t go away overnight.

In my own parish, thanks to the generous offer of a skilled parishioner, we’re looking to strongly enhance our mystagogia (post baptismal catechesis) and extend it for as long as two years. We’re also going to give more vigorous formation to sponsors and insist that they see their role as more than ceremonial and one that does not end with the Easter Vigil.

And I am going to begin to be more frank with my newly received and baptized as to the nature of spiritual attack, and the likely moves the devil will try. Further, they  must be taught a deeper understanding of the drives of the flesh and influence of the world. Peter Kreeft’s article, hot-linked  above in the quote from Ms Fulwiler, is a good place to start. CS Lewis also has some good material in the Screwtape Letters about how Satan seeks to knock out new converts like “low-hanging fruit.” I am grateful if you,  dear reader, can add to the list of suitable material to help in this matter. Clearly the goal here is not to frighten them, but to instill sobriety and an ability to discern spirits and resist demons, all by God’s manifold grace.

Yet another thing we must do better is to draw new members deeper in to the life of the Church. While Mass attendance and regular confession are primary goals, it is also most critical that new members feel welcome and be encouraged to get involved in the wider life the parish. This will usually root them more deeply in the faith and ensure a greater fraternity that will help them in their walk: Woe to the solitary man, for if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up (Eccles 4:10).

And we need to teach them to pray. The danger of RCIA is that it can be top heavy on intellectual formation but almost bereft of spiritual formation rooted in prayer and the spiritual and liturgical practices of the Church. Here too, I need to do a better job of finding the right balance.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts and experiences in this matter. Perhaps your own parish is addressing this? Perhaps too, you are a recent addition to our numbers in the Church and would be willing to share the good things, and the short-comings of your formation and mystagogia.

We have to do better. My recent trip down memory lane was real wake-up call. In the early Church, we went from the rather sudden and quick baptisms of Scripture (e.g. Acts 2:39; 8:36) to a three year catechumenate. This was likely due to a bad experience the Church had with those baptized too soon. I am not sure I want to make people wait three years, but I AM more sure I want their mystagogia to extend two years beyond their baptism and reception. We need to walk with our new brothers and sisters a little further down the road than just a few weeks or months out of the font. Lord, have mercy on me for taking so long to know better.

Making Sense of the Resurrection Accounts – Are there Discrepancies?

When we read the various accounts of the Resurrection in the four Gospels, Acts and Pauline Epistles we can easily be puzzled by some apparent discrepancies in the details.

The Pope in his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth (Vol II) says, We have to acknowledge that this testimony [of Scripture] considered from an historical point of view, is presented to us in a particularly complex form and gives rise to many questions. (P. 242)

The Pope goes on to explain what he considers to be the reason for this complexity and apparent divergence in some of the details.

What actually happened? Clearly for the witnesses who encountered the risen Lord, it was not easy to say. They were confronted with what, for them, was an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their own experience. Much as the reality of the event overwhelmed them and impelled them to bear witness, it was still utterly unlike anything they had previously known. (p. 242).

The Pope then reminds us that Jesus’ resurrection was experienced by them as something far beyond the resuscitation of a corpse. Rather, Jesus had taken up a wholly new and transformed humanity that was beyond anything they could fully describe or had ever experienced.

With all this in mind we are better able to appreciate the ecstatic qualities of the resurrection accounts and appreciate why all their details do not perfectly line up. The accounts have a rather crisp, “lets get to the point” quality;  especially the accounts of the first day of the appearances. Frankly, one would be surprised if every detail in the account of an astonishing event were exactly the same. One might even suspect a story that was too controlled and wonder as to a kind of brainwashing or conspiracy having taken place. But as they are, these accounts have every hallmark of the accounts of people who experienced the events truly, but, due to their ecstatic and disorienting quality, recall the details differently or emphasize different facets.

It is important to recall that the Scriptures record the things Jesus actually said and did but they are not written like history is today: Today we attempt or think we write history as an exact chronological and comprehensive analysis of an event or era. But the Scriptures are selective, story based accounts rather than our modern journalistic approach to history. They will often collect the sayings and deeds of Jesus around certain theological themes, rather than follow an exact time line. They do not intended to be an exhaustive account of everything Jesus said and did in exact detail (cf Jn 20:30; 21:25). Rather the Evangelists select what is suited to their theological purpose. And yet, despite these distinctions we must be clear that the gospels are historical accounts, in that they recount the things Jesus actually said and did.

