Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Tuesday: The First Easter Morning

Matthew 28:1-15 This week’s studies show us the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, and the need to tell others.
The First Easter Morning

It is not difficult to put the details of the narratives together. Jesus had been crucified either on Friday (which the church has traditionally believed) or else on Thursday (which is less widely held but, in my judgment, seems to fit the evidence better).1 In any case, Jesus lay in the tomb until the resurrection, which certainly took place before dawn on Sunday morning. At this point the women came to the tomb from Jerusalem bearing spices to anoint His body. There were at least five women and probably more. We have already seen that Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and that Mark adds Salome. Luke has the two Marys, Joanna, and others. These women started out while it was still dark and arrived at the tomb in the very early dawn. 

On reaching the tomb they were astonished to find that the stone had been moved from the entrance. We can imagine them standing at a distance, afraid to go close, wondering what had happened. Who had moved the stone? Had the body of Jesus been stolen? Grave robbing was a common crime in the ancient world. Perhaps the robbers were still around. Or had Pilate ordered the body’s removal? What should they do? At last they decided the disciples should be told. So Mary Magdalene was sent back to the city to find them. Not one of them imagined that Jesus had been raised from the dead. 

After a while it began to grow lighter and the women grew bolder. They decided to get closer and to look into the tomb. There they saw the angels. The women were afraid, but an angel told them not to be afraid, that Jesus was risen and that they were to tell this to His disciples. 

Meanwhile, Mary had found the two chief disciples, Peter and John, who alone of the eleven were present in the city that weekend. Probably she would have found them in John’s house where the beloved disciple had taken Jesus’ mother on the day of the crucifixion (John 19:27) and where Peter had probably come after his denial of Jesus a short time before. 

The two disciples immediately started for the tomb, running and leaving Mary far behind. John, the younger of the two, arrived at the tomb first. He stooped to look through the narrow opening and saw the graveclothes. Then Peter arrived, out of breath and in a hurry as usual. He brushed John aside and went in. When John saw the graveclothes, he saw them in a cursory manner from outside the tomb. The Greek uses the most common word for seeing (blepo); it suggests nothing more than sight. But when Peter arrived he scrutinized the graveclothes closely. The account uses a special word (theoreo) for what Peter did. We get our words “theory” and “theorize” from it. He was trying to figure things out. 

John, who tells this part of the story because he was there and lived through it, records what Peter saw: “He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen” (John 20:6-7). At last John entered also, saw what Peter had seen—now the verb is orao (“to see with understanding”)—and believed in Jesus’ resurrection. John understood that the only thing that could explain the unusual arrangement of the graveclothes was if Jesus’ resurrection body had passed through them, just as it was later to pass through closed doors. 

After this, the appearances of the Lord began. Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene who arrived back at the tomb after Peter and John had returned to the city. He appeared to the other women next, then to Peter alone, then to the Emmaus disciples, and finally, later that night, to all the disciples as they were gathered in the upper room. 

1One bit of evidence for placing the crucifixion on Thursday is Matthew’s use of the plural word “sabbaths” in verse 1, though this is usually translated singular (“after the Sabbath”) in most English Bibles. I believe that there were two Sabbaths in this particular week, the special Passover Sabbath, which fell on Friday in the year A.D. 30, and the normal Saturday Sabbath the next day. This explains Matthew’s plural and provides for the “three days and three nights” that Jesus said He would remain in the grave (Matt. 12:40).

Study Questions
  1. For what purpose did the women come to Jesus’ tomb?
  2. What did the placement of the graveclothes signify to Peter and John?
  3. How was Jesus’ resurrection confirmed?

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