Stages in the Crucifixion 31–36
He is Risen; He is Alive–Resurrection Day
Matthew 28:1–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12; John 19:1–16
Matthew Lesson #194
April 1, 2018
“Father, we’re thankful for all that You’ve given us and all that You revealed to us in Your Word. We know that Your Word is from You. It is the mind of Christ. It is breathed out by You, and the writing process was overseen by God the Holy Spirit, so that what was recorded was without error.
“Father, we know that Your Word is sufficient, as Your grace is sufficient, and as Christ’s work on the Cross is sufficient, it means that it is enough. It is more than enough. It is all that is required in order to meet the need, and the need began with our need for salvation; then our need for spiritual growth, and our need for provisions to face the world, to face the devil, to face our own sin natures.
“Father, we’re thankful for the grace that You’ve given us. We pray that as we study today our faith might be strengthened, our spiritual life advanced, and we might come to understand more fully all that has been provided for us and the certainty of our faith, the certainty of the resurrection, and the significance of that in our lives.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to John 19. This morning we’re going to finish the last six stages in the crucifixion. That is a fitting prelude to understanding the reality of the resurrection, which is the second part of the message as we look at what happened on that day.
As I have been studying over the past several weeks related to these events that occurred between Jesus being found guilty or pronounced guilty by Pilate and sent to be crucified and the final event which is the sealing of the tomb, I’ve gone on from that to examine the significance of these last details, along with what we’re told about the resurrection in the four Gospels. There’s a lot here.
This is not a one-shot Easter or Resurrection Day message. This is the beginning of probably three or four weeks of looking through what is told us, what has been revealed to us not only in terms of the events—that’s the first thing we need to do, which is the focus this morning on what happened on that first Resurrection Day.
But then we need to move beyond all of that to the evidence that it provides. Then we need to understand the significance—just as we did with the death of Christ—understand the significance and importance of the resurrection. That will probably take us through most of this month.
We’re beginning where we stopped last time to look at the final six stages of the crucifixion. The first five stages were:
1. The procession from the Praetorium to Golgotha.
2. The second stage was the first three hours on the Cross, from 9 AM to noon, where the wrath of man was hurled at the Savior as He hung on the Cross as they reviled Him, ridiculed Him, and blasphemed Him.
His response again and again during that time was one of grace and one of forgiveness. He demonstrated a relaxed mental attitude. He was calm, He wasn’t panicky, and He knew why He was there.
3. During the second three hours, the wrath of God—that is the justice of God—is poured out on the Lord Jesus Christ as He bears the sins of the world and is judicially separated from the Father.
It is during those three hours that our sins, the sins of every human being, the sins of the world were paid for through a substitutionary death on the Cross. It involves redemption, it involves the canceling of sin, it involves forgiveness, and it involves the satisfaction of God’s righteousness.
Then you have His physical death, Stage 25, followed by:
4. The confirming signs that we talked about last time:
The earthquake, the rocks that are split, some of the dead that were raised from the dead. Then after His resurrection they go out into the streets of Jerusalem and proclaim the truth of His death. That’s the core of what we studied last time.
5. This time we’re looking at the burial of our Lord Stages 31 to 36.
The first thing that happens, He’s still on the Cross, He has died physically, but they’re not sure that He has died physically because it was rather short. Sometimes they would cause a crucifixion to stretch out if they could for a couple of days, but they’ve got a time crunch here because as we read in John 19:31, this was the preparation day.
There’s a lot of discussion about what that means, but in Jewish literature there is no discussion. In Jewish literature this is not the preparation day for the Passover because the Passover has already begun.
The 14th of Nisan started the night before. That’s when the disciples had their Pesach meal, their Seder; it extends through that day. It’s when they have the morning sacrifice in preparation for the eating of the meal between the two evenings: the evening of the night before, Thursday night, and this would be Friday night, and at dusk they will eat the Seder meal.
Dusk begins the next day, which is the beginning of the feast of unleavened bread. That makes Shabbat, that Saturday, a high Sabbath and the term “preparation day” is always used in Jewish literature to refer exclusively to the preparation for the Sabbath, not the Passover.
That is one reason we know that it couldn’t be a Wednesday or Thursday. That question always comes up, and I spent a lot of years in my life—let’s say decades—trying to demonstrate that it was not on a Friday. But again and again, the evidence just kept coming back that you just don’t have enough time in the week to fit the chronology; the terminology doesn’t fit.
