Jesus—His Life and Message: The Resurrection (Part 1)

By Peter Amsterdam

June 7, 2022

After His crucifixion, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. A large stone was rolled over the entrance of the tomb. According to Jewish law, the type of work involved in burying a body couldn’t be performed during a Sabbath, nor could the body be left unburied over the Sabbath, so it was essential that Jesus’ body be placed in the tomb that evening.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus made reference to His death and His resurrection. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.1 Although Jesus’ words seem quite clear to us now, the events that transpired show that it seems that the disciples didn’t fully understand what He had meant.

Due to the Sabbath requirements, Jesus was placed in the tomb some time between the ninth hour (about 3 p.m.) on Friday and sunset, which would have occurred around 8 p.m. at that time of year in Palestine. His body would have spent 4 to 6 hours in the tomb that first day. Once the sun set, the new day (Saturday) began. Jesus’ body remained in the tomb throughout Friday night and all of the next day, (Saturday). He then remained in the tomb through the night (which the Jews considered the first half of Sunday, approximately 12 hours) and rose from the dead in the morning on Sunday. Therefore, the three days that Jesus’ body was in the tomb didn’t amount to 72 hours (3 × 24), but rather expressed the Jewish method of reckoning time, which considered any part of the first day, all of the second day, and any part of the third day each as a full day; so Jesus’ body was in the tomb for three days.

Each of the four Gospels tells of the women who came to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning. The Gospel of Luke explains that earlier, after the women saw the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed, they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.2 The Gospel of Mark says that when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.3 Once the Sabbath day ended (at sunset on Saturday), the shops would reopen and the women would be able to purchase the spices needed to anoint Jesus’ body.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.4 The Gospels of Matthew and Mark agree that it was about dawn that the women went to the tomb so that they might go and anoint him.5 The Gospel of John only mentions Mary Magdalene, while Mark mentions Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, and Luke speaks of Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told … the apostles.6

Each of the four Gospels tells us that the large stone which covered the entrance to the tomb where Jesus had been laid on Friday was rolled away. The book of Matthew explains:

Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.7

Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions the earthquake occurring at that time. He indicates that the reason there was an earthquake was because an angel of the Lord came from heaven and rolled away the stone.

The Gospel of Mark tells us that when the women came to the tomb, they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.8 The Gospel of Luke says that the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.9 The Gospel of John tells us:

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.10

Besides the stone being rolled back, each of the Gospels tells of the presence of heavenly beings near the tomb. As mentioned earlier, the Gospel of Matthew speaks of the angel of the Lord.11 The Gospel of Mark tells us that when the women entered the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.12 The Gospel of Luke says:

When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.13

The Gospel of John places the appearance of two angels later in the story, after Peter and “the other disciple” had seen that Jesus was not in the tomb and returned to their home.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.14

One author comments on the number of angels:

It seems clear that all these are references to angels; the small differences should not disconcert us unduly. Each of the Evangelists is saying in his own way that when the women came to the tomb they encountered an angelic visitation. It is not surprising that they speak of what happened in slightly different ways, for different people may well have had different perceptions. The important thing is that there were unusual angelic visitations and what the angels said concerning Jesus’ rising from the dead.15

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that those who were guarding the tomb saw the “angel of the Lord.”

And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.16

The guards who were there to guard the dead man (Jesus) themselves became like corpses in the presence of the angel. In contrast, the One who had died was now risen.

The three Synoptic Gospels17 tell us that the angel (or angels) spoke to the women and instructed them not to be afraid. They then told them the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay” (Matthew).18

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark).19

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words (Luke).20

The Gospel of John presents the same events in a slightly different order, which will be addressed later.

In the Gospel of Mark, we read that the angel told the women:

“Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”21 

The Gospel of Luke tells us that the women remembered Jesus’ words about His crucifixion and His rising on the third day.

And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.22

In the Gospel of John, discovery that Jesus was no longer in the tomb and the appearance of angels is told in a different order.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”23 

Upon seeing that the stone had been taken away from the entrance to the tomb, the first thing Mary Magdalene did was to run to town to tell Peter and the other disciple (probably John) that someone had taken Jesus’ body out of the tomb. Since the stone had been rolled away and Jesus wasn’t there, she assumed His body had been taken. She may have thought that someone had stolen His body or perhaps He had been reburied somewhere else.

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.24

Once the men had left, Mary looked into the tomb.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”25

(To be continued.)


Note

Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


General Bibliography

Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.

Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.

Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Carson, D. A. JesusSermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.

Charlesworth, James H., ed. JesusJewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.

Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Brill Academic, 1999.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.

Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering JesusGenius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.

Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.

Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.

McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.

Morris, Leon. Luke. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, 1960.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.

Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of JesusTeachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.

Stein, Robert H. The New American Commentary: Luke. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.

Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.


1 Mark 8:31. See also Mark 9:30–31, 10:32–34, John 2:19–21.

2 Luke 23:56.

3 Mark 16:1.

4 Luke 24:1.

5 Mark 16:1–2; Matthew 28:1.

6 Luke 24:10–11.

7 Matthew 28:2–4.

8 Mark 16:3–4.

9 Luke 24:1–2.

10 John 20:1.

11 Matthew 28:2.

12 Mark 16:5.

13 Luke 24:3–4.

14 John 20:11–12.

15 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 735.

16 Matthew 28:4.

17 Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

18 Matthew 28:5–6.

19 Mark 16:5–6.

20 Luke 24:5–8.

21 Mark 16:7.

22 Luke 24:8–11.

23 John 20:1–2.

24 John 20:3–10.

25 John 20:11–13.

 

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