Go and Stay Discrepancy?

Question
On that morning, Matthew says that Jesus himself (Matt 28:10) stopped the women returning from the empty tomb. He repeated what the angel had already told the women, "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me."
 But, Jesus later appears to the disciples, according to both Luke and John, in the evening. 
Moreover, Luke records that Jesus forbids the disciples to leave Jerusalem until the Spirit comes. That was yet fifty days into the future. 
If Luke is right, the disciples can't obey the "Go" order Jesus gave them in Matthew. 
If Matthew is right, the disciples disobeyed Jesus and, at some point, did leave Jerusalem to trek to Galilee (Matt 28:16).
 How can Jesus have it both ways, "Go" and "Stay"?
Answer

First, we need to understand that God can't lie. Since he can't lie the Gospels are not lying to us either. Therefore, there must be a reasonable explanation for what you are calling a "Go & Stay" discrepancy.

Second, three times in Matthew, it is recorded that certain disciples of Jesus were instructed to meet the Jesus in Galilee after his resurrection (Matt 26:32; 28:7, 10). In Matthew 28:16 we see that the disciples went to Galilee. So, Jesus definitely desired to meet with his disciples in Galilee. His disciples obeyed. Jesus did not rebuke them.

But, according to Luke 24:33-43, he also desired to meet with them in Jerusalem. The two places are about three (3) days journey from one another. People can't be in the same place at the same time, right? Is this a contradiction?

A reasonable explanation is that Jesus actually met with his disciples in BOTH places - but at different times. It appears that on Easter Day (resurrection day, a Sunday), he met with all of the disciples (except Thomas) in Jerusalem just as the Gospel writers Luke and John recorded (Luke 24:33-43; John 20:19-25). I note that Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for going to Jerusalem.

We have to remember that the resurrection accounts of Jesus are coming from different witnesses. I used to be a police detective. I used to reconstruct crime scenes and witness statements. People see different things from different perspectives. Indeed, some people have one bit of information and others another small bit. If everyone is telling the truth (and the Gospel writers are) then all the bits will add up and reconstruct our puzzle into a more complete picture.

We know that Jesus may have appeared to the disciples a number of times during the forty (40) days on earth after his resurrection (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-7). Matthew, Luke, and John only mention some of the more prominent instances in order to substantiate the fact of Christ's resurrection. Though Luke does not mention the trip to Galilee, in Acts 1:3 he states that there was a forty (40) day period before Jesus' ascension. A lot can happen in forty (40) days; including a three (3) day trip.

Now to your question. "Why did Jesus command his apostles to 'tarry in the city of Jerusalem' on the day of his resurrection if he really wanted them to meet him in Galilee?" There are some reasonable and likely answers:

(1) Assuming Jesus' words were stated on Easter Day, they were not stated in an absolute sense, but with an implied contingency (as determined from the other 3 Gospel accounts), given a future planned meeting in Galilee.

(2) The words in Luke 24:44ff. could have been stated on Day 40. The disciples did in fact stay in Jerusalem for ten (10) more days, until Pentecost, as Luke himself relates in Acts 1:13ff.

I maintain that it is a merely an assumption to assert that Jesus spoke Luke 24:44ff on Easter Day. The use of the Greek "de" (meaning "and," "then," or "now") to begin Luke 24:44 does not necessitate immediacy, but merely at "a time after." Witnesses do not always share things in chronological order - this includes the Gospel writers as well. The Gospels jump from topic to topic without any warnings at times (see Luke 4:1-4; Matt 4:1-11). At times information is just skipped; just like we skip it today. I might say, "John and I went to the ball game." John might say, "Joe and I went to the ball game in a car, stopped at a gas station, and Publix, etc." Both statements may be true. Just because information is omitted in one statement does not make the other statement false. In Luke 24, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in Galilee were omitted, but commented upon by both Matthew and John. However, notice that Luke never stated that Jesus remained only in Jerusalem from the day of his resurrection until the day he ascended up into Heaven. Acts 1:3 leaves a lot of room for a lot more activity (cf. John 21:25).

In Luke 24:1, 13, 21, 29, 33, we observe that the events recorded in Luke 24:1-43 all took place on Easter Sunday - the very day of Jesus' resurrection. We also see that Luke 24:50-53 took place weeks later (cf. Acts 1:1-12). But what of Luke 24:44-49? The text does not mention the time! All we know is that Luke 24:44-49 took place sometime before Christ ascended into Heaven (Luke 24:50-51). However, I also note that Luke was not a stupid man - far from it, a Doctor. So, I do not see him writing a discrepancy into the text!

Though some may assert that a similar content is taught in (Luke 24:27, 44, 45), and therefore the text is speaking of the same moment of time, I may just as easily assert that though a similar message is taught, it does not necessarily specify the same time. Redemptive history from Genesis - Revelation teaches the same Gospel over a span of 1500+ years.

In addition, though some assert that the Spirit was given to all the disciples (Luke 24:49; John 20:19, 22) and therefore all these events must have taken place on Easter Day, I will simply say that the phrase "I am sending" (Luke 24:49) is in the present tense to indicate nearness, not completion - as Jesus said remain in the city "until" (Luke 24:29; cf. Acts 1:1-13). Indeed, Thomas was not even present in Luke 24:49 (cf. John 20:24, 26). We should note that the term "the disciples" does not always mean a specific number, only "a" number of "the" specific group. I could say, "the Eagles played football today," but that does not mean that every member of the Eagles' Football Team was at the stadium - some could have been in the hospital, etc. My statement is still true; it is just meant to be understood within a certain context.

So, given the Bible, which we know is true, it appears some are still just spewing one more lie from the Jesus Seminar (John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, etc.).

Related Answers:

Post-Resurrection Discrepancies
To Whom Did Jesus Appear? - 1 Corinthians 15:5-8
Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).