Everybody wants to jump to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12 that as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights and say that equals 72 hours. But again, and again, and again, Jesus says He will rise on the third day. That’s not 72 hours; that’s less than 72 hours.
There are Old Testament passages that use the phrase “three days and three nights” or so many days, so many nights to refer to a period of time that includes any part of those days.
Those of you who have been with me long enough, you remember when we went through Kings several years ago, and you have all of these different numbers related to the length of the reigns, and the big conundrum chronologically there is that at different times under different kings and whether you are in the North or in the South, they counted the years differently.
You and I are the product of 2,000 years of Western civilization and Roman and Greek thinking, and we count differently than the way the Jews counted. You have to look at the ancient Near East to determine how they counted.
Some kings, if you became king on December 31, 2017, then 2017 is your first year even though you are only king for one day. And the previous king, if he died at the end of the year or even if he died at the first of the year, that whole year is counted as his year, so that causes an overlap.
So, 2017 would count as a year for the previous king and would count as a year of the current king. Then if you died on January 1 of 2019, that would count as a full year. So, 2017 would be a year, 2018 would be a year, 2019 would be a year, even though it was only 367 days.
That’s also how they counted days. The Talmud says any part of the day is counted as a full day, even if it’s only an hour. I can go on with more and more evidence, but that’s not the point this morning.
It’s the preparation day for the Sabbath, and they have to get the bodies down off of the crosses before the sun goes down because they have to be ready for the Sabbath. Because it’s a high Sabbath, it’s a high day, they’re going to need to be back in their homes in order to observe the Seder and the Passover meal.
So they asked Pilate if their legs can be broken. Jesus has His feet nailed to the cross. We don’t know precisely how they did it. The one piece of evidence that we use, because there’s an ankle bone that was discovered in one of the crypts in Jerusalem that had a nail that went through the bone, and they couldn’t extract it, it had just gotten caught into the sinews and the bone itself, which indicated that each foot was on each side of the stipes, that vertical piece, and then the nail was driven in from each side.
Can you imagine how that felt? Yet Jesus didn’t scream out. You and I would’ve probably passed out and screamed first, but He did not. His feet are nailed to the cross that way. The others may not have had their feet nailed.
It was typical for there to be a small piece of wood placed on the stipes, which would give them just a little bit of room to push themselves up and relieve the pressure against their diaphragm. That was probably true of the two thieves.
They asked Pilate to break their legs; then they can’t push themselves up. They’re just going to be hanging where all of their internal organs are being pushed up against their diaphragm, and they will be unable to breathe, and they will suffocate quickly.
So, they’re going to break their legs, but Jesus’ legs were not broken because they came to Him, and He was already dead.
John 19:32, “Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with him.”
John 19:34, “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear.”
Why did He do that? He did that to make sure He was dead, because it appeared that Jesus had already died, so this soldier takes a spear and he drives it up under the rib cage towards the heart.
Immediately John observes from a phenomenological viewpoint—that means what it looked like to him; he’s not giving a medical report. He says that “blood and water came out.”
There are different studies that have been done today by medical professionals, by doctors, who have observed that if a person is crucified and is in this position, that what would happen is the blood would collect above the diaphragm, and it would separate out into red blood cells and also lymph or what would appear to be a clear or clearer fluid.
The fact that it had separated into these different properties would indicate that death had already occurred. When John observes this, He just notes what He sees, that it looks like blood and water are coming out, but what that tells us is that Jesus has already died physically.
The fact that no bones were broken is a fulfillment of prophecy. It is pictured in typology because the legs of the lamb, the Passover lamb, were not to be broken. It is foretold specifically that none of His bones were broken.
John affirms this in John 19:35, “He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that He is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”
That’s the issue we will see several times here—the issue in salvation is to believe that this is true. It’s not emotion. Belief is a function of the mind. It’s a function of the brain. It’s to look at a set of facts and say, “That’s true!”
When you say that’s true, you are assenting to its veracity that it is real, and that is evidence that you believe it. This is what John is saying, that salvation is by faith. It’s by believing. It’s not by works. It’s not by anything else. Over 95 times in the Gospel of John, John uses this term without qualification to express the condition for salvation. He never says “truly believe,” “sincerely believe” or “genuinely believe.” It’s always just believe, because you either believe or you don’t.
It’s a function of the mind, and instantly when you believe, God the Father knows whether you believe or not, and when you believe, when you say in your heart, in your mind, in the center of your being that that’s true, that instant God regenerates you, declares you just, you were saved, and it is by faith alone in Christ alone.
