HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'”
Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.”
The body of Jesus had been lying on the tomb belonging to Joesph of Arimathea since late on Friday afternoon and the disciples all thought that their life with Jesus was over. It hadn’t even occurred to them that Jesus could or would possibly come back to life.
Jewish days (used in Jewish Law) don’t start and end at midnight, they use sunset and sunrise to signal the end and beginning of days. So although Jesus had only been in the tomb Friday afternoon/evening until Sunday morning after sunrise, according to Jewish Law he had been ‘dead’ for three days. Friday was counted as a whole day as Jesus died before sunset, as was Sunday as he came to life after sunrise.
So, early on the Sunday morning (very shortly after sunrise), some of the women that had followed Jesus made their way to the tomb. (It was Jewish tradition to check the body after three days to make sure that the person was really dead!) The women probably came in two groups from different houses in Jerusalem. The women included Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus and Joanna. (Joanna was as the wife of one of Pilate’s Roman officials! She would have been very rich and probably helped to pay for some of Jesus’ ministry.)
The four gospels in the Bible (the first four books of the New Testament): Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all have slightly different versions of what happened at the tomb, as they were written by different people, at different times and with different stories of Jesus’ life going into them. However, you can piece them all together and get a good picture of what happened and that is what I will try to do! I’ve used Luke and John as my references above as they give a good general account!
The women arrived at the tomb and saw that the tomb was empty and that the huge stone covering the entrance had been rolled away from the entrance. Suddenly two angels appeared to the women and told them that Jesus was alive and had risen from the dead. The women would have been amazed and very probably frightened and so ran off to tell the disciples what had happened.
The women (and the disciples when they told them) would have been absolutely amazed that the stone was not at the entrance to the tomb, as it would have taken at least two strong people to move it. Also, the Romans (at the request of the Jewish leaders) had put a company of their best and toughest guards on the tomb to stop anyone getting into the tomb. In fact, the women had probably wondered how they would get into the tomb, and they would not have looked forward to asking the Roman soldiers to open it as they could well have refused to open the tomb.
The disciples didn’t believe the women. It was a very unlikely story and also in Jewish courts, at the time, women weren’t allowed to be witnesses, as they were thought to be unreliable, so what women said would not necessarily be believed anyway!
So wondering what had really happened, Peter and John set off to the tomb. John, being younger and fitter than Peter, arrived the tomb first, but didn’t have the courage to go in. But as soon as Peter arrived a couple of minutes later, Peter dived into the tomb to see what had happened. (All through the teaching of Jesus, Peter was always saying and doing things without thinking too much beforehand!)
John followed Peter into the tomb and found it empty with the linen strips that would have been wound round Jesus (like a mummy) neatly folded and placed as if a person had taken off their clothes and didn’t need them anymore. The head covering was at one end of the ledge and the other bandages at the feet end. Peter and John had no idea what had happened and so went off back to the other disciples to confirm that at least the bit about the body being missing was true. They still probably didn’t think that Jesus could be alive. Just because there wasn’t a body wouldn’t have made them think that Jesus could have come to life again!
Mary Magdalene had followed Peter and John back to the tomb, and after they had gone back into Jerusalem, she was still there wondering what had happened to Jesus’ body and crying. Again she saw two angels who asked her why she was crying. She replied saying that she still thought that the body had probably been stolen and didn’t understand that Jesus was alive.
She turned and saw Jesus standing in front of her, but with tears in her eyes and Jesus’s ‘new’ special resurrected body, she didn’t recognise him. She thought he was the gardener or maintainer of that area for Joesph of Arimathea and so asked him if he knew where the body was. If she could have got it back, she would have at least been able to give it a good burial and know where it was.
Jesus simply answered her with her name, and at that, she recognised his voice. In her delight, she called back ‘master’ or ‘teacher’ and went to hug Jesus, but he didn’t let her touch him as he had not gone back into heaven fully yet, so his ‘new’ body was not ready to be touched. He sent her back to tell the other disciples that she had really seen Jesus and that he was alive.
When the body had gone missing and the stone had been rolled away, the Roman guards (remember they were the best guards the Romans had) went to tell the story to the Jewish Priests and leaders. Together, they all come up with the story that Jesus’s followers had stolen the body and that the guards had fallen asleep. But the Jewish leaders said to the guards that if they got in trouble for this (falling asleep on duty was usually punishable by death!), the leaders would go to Pilate and make sure that the guards were not punished!
There is a very good book called ‘Who Moved the Stone?’ all about who, if anyone, could and would have wanted to the move the stone. It comes to a very interesting conclusion, that it was probably God raising Jesus from the dead! The author of the book was not a Christian when he started writing the book and actually planned that the book would disprove the Resurrection. But as he wrote the book he came to believe in the Resurrection and so became a Christian!
The next time Jesus appeared to any of his followers was later on the Sunday afternoon as two of them were walking from Jerusalem to a town called Emmaus. Only one of the followers is given a name in the Bible. He was a man called Cleophas. The reason the other person isn’t given a name is either because it was a woman (and so wasn’t thought important enough to be named), or more likely the other person was the writer of the book, Luke. (The four gospel writers have a habit of not referring to themselves directly in their books!)
Whoever the other person was, they would have both been depressed and thought that the body of Jesus had been stolen. (They had left Jerusalem after Peter & John had come back saying the tomb was empty, but before Mary had returned.) The walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus is about 15 miles (24 km) and about halfway through the journey, they were joined by a stranger on the road. This was Jesus, but with his ‘new’ body, they didn’t recognise him. When he asked the two why they were sad, they thought he must be an idiot or at least been out in the wilderness as everybody in the surrounding area would have heard about the execution of a Jewish Prophet. So the two told the stranger what had happened to Jesus. Jesus explained what it all really meant and why the Prophet had to die, but they still didn’t really understand!
As they two disciples were about to stop for the night, it looked the stranger was going to continue travelling. But they invited him to stay the night with them. They might have done this for a couple of reasons, the road beyond Emmaus was into the wilderness and known for bandits at night; and it was only courteous to offer overnight hospitality. Also, they had enjoyed his company and wanted to spend more time with him.
As they sat down for the meal, the stranger said the grace or ‘thank you’ prayer for the food (it was normal for guests in a house to do this). As Jesus did this the disciples finally recognised Jesus, they might have done this as the prayer would have been the same one Jesus said at the Last Supper and they would have seen his hands and wrists with the nail scars on them. As soon as they knew who Jesus was he disappeared. The disciples were so amazed that they had seen Jesus alive, that they ran all the way back to Jerusalem (that’s 15 miles!) to tell the other disciples what had happened to them!
When they got back to Jerusalem they found the other disciples in a locked room within a locked house. I should think they had quite a job getting in! The disciples had double locked themselves in as the story was going around that they had stolen the body of Jesus and they were frightened that other Jews would want to beat them up.
The stories about Jesus appearing to the disciples & Mary were swapped, but they probably still didn’t fully know or understand what was happening. Just at this time, Jesus appeared in the locked room to the disciples. Understandably, the disciples were scared out of their wits! But Jesus told them to not to be afraid and if they thought he was a ghost to touch his ‘new’ special heavenly body and feel the scars and the holes where he was crucified. To also prove he really was alive, he ate some fish with them. The disciples then believed that he really was alive.