Now, for the record, there are some apparent, and also real discrepancies in the accounts. The word “apparent” is important though, because not all the discrepancies are real or substantial if we take a closer look at them. Some who wish to cast doubt on the historicity of the Resurrection often wish to make more of these differences than necessary. Many, if not most of the differences can be dealt with quite easily and we are able to ultimately stitch together a reasonably clear account of the resurrection, if we are disposed to do so.

So, lets consider some of the apparent conflicts that emerge in the accounts:

  1. How many women went out to the tomb that morning, one (Jn 20:21) two (Matt 28:1), or three (Mk 16:1)?
  2. Did Magdalene alone go to just Peter and John (Jn 20) or did the several women go to the Apostles (Matt 28; Mk 16)?
  3. How many angels did they see there that morning, one (Matt 28:2; Mk 16:5) or two (Lk 24:4; Jn 20:12)?
  4. Did the women run to the other disciples and tell what they had seen (Mt 28:8; Lk 24:9) or did they say nothing out of fear (Mk 16:8)?
  5. Did Jesus see them first in Galilee (Mk 16:7; Mt 28:9) or in Jerusalem (Jn 20; Lk 24:36)?
  6. Among the Apostles, did he appear to Peter first (Lk 24:34), all eleven at once (Mt. 28:16), or the eleven minus Thomas (Jn 20:24)?
  7. Did Jesus appear to them in a room (Jn 20:19) or a mountaintop (Mt 28:16)?
  8. Lastly, did Jesus ascend on Easter Sunday (Lk 24:50-53; Mk 16:19) or forty days later (Acts 1:3,9)?

At one level some react that some of these details are picky. Who cares really who many women went or how many angels? Perhaps but it does not seem wise to simply dismiss the differences this way. Some of the differences ARE quite significant. For example, did Jesus appear to them first in Jerusalem? Luke and John are quite clear that he did. But why then do Mark and Matthew completely ignore this and tell the angel instruct the women to have the disciples go to Galilee where they will see him? Now, as has been stated, these differences can be addressed in a thoughtful manner but they should not be simply dismissed as of no account.

In what follows I propose to address these difference and give possible resolutions. I am also aware and expect to hear from some who consider any attempts to resolve these matters “simplistic.” But I and others who have pondered these matters are not simpletons and would prefer if those who might have a different explanation or view would avoid dismissive, demeaning or ad hominem argumentum. If something seems wrong state why and give evidence or an alternative point of view. So, on to possible solutions.