John 19:36, “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ ”
John 19:37, “And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced,’ ” from Zechariah 12:10.
You have two prophecies that are fulfilled here on the Cross: That He is pierced and that none of His bones are broken.
Then we come to the 32nd stage, and this is when Joseph of Arimathea will request His body, that it be brought down from the cross.
Matthew 27:57, “… when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Christ.”
He is a prominent council member; we learn that from Mark 15:43–45; that he was waiting for the kingdom of God, as were the other disciples. We also learn from John that he was a secret disciple.
He took courage and went into Pilate. He’s going to blow his cover because he and Nicodemus were both disciples, but they were secret disciples. They were believers.
He came to Pilate; when he asked for the body, Pilate was amazed that He was already dead. He has to have confirming testimony that Jesus has already died.
The reason this is important is because if the resurrection of Christ is the lynchpin, the chief cornerstone, the foundation of our faith, and without it we are fools, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, then this is an attack point for those who reject Christianity.
How do you know Jesus died? Well, if He didn’t die, then He just somehow regained consciousness and recovered and was simply resuscitated, but without any physical death. Pilate calls a centurion, who’s in command of the guard detail and the crucifixion detail, and summons him to see if He’s dead.
This man would know because this man had witnessed numerous crucifixions, and he had not only the experience to know, but he was also there when the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with the spear, so he’s seen the physical evidence that Jesus is dead.
When the centurion confirmed that yes He was dead, then Pilate granted the body to Joseph.
In Luke 23:50–52 we’re told that Joseph was a council member; that means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. He is called a good and just man, and that he had not consented to their decision and deed. Neither he nor Nicodemus had consented to that. We’re told again that he was waiting for the kingdom of God. He knew he was a believer and what his future destiny was.
John 19:38 tells us that not only was he a disciple of Jesus, he is more than a believer. A disciple is someone who has become a believer and then wants to live and learn as in serving Christ through his life. Joseph gets the body.
- a rich man from Arimathea, so his grave that he will put Jesus in is a rich man’s grave, and that fulfills prophecy from Isaiah 53
- a prominent member of the Sanhedrin
- did not consent to the Sanhedrin’s decision
- a good and just man; he is personally observant of the Law
- he is a believer as well and a disciple of Jesus Christ
In the 33rd stage, they take Jesus’ body down from the cross. We simply read at the beginning of Matthew 27:59 and Luke 23:53 that the body was taken down from the cross.
The 34th stage is the burial of Jesus. He’s wrapped in a clean linen cloth. Mark 15:46, Joseph “… bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.”
We see here is that in this process, Joseph has gone to Pilate. He’s requested the body. Then on the way to the cross, he stops and he buys linen, and then he goes to the cross.
Some have argued that that is one reason why you have to have a crucifixion on Wednesday: you didn’t have enough time for Joseph to go back and forth and run all over Jerusalem to buy all these things. But you did because, as I pointed out, from the Praetorium to Golgotha was only about 100 to 150 yards at the most.
There could have been shops along the way, but the whole area of this part of Jerusalem was not that large, so it would not have taken him much time to have secured this on the way to the cross to prepare the body for burial.
He lays Him in a tomb and this tomb is very close, as will see, to the site of the crucifixion. It is a tomb that no one had ever lain in before.
That’s one of the problems with the area around the so-called Garden Tomb, which is to the north of the city. That was among many other things, never thought of as a site for the crucifixion until Charles Gordon came along in the 1880s.
The reason he said that was because he thought that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher couldn’t be the site because it was inside the wall and Jesus was crucified outside the wall. But since then we discovered another wall that was next to or near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but it was to the east, making Golgotha and the side of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher outside the wall at that time.
The wall that we knew up until about forty years ago was a wall that was built in AD 40, some seven years after the crucifixion.
Also, the tombs that surround the area where the Garden Tomb is located are all First Temple period tombs. That means they all date to around 600 to 700 BC. So that doesn’t fit the scenario of a tomb here that no one had ever laid in before.
Because this tomb at the Garden Tomb has no body in it doesn’t mean no one had ever laid there. As Jerusalem expanded, they typically would have to move all of the bodies out of the graveyards to another site to get them outside of the boundaries of the city.
We learn that it’s a new tomb in John 19:41, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”
There’s a garden right there, and what we learn is that this site where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is located, had been a quarry. But the rock there wasn’t good enough for the construction and the reconstruction that Herod was carrying out on the Temple Mount.
