A Possible Harmonization of the Resurrection Accounts:
Sunday morning of the resurrection, a small group of women had been waiting until after the Sabbath to buy/prepare spices/ointments for Jesus’ body (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 23:56). Not having had a funeral, nor adequate time to mourn for Jesus—due to the abrupt and unexpected nature of His midnight capture, rapid “kangaroo court” and subsequent crucifixion (all during a holiday, no less)—they head to the tomb. The group is comprised of at least 5 women: Mary Magdalene (who is possibly the organizer, of the group) (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1), the “other” Mary (mother of James) (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10), Salome (Mark 16:1), Joanna (Luke 24:10), and others (Luke 24:10) all having followed Jesus from Galilee (Luke 23:55). They worry about how they will get to Jesus’ body because several of the women—being present for Jesus burial (Matthew 28:61, Luke 23:55)—knew, not only the location of the tomb, but also that it had been sealed by a heavy stone (Mark 16:3).
But these concerns were never realized. God had sent a pair of angels (Luke 24:4, John 20:12) to Jesus’ tomb—at least one of which—moved the heavy stone causing the earth to shake (Matthew 28:2). The guard present at the tomb was terrified at the lightning-like appearance of the angel and fell to the ground, remaining unconscious through much of the following event (Matthew 28:3-4).
When the women arrive at the tomb, they see that the stone has been rolled away (Mark 16:4). They enter the tomb, but do not see Jesus’ body (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:3). Instead they see two angels who appear as young men wearing brilliant white robes (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4). The women, are alarmed by this sight, and bow their faces to the ground (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:5). One angel speaks to the women, telling them to not be afraid (Matthew 28:5, Mark 16:6), announcing that Jesus has risen (Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6), and instructing them to go and tell the other disciples, then return to Galilee where they will meet Jesus (Matthew 24:7, Mark 16:7).
The women leave the tomb astonished…filled with fear, confusion, and hope (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:8)! Most of the women hesitate, and being afraid, do not immediately tell anyone what they just witnessed (Mark 16:8). Mary Magdalene, however, runs to find Peter and John (John 20:2). Overwhelmed by these events, and in bewilderment, she tries to explain to them what she had just witnessed. As would be expected, she is met with a barrage of questions, most of which she cannot answer. Of all the questions yet to be unanswered one thing appears clear to Peter and John: Jesus’ body must have been taken. It is no longer in the tomb (John 20:2)!
Peter (Luke 24:12) and John (John 20:3) run towards the tomb. John—being the younger of the two—arrives first (John 20:4), and peers into the tomb to see that the linens in which Jesus body had been wrapped were now folded and neatly stacked, but he does not yet enter (John 20:5). When Peter catches up, he brushes past John and enters the tomb (John 20:6). John enters into the tomb behind Peter, and it is at this moment that it clicks in his mind: Jesus has RAISED just as the scriptures foretold and as Jesus had promised (John 20:8-9)! They leave the tomb astonished, and go home (Luke 24:12, John 20:10).
After Peter and John leave, Mary Magdalene again visits the tomb, and sees the angels. But this time she sees the risen Jesus, alive and well…and she speaks with Him in the garden! Following Jesus’ instructions, Mary then leaves to find the rest of the brothers and tell them that she had seen the Lord (John 20:11-18).
Meanwhile, the women who had previously left the empty tomb frightened, and had delayed in their task to tell the disciples (Mark 16:8) finally mustered the courage and headed off to find them (Matthew 28:8). Along the way, Jesus appears to them, saying “Greetings!” They fall at His feet and worship Him. Jesus tells them to not be afraid, and commands them to tell the brothers the good news (Matthew 28:8-10). Without any further hesitation, the women find and tell the disciples what has happened (Luke 24:10). Nevertheless most of the disciples do not believe their story (Luke 24:11), until finally, when later that evening Jesus appears to the whole gathering. And all who saw Him believed (Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-20).