None of the Gospel writers attempts a systematic account of the disciples’ movements. However, there is sufficient evidence to form a picture of their probable whereabouts on the resurrection morning, and most of the apparent contradictions in the accounts of the resurrection morning are quite readily explained once this matter is resolved.
When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, we are told that his disciples fled (Mt 26:56, Mk 14:50). Peter subsequently followed Jesus to the high priest’s house (Mt 26:58, Mk 14:54, Lk 22:54, Jn 18:15). John records that another disciple also followed Jesus, and being in some way known to the high priest, was responsible for gaining admission to the courtyard (Jn 18:15-6). This ‘other disciple,’ who crops up a number of times in John’s gospel, can be identified by comparing the various references as the gospel’s author and the apostle John.
How could a Galilean fisherman have such influence? John doesn’t tell us, except that his account implies that he was frequently in Jerusalem. However, Mark’s gospel mentions a minor detail about James and John: their father, Zebedee, was apparently wealthy enough to have hired servants working for him (Mk 1:20). A prosperous businessman might well have developed such connections in the city.
So Peter and John apparently stayed in Jerusalem on the night of the betrayal, whereas the other disciples fled. After all, with Jesus arrested, they were clearly frightened that they could be next. We know from the gospel accounts that Jesus and the disciples frequently stayed just outside Jerusalem, in Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ house at Bethany; so there is a good chance they would have gone there.
After his denial, Peter left the high priest’s house in tears (Mt 26:75 [Lk 23:62]). We aren’t told where he went: but the message to the women on the resurrection morning, ‘Go tell his disciples, and Peter,’ (Mk 16:7) implies that he wasn’t with the other disciples.
- On the day of the crucifixion we are told that the disciples and many of the women watched from a distance (Lk 23:49); the only exception amongst the men being, apparently, John (Jn 19:26). But some of the women ventured closer and were subsequently watching when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb (Mt 27:61 [Mk 15:47, Lk 23:55]). These included Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses (possibly also wife of Clophas).
Some of the women, such as Mary Magdalene and Martha, probably returned to Bethany (it was their home, after all). John had apparently taken Jesus’ mother Mary back ‘to his own’ (Jn. 19:27). The expression here is idiomatic and normally means ‘to his own home’, suggesting that John, or his family, did have a place where they could stay at Jerusalem.