It was not stable enough so it was abandoned, and when that was abandoned, then there were many caves in that area, and so it became a graveyard. They decorated it with flowers and made it a comfortable place to go and be near the graves or tombs of your loved ones.
There are many graves, I’ll show you a couple pictures in a minute, because if you go into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, you look about 30 feet to your right and that’s where that rock wall for Golgotha was located. You move about 60 feet to your left and that’s where the aedicule is located today, which is this sort of like a tent that’s constructed over the site of where Jesus’ tomb had been located. They are very close together.
If you go just behind the aedicule through a couple of low-hanging, low doors—they’re just cut away in the rock—you can go into a small room and see all these little tombs that were located there; so it fits the site.
Jesus goes into an unused tomb that was the tomb for a rich man, and this is emphasized in Isaiah 53.
In Stage 35, there’s a preparation for the embalming. This is described in Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47, and Luke 23:55.
1. They are witnesses: Mary Magdalene is there; the other Mary, that’s the one who is the mother of James and Joses, as identified in Mark 15:47.
These are among other women who came from Galilee, and they’re observing the preparation of the body, then taking that body, 60 or 70 feet to the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, and then placing the body into the tomb.
They’re watching; they’re witnesses to His death, they’re witnesses to His burial. They stayed there until they had to leave. They would have to leave as sunset approached and Passover approached. Then they will leave.
One of the things that they don’t observe there is this sealing of the tomb.
In the 36th Stage, Matthew 27:62, “On the next day which followed the Day of Preparation …” So Friday is the Day of Preparation. The next day is Saturday, so this is the next day. “… the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” ’ ”
They say “after three days,” and what you discover is that these phrases: “on the third day,” “the third day,” “after three days,” have prepositions that can become interchangeable. We think with the Western mindset that that always means the same, but people in other languages have a fluidity—we do, too—among the meaning of prepositions where they overlap.
I have made a number of friends in Ukraine over the years, and what I have noticed when I say, “I will meet you someplace in 30 minutes,” they will say, “I will be there after 30 minutes.” They are saying the same thing I’m saying. I’m saying I will be there in 30 minutes, and for them the way they translate, the way they think, they always use the preposition “after,” but they mean the same thing, that they will be there in exactly 30 minutes.
This phrase “after three days” and “on three days,” if you work it out, it’s synonymous.
They say to Pilate, “ ‘… after three days I will rise.’ ” Matthew 27:64, “ ‘Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day.’ ”
Notice, first they said “after three days,” then they said “until the third day.” As far as they’re concerned, they’re saying the same thing. Those are synonymous prepositional phrases in their thinking, and you can demonstrate that through a lot of various comparisons and word studies.
The reason they wanted it secure is, “ ‘… lest the disciples come by night and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He’s risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
How prophetic they are without knowing it! They realize that if this happens, it will really be tough for them to overcome a belief that He has risen from the dead.
So, Pilate gave them a guard who went away to make it secure as they could.
That guard is a Roman guard that would have consisted of at least 16 maybe 20, some people think it’s even more than that, but it was at least 16 soldiers who would be punished by death if anything happened on their watch.
They’re told to [Matthew 27:65] “ ‘… make it secure …’ ” and they do this by “sealing the stone.”
The same word that is used for the sealing of the Spirit. It is the idea of marking it in such a way that that seal cannot be broken, and they could watch it and secure it.
Here’s one artist’s conception where they had a rope stretched across the stone, and then secured in the middle with a vertical piece of rope that was sealed.
Here is another picture of the guard and the sealing of the tomb.
This is a way to secure it to show that there was no way that Jesus could come out. In fact, the large rock that is rolled in front of the tomb, as it’s pictured there, is secured in place by a smaller rock, so that it can’t be moved.
If you are on the inside, you couldn’t push and roll the stone out of the way because it is secured by this smaller stone, and you’d have to be able to overcome that. Of course, if you’ve lost all this blood and you’ve been beaten and tortured, and gone through crucifixion, you really wouldn’t have the strength to do that.
So, you just can’t get away with saying that Jesus just passed out on the cross or something like that. And with this guard detail surrounding it, you know that that nobody could have gone there and stolen the body.
Pilate gives them a guard. He sees the guard secures it. It’s a Roman guard that he provides for them, and he commands that it be secured as much as possible.
In Matthew 28:11–14 we’re told that after the resurrection that “… some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.”
The Sanhedrin got together and paid them off; they bribed them to tell that the body had been stolen away by His disciples. Then they would cover for them if it came to the governor’s ears or to the ears of Pilate, so that they would not be executed.