  1. How many women went out to the tomb that morning, one (John 20:21), two (Matt 28:1) or three (Mk 16:1) and how many angels were there, one (Mk 16:5, Mat 28:2) or two (Lk 24:4, Jn 20:12)? One solution here is to recall that neither John’s Gospel nor Matthew’s absolutely deny that three women went to the tomb that day. They simply do not mention three whereas Mark does. John especially wishes to focus on Mary Magdalene and may have found it unnecessary to mention the others. Additionally, Matthew and Mark’s mention of one angel need not be seen as an absolute denial that there were two as described in Luke and John. Another solution is simply to acknowledge the discrepancies in the accounts but underscore the fact that the number of women and the number of angels is not the central point. The point is that the tomb was discovered empty by one or several women and they were instructed to tell the apostles what they saw and heard.
  2. Matthew (28:8) and Luke (24:9) indicate that the women went and told the disciples of the empty tomb but Mark (16:8) says they were afraid and said nothing. True but in the verses that follow in the appendix to Mark’s own Gospel (Mk. 16:10) Mary Magdalene does in fact tell the apostles. Rather than conflicting with the other texts, Mark may merely supply additional detail about the startled nature of the women, that at first they were startled and said nothing but soon after went on, as Mark in fact says, a did tell the apostles.
  3. Mark (16:7) and Matthew (28:9) indicate, according to the angel’s instructions, that Jesus would see them in Galilee but Luke (24:36 and John 20) describe the first appearances in Jerusalem. In addressing this difference we must recall that the gospels are not written as chronological or complete histories. The evangelists selected events from among the many things Jesus said and did and may also have altered the order. John (20:30 & 21:25) explicitly states that his account is selective. Hence we ought not conclude that any one gospel completely details all the resurrection appearances. It is true Mark and Matthew speak only of appearances in Galilee. Thus these accounts might only include the angelic instructions to go to Galilee since that they did not intend to describe appearances elsewhere. In other words it is possible to speculate that the angelic instructions were more elaborate and included instructions as to being prepared to meet Jesus first in Jerusalem. Matthew and Mark however paired these details down in their accounts since they did not intend to include the Jerusalem appearances in their accounts. This may not satisfy our notions of historical accounts wherein we expect and want a complete accounting of all the details. But, as has already been noted the Scriptures simply do not record history in this way. Rather they are selective accounts that open windows on history but do not claim to exhaustively report it. Note also that Matthew and Mark are not clear as to the time frame of the appearances they describe. Luke and John however, set the first appearance in Jerusalem and are rather clear that the day is the same day as the resurrection. Hence we reasonably conclude that the first appearances took place in Jerusalem and later appearances took place in Galilee. In other words the Jerusalem appearances do not conflict with the Galilean appearances in any way. Rather they simply add details that Mark and Matthew, for reasons of their own, chose not to include. Such a conclusion is speculative to be sure. It does, however, help us to see that the accounts do not absolutely contradict each other.
  4. Among the Apostles, did Jesus appear to Peter first (Lk 24:34), all eleven at once (Mt. 28:16), or the eleven minus Thomas (Jn 20:24)? There seems to be a good case for the fact that the Lord appeared first to Peter even though we do not have a direct account of this appearance in the scriptures. The Gospel of Luke makes mention of it, And they [the disciples traveling to Emmaus] rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”(24:33-34). Paul also records it [The Lord] was raised the third day in accordance with the scriptures…he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Cor 15:3ff). So it seems a pretty good case can be made that Peter did see the risen Lord before the other apostles. This quote from Paul also helps us recall that the gospel accounts are selective in terms of which resurrection appearances they report. Thus, as we read the various accounts, we get from each of them only a part of the full picture (see John 20:30). According to Paul there were appearances to Peter, to five hundred disciples, and to James. The details of these appearances are left to our imagination. It also follows that we do not need to see the accounts of John and Matthew cited above as conflicting. They may well be describing different appearances.
  5. Did Jesus appear to them in a room (Jn 20:19) or a mountaintop (Mt 28:16)? Again, we need not place these texts at odds with one another. Most likely they are describing different appearances. Since the time frame of John is clear that the appearances in the upper room took place on Resurrection Sunday and then a week later we can presume that these appearances took place first. The mountaintop appearance was in Galilee and the time frame is not clear. It may have been days or weeks later.
  6. Did Jesus ascend on Easter Sunday (Lk 24:50-53; Mk 16:19) or forty days later (Acts 1:3,9)? At first glance the texts from Luke and Mark do seem to imply that the ascension was the same day as the resurrection. However, a closer look will show that they are rather vague as to the time frame. Mark begins the passage leading up to the ascension with the word “afterward.” How long after the previous appearance is uncertain. Luke’s passage is also vague regarding the time. However Acts (1:3,9) also written by Luke is quite specific that the time of the ascension was forty days later. Thus, Acts need not be seen to conflict with the gospel accounts; it merely supplies the details that are lacking in them. This case is made stronger when we note that Luke is generally accepted to be the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles and it seems unlikely that Luke would directly contradict himself.

So here then is a short tour of some of the apparent discrepancies and possible ways to resolve them.

In the end we simply have to accept that the Gospels do not record history in the same systematic and strictly chronological manner we moderns prefer. But they DO record history. It is for us to accept the evidence and accounts as they are given. The fact is that to develop a precise time frame and blow by blow chronological description may not be fully possible. However, careful study of the texts can help somewhat in this regard.

In tomorrow’s blog I would like to propose a somewhat chronological account that attempts to weave the many strands into one narrative. Such an attempt as we will see involves some speculation given the nature of ancient historical accounts. But it can help us to sort our the many details by trying to order them. So stay tuned for tomorrow.

Happy Easter – Jesus is on line one

Do you have a cell phone?  Does your cell phone tell you who it is that is trying to call you?  Do you usually check that caller ID and decide, based on who it is, whether to answer the phone or not?

“Answer”, “Ignore” or “Send to voicemail”?

I do! In all honesty, when someone at my school says to me, “You have a call on line one,” I almost always ask, “Who is it?”  Then, I decide if the person is worthy of my time, if I am prepared to talk to that person, if I don’t like that person or if it is conversation I would prefer to have later.  I am sure the same thing happens to me when I call others as well.  I am not offended , trust me, I am a high school principal.  Try calling a parent in the middle of the day.

Caller ID

I love caller ID.  When I know who is calling, I know how I am going to react.  I am going to pickup the phone if it is my mom or wife because I want to make sure they are OK.  I am going to pick up my calendar if it is my Pastor because he probably has something for me to do.  I am not going to always pick up the phone if it is my best friend because, we will talk forever and I got to make sure I have time to sit and chat.  I am not going to pick up the phone at all if I am driving because that is dangerous and I am not trying to kill anyone. Like many of you, I make these discernments each time my phone rings.  And that it OK.

If it is God, pick up and answer!

