John the Apostle

Mary Magdalene


Three Gospels

The New Testament starts with the three Gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three are known as the Synoptic Gospels. Gospel means “Good News”, and Synoptic refers to the fact that all three give an account of the same general events from the same point of view. The fourth book, John, is distinctly different from the three Synoptic Gospels, and includes much information not in the other three Gospels.

The four gospel books differ in what stories they include and how the stories are told. None of the four Gospels are meant to be a complete, detailed life of Jesus. Rather, as John wrote, “Jesus truly did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that by believing you might have life through his name.” “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they should all be written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”

Together, the four Gospels comprise the vast majority of the direct information we have about the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Last Forty Days

Some of the most important information about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus is not found in Matthew, Mark, or John. Lukehas the most detailed account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, as well as an account of the first encounter with the apostles and a brief description of his ascension. Meanwhile,  Acts, a continuation of Luke, notes Jesus was on earth forty days after his suffering and gives an account of some of his activities during that time. Acts also gives more details on his ascension. In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at the same time, most of who were still living at the time (about twenty-five years after Jesus’ death), and to James and the apostles.

Considering that Jesus was on earth for about forty days after his resurrection, the Bible gives us precious little information and timing. Here is one possibility of Jesus’ appearances and activities: appears to Mary Magdalene and the women, appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, appears to ten apostles, appears to all eleven apostles, meets with seven apostles at the Sea of Galilee, meets with eleven apostles in Galilee on the mountain, appears to the five hundred, appears to James, meets with apostles in Jerusalem, and ascends into Heaven.

It is a bit curious that Jesus met with the women and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus before meeting with the apostles. When he finally appeared to ten of the apostles, it seems he mildly castigates them for not believing the reports of his resurrection before immediately offering them peace and fellowship. In a critical moment, Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to them. In a meeting with all eleven apostles, Jesus reconciles with Thomas, too.

Three huge events are detailed, fortunately. Jesus’ appearance to some of the apostles on the Sea of Galilee includes a long conversation between Peter and Jesus. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to affirm his love three times offsetting Peter’s three denials.

Matthew gives an account of a meeting on the mountain in Galilee. It is at this meeting Jesus gives the Great Commission, a mission that has been accepted by Christians through the centuries. Matthew does say that after his resurrection appearances, “some doubted.”

In Luke and Acts, Luke tells about the ascension of Jesus. With the exception of a small portion of Mark, these are all the accounts we have in the Gospels about that.

Primary Scriptures:
Matthew 28:16-20, John 20:19-21:25, Acts 1:1-12, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7
Story Summary:
The forty days after Jesus was resurrected
Kingdom of Judea (Israel)
Circa 30 AD