This is the sealing of the tomb. We have seen that it’s secured, that Jesus certainly died physically, and that He was buried. There were witnesses, and as we’ll see now as we continue into what happens on the next day, in fact, later that Saturday after Shabbat ended, that there were witnesses all along the way to the security of the tomb.
At this point, let me show you a couple of pictures. Here are some first century tombs. This is located up near the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
This one is located near the King David Hotel, and it really does show the evidence of that. Here you have the stone that will be rolled behind this arch, so that arch as well as a channel is cut into the rock, which would secure it, and would make it very difficult to move the stone.
Here we have Wayne House standing there giving a little perspective on how high that entryway arch is.
In this picture you can see this channel that’s cut; the stone would roll in front of it and it would be almost impossible to move that out of the way. The Scripture says it was an extremely large stone.
This is a picture of the entry to the Garden Tomb.
I only use this, not because I think that’s where Jesus was buried, but to give you an idea of what the interior looked like. It looks like you’d have one place for a body on the left and another place for a body on the right. The little entry area where I’m standing as I take the picture would be the weeping room, and then the bodies would be laid there. So you have to go in. It’s a pretty low doorway. You have to bend over to go in and to look inside.
This is what’s called the aedicule. This was an 18th-century shrine that was built over the burial site of our Lord, where His tomb was.
Why don’t we see a tomb? Well, that’s because in the 9th or 10th century, the Muslim ruler of Jerusalem had everything destroyed. He just took the mountain down, the tomb down to the ground, so that there would be no empty tomb left, there would be no tomb of Jesus left.
If you remember the first Crusade, one of the reasons for the first Crusade was because Christian pilgrims who were going to Jerusalem were being attacked along the way. And in Jerusalem the Holy Christian sites were being defaced and destroyed by the Moslems. That’s what they do. It’s like when they blew up a Buddhist statue several years ago in Afghanistan.
This is the aedicule which marks the spot and if you go behind the aedicule, these are some of the first century tombs that are located there. This demonstrates that this was indeed a burial site in the first century.
The Sabbath passes. When does the Sabbath end? We will challenge your thinking here. When does the Sabbath end? The Sabbath ends at sundown on Saturday. Remember that. We’re talking Jewish time, we’re not talking Roman time. If you’re talking Roman time, the Sabbath would not end until midnight, but we’re not talking Roman time, we’re talking Jewish time.
Matthew is writing to Jews, and Mark is writing from a Jewish perspective as well, describing what happens. In Mark 16:1, we read, “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices.”
This is not early the next morning. When the Sabbath passed, which that year was about 6 PM on April 4, which would have been the date of Shabbat. Christ was crucified on the 3rd, Friday, Shabbat was the 4th, and He is resurrected on April 5. According to our own time—taking out daylight savings time—that would have been right at 6 PM on April 4.
I did a search on it in Jerusalem when sunset would be and it would be 7 PM today, but they are in daylight savings time, so you have to take that hour out, so it’s at 6 PM, and after that the shops would open.
According to Jewish reckoning, they would have to see three stars in the skies. This is what Arnold Fruchtenbaum says about this:
However, in a Jewish context, the word dawn meant the beginning of the new day, and for Jews the new day began after sunset, when three stars were visible in the night sky.
Since Matthew was addressing Jews, dawn toward the first day of the week meant late Saturday afternoon or early evening, shortly before sundown. The Greek text literally reads late on the Sabbath or in the lighting to one of the Sabbath, that is the idea of as it’s getting ready to make that progress from the Sabbath to the day after, which is about 7 o’clock at night.
That’s the time they we’re talking about. And once you can see those three stars in the sky and Shabbat is over, then the shops could open, and that’s what’s happening here. They don’t get up early, early in the morning and go by spices. So Mark says, “When Shabbat was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices that they might come and anoint Him.”
They’re getting ready for the next day.
Matthew says, “Now after the Sabbath—same thing as the Sabbath ended on Saturday evening—as the first day of the week began to dawn—so that is as it begins, which is about 7 o’clock on Saturday night—Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”
They’re checking on Him; they are grieving. They want to go to the tomb. All of this is taking place on Saturday evening.
We see a series of events, and I want to break it down for you. I think I’ve done a lot of work on this. Most commentators never even think about the fact that this is a Hebrew timescale, and that it’s not on Roman time, so it gets quite interesting searching things.
