In our last couple of lessons, we took a close look at what happened to Jesus when He was crucified. We ended our last lesson with Jesus being put into the tomb and talked about how the women had plans of anointing His body further with spices and fragrant oils. Our lesson begins with:


John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."


The first day of the week is Sunday. After the Sabbath was over, the women including Mary Magdalene went back to the tomb to add more spices and fragrant oils to Jesus’ body (Lk. 23:56). They had no idea He was resurrected. John’s account focuses on Mary Magdalene and does not mention the other women, but in verse 2, Mary says “we do not know,” which includes the other women mentioned by the other Gospels.


Those who oppose the Bible claim there are many contradictions between the Gospels, but none exist. When we put together the events recorded by the four Gospels, we gain a greater understanding of what happened. While one account may only mention one woman, another account may mention multiple women. Each account gives us additional information without causing a contradiction.


While I cannot be dogmatic about every detail of that day, we will examine the most logical timeline of that day and the appearances of Jesus during the 40 days before His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:3) from all four Gospels. In addition to the four Gospels, I will also use the information found in Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:5-9.


All four accounts agree that it was the first day of the week. While John only mentions Mary Magdalene, the other accounts mention the other women that were there including Mary the mother of James, Salome and Joanna (Mt. 28:1; Mk 16:1: Lk. 24:1, 10; Jn. 20:1).


John’s account says that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb while it was still dark (Jn. 20:1). Luke says it was early in the morning (Lk. 24:1). Matthew says the day was beginning to dawn as they made their way to the tomb (Mt. 28:1). Mark tells us it was early in the morning, but when they arrived at the tomb the sun had risen (Mk. 16:2). Some says this is contradiction, but it is not. These four accounts teach us that they started out early in the morning while it was still dark and as they made their way to the tomb the day begin to dawn. When they made it to the tomb the sun had risen.


Before the women arrived at the tomb Matthew writes:


Matthew 28:2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.  3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.  4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

These Roman soldiers were scared to death by this event and rightly so. They shook and became lifeless. We do not know how long these men remained there, but we do know that some of them left quickly and made their way into the city and told the chief priest what happened (Mt. 28:11). When they heard this news, they assembled the elders and decided to pay the soldiers to lie about what happened (Mt. 28:12). The soldiers agreed to say they fell asleep and that Jesus’ disciples stole the body during the night (Mt. 28:13).


The angel did not roll the stone back for Jesus to escape; it was done so the women and others could see that He was raised from the dead. If the angel had not rolled back the stone and the soldiers were left in place, the women would not have been allowed into the tomb by them because it was sealed (Mt. 27:66).


The women wondered who would roll the stone away for them, but when they arrived at the tomb they found the very large stone already rolled away, which proves the soldiers’ experience happened before they arrived (Mk. 16:3-4; Lk. 24:2; Jn 20:1).


What happens next cannot be put into a specific order, but we know what happened. These women went into the open tomb, but they did not find the body of Jesus. Matthew and Mark tells us there was an angel, described as a young man with a long white robe, sitting on the right side (Mt. 28:5; Mk. 16:5), but Luke’s account tells us there were two angels that stood by them in shinning garments (Lk 24:4). Again, some view this as a contradiction but it is not. Neither Matthew nor Mark says that there was only one angel, so Luke is giving us the complete picture by telling us there were two angels. Matthew and Mark says the angel was sitting, but that does not mean he remained sitting. He could have stood up with the other angel and stood by the women when he said the things recorded in Luke’s account. So, there is no contradiction.


Notice what the angel said from Luke’s account:


Luke 24:5 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?  6 "He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,  7 "saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' "  8 And they remembered His words.


Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts are almost identical, but Mark’s account has a few more details:


Mark 16:6 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.  7 "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." (See Mt. 28:5-7).


These women were the first eyewitnesses that Jesus’ body was gone, and the first to start realizing that Jesus was raised from the dead. When the angels instructed them they listened, and they fled from the tomb and were amazed, full of joy, and fear (Mt. 28:8; Mk. 16:8). Mark’s account says the women said nothing to anyone, which some say is a contradiction since the other accounts say they told the disciples what happened. All Mark is saying is that they did not tell anyone on their way to the disciples, and after Jesus encouraged them not to be afraid (Mt. 28:10), they found the disciples and told them about their experience. 


