Matthew 28:16-18, Where did the Twelve first encounter the risen Jesus?

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. … Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

//Nowhere does the Bible contain more contradicting stories than in the resurrection appearances. Take, for example, the question of where Jesus first appears to the Twelve. 

For Matthew, it happens on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus, after rising from the dead, instructs the women who first encounter him to tell the disciples he will meet them in Galilee. Immediately, they head for the hills, and Jesus meets up with them there. 

For Luke and John, the meeting takes place in Jerusalem. There, according to John, Jesus dispenses the Holy Spirit when he greets them. Luke’s version differs a little: When Jesus meets the Twelve, he explains the Spirit will come along shortly … actually, forty days later at Pentecost. Jesus tells them, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Note the command to remain in Jerusalem, a direct contradiction of Matthew.

Can Mark settle the argument of where they met? No, sorry, in Mark there is no meeting at all! Mark’s resurrection chapter originally ended with verse eight (the margin comments in your Bible may confirm this), with the women who discovered the empty tomb running away afraid, telling no one. Nobody sees Jesus; he’s just gone. Before you discount Mark’s version out of hand, remember that all throughout Mark, the disciples just don’t catch on; they never do grasp the significance of Jesus. Mark’s mysterious ending fits the story he tells, leaving it up to us to see if we understand.

Little wonder there is so much argument between Bible scholars about the nature of the resurrection!


  1. With respect I don’t really see any contradictions there, just authors editing and abbreviating material to fit what they thought was important. The “immediately” doesn’t exist in the text, you’re reading it into it. Galilee was about 68 miles or 4 days walk from Jerusalem. Within the gap from the appearance of the empty tomb with God’s messengers (angels) in the early morning (which Mark does record), to Jesus appearing to the eleven in their Jerusalem room in the evening, there was plenty of time for Jesus to talk to the women and walk with the travellers to Emmaus, although being nearly 20 miles it would still have been a long hike.

    Luke’s 40 days of Jesus presence was more than enough time for the various appearances to occur including John’s fishing tour.

    Jesus in John also says that their receiving of the holy spirit is for the forgiving of sins. Jesus in Luke commands his followers to remain until they receive power from on high to be witnesses for him, an abbreviated version of which is given in Matthew’s Great Commission. Since they’re not describing the same thing I don’t see a contradiction there either.

    It is also quite possible that Jesus wanted his disciples to head to Galilee immediately, but Luke makes it clear that the disciples simply didn’t believe the women, as later Thomas wouldn’t believe the men. If that was the case then the Jerusalem appearances were the result of Jesus indulging his disciples rather than it being part of his initial intent.

    To be honest the hardest reconstruction in my head is the exact order of Jesus appearing to Mary and the other women. We can neglect Mark saying they spoke to no man, he was obviously a fan of building tension. Did the women head off without Mary as she ran to get Peter and John, meeting Jesus without her, resulting in her mistaking Jesus for the gardener.

    Awkward to reconstruct, yes, but contradictory? That’s going a bit too far in my opinion.

    On the plus side, you do describe the resurrection appearances as the most contradictory in the Bible. If we can get a reasonably plausible reconstruction there then we don’t have to worry anywhere else. :-)

  2. Thanks for the reply, DofE! Help me understand how you piece it together. Something like this?

    1. The angel at the tomb says, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.'” (Matthew 28:7, note the “quickly,” and note that Jesus is going ahead of them to meet them there).

    2. Jesus ignores what the angel promises and instead appears to the Twelve in Jerusalem (John 20:19).

    3. A week later he appears to the same Twelve in the very same place: (John 20:26). Everybody believes: even Thomas.

    4. Sometime later, Jesus meets the Twelve again in Galilee where he told them to go in the first place. Some of them doubt, until Jesus draws near (Matthew 28:18). Had they forgotten Jesus appeared to them twice already?

    This is the best I can come up with to fit the stories together, and it makes no sense at all…

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