* This reading is indebted to a teaching video from youtube which helped me by providing the idea that Peter and John were in a separate location from the other Disciples. If anyone can locate this video I will post it here.
The four accounts in the Gospels are fully compatible and together portray a full and coherent account of the Resurrection. As a side note, we may wonder why the accounts are fragmented and the PDF below addresses that question.
Following are 3 general guidelines to follow this coordination of the four accounts. (The full narratives from the Gospels can be found in a PDF at the bottom of this post.)
1) Mary Magdalene separates from the other women and runs to Peter and John, who respond to her announcement.
2) First appears one angel, then two, then Christ.
3) The first to see Jesus is the Magdalene, then later and separately, the other women. Among the men, first is Peter and Cleopas on the way to Emmaus, then others in the Upper Room the same day. (That was still Resurrection Sunday, however we won’t be delving into anything that happens after the initial part of the Resurrection, in the morning, which is the controversial part.)
These are the 12 events of the Gospel accounts in order.
1. Women are headed to the tomb. (all accounts, John however only names the Magdalene)
2. A single angel comes, frightens the guards, who run away, removes the stone. (only in Matthew 28:2-4)
3. Jesus was either already out of the tomb or left it when the angel rolled away the stone.
4. The women arrive and the angel gives them word to bring to the Disciples. (Mark 16:3-5 makes clear the stone had already been rolled away and the guards we see had already fled; in Matthew there is a gap between 28:4 and 5; in Luke 24:2,3 and John 20:1,2 the account does not mention the angel).
5. Mary goes to tell Peter and John. (Matthew this happened between 28:7 and 8; Luke this happened between 24:3 and 4; Mark 16:10; John 20:2)
6. The rest of the women run away. (only in Mark 16:8)
7. Peter and John come to the empty tomb, inspect it, and leave. (Luke 24:12; John 20:4-8)
8. Mary returns to the tomb and sees two angels, then Christ. (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-13 then verses 14-17)
9. The rest of the women run into two angels who tell them again to go to the Disciples. (Luke’s account centers on this. Luke skips ahead to it in verse 4 and uses it through verse 8 of chapter 24. This does not appear in Matthew or Mark but would be between Matthew 28:7 and 8, and in Mark after 16:8; John doesn’t mention the other women at all).
10. The Lord also appears to these women. (only in Matthew 28:9)
11. The women finish going to the Disciples. (Matthew 28:11; Mark 16:10; Luke 24:9,10; John 20:18
12. These other Disciples (perhaps in the Upper Room) do not believe. (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11)
Why were Peter and John separated from the rest of the Disciples? I don’t know, but it may be that the rest of the Disciples took refuge in the Upper Room, (where they had locked themselves in that day), whereas John was lodging with Mother Mary at the instruction of Christ, who said,
26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”
27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
(John 19:26-27 NKJV)
Peter meanwhile may have been mourning with them to both comfort them and be comforted. He may not have felt worthy of being with the Disciples. Note that the angel told the women separate instructions about Peter. This may have led Mary to make the decision to run to them, possibly without discussing the matter with the others who fled.
“But go, tell His disciples– and Peter– that He is going before you into Galilee.” (Mark 16:7)
However, though this may all be true, it seems Peter had his own place where he was staying. It may be that Mary Magdalene went to Peter in one place and John nearby, as it says,
John 20:2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them,
John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
[John 20:10 is interesting because the word in the Greek may not be homes, but some translate it as a singular “home” while the Greek may not mean home at all. “The disciples therefore went away again unto their own friends.” (John 20:10 YLT) “Then the disciples returned to their colleagues.” (John 20:10 MIT) The correct translation may affect the interpretation here.]
We do read of Peter traveling on with Cleopas separately that afternoon, so it may be that Cleopas had offered a place to Peter. Where John was staying is even less clear, but it was a festival and he may have simply known people (even some of the women or others they traveled with) who offered him shelter. Also note that Thomas wasn’t there either, so they were a bit scattered still.