This leaves question wrapped inside question. We might ask why the scene of the women meeting the men is absent. But that question is wrapped within the bigger question of why the men are blotted completely out of the whole day. We might ask why the appearance of Jesus to the men in the Upper Room is absent. But again that question is wrapped within the bigger question of why the men are blotted completely out of the whole day. And so on. One question within another. To try to understand why one scene with the men is missing, we need to try to understand why all the scenes with the men are missing.
Let’s backtrack, and remember something about Luke’s Gospel, that Luke has read Mark. But Luke skips any mention of Galilee, editing out both the prediction of Galilee altogether, and also the meeting on the mountain with Jesus there.
- Matthew’s story skips any sight of the male disciples, skipping the rest of the Sunday, skipping the women doing their job and the men’s reaction to them doing so, and skirting around any hint of an individual meeting with Peter (even though Paul and Mark and Luke don’t skip mention of it), all with the effect of screening out the entire day after the empty tomb and after the fleeing women meet Jesus.
- Luke skips the instruction to go to Galilee and the event in Galilee itself.
But all the same, we know that the group could easily be shown up for ignoring the women’s vital message. Then, Jesus appears to them. And as Luke says, “they were startled.” I’ll bet they were. Luke says they thought that “they saw a ghost”. They’re really not believing are they? Jesus isn’t sparing them. Luke says “he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe”. Ouch! Double ouch! Triple ouch. Funnily enough (I’m being sarcastic), this string of cringeworthy embarrassments is what Matthew has edited out. Fancy that. He mentions not a word. With a squeaky edit, Matthew switches the scene straight from the women meeting Jesus and over to Galilee five or so days later, where the men fortunately suffer no embarrassment whatsoever, and frankly look good. How convenient. That’s Matthew for you. No mention of the women telling the men. No mention of the men’s stubborn refusal to believe. No mention of Jesus putting them well and truly in their place. Hey, guess what? Matthew skips straight to somewhere five days’ walk away, to Galilee, and says – wait for it – the “eleven… worshipped” Jesus! Who would ever know that the men weren't always so faithful? Well, if you want to give a positive uplifting account of the resurrection to chivvy up the troops in Galilee, why not skip straight to that? It makes Matthew’s account a truncated stump of a resurrection account, but it does his job.
And that's what they were in Galilee to proclaim.
According to Luke, the start of those appearances of Jesus was the start of 40 days of such appearances.
At the end of Luke's Gospel and in the start of its continuation in Acts 1, there are collections of sayings which signal that they have returned again from Galilee to somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem - the Mount of Olives is mentioned at one point, a "Sabbath-days' walk from the city", similarly Bethany. It's hard to pin down these movements exactly. Luke isn't asking us to. News of the resurrection had been taken to Galilee. But there are still some unfulfilled promises. In Galilee, the resurrection was preached but there was no mention that the Holy Spirit has come. That moment is reserved for Jerusalem, the holy site of Israel's temple. That is why they are back to the vicinity of Jerusalem. "On one occasion", during the 40 days, they get the signal that the time for travelling is over. It comes at a moment with Jesus when they are not within Jerusalem itself, that they get Jesus’ signal that it is time to wait: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised" (as it is in the collection of sayings in Acts). Why that instruction to stay in Jerusalem was not given by Jesus earlier in the 40 days we can only put down to the times travelling - not just around Bethany and the Mount of Olives but in Galilee.
This casual "on one occasion" comment helps us to place some things. The 40 days is not split in two - before and after that "one occasion". After it, there is only the vicinity of Jerusalem. Before that "one occasion" becomes the only period for anything outside Jerusalem, which helps us to place the time of the trip to Galilee as being before the "one occasion". Now, going to and from Galilee uses up about ten days, and we must assume there was time there for teaching about the resurrection - so more than 10 days overall in Galilee in all likelihood. That still leaves potentially more than half of the 40 days in the vicinity of Jerusalem, but we are told little about that time except that he "spoke about the Kingdom of God."
Now, the last of the neat collection of sayings is "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (as it is in the collection of sayings in Luke's Gospel).
What is rather special is this: not just that the disciples are staying in Jerusalem at this point, but who is meeting with them: "When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying… They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus…" It looks very much like, at some point during the 40 days, some folk have been going round gathering Jesus' people back together again - not least the women. Although Matthew never mentioned the women again, Luke - writing an extra book - does do so, with an honourable mention. Witnesses to the resurrection and surely the source of some of these stories, the women are still playing an active part in the mission.
Footnote: why Galilee?