Why does Mary Magdalene tell the John and Peter:

we do not know where they have laid him (see John 20:2)

if she and the other women were already told by the angels that Jesus had risen (see Luke 24:1-12)?

3 Answers 3


I find the post-resurrection narratives of the Gospels fascinating--this is one of a number of good questions that come by comparing them side by side.

The simplistic scenario

It's easy to picture the women all leaving the tomb in a single group and going to talk to the disciples, all of whom are also waiting somewhere in a single group. I very much doubt this is what happened.

How fast can Mary Magdalene run?

Comparing the 4 Gospel accounts it appears that the group of women did not all stay together, but Mary Magdalene rushed off to find Peter & John. Given that at least some of the other women in the group were old enough to have adult children, maybe they left the scene a little more slowly. Mary, Peter, and John come back [apparently John runs fast too =) ], and after Peter & John leave, Mary sees Jesus.

Before long the other women get in touch with others of Jesus' followers, and it is probable that they do not all relate the incredible experience they had using exactly the same words.

Perplexed and afraid

It's worth noting that the women are described with words like "perplexed" and "afraid" after hearing the news from the angels. As Dottard noted, it looks like neither the women nor the apostles immediately understood what was going on. In fairness to them, they were experiencing something unprecedented.

A plausible timeline

(similar to Dottard's; I'm going to add in some additional details from the other Gospels that may help clarify the passages cited in the OP)

  1. Mary, Mary, Joanna, Salome, and possibly others go to the tomb early in the morning and find it empty. They are informed by an angel that Jesus has risen, and they are unsure what to make of it. (Mark 16:1, Luke 24: 4-5,10)
  2. Mary Magdalene hurries off to find Peter & John (John 20:2)
  3. The other 3+ women leave in an unknown number of groups (Matt 28:8)
  4. Mary Magdalene informs Peter & John that the Lord's body is missing (John 20:2)
  5. John, Peter, and Mary Magdalene hurry back to the tomb. John & Peter, finding it empty, leave, whereas Mary stays (John 20:3-11)
  6. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20: 14-16)
  7. Jesus ascends to His Father (compare John 20:17 & Matt 28:9)
  8. Jesus appears to at least 2 (maybe more) of the other women that came to the tomb that morning (Matt 28:9)
  9. The women start sharing with a variety of individuals what happened to them that morning; it is unclear how many of them have seen Jesus at this point (at least 3 have). Mary Magdalene now has new information vs #4 (Luke 24:9-10)
  10. Most people don't believe the women (Luke 24:11)
  11. Jesus appears to a group of his disciples that evening (Luke 24:36 & John 20:19)

Somewhere after #6 and before #11 Jesus also appears to Peter and to 2 individuals on the road to Emmaus.


Good question! It is apparent that the women either did not believe the angel, or, more probably, were so upset and shaken the previous day's events that they did not hear properly what the angels had said.

Note Luke 24:11 -

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

The women, including Mary Magdalene, probably came to the same view. Even in John's version, Mary does not believe the angels - it is only when she speaks to Jesus that she finally believes and then returns to tell the eleven disciples.

But they do not believe it until Jesus appears to them later that same day, in the evening in the upper room. Thus, the sequence of events appears to be:

  • The women, including Mary Magdalene, go to the tomb early on Sunday morning
  • Angels, speak to the women and tell them "Jesus is risen"
  • The women, excluding Mary Magdalene, return to the disciples
  • meanwhile Mary Magdalene meets and speaks to Jesus
  • Mary then returns to the disciples
  • Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room that evening


Here is a hypothetical and true version of what, when, and where the women spoke to the disciples, and what they said, and why, on the first day of the week, after Jesus rose: First, as a portrait of Mary Magdalena in her own voice, and then as a summary, followed by the facts in Scripture that answer the question of the topic: "What did Mary Magdalene tell the Disciples in John 20 vs Luke 24?" This will include a harmonization of the surrounding color and facts.

In the voice of Mary Magdalene:

"After the Sabbath was past, on the first day of the week, while it was still night, Mary, Jesus’ mother, and other women of the cross came with me to the tomb before the sun rose, to reanoint Jesus in the tomb. The earth shook again, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus was already gone. There were these two shining angels, one of whom said, 'I know you are looking for Jesus, but he is not here. Why do you look for the living among the dead? You see, he is not here. He has risen. Remember what he said to you when you were still in Galilee, 'The son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men to be crucified, and on the third day rise again.'"