But, when it comes to Christ, when it comes to God, you can’t hit the “ignore” button but so many times; Can I get an amen?  I shouldn’t say to God,” I will call you back later.”  You shouldn’t say to God, “Not now I am busy.”  We shouldn’t say to God, “I have something more important to do.” You can’t say to God, “This isn’t a good time, go talk to someone else and get back to me later.”  You can’t put God into your voicemail but so many times.  When God calls, you must pick up the phone and answer.  And unlike your mother, pastor, wife or best friend, don’t simply say “Hello.”  Answer God’s call by saying, “Here I am Lord, what do you want me to do!”

Are you sure you have the right number?

Brother and sisters, I know at least for me, I have put God on hold many times in my life.  I hit the ignore button, turned on my voice mail and took a message.  And he kept calling.  I tried my best to not be a deacon but God kept calling and I kept saying, “You must have the wrong number.”  God said, “Follow me” and I said, but I don’t have the time. I said to myself, “Most Deacon’s are retired, I still have to work” (Which isn’t true by-the-way, but that was my excuse at the time).  God said, “I gave you that job that keeps you so busy, want to keep it?”  I said “God, I have not studied religion since high school, and I wasn’t all that great at it.”  God said, “I am the perfect teacher, I can teach anyone, including you.”  I even said “God, I am really not sure I am worthy.” And God said, “I know; That is why the Holy Spirit will be heavily involved in this endeavor.”  Like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, with me, God knew whom he was calling.  Sometimes, we think God doesn’t know what he is doing don’t we?  God’s doesn’t ask for a resume because he already knows our qualifications.  This is important because we often ignore God’s call not out of spite for Our Lord but rather lack of confidence in the graces he has given us.  You see, God is not asking us to change who we are, he is asking us to take the talents that he built into us and use them for the Kingdom of God.

I knew you before you were formed in the womb

I often meditate upon the reason why God chose fisherman to be the first disciples, the first Bishops of the flock.  Maybe because fishing was a dangerous profession and he needed men who would not be frightened easily.  Maybe it was because fisherman had to be patient and building the Kingdom of God requires among many things patience.  Perhaps it was because fisherman had to be able to read subtle changes in the weather and water conditions in order to fill their nets and those same skills were needed in leading the early Christian community.  Perhaps it was because fisherman rarely worked alone and they had a sense of community that he wanted in his Church on Earth.  Maybe it was all of the above and maybe it was a set of qualities that I have yet to understand. But he never said to them, “Stop being fisherman.”  Rather, I will take those skills I gave you and make yourselves “Fishers of men.”

Brothers and sisters, when God calls us, he knows what he is doing and he knows whom he is calling.  When you answer God’s call, you will never hear God say, “Sorry, I dialed the wrong number!”   I heard a priest say once, “God never calls the qualified but qualifies everyone he calls.”

Each of us has a talent or a gift that God wants us to use to build his Kingdom.  God is calling us to use that talent.  For some of us, you are being called to lector, join the choir, be a minister of holy communion, join the St. Vincent de Paul Society become active in any number of ministries we have in an average parish.  Your phone is ringing, answer the call, it’s God!  Some of you are called to be priests, deacons, religious sisters or brothers.  Don’t send God to your voice mail, answer and say, “Here I am Lord.”  Some of you are called to be married and to be parents, maybe even adoptive parents, God is calling, don’t text him back saying, “I am busy.”

Say yes!

Brothers and sisters, God is calling and when we answer yes, he doesn’t promise that our life will be easy.  But, he promises that our life will be fulfilled.  In your prayer life, God is calling; Through your friends, God is calling;  Through the voices of your family, God is calling.  Perhaps even through this blog post, God is calling.  Answer the phone and say, “Here I am Lord.  What do you want me to do?”   Happy Easter!

No matter what you think is going on, this is what’s really going on.

The Ritual Answer – “How’s it going?” You get asked this question dozens of times each day. But the question is not usually sincere. If you were to actually answer it in detail you would surely be committing a social blunder. Your questioner almost never really means it as he says: How’s it going? Se we just say,  “I’m doing OK” and then engage in further meaningless ritual: “And how are you?”

The Real Answer – Perhaps it isn’t quite this dismal, sometimes there is actual interest in the answer and some real concern is shared but so often it is just filler. But let me ask you to ponder, fellow Christian, what is the truest answer to the question, “How’s it going?” For the Christian the answer is beautifully supplied by St. Paul:

Always carrying about in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in us (2 Cor 4:10)

For the Christian the Paschal mystery IS our life. We are immersed in the dying, rising and ascending of Jesus. At every moment of our life the great Easter mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection are at work. And with Jesus we are ascending to the Father. No matter what you think is going on,  this is what is really going on: Always carrying about in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in us.

