Since the four gospels tell the same story from four different viewpoints, they can be consolidated and arranged in order to see a clearer picture. The following is an attempt to put the resurrection story together in 20 events—beginning with Resurrection Sunday and ending with the Lord’s ascension to heaven. Each event contains a brief explanation and a list of citations from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.
#1 – The story begins early Sunday morning.
Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Three days later (according to Jewish days) on Sunday, the resurrection story begins. It is still dark and minutes before sunrise.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1)
When the Sabbath was past (Mk. 16:1-2)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn (Lk. 24:1)
Now on the first day of the week … early, while it was still dark (Jn. 20:1)
#2 – The women gather to visit the tomb.
Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), Salome, and Joanna leave their respective homes to meet and visit the tomb together. They’ve prepared spices to anoint the decaying body.
It is possible, that Mary (the mother of Jesus), Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary (the sister of Lazarus) might have also been among the women as well (cf: Matt. 27:55–56, 61; Lk. 23:49, 55–56; 24:10; Jn. 19:25).
The entire process could have taken more than an hour, since some of them had to walk 30 minutes (as far as Bethany) to meet together, then to wait for others before leaving for the tomb. It would be sunrise by the time they arrive. While walking to the tomb, they asked among themselves, “Who will open the tomb since the stone is too big for us to move?”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb (Matt. 28:1)
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. (Mk. 16:1-2)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. (Lk. 24:1)
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (Jn. 20:1)
#3 – An angel rolls away the stone.
While the women journey to the tomb, angels descend from heaven and roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb. Either their descension or their use of power to roll the stone away caused the land to shake and rumble like an earthquake. After rolling the stone away, the angel sits on the stone in order to say, “No one will roll this back.” The angel’s appearance is so stunning and intimidating that the guards of the tomb collapse due to overwhelming fear.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matt. 28:2–4)
#4 – The women arrive at the tomb.
By the time the women arrive at the tomb, the angel has disappeared and the guards have regained consciousness and fled. The tomb is deserted. The women notice that it is open and enter the tomb to discover the body of Jesus missing.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. (Mk. 16:4)
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Lk. 24:2-3)
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (Jn. 20:1)
#5 – Mary runs to tell Peter and John.
Recognizing the body is missing, the women assume it was stolen. (This was what most people, even Pilate and the Jews, thought would happen, which is why they appointed guards at the tomb.) Mary hastily leaves their company to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus was stolen.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (Jn. 20:2)
#6 – Mary returns to the tomb with Peter and John.
Hearing the news from Mary, Peter and John run to the tomb. Mary goes with them. John outruns Peter and arrives at the tomb first, but does not enter. Peter arrives second and immediately enters. Both men verify that the body is missing and see only the linen clothes with the head covering.
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed (Jn. 20:3-10)
#7 – Peter and John return home, the women remain.
Seeing the body missing and convinced that it was stolen, the men return home. No one, not even the women, considers what Jesus had said about rising from the dead on the third day. Puzzled, and probably frustrated, by the stolen body, the men returned home to contemplate. The women remain outside the tomb.
For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. (Jn. 20:10)
#8 – Angels appear to Mary.
Mary, saddened by it all, stoops down to see in the tomb once more. She sees two angels inside dressed in white—evidently not in an intimidating form, but as mere men. They ask Mary why she is weeping. She replies, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (Jn. 20:11-13)
#9 – Jesus appears to Mary.
After speaking with the angels (mistaking them to be men), Mary turns and walks away from the tomb. The other women remain. Mary begins investigating the garden to discover what might have happened. Seeing an unknown man in the distance (mistaking him for a gardener), she walks closer to him. She is desperate to find the body.
The man is Jesus. He sees her coming and calls out, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Still not close enough to recognize Jesus, she replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus speaks her name. She suddenly recognizes Him and calls out “Rabboni!” She runs and embraces Him. Jesus tells her not to cling to Him, but to go and tell the other disciples. Mary immediately left to tell them. But they did not believe.