"(We remembered, but I didn’t believe a word of it!) They said, 'Go tell his disciples, He will go before you, back to Galilee. Lo, you shall see him there.' But I looked at the panicking soldiers, and the unwound cloths, and we ran back to tell Peter and John, 'They have taken away the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they have put him!' They both outran us in the dark back to the tomb, and later said, 'Jesus’ body was gone, and unlike three nights before, his grave cloths were unwound and his face napkin was folded separately.' John told me, 'When I saw these things I knew Jesus was alive.'"

"But, when we got back to the tomb, and the angels were in the tomb, I turned around and there was the gardener, who said, 'Why are you weeping?' I said, 'Tell me where you have taken him, and I will come to take him away.' He replied, 'Mary.' Lo. It was my Lord! I held him, 'Master!' He said, 'Not so tight. I can’t stay. I’m still going to my Father, and your Father! Don’t be afraid.' So my sisters and his mother held him down by his feet to keep him from leaving again! This time we went in fear and joy to tell the disciples, 'We have seen the Lord.' But they thought we were full of nonsense."

On the First Day of the Week.

Mary Magdalene crossing Mt. Olive four times, early on the first day of the week, looking for Jesus, shows the love story of Jesus, of those who loved Jesus dearly, who forsook their lives and fortunes to be with him, to lean into his words of life. He turned his face into the winds of trouble daily, but cared for them as his little flock. They all loved him beyond measure. But, at the tomb, on Mary and the women’s first visit, something troubled them: “The Jews have taken our Lord away from his tomb, and we don't know where they have taken him” (Jn 19:40, 20:1-8 & Lk 24:10). They wouldn’t think of this if his empty windings lay decompressed in his tomb. They would if his windings were unwrapped, or if he was moved unwrapped. Both Luke and John say, Peter and John saw both the windings of Jesus and his face napkin folded, both being set aside separately inside the tomb. This means Mary and the women saw them too; thus the angels of the tomb unwound and saw the wounds of Jesus. Mary thought Jesus had been made naked and moved (Jesus had already been stripped three times). Being moved meant unimaginable things to Mary, having seen Jesus, up close and personal, from his feet at the cross, his naked, pierced, tortured body, his crown of thorns, and seeing him removed off of his cross, and the spikes from his hands and feet. How torturous it was to look at the unwound windings in the tomb, imagining the Romans guarding Jesus’ tomb Saturday night, helped the Jews once again. She re-pictured his lifeless state: Unwrapped and risen? No! Little wonder the words of the angels meant so little to Mary. Little wonder she forgot in disbelief the many times she heard Jesus say, “The son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men to be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Death brings on feelings and circumstances there are no plans for, when hopes and love are dashed. How much more the hearts of Mary Magdalene and Mary, Jesus’ mother, and John (Lk 1:26-33, 46-55, 2:25-35 & 23:26-28)?

These three were at the foot of the cross, and in the tomb, loving Jesus the most in these last moments. For Mary, his mother, to leave the cross with John, to go home with him at 3 p.m., uncaring of Jesus’ removal and burial, is not true to the Greek text. Jesus would, at 3 p.m. be supernaturally caring about his mother’s welfare, when she and John would unnaturally be ignoring his (Jn 19:25-42).

The Question of "What did Mary Magdalene tell the Disciples in John 20 vs Luke 24?" Is Answered.

Mary Magdalene and the women crossed Mt. Olive four times on first day of the week: From Bethany to the tomb and back (Jn 20:1-2), and again, from Bethany to the tomb and back (v10-18), four times on the first day of the week, beginning at night. So, the question of "What did Mary Magdalene tell the Disciples in John 20 vs Luke 24?" must be answered for both visits: On the first visit the angels had said, "Go tell his disciples, He will go before you, back to Galilee. Lo, you shall see him there." It is clear they did tell this to the disciples (Lk 24:3-10), after the first tomb visit, in the dark of the first day of the week. Mary and the women returned to Bethany to tell Peter and John, "They have taken our Lord away from the tomb!" (Jn 20:2). The disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke of it in this way to Jesus, not knowing it was him, "But also some women from among us astonished us, who were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive! And some of those with us went out to the tomb and found it like this, just as the women had also said, but they did not see him.” (Lk 24:22-24). These three statements comprise the first visit conversation of the women (Lk 23:47-24:1), not just Mary Magdalena. The original question can't be fitting as John 20 vs Luke 24 (which implies conflict), but as John 20 and Luke 24 (which implies harmony).