Dying but rising – Surely we do experience trials and difficulties, disappointments, losses and even devastating things. This is the dying of Christ. But that dying leads to new life and so we rise with Christ. It may take “three days”  in the tomb but,  if we are faithful,  we rise. And we rise, not just to where we were before, since, if we are faithful, we become more and more alive in Christ Jesus. As the old Adam dies in us we gradually experience the New Adam, Christ Jesus. The old life that dies is replaced by the fuller life of Christ.

Unless the gain of wheat falls to earth and dies to itself it remains JUST a grain of wheat. But if it dies it [rises and] produces abundant fruit. (Jn 12:24)

Consider how marvelously greater the mighty oak tree is from the little acorn that fell to the earth and “died.” There is hardly a resemblance at all. And so it is that the life of the New Adam that replaces the dying life the old Adam is incomprehensibly greater than life it replaces.

So we are dying, yes,  and we are rising. But it is not a simple trade off, for in all of it we are ascending higher and higher with Jesus. So the next time some one asks you, “How’s it going?” or, “How are you doing?” Surprise them with the truest answer:

Always carrying about in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in us (2 Cor 4:10)

No matter what you think is going on,  this is what’s really going on.

The old Spiritual “We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder.” The lyrics are “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder. Every round goes higher, higher, soldiers of the cross.” The vision of the Spiritual is that walking the way of the cross isn’t easy but each cycle we make through the paschal mystery means we’re one level higher and more alive.

It’s Not About You

We have come to the conclusion of the Easter Cycle as we celebrate Pentecost this weekend. All through this period we have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Fully the last two-thirds of Acts has focused on the Evangelical Mission of St. Paul as he made four journeys into Asia Minor and then into Greece. The final chapters of Acts deal with Paul’s arrest, imprisonment and appearance before Roman officials such as Felix and Festus, as well as Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem and Caesarea.

Paul appeals his case to Rome and is sent there on ill fated journey that shipwrecks at Malta. Finally making it to Rome, Paul is imprisoned and awaits the trial that will either vindicate him or seal his fate. The story seems to be building to a climactic conclusion and we, the readers,  are ready to see Paul through his final trial. But then something astonishing happens: the story just ends. He is the concluding line of the Acts of the Apostles:

[Paul] remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 28:30-31)

But Luke! Don’t just leave us hanging! Did Paul go on trial? We he acquitted as some traditions assert and then made his way to Spain as he wanted? Or did he loose his appeal and suffer beheading right away? What was the outcome? We have seen Paul so far and now the story just ends?!

How can we answer this exasperating and unsatisfying end?

The simplest answer is that the Acts of the Apostles is not about Paul. It is about the going forth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. Luke has, to be sure, personified this going forth of the Gospel to the nations by focusing on Paul. But once Paul reaches Rome and, though under house arrest,  is able to freely preach the Gospel there (for there is chaining the Word of God(2 Tim 2:9)), the story reaches its natural conclusion. It is true, others had preached the Gospel in Rome before Paul, but since Paul has been the way Luke illustrates this going forth of the Word of God, the entry of Paul into Rome means the story has reached its goal. From Rome the Gospel with go forth to every part of the Empire, for every road led to Rome and away from it. Now that the Gospel has reached the center hub and is being freely preached, it will radiate outward in all directions by the grace of God.

But what about Paul and what of his fate? It doesn’t matter. It never WAS about Paul. It was about the Gospel. Paul himself testified to this when he said, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

We are often focused on personalities and frequently we loose track about what is most important. And, frankly the personality we are most focused on is very often ourselves. Acts never really was about Paul. And your life is not about you. It is about what the Lord is doing for you and through you. We often want things to revolve around us, around what we think, and what we want. But, truth be told, you are not that important, neither am I. We must decrease and the Lord must increase (Jn 3:30).

Some of these notions hit hard in the self esteem culture in which we live. But in the end our true glory is not our own glory, but the glory of God radiating in us. If we decrease, the Lord increases. But that does not mean we are swallowed up and lost in Christ. Rather, it means we truly become the man or woman God has always made us to be, one who reflects the very glory of God. Perhaps it is best to let Paul himself end this:

For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ. (2 Cor 4:5-6)

This video is of the conclusion of the Acts of the Apostles. The scene begins with Paul speaking to Jewish leaders in Rome. The epilogue in the video which shows Luke leaving Rome is not part of the Acts of the Apostles.