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. (Mk. 16:9-11)
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (Jn. 20:14-18)
#10 – Angels appear to the other women.
While Mary is speaking with Jesus, two angels appear to the other women. They are frightened and bow in reverence. The angels tell them not to be afraid and invite them into the tomb to see where the body once laid. Entering the tomb, they discovered another angel. He tells them Jesus has risen from the dead, and that they should go and tell the disciples. The women ran out of the tomb in fear and great joy to tell the disciples.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matt. 28:5-8)
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them. (Mk. 16:5-8)
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words. (Lk. 24:4-8)
#11 – Jesus appears to the other women.
Running out of the tomb to go and tell the disciples, the women are hailed by Jesus who had been speaking with Mary. The women bow and worship at His feet. Jesus tells them to go and tell the disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matt. 28:9-10)
#12 – Roman guards report to the chief priests.
While all of this is happening, some of the Roman guards report to the chief priests. (Reporting all of this to Pilate would have cost them their lives.) The priests consult with the elders and produce a cover-up. They pay the soldiers to lie. The lie is that the body was stolen by the disciples at night.
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. (Matt. 28:11-15)
#13 – The women tell the disciples.
The women, fearful of the soldiers and priests, tell no one about their experience except the disciples. But the disciples do not believe their stories. After all, they did not witness the angels or the resurrected Jesus.
They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid … She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. (Mk. 16:8, 10-11)
Returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Lk. 24:9-11)
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (Jn. 20:18)
#14 – Peter returns to find Jesus.
Of all the disciples who hear from the women about what happened, only Peter returns to the tomb for a second look. This time, he goes without John. Inside the tomb he sees the linen clothes as originally observed. Then, he leaves the tomb and most likely encounters the risen Jesus in the garden, since he was the first apostle to see Christ risen (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5).
But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Lk. 24:10)
#15 – Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Later that same day, Jesus appears to Cleopas and another disciple as they walk to Emmaus (about seven miles from Jerusalem). The disciples discuss what the women reported earlier that day, but do not know that Peter has seen Jesus. Moreover, they do not know that it is Jesus walking with them until He leaves. Afterward, they quickly return to Jerusalem to tell the disciples.
After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. (Mk. 16:12-13)
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-32)
#16 – Jesus appears to the disciples (without Thomas).
The apostles and other disciples gather together in a locked room that same night. They are afraid of the Jews, since the lie is spreading. Cleopas and the other disciples arrive and tell them their story. Then, Jesus appears and shows them His scars and allows them all to verify the resurrection. Then Jesus leaves. Thomas was not there. He probably stepped out temporarily. When he returns, he does not believe Jesus visited with them.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Lk. 24:36-43)
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (Jn. 20:19-25)
#17 – Jesus appears to the disciples (with Thomas).
Eight days later, the disciples gather again in the room. This time, Thomas is with them. The doors are locked again to hide their gathering from the priests. Jesus appears and verifies Himself with Thomas, allowing him to touch His wounds.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn. 20:26-29)
#18 – Jesus appears to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
After the weeklong festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples return to Galilee and back to their normal jobs as fishermen. While they are out at sea, Jesus speaks to them from the shore. He tells them where to cast their nets, and they catch so many fish they cannot haul them in. Peter recognizes Jesus and swims to shore. On the shore, Jesus speaks to them about things to come and they eat together.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. (Matt. 28:16-17)
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:1-23)
#19 – Jesus gives the Great Commission.
Jesus and the disciples move to a mountain in Galilee (if they were not there already), and there He gives them the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:16-20)
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk. 16:14-18)
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Lk. 24:44-49)
#20 – Jesus ascends to heaven.
After His resurrection, numerous appearances, and final teachings, Jesus blesses the disciples and ascends into heaven, promising He will return.
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (Mk. 16:19-20)
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Lk. 24:50-53)
Until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered 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 you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:2-11)