To the best of my knowledge, the following order of events account for all biblical resurrection data consistently:
- Early Sunday morning, God caused an earthquake to occur so that the terrain surrounding Jesus’ grave shook violently. An angel then rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb shortly before sunrise (Matt. 28:2). Paralyzed with fear, the men on guard became traumatized “like dead men” (Matt. 28:4); they were then frightened away by the effects of the tremor and by the angel’s spectacular appearance (Matt. 28:2-3). The guards went on to report the incident to the Jewish authorities (Matt. 28:11). About this same time Mary Magdalene visited Jesus’ tomb “while it was still dark” (John 20:1). It is duly noted that someone else is with her, since she refers to “we” (John 20:2). Mary Magdalene and her friend(s) came to the tomb and discovered the tomb opened and assumed that Jesus’ body was stolen or moved (Matt 28:1; Luke 24:1-2; John 20:1). Mary Magdalene apparently left alone almost as soon as she noticed the stone taken away from the tomb (John 20:1-2).
- Mary Magdalene, leaving some or all of her friends behind, immediately to fetch Simon Peter and John (residing temporarily near Jerusalem) and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:1-2). Overwrought at discovering the tomb open, Mary missed the angel’s initial announcement of Jesus’ resurrection. It did not occur to her at this time that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He had predicted; she assumed that someone had stolen the body and hidden it(John 20:2).
- The other women, remaining at the tomb, saw two angels who told the ladies about the resurrection (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7). One of the angels spoke to the women reporting that Jesus has risen (Matt. 28:6).
- Peter and John arrive at the tomb and saw the empty grave clothes; Mary Magdalene is following behind them. John realizes and believes that Jesus rose from the dead yet Peter remains somewhat confused and sluggish in his faith. (John 20:3-9). Then both disciples (Peter and John) “returned to their own[i]” (John 20:10). Although John “saw and believed” (John 20:8) all those attending, especially Peter, did not understand the messianic significance of what had just occurred (John 20:9).
- After Peter and John left, Mary Magdalene, lingering about tomb, weeping in inconsolable grief, saw two angels “where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12[ii]).At first the two angels appeared to her inside the tomb (John 20:12) then Jesus appeared to her (John 20:14-15) although she did not recognize Him until He spoke her name (John 20:16). He then told her to return to the disciples (John 20:17). This is Jesus’ first appearance.
- As Mary Magdalene departed, some of the “other women” arrived at the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). By this time, “it began to dawn” (Matt 28:1) meaning it could be anytime after sunrise, even as much as an hour or so beyond it “when the sun had risen” (Mark 16:2). By now the group includes more people: “other Mary” (Matt 28:1), the mother of James (Luke 24:10), Salome (Mark 16:1), and Johanna (Luke 24:1, 10) who also saw that the stone was rolled away ( Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2;). Entering the tomb, they saw “two men” (Luke 24:4), one of whom spoke to them (Mark 16:5) and told them to return to Galilee, where they would see Jesus (Matt 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7). These two young “men” were actually angels (John 20:12).
- As Mary Magdalene and the women left to go tell the disciples, Jesus appeared to them and told them to go to Galilee with His “brethren” (Matt 28:9-10). This is Jesus’ second appearance.
- Mary Magdalene with the “other women” (Luke 24:10) went later that morning to the disciples’ Jerusalem hide-out (Luke 24:9); Peter, and perhaps John, were still be at their temporary lodging near Jerusalem (John 20:10). And “all the rest” (Luke 24:9) were behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) also in Jerusalem. It seems probable that Mary Magdalene had gone to several locations to find everyone. None of them had traveled too far from The Holy City since the day before was the Passover Sabbath. Mary Magdalene told them that she had seen the Lord (John 20:18). As a group the disciples did not believe her (Mark 16:11), neither did they believe the story of the other women (Luke 24:11).
- Upon hearing the news, Peter dashed off once again to the tomb. Seeing the empty grave clothes (Luke 24:12), he marveled. There are noticeable differences between this visit and the first one. Here Peter is alone, whereas John was with him the first time (John 20:3-8). Here Peter is definitely impressed; the first time John only “saw and believed” (John 20:8).
- It follows that Jesus personally appeared to Peter around this time although it could have been later in the day (1 Corinthians 15:5; Luke 24:34). This is Jesus’ third appearance.
- Sometime that same day Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32). This is Jesus’ fourth appearance.
- That Sunday evening Jesus appeared to the 10 apostles (Thomas is absent) in the upper room in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25). This is Jesus’ fifth appearance.
- The next day the entire group begins their journey north to Galilee which takes several days though Samaria (85 miles = +/- 136 Km)
- A week later, Jesus appeared to the 11 apostles, this time including Thomas, and Thomas believed (John 20:26-28). This is Jesus’ sixth appearance.
[i] NASB renders John 20:10 “…so the disciples went away again to their own [homes]” which is misleading for Peter and the rest of the disciples resided in Galilee (several day’s journey north through Samaria). More accurately stated the phrase might read “the disciples went away to themselves.” GK – 898 αὐτόπτης (how-too’), of himself, themself
[ii] The angels’ position cannot go unnoticed: “one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying” (John 20:12). This arrangement is reminiscent of the two golden cherubim who were on either side of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:18). The two angels were posted at either end of the tomb of Jesus, who, by the sacrifice He had just made of His own body, became the true and eternal mercy seat of sinful man (MacArthur, John Commentary on Matthew 24-28, page 311, Chicago: The Moody Press, © 1989.