Mass on the Move: The Hidden Mass on the Road to Emmaus

Today’s Gospel of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff) does more than present a resurrection appearance. It also presents the Mass in seminal form as I will show. In doing this Luke and the Holy Spirit teach us that the Mass is the essential and most vivid way that we encounter Christ now. The two disciples also learn this lesson for as soon as they recognize Christ “in the breaking of the bread” he vanishes from their earthly eyes. In effect Christ teaches them they will no longer see him in an earthly  way but now they will see him with the eyes of faith in the Eucharist, the liturgy and, by extension, in all the sacraments.

So for us to who to encounter the risen Lord Jesus, this Gospel teaches us that the Mass is the most perfect way and place we will encounter him. Let’s examine this resurrection appearance and see it for what it is, a Mass.

  1. Gathering Rite – The Curtain rises on this Mass with two disciples having gathered together on a journey: Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus  (Lk 24:13). This is what we do as the preliminary act of every Mass. We who are pilgrims on a journey come together on our journey. It so happens for these two disciples that Jesus joins them: And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them (Luke 24:15). The text goes on to inform us that they did not recognize Jesus yet. Now for us who gather at Mass it is essential to acknowledge by faith that when we gather together, the Lord Jesus is with us,  for Scripture says, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matt 18:20). it is a true fact that for many of us too, Jesus is unrecognized! Yet he is no less among us than he was present to these two disciples who fail to recognize him. Liturgically we acknowledge the presence of the Lord at the beginning of the Mass in two ways. First, as the priest processes down the aisle the congregation sings a hymn of praise. It is not “Fr. Jones” they praise it is Jesus whom “Fr. Jones” represents that they praise. Once at the Chair the celebrant (who is really Christ) says, “The Lord be with you.” And thereby he announces the presence of Christ among us promised by the Scriptures. The Mass has begun, our two disciples are gathered and the Lord is with them. So too for us at every Mass.
  2. Penitential Rite – The two disciples seem troubled and the Lord inquires of them the source of their distress: What are you discussing as you walk along? (Lk 24:17) In effect the Lord invites them to speak with him about what is troubling them. It may also be a gentle rebuke from the Lord that the two of them are walking away from Jerusalem, away from the site of the resurrection. Clearly their sorrow and distress are governing their behavior. Even though they have already heard evidence of his resurrection (cf 24:22-24), they seem hopeless and have turned away from this good news. The text describes them as “downcast” (24:17). Thus the Lord engages them is a kind of gentle penitential rite and  wants to engage them on their negativity. So too for us at Mass. The penitential rite is a moment when the celebrant (who is really Christ) invites us to lay down our burdens and sins before the Lord who alone can heal us. We too often enter the presence of God looking downcast and carrying many burdens and sins. We too like these two disciples may be walking in wrongful directions. And so the Lord says to us, in effect, “What are thinking about and doing as you walk along. Where are you going with your life. And thus again we see in this story about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Mass that is so familiar to us.
  3. The Liturgy of the Word – In response to their concerns and struggles the Lord breaks open the Word of God, the Scriptures. The text says: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures (Luke 24:27). Notice that, not only does the Lord refer to Scripture but he interprets it for them. Hence the Word is not only read, there is also a homily, an explanation and application of the Scripture to the struggles these men have. The homily was a good one too for later, the disciples remark: Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32) And so too for us at Mass. Whatever struggles we may have brought to the Mass, the Lord bids us to listen to his Word as the Scriptures are proclaimed. Then the homilist (who is really Christ) interprets and applies the Word to our life. It is a true fact that the Lord works through a weak human agent (the priest or deacon) but God can write straight with crooked lines and as long as the homilist is orthodox, it is Christ who speaks. Pray for your homilist to be an obedient and useful instrument for Christ at the homily moment. After the homily we usually make prayers and requests of Christ. And so it is that we also see these two disciples request of Christ: Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. (Luke 24:29) Is this not what we also say in so many words: Stay with us Lord, for it is sometimes dark in our lives and the shadows are growing long. Stay with us Lord and those we love so that we will not be alone in the dark. In our darkest hours, be to us a light O Lord that never fades away. Yes, this whole brief journey of Jesus and the disciples is surely familiar to us who attend the Catholic Mass!
  4. The Liturgy of the Eucharist – Christ does stay with them and then come the lines that no Catholic could miss: And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them (Luke 24:30). Yes, the Mass to be sure. Later, the two disciples will refer back to this moment as the breaking of the bread(Luke 24:35), a clear Biblical reference to the Holy Eucharist. The words of Mass come immediately to mind: “While they were at supper He took the bread, and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said, take this all of you and eat it: this is my Body which will be given up for you.” A fascinating thing happens though: With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:31). First note that it is the very act of consecration that opens their eyes. Is this not what Holy Communion is to do for us? Are we not to learn to recognize Christ by the very mysteries we celebrate? The liturgy and the sacraments are not mere rituals, they are encounters with Jesus Christ, and though our repeated celebration of the holy mysteries our eyes are increasingly opened if we are faithful. We learn to see and hear Christ in the liturgy, to experience his ministry to us. The fact that he vanishes from their sight teaches us that he is no longer seen by the eyes of the flesh, but by the eyes of faith and the eyes of the heart. So though he is gone from our earthly, fleshly, carnal sight, he is now to be seen in the Sacrament of the Altar, and experienced in the liturgy and other sacraments. The Mass has reached it’s pinnacle, for these two disciples and for us.
  5. Dismissal Rite– Not able to contain their joy or hide their experience the two disciples run seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell their brethren what had happened and how they encountered Jesus in the breaking of the bread. They want to, have to,  speak of the Christ they have encountered, what he said and what he did. How about us? At the end of every Mass the priest or deacon says “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” This does NOT mean, “OK, we’re done here, go on home and haver nice day.” What it DOES mean is: “Go now into the world and bring the Christ you have received to others. Tell them what you have heard and seen here, what you have experienced. Share the joy and hope that this Liturgy gives with others.” Perhaps you can see the word MISSion in the word disMISSal? You are being commissioned, sent on a mission to announce Christ to others. The Lucan text we are reviewing says of these two disciples: So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them…..Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:33,35). How about us. Does our Mass finish as well, as enthusiastically?