Summaries of Mary Magdalena and the Women of Galilee.

After John outran Peter to the tomb (perhaps Peter slowed down, waiting for the women, and, he had not been to the tomb to know the burial location) the women returned on their second visit to the tomb that day, at the rising of the sun. They were still looking for Jesus. Luke had nothing to say about what the women said to the disciples on their second tomb visit, (above he quoted the women's first tomb visit). But, John notices Mary Magdalena as weeping outside the tomb, as Peter and John left to go home (back to Bethany) on Mary's second visit. That wouldn't preclude the other women there from weeping with her. There is no text to say they weren't there too. The "Touch me not; for I have not yet ascended to my Father" moment should have been rendered more like, "Don't hold on to me," because moments later, after she did, the "other women" were holding Jesus down by his feet so that he might not leave again. He didn't ascend between the touches, nor was he made unholy. But, from the tears in the moments of Peter and John leaving, and Jesus finding Mary Magdalene, to the touchy moments of her and the other women with Jesus, and until her departure from Jesus, Mary, joyfully and fearfully, told all of these things to the disciples of Jesus (with the other women following him from Galilee, on their second visit from the empty tomb to Bethany (Jn 20:3-18 & Lk 23:47-24:1). Thus, the original question is answered, which has not requested anything about Matthew and Mark.

Untold Harmonies About the First Day of the Week.

The harmonies of these women, in return visits to the tomb, are remembering which gospel author has discerned which visit. One tomb visit was in the dark and one in daylight. Angels outside the tomb tell of the first visit, in the dark (Lk 24:1-12 & Jn 20:1-2). Angels in the tomb determine the second visit, after sunrise (Mk 16:1-11 & Jn 20:3-18).

Early on Saturday night, dawned the first day of the week. Mt 28:1 tells us, Late on the Sabbath, as it began to dawn into the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the sepulcher. The Greek word ἐπιφωσκούση for dawn in Mt 28:1, doesn’t mean, at the light of day. It is used one other NT time, as night was about to begin (Lk 23:54). Mk 16:1-2 & 9 agree with Lk 23:54: At the passing of the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint Jesus. The passing of the Sabbath is the evening turned into the night (ἐπιφωσκούση). Both Mk 16:9 & Jn 20:1 agree: Jesus rose early πρωï, on the first day of the week . . . and, The first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early πρωï, when it was still dark, to the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulcher. These two agree with Mt 28:1, as a dawning into the first day of the week began before the nightfall, after Sabbath. Lk 24:1-3 says, Upon the first day of the week, very early, they (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and others of Galilee, 23:47-24:1) returned to the sepulcher, and (24:22-24), they were early πρωï at the sepulcher, but did not find the body. They told Peter, “Someone removed Jesus.” Something else that tells which visit it was, is whether sorrow or joy ended which tomb visit of the women, to go tell the disciples their news. Sorrow ends the first visit of not finding Jesus, but joy ends the second, after Mary Magdalena and the other women see and embrace him. Luke has the first visit. John has both visits. Neither Matthew nor Mark note two visits but tell of the women in the tomb with an angel inside the tomb, rediscussing Jesus has risen. They note the second visit by the risen sun, Jesus being seen by the women, their joyful second visit embraces by Mary Magdelena, and the other women, and joyful news to tell Jesus’ disciples. Matthew and Mark tell of the second visit, after Jesus was seen in the daylight.

