Where did the risen Jesus meet the disciples?

Posted on Jun.14, 2012. Filed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts. Average rating: 4.0 / 10 (Rate It).

When Jesus was crucified, his disciples were distraught. When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples, restoring their faith and demonstrating that he was the Messiah. But where did this meeting take place?

Mark is clear that Jesus’ post-resurrection meeting with his disciples was to be in Galilee. When the women speak to the young man in the white robe at the empty tomb, he says to them:

‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised, he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ [Mark 16:6b-7, NRSV]

Matthew also records this, with the angel at the empty tomb telling the women:

‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you. [Matthew 28:5b-7, NRSV]

In Matthew, Jesus then appears to the women himself, giving them a message for the disciples which again places the appearances in Galilee:

“Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, 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; there they will see me.'” [Matthew 28:9-10, NRSV]

In Matthew’s account, these predictions are then borne out:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” [Matthew 28:16-17, NRSV]

Luke, however, presents a different picture, with Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem:

“That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ … While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.’ [Lk 24:33-34, 36-37, NRSV]

John’s evidence is a little problematic. On the one hand, he seems to support Matthew and Luke by implying that the disciples returned to Galilee before the resurrection appearances took place. Two of the disciples (Simon Peter and ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’) discover the empty tomb, and then, before Jesus appears to them, go home, which could be read as describing a return to Galilee:

Then the disciples returned to their homes.” [John 20:10, NRSV]

A subsequent resurrection appearance then takes place at the Sea of Tiberias, in Galilee:

“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias…” [John 21:1a, NRSV]

However, John describes the first resurrection appearance as happening on the same day that the disciples discovered that the tomb was empty, which wouldn’t allow time for a journey from Jerusalem to Galilee:

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” [John 20:19-20, NRSV]

Although it is less clear-cut, Acts also implies that the resurrection appearances took place in Jerusalem, saying:

“After his suffering he [Jesus] presented himself alive to them [the apostles] by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.” [Acts 1:3-4a, NRSV]

So where did the risen Jesus appear to his disciples, in Galilee or in Jerusalem?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    Although it’s tempting to go for the “both… and…” solution that has Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem first and then later in Galilee, there is a small problem with this:

    John 20:19-20, which seems to record an appearance in Jerusalem, finishes with the disciples rejoicing at Jesus’ resurrection.

    In Matthew 28:17, however, where Jesus appears to the disciples in Galilee, some of them have yet to be convinced, still “doubting”.

    We generally think of the disciples doubting before the resurrection appearances, and then being convinced when they see Jesus and rejoicing/worshipping him.

    This harmonisation, though, has some of the disciples doubting, then seeing Jesus in Jerusalem and rejoicing, and then seeing Jesus in Galilee and doubting, which doesn’t sound quite right.

    It’s a small point, but one that could do with clearing up if this harmonisation is to be accepted.

  2. 2

    Nice to see being updated again. I myself have barely found the time to do anything to my own site.

  3. 3

    I’m also glad to see the latest entry.

    I’ve been checking once a month or so. So thanks for starting in again.

    On this one, I basically agree with the response you put up above: Jerusalem first, then Galilee.

    But at some point after the appearances in Galilee (and elsewhere?), the apostles must have returned to Jerusalem, and it was then that the order not to leave Jerusalem (mentioned in Acts) came.

    On the concern about the doubters that Matthew mentions, it seems that the apostles who worshiped him were not among the doubters. They had already seen Jesus. Thomas had his chance to touch Jesus’ wounds at that point. Judas had probably committed suicide also.

    But Jesus had other disciples (including Matthias and the two travelers to Emmaus, for example). Some of them, especially those in Galilee, were probably not present for the initial Jerusalem appearances. Matthew’s doubters were among them.

    So you don’t have the apostles, or even the same disciples outside that inner circle, doubting then rejoicing, then doubting again. Everywhere Jesus appears, some disciples who had not yet seen Him start out by doubting the resurrection.

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