One thing that is hard to determine is if Mary Magdalene heard the angel’s instructions or not. Luke’s account implies that she did (Lk. 24:9-11). If she did hear the angel’s words, John’s account indicates that she did not understand what he was talking about because she still believed that someone moved Jesus’ body to another location. Whether she heard the words of the angels or she left as soon as she saw the body was gone, I do not know for sure but John’s account indicates that Mary Magdalene ran off by herself and found Peter and presumably John.


John 20:2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." 


We must also consider Luke’s account:


Luke 24:9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.  11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. 


Luke’s account does tell us that all the apostles herd about this, but it does not tell us in what order it was told to them. So, it possible that the other women told the disciples separate and apart from Mary Magdalene because John’s account does seem indicate the she went off on her own and one point she was talking just to the Peter and John. Whatever the exact details are at this point, Luke tells us that the apostles did not believe what they were told, but Peter and John were curious enough to investigate the matter themselves.


John 20:3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.  4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.  5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.  6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,  7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.  9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.  10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.


Luke also records an abbreviated account of this, but he does not mention the other disciple or that Peter went into the tomb (Lk. 24:12). It is believed the other disciple is John. John outran Peter to the tomb, but he stopped and did not go in. He stooped down and saw where Jesus was laid and saw the linen cloths lying there. When Peter finally made it to the tomb, he stooped down and saw the linen clothes, but he went into the tomb and took a closer look. Not only did he see the undisturbed linen cloths, he saw the handkerchief or facecloth folded in a place by itself. Since the grave clothes were left in an orderly fashion it offers strong proof that Jesus’ body was not stolen.


If the disciples had taken the body, they would not have taken the time to remove Jesus’ grave clothes or take the time to fold the facecloth in its own place. Remember these strips of linen would have been stuck together by the spices and aloes they used, so it would have taken some time get them off, and they would not have taken the time to reposition the grave clothes to look undisturbed.


If grave robbers came to the tomb, they would not have stolen the body and left behind the linen cloths or folded the handkerchief because the linen clothes were the only valuables in the tomb. Also, whoever came to the tomb would have to deal with the Roman soldiers.


Some even claim that Jesus was just passed out and woke up in the tomb and walked away. There are many problems with this view because it would have been difficult if not impossible for Him to get out of His grave clothes by Himself. Even if Jesus managed to get out of His grave clothes in His weakened state, He would not have taken the time to put His grave clothes back into place to make them look undisturbed. 


When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus managed to make his way out of his tomb with his grave clothes on, but he still had to have assistance in getting them off (Jn. 11:44). He also did not open the sealed tomb himself because it would be difficult if not impossible for one man to be able to move the stone from inside the tomb.


After everything Jesus went through, He would not have enough strength to push this very large stone (Mk. 16:4) out the way from the inside. Even the saints that were raised from the dead after His resurrection had their tombs opened for them by the earthquake that happened at Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt. 27:51-53). If Jesus managed to open the tomb, He would still have to contend with the Romans guards. The only logical explanation is that Jesus’ body was raised up through the grave clothes.


There are two main thoughts on what is meant by the handkerchief or facecloth being folded together in a place by itself.


First, it could mean that Jesus took the handkerchief and folded it Himself putting it in its own place to show that He was finished with it.

Second, it could also mean the handkerchief remained wrapped up like it was around Jesus’ face. Since the handkerchief and the linen cloths were not attached to each other, the handkerchief could be considered as being in a place by itself not with the linen cloths. 


The Interpreter’s Bible notes:


The meaning of the Greek word applied to the napkin seems here to be “wound around.” As the evangelist regards the sight as a faith-creating phenomenon for the other disciple, the interpretation that thinks of the linen cloths as merely having been “rolled up” is too jejune for the context. The explanation that best fits the Johannine view of the mode of the Resurrection is that the body had been swiftly dematerialized, leaving the swathing cloths as they were, with the cloth that had been wrapped around the head still lying on the slightly raised ledge where the head had been laid, and keeping its annular shape (The Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon Press, p. 790).