Doubts About Tradition and the Study of Scripture on Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

You may ask, "How could Jesus' mother Mary have been with Mary Magdalena at the tomb among the other women of Lk 23:47-24:1?" Mary Magdalena was at the foot of the cross with Mary, his mother, entering into the adoptive care of Mary, his mother, with John, who was commissioned by Jesus, for Mary to be a mother, and to John, for him to be as a son to Mary. Most Bible translations imply "John took her "into his own" to go home from that ninth hour of the day. But home or leaving the cross is not in the Greek. Thus that text has been corrupted by translation. Home in English is in Italics. All three were at the foot of the cross when Joseph came to the cross the first time, that night, on the preparation for Sabbath day (Jn 19:31-38, Mt 27:57-61 & Mk 15:42). All three were at the tomb, where Mary finds Jesus and embraces him, and John finds the empty windings of Jesus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus is among the women of Galilee, who held him down by his feet.

Further: Matthew’s gospel of Jesus gives us a genealogy telling who is who. He names Mary as the wife of Joseph in ch. 1, and Mary, the mother of Jesus in chs. 1, 2 & 13. In Mt 13:55, Mary is called the mother of Jesus, the mother of James and Joses, and Simon and Juda, and their sisters. Then, in 27:56, Matthew tells of a second Mary, Mary Magdalene, with Mary, the mother of James and Joses; two Marys, among the women of Galilee, at the cross when Jesus died. Then that night, on the preparation for Sabbath day (27:57-61), Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" were both sitting against the tomb. Then again, early on the first day of the week in 28:1, Matthew has Mary Magdalene and this "other Mary" return to the tomb. Why has Matthew obscured the other Mary for us after Jesus died? Do we think there are now three Marys in Matthew’s gospel? Do we think Matthew has forgot there are three Marys when he says and the other Mary? which implies one of two. Do we think, as he told us of Mary, the mother of James and Joses two times, that he forgot, or thought we forgot, or that we should guess about a third Mary, another mother of James and Joses? No, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, the mother of Jesus, is Matthew’s other Mary.

You may say, "The 'other Mary' was Mary of Clopas." Scripture tells of a Clopas in Jn 19:25. Tradition calls him Cleophas, and Alphaeus, the father of James and Joses, even as James “the less” and the author of the epistle. The Orthodox story says, Mary, the wife of Clopas (Cleophas, and him as Alphaeus) mothered James “the less” and Joses. But, Alphaeus has fathered James, Judas and Levi—but no Joses. Mary of Clopas is not noted anywhere as a mother of Joses, sister of Jesus, or the wife of Alphaeus.

Alphaeus has fathered three sons (Acts 1:13, Lk 6:16 & Mk 2:4), but no such Joses. In Acts 1:13 Alphaeus is not Clopas, where it tells us he fathered James and Judas. Those who created Alphaeus and Mary of Clopas as parents of James and Joses did so to deny Mary, the mother of Jesus to be their mother, to accept and justify the corrupted mistranslation of "Mary going home with John" at the ninth hour of the day. But, Mary's three tomb visits (Lk 23:50-24:1 & Jn 20:1-2 & v10-18) confirmed, that James and Joses are her sons, not Mary and Alphaeus’ sons. Thus, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, is the mother of Jesus, and the "other Mary" of Matthew, at the tomb with Luke's "other women of Galilee."

Conclusions on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, and the Women following Jesus from Galilee.

Thus Mary the mother of Jesus traveled with Mary Magdalena and the women of Lk 23:47-24:1, to the tomb two times from Bethany, and from the tomb to the disciples in Bethany two times: the first time to tell them, "Someone has taken our Lord and 'we' don't know where," and the second time to say, "We have found and seen our Lord." The absence of evidence is not evidence. Just because a gospel says Mary Magdalena was in the tomb, or at the tomb, or she saw Jesus, does not diminish the fact that the women following Jesus from Galilee have been traveling together, as they did from Jericho to Bethany, six days before the Passover, and on the road to Golgotha, behind Jesus to the cross, or from the cross to the tomb, following closely behind Joseph and Nicodemus (when Jesus wound in linens like Lazarus), to bury Jesus. They certainly could not have split in their travels any more than when they all sat at Jesus' tomb to weep together, in the full moonlight of the preparation for the Sabbath day, and leave together for the City to buy spices, to go home together to Bethany, to make ointments before the Sabbath, and return together in the dark of night, over Mount Olive, through Gethsemane, up through Jerusalem, and to Joseph's empty tomb on the first day of the week.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.