A.T. Robertson who wrote A Harmony of the Gospels, and he did quite an excellent job. He was a well-known Southern Baptist scholar, published an enormous Greek grammar that is about four inches thick, and he breaks this down in his commentary on Matthew. He says, “Matthew 28:1 tells us that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses went to the tomb. They’d seen the burial site Friday evening. They rested and grieved on Saturday.” Then they go to the tomb.
2. “from there they went to the market and they bought spices.”
If you look at Matthew 28:2, it reads in the English as if the earthquake takes place immediately after Matthew 28:1. But in the Greek there’s no chronological connection there. He’s just telling us that Mary, who had gone to the tomb—it would be the night before—because it happened sometime during the night when nobody’s there.
3. Matthew 28:2, “And behold, there was a great earthquake—so this is shifting gears to explain what happens overnight—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.”
The stone is rolled out of the way by an angel, not by the earthquake, and when the guards see this, they just pass out. The angel is described. This is the first angel. There’s going to be two other angels. I think in total we have three angels here. So, the stone is moved and the guards pass out.
4. The women arrive at the tomb early. In the Greek it says, “in the deepness of the dawn,” so that’s before daylight even breaks, you have false dawn before you have astronomical dawn. Early the next morning, and the next morning, sunrise would have been about 5:17 in the morning, if things are about the same, so it’s very early.
So, they’re getting there, probably around 4:30 or so in the morning on Sunday, and we have Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses. No others are mentioned in Matthew. Mark includes Salome, the mother of James and John, along with them. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any others, but those are the ones that are named.
Mark 16:1 talks about what happened the night before when they bought spices, and then Mark 16:2, “Very early in the morning—in the deep dawn of the morning, literally—on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.”
5. It’s very early, and along the way Mark alone records that they have a conversation, because they are concerned about being able to move this stone. This thing’s pretty heavy, how can we move it? And apparently from what Mark reports, because he doesn’t say anything about the guard or the seal, is they may not be aware of the guard or the seal or they’re just more concerned about moving the stone.
6. When they arrived they discovered that the stone has been rolled away. Mark 16:4, “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large.”
At this point in Matthew, the angel, who is sitting on the stone, makes a statement to the women. Now if that statement occurred, and Mary Magdalene is with them, then what happens in Luke and in John doesn’t make sense. So apparently what happens is that as soon as she sees that the stone’s back and she assumes the tomb is empty and they’ve stolen the body, Mary Magdalene ran off to talk to John and Peter. That’s what happens in John 19.
Because when she gets there she says, “the tomb’s empty, they’ve stolen the body. We don’t know what they did with it.” So you’ve got to understand that in the telling of the stories, some of the other writers are collapsing events, they’re giving summary statements, and they’re telling it from different perspectives.
They were getting their information from different people, but you can put it all together without a problem. After this sixth event, Mary is going to leave.
7. John 20:1 states that Mary Magdalene saw the stone was taken away and ran to tell the other disciples.
She doesn’t know that He is risen yet. She knows nothing else. She just knows that the body’s gone, the tomb’s open, the body must be gone, what did they do with it, and she’s sort of in a panic mode.
8. At that point of the story, if you look at John 19 there is what appears to be a conflict with the other Gospel accounts.
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 don’t know where they laid Him.’ ”
Peter and the other disciple took off running immediately.” They don’t hear anything more. They just take off.
Skip down to John 20:11; it says that “Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping, and so as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.”
She still doesn’t know that Jesus has risen by the time you get to verse 11. How do you put this together? I’ve spent hours reading different commentaries; there was one that summarized four different positions.
After I got through reading those four different positions, I was more confused than anything, and I sat down with the text and just went through this step-by-step on my own and put this order together.
It makes more sense to me that this is at least closer to being right. Everybody seems to throw up their hands at one point or another, and say it’s impossible.
First of all, John is writing so he follows the storyline of what happens to him and Peter, because before he goes back to Mary Magdalene he wants to get his testimony out there, because he’s the first one who believes in the resurrection, as we will see. He wants to drive that point home, and then he will come back to pick up the storyline with Mary Magdalene.
9. Mary returns to the tomb separate from John and Peter, and she still doesn’t know that the Lord is risen. By verse 11, she’s standing outside the tomb, weeping, and is completely unaware of what has happened. We will come back and pick that thread up a little later.
10. Matthew tells us that when the women approached the tomb, the angel tells them that Jesus had risen, and to come into the tomb to see where He had been laid.
