The Resurrection Accounts [Continued]
By Bob Myhan
An Angel Rolls Back the Stone
Prior to the arrival of Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, an angel came and removed the stone from its entrance.
And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. (Matt. 28:2-4)
The Other Women Arrive at the Tomb
While Mary Magdalene runs to inform Peter and John that the tomb is empty (John 20:1-2), the other women arrive at the tomb.
Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away--for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples--and Peter--that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." (Mark 16:2-7)
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'" And they remembered His words. (Luke 24:1-8)
But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." (Matt. 28:5-7)
While it is admitted that there are subtle differences in the accounts, there are no contradictions. Matthew writes that the women saw an angel, while Mark says they saw a young man and Luke says they saw two men. Angels frequently appeared as men and Mark’s mentioning only one is not the same as Mark’s saying there was only one.
Two Disciples Go to the Tomb
Upon hearing the tomb was empty, without knowing about the resurrection, Peter and “the other disciple” rush to see for themselves whether the body of the Lord had been removed.
Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. (John 20:3-10)
The First Post-Resurrection Appearance of Jesus
John and Mark agree that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, though John gives more detail.
But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. (Mark 16:9-11)
Mary “stood outside the tomb weeping” in John’s account because she had not seen the angels and did not at that time know just what was going on. She now looks into the tomb and sees the angels but, before they can tell her Jesus has risen, she turns and sees Him without recognizing Him.
The Second Post-Resurrection Appearance of Jesus
We last saw the other women still at the tomb. While it is true that John does not mention their being at the tomb, he does not say they were not there. So, again, there is no contradiction between him and the others on this point.
So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:7)
So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." (Matt. 28:8-10)
Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. (Luke 24:9-10)
It is also true that neither Mark nor Luke report that Jesus appeared to the other women but neither do they report that He did not appear to them. Thus, they do not contradict Matthew on this point. Nor does Mark contradict Matthew and Luke by reporting that “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” This only means they “said nothing to anyone” on their way to report to the disciples. And Luke’s inclusion of Mary Magdalene at this point does not contradict Mark and John, who said that Jesus appeared to her first. Nor does Luke imply that she reported to the disciples the same time as the other women. Luke simply combines Mary’s independent report with the collective report of the others. Although it is possible they joined up again after they had all seen Jesus.
Peter Returns to the Tomb
Hearing, for the first time, the claim that Jesus has been raised from the dead, the disciples do not believe. One of the two disciples who had already been to the tomb now returns.
And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. (Luke 24:11-12)
J. W. McGarvey regarded this is as an abbreviated account of the visit recorded in John 20:3-10, and he could be right. A second trip, however, seems more likely to this writer. And such a return would be consistent with Peter’s impetuous nature.
[To be continued]