So there it is, the Mass on the Move. For a Catholic this resurrection account is unmistakably a Mass. True it is in seminal form, but all the elements are there. The teaching is clear, the risen Lord Jesus is now to be found in the Liturgy and the Sacraments. It is for us only to have our eyes opened and to recognize him there.

A Chronological Sequence of the Resurrection Appearances

This Blog post is a follow-up from yesterday’s blog.

When we encounter the resurrection accounts in the New Testament we face a challenge  in putting all the pieces together in a way that the sequence of the events flow in logical order. This is due to the fact that no one Gospel presents all, or even most of the data. Some of the data also seems to conflict. I tried to show in yesterday’s blog that these apparent conflicts are not true conflicts. Another problem with putting all the facts together in a coherent and reasonably complete manner is that the time line of the events is often unclear in some of the accounts. Luke and John are the clearest as to the time frame of the events they describe but Matthew and Luke given us very few parameters. Both Acts and Paul also supply data wherein the time frame is not always clear.

Nevertheless I want to propose to you a possible, even likely, sequence of the Resurrection events. The work is my own and I make no claim that this scenario is certain or backed up by recognized ancient authority. It is simply the fruit of 20+ years of praying over and pondering the events of those forty days between the Lord’s resurrection and ascension. My reflections are based as solidly as possible on the actual biblical data with a small sprinkling of speculation. I realize that my attempt to do this will irritate some modern biblical scholars who, for reasons unclear to me, seem to insist it is wrong to attempt any synthesis of the texts. Nevertheless I boldly press on figuring that the average believer will benefit from it and find such a synthesis interesting. Take it for what it is, the work of an obscure pastor who has prayed and carefully sought to follow the sequence of the forty days. You may wish to offer correction or alternative interpretation and are encouraged to do so in the comments. I have posted a PDF of this Document that is easier to read here: Resurrection Chronological Sequence