After Peter went in the tomb, John followed. When John saw the linen cloths and the handkerchief up close it caused him to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Since these graves clothes were able to make Peter and John believe it tells us that the linen cloths and possibly the handkerchief were exactly in the same place undisturbed. If the linen cloths had been unwrapped or cut, it could have meant that someone came and took Jesus’ body, which would have left doubt in Peter and John’s mind. So, Peter and John’s belief offers more proof that Jesus’ grave clothes were undisturbed. One thing we know for sure is that Jesus’ body was gone.


Verse 9 teaches us that they did not know the Scripture that Jesus would be raised from the dead (Ps. 16:10) even though He told them many times that He would be (Lk. 9:22; 18:33; 24:7). This miracle was enough to convince Peter and John that He had been raised from the dead, but how strong this belief was I do not know. After they finished examining the grave clothes, they left the tomb and went back to their homes. Luke tells us that Peter was “marveling to himself at what happened” (Lk. 24:12). Peter was amazed at what he saw and he wanted to know more about it.


John 20:11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  12 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.  13 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."


By the time Mary makes it back to the tomb, apparently Peter and John have already left. She was still distressed about Jesus’ body being gone, which is why she was weeping. She stooped down to look in the tomb and she saw two angels dressed in white. One was sitting where Jesus’ head was and the other was sitting where Jesus’ feet were. These angels were not there when Peter and John were at the tomb, or at least there not mentioned, but they appear to Mary and ask her why she is weeping.


Mary’s response tells us that she did not understand that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She was still convinced that someone came and took Jesus’ body to another location.


John 20:14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  15 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."  16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).  17 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.' "  18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. 


Mark’s account confirms that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus alive from the dead (Mk. 16:9). When she turned around from looking in the tomb, Jesus was standing before her. He also asked her why she was weeping, and He asked her whom she was seeking. She thought this man was the gardener, so she asked him if He had taken the body of Jesus.


Some have wondered why she did not recognize Jesus. While we cannot know for sure, there are several legitimate reasons she did not recognize Him at first. First, she thought He was dead and would not have expected to see Him alive, so it did not register in her mind that it was Him. Second, she was crying and grieving and would not have paid much attention to the details of His face, and the tears in her eyes would also impede her vision. Third, verse 16 indicates that she had turned away from Jesus because when Jesus said, “Mary!” John says that Mary “turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).”


Whatever it was that kept her from recognizing Jesus, when He said her name, she knew it was Him. Verse 17 indicates that Mary grabbed Jesus with a tight grip, but Jesus told her not to cling to Him because had not ascended to the Father yet. There are several opinions about Jesus’ statement, but I believe all Jesus is saying is that He wants Mary to let Him go because He is not ascending to the Father yet, and He wants her to go tell His disciples that He will ascend to the Father, which is referring to His ascension recorded in Acts 1:9.


Mary obeys the Lord and tells the disciples that she saw the Lord, and she told them the things He spoke to her, but Mark’s account says they did not believe her (Mk. 16:10-11). Both Mark and John show that Mary was by herself when she saw Jesus, but earlier she was at the tomb with other women who also left to tell the disciples what happened. All these events with Mary Magdalene happened while these other women were seeking out the disciples to tell them what the angel had told them. Sometime after Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, He appeared to these women as recorded by Matthew:


Matthew 28:9 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.  10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."


Jesus tells them to rejoice. This was an occasion to rejoice since Jesus was alive from the dead. These women held Him by the feet and worshipped Him, and He did not rebuke them because Jesus is God. At this point, they had not told anyone about their experience, but Jesus encourages them not to be afraid and to go and tell the brethren to go to Galilee because they would see Him there. Both Luke and Mark tell us that the apostles did not believe these women or Mary Magdalene when they told them about their experience (Lk. 24:9-11; Mk. 16:10-11).


I really wish I didn’t have to stop right here, but I will continue right where I left of in the next lesson. We are getting very close to finishing up our series. In fact, we only have two lessons left. I hope you are finding it interesting and that it refreshes your memory on things that happened after Jesus was raised from the dead.