Remember, at least three women are coming to the tomb. They see the stone rolled back. Mary immediately runs to tell John and Peter before she finds out any more information. The other women stayed there, and the angel tells them that Jesus has risen. Mary missed that piece of information, obviously because in John 20:11 she’s weeping at the tomb. She still doesn’t know it.
They hear the message from the angel who is sitting on the rock that Jesus had risen. He invites them to come into the tomb to see where Jesus’ body had been laid, and then he tells them to go tell the disciples that He is risen.
Matthew 28:5–7; that’s the angel sitting on the stone.
11. But Mark has a slightly different perspective. Mark tells us what happens when they looked into the tomb. Matthew’s angel says, “Look in the tomb,” but he doesn’t tell us what happened when they look in the tomb.
Mark’s account tells us what happens when they looked in the tomb. They see another angel who repeats what the first one said, and then instructs them to tell the disciples. But it’s not the same angel because this one is inside the tomb.
Mark 16:5, “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side.” Later we will see one at the head and one at the feet. I think one of those two is the same one as this one, but it could’ve been three different ones. I don’t know, but probably only two.
In Mark 16:6 he says something very similar to them. Remember when you’re in a state of shock, and you’ve never heard of anybody [rising from the dead]. Of course, they had seen Lazarus and they had seen Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead.
But how can they fathom this that He’s risen from the dead? They need to hear the message two or three times before it starts to sink in. You and I might have needed to hear eight or nine times before it sunk in.
In Mark 16:6, this angel says, “He’s risen! He’s not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
The emphasis is on empirical data here. This isn’t some mystical event where they just think that this must have happened. It is not some psychological response to the trauma. It is hard and fast evidence they can see: the grave clothes that are lying there in place as if the body just dematerialized in place.
12. Luke adds another aspect regarding their entry into the tomb, but he tells of two angels instead of just one. This isn’t a contradiction, but he’s just adding another angel that was not seen or Mark just left it out. This often happens in these accounts where one tells only part of the story, another one tells something else.
Luke 24:3–4, “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.
Luke 24:5–6, “And they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, and they said to them—” this is in addition to what the angel in Mark said—‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He’s not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee.’ ”
At this point they are going to remind them of the many prophecies that Jesus made in telling them that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, that He was going to suffer, He was going to die, and He was going to rise on the third day.
13. In addition to telling the women that Jesus is risen, they add a reminder about Jesus’ own prophecy about His resurrection. Matthew 12:40, Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22–23, and Matthew 20:18–19 are just four places where Jesus predicted His resurrection. There are at least four. The other Synoptics have additional places as well. So, this was something they should have learned.
In Luke 24:5–8, after they’d bowed down, they said this, reminding them what Jesus said, verses 7–8, “… 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.”
14. The women returned to tell the disciples. After Peter and John come and they go back, they tell the disciples who don’t believe them and the disciples all go to their homes. I think that one way to put this together is when these women go back to tell the disciples, they are not all in one place anymore. They’re scattered, so they’ve got to go find them and that takes a little time, which helps us to understand why here it’s just the two women.
Luke talks about Mary Magdalene being with them, and that gives time for Mary Magdalene to make her trip back to the grave, come back, and rejoin them, and then they tell all of the disciples.
But the disciples’ response is they don’t believe it: “you’re just telling nonsense tales.”
Luke 24:10–11, “It was Mary Magdalene—see, you have them all together now—Joanna, Mary, the mother James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales and they did not believe them.”
The Greek word that is used here for “idle tales” is a word that was used in medical writings in Greece. Luke was a doctor, so he very well is using this word. It referred to someone who is having hallucinations; someone who is in hysterics. That could very well be why he’s using this particular word.
15. At this point Luke tells us that Peter ran to the tomb, so that sort of fixes it for us, that this is where John 20:4 comes into play. At this point Peter runs to the tomb; he doesn’t tell us about John and Luke. But in John’s Gospel, John has the whole story of the order and the focus of what happened.
When Peter heard Mary Magdalene’s initial report of the empty tomb, he just took off right away. She didn’t have the right explanation at that point
16. John and Peter ran to the tomb. John arrived first, and then Peter just blows past him and goes right in the door. Then John will follow him into the tomb, and they’re looking.
In John 20:5–8, we have three different words for seeing, which are interesting. When John gets there, he stooped down and looked in. That’s BLEPO. He just glanced in. It was enough to tell there wasn’t a body there. He saw the linen clothes, but he didn’t go in.