  • I. The Morning of Day One
    • A. Very early in the morning a group of several women, including Mary Magdalene, approach the tomb to complete burial customs on behalf of Jesus (Matt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Jn 20:1).
    • B. They behold the tomb opened and are alarmed.
    • C. Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John with distressing news of likely grave robbers (John 20:2)
    • D. The women who remain encounter an angel who declared to them that Jesus had risen and that they should tell this to the brethren (Mk 16:5; Lk 24:4; Matt 28:5).
    • E. They are filled with fear at first and depart from the tomb afraid to speak (Mk 16:8)
    • F. Recovering their courage they decide to go to the Apostles. (Luke 24:9; Matt 28:8)
    • G. Meanwhile Peter and John have gone out to the tomb to investigate Mary’s claim. Mary Magdalene followed them back out to the tomb arriving before they left. Peter and  John discover the tomb empty though they encounter no angel. John believes in the resurrection. Peter’s conclusion is not recorded.
    • H. The other women have reported what the angels say to the Apostles. Peter and John have not yet returned and these remaining apostles  are dismissive of the women’s story at first (Lk 24:9-11). 
    • I. Mary, lingering at the tomb weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes him to be the gardener. Then he calls her by name, and Mary, recognizing his voice, turns and sees him. Filled with joy she clings to him. (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16)
    • J. Jesus sends her back to the apostles with the news to prepare them for his appearance later that day. (Jn 20:17)
    • K. The other women have departed the apostles and are on their way possibly back home. Jesus then appears to them (Mat 28:9) after he had dispatched Mary. He also sends them back to the apostles  with the news that he had risen and that he would see them. (APPEARANCE 2)
  • II. The Afternoon and evening of day one.
    • A. Later that Day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumors of his resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them, then sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (APPEARANCE 3) (Luke 24:13-30)
    • B. The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem and went to the Eleven. At first the eleven disbelieved them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they had experienced. At some point Peter drew apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?) And the Lord appeared to Peter (APPEARANCE 4)(Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) who informed the other ten who then believed. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the apostles) were now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it was in indeed true that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:34).
    • C. Almost at the same moment Jesus appears to the small gathering of apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus. (APPEARANCE 5)  Thomas was absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as to “the eleven” this is probably just a euphemism for “the apostles” as a group)  They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).
    • D. There is some debate as to whether he appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine account has significantly different data about the appearance on the first Sunday evening from the Lucan account. Is it merely different data about the same account or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say. Nevertheless since the data is so different we can call it (APPEARANCE 6) (John 20:19ff) though it is likely synonymous with appearance 5.
  • III. Interlude –
    • A. There is no biblical data that Jesus appeared to them during the week that followed. The next account of the resurrection says, “Eight days later” namely the following Sunday.
    • B. We do know that the apostles surely exclaimed to Thomas that they had seen the Lord but he refused to believe it. (Jn 20:24-26)
    • C. Were the apostles nervous that Jesus had not appeared again each day? Again we do not know, the data is simply silent as to what happened during this interlude.
  • IV. One week later, Sunday two.
    • A. Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the apostles gathered. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith who now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God. (John 20:24-29)
  • V. Interlude 2
    • A. The apostles received some instructions to return to Galilee (Mat 28:10; Mk 16:7) where they would see Jesus. Thus they spent some of the week journeying 60 miles to the north. This would have taken some time. We can imagine them making the trek north during the intervening days.
  • VI. Some time later –
    • A.  The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “After this.” Likely it is a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee. Not all the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8 )  . Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus in this appearance and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (John 21).
    • B. The Appearance to the 500. Of all the appearances you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced appearance. Many accounts it seems would have existed and at least one would have made its way into the scriptures. Yet there is no account of it other than it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance: 1Corinithians 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (APPEARANCE 9) Where did this take place. What was it like. What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account.   The Bible makes no pretenses to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book: (John 20:30).
    • C. The Appearance to James.  Here again we do not have a description of this appearance only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen: 1Cor 15:7  Then he appeared to James. (APPEARANCE 10)  The time frame is not clear. Only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.
  • VII. The rest of the forty days.
    • A. Jesus certainly had other on-going appearances with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes: Acts 1: 3  To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. 
    • B. During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute to this time period as recorded by Matthew (28:16ff) and Mark (16:14ff). It takes place an “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. For these notes this appearance (time frame uncertain) is referred to as  (APPEARANCE 11) It is here that he give the great commission. Although Mark’s text may seem to imply that Jesus was taken up from this mountain, such a conclusion is rash since Mark only indicates that Jesus ascended only “after he had spoken to them” (Mk 16:19).
    •  Evidently Jesus had also summoned them back to Jerusalem at least toward the end of the period of the forty days. There they would be present for the feast of Pentecost. We can imagine frequent appearances with on-going instruction for Luke records that Jesus “stayed with them.” Most of these appearances and discourses are not recorded. Luke writes in Acts: And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4)
  • VIII. The final appearance and ascension:
    • A. After forty days of appearances and instructions we have a final account of the last appearance  (APPEARANCE 12)  wherein he led them out to a place near Bethany, gave them final instructions to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was sent. And then he was taken up to heaven in their very sight. (Luke 24:50-53;  Acts 1).

So here is a possible and, if I do say so myself, likely chronological sequence of the resurrection appearances. It is a kind of synthesis that attempts to collect all the data and present it in a logical order. There are limits to what we can expect of the Scriptural account, and fitting perfectly into a time frame and logical sequence is not what the texts primarily propose to do. Yet such a chronological sequence can prove helpful and it is in that spirit that I present this.

This video is a collection of the Johannine appearances that I stitched together and set to the Music of Mozart’s Regina Caeli.