Then Peter runs past him, in verse 6, and goes in the tomb, “and he saw.” This is the word THEOREO, which means to look intently at something. He’s just standing there looking and looking. So, John just glances; Peter is really looking at it. Then he tells of what he sees, “the handkerchief that had been around His head.”
This was just a linen cloth that was tied over the head. You’ll get these emails where people say, “Oh, this word is a word for a napkin, and at the end of a meal if you were leaving and you were coming back, you’d fold the napkin and put it there.” That’s just garbage! Don’t buy that. I’ve checked with several archaeologists like Randy Price and others, and this is just stuff that ignorant Christians believe in.
Peter looks at it; he sees the grave clothes lying there, and they look folded. They just collapsed because the body disappeared.
It says John went in also “and He saw.” And it’s a different word, it’s HORAO. It means he looks and he understands. It’s like when somebody’s trying to explain something difficult to you, and finally you say, “I see.” You got it! You understand it.
That is what has happened. John looks at it. He understands, and he believes. He’s the first one that stated that he believes that the resurrection has taken place.
17. John appears to suggest that they return and tell the disciples, but then the disciples did not understand the resurrection, and they go to their homes. John 20:9–10, “Then the disciples went away and went to their homes.” They’re not believing it yet.
Mary, though, now we get back to Mary. Remember the last time we saw her she had told John and Peter, they took off running, and she’s on her way back to the tomb. Now she arrives in the tomb. This is John 20:11–13.
18. Mary, who is still ignorant of the situation, then returns to the tomb, weeping, and she sees the two angels. One’s at the head and the other is at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain and they say to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” And you can just hear her crying, “Because they’ve taken our Lord’s body! We don’t know where it is!”
19. At that point, Jesus appears to her. Wow! What must that have been like! Jesus appears to her, but she doesn’t know it. She just thinks He’s a gardener. Her eyes are filled with tears, He’s probably cloaked His identity a little bit.
John 20:14–16: She turns around and sees Him and doesn’t know that it’s Jesus, and He says, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Thinking He’s the gardener, she says, “Well, somebody’s carried His body away. If you did it, tell us what you did with it, and I’ll take Him away.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Mary.” He just called her name and instantly she knew who He was. And she says, “Rabboni!” That is “my teacher,” and she knows that it’s the Lord.
Why is all this important? We have to know, first of all, what happened, what took place, what transpired that day. We have these witnesses. It’s incredible the number of witnesses.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “For I delivered to you, first of all, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures …” That’s the core of the Christian message.
1 Corinthians 15:5–8, “… and then He was seen—these are not all given in the Gospels—… He was seen by Cephas—that’s the Aramaic for Peter—then by the twelve—they still called them “the 12” even though Judas isn’t a part of the 12 anymore. They’re still called the 12, but it’s only the 11.
Then “After that, Paul says, … He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present—in other words, you can go talk to them—but some of them have fallen asleep.”
Then he says, “After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” There’s a difference between this use of apostle and the technical use, which refers to only the 11 plus Paul. “And last of all, Paul says, He was seen by me also ...”
There are these witnesses: Mary Magdalene was a witness, the two women are witnesses, and there are probably more women, the witnesses of the guards. How are they witnesses? In Matthew 28:11–15 they had to go back and tell the chief priests and the Sadducees and the Romans that the tomb was empty. They’re witnesses to the empty tomb.
Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Mark 16:12–13. He appears to Peter in Luke 24:33–35. He appears to ten of the disciples. That’s what Paul refers to in terms of the 11; He later appeared to all of the 11. He appeared to the 500. He appeared to James. Lots of witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This isn’t a myth that is made up.
That is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:13–14, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
Now where he goes with that is if Christ has been risen from the dead, then we are new creatures in Christ, but we are bought with a price, and we are not our own. We belong to God. There is an implied conclusion here that if Christ is risen from the dead, then that changes our whole life, and we are now to live for Him and not for ourselves.
That’s the challenge that Matthew will come to. We’re not long until the end of Matthew. The last thing that Jesus says is to the disciples and through them to us that we are to make disciples. Not just believers, but to challenge people to be a true student and disciple of Jesus Christ. That means to develop a passion to know the Word, to understand the Word, to apply the Word in all of its dimensions, so that we can grow to be mature believers and truly be useful to the Lord and to serve Him.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to focus upon these great truths, to come to understand the events that occurred that day, for they are important. They have been recorded for us. They reveal to us the witnesses who saw the empty tomb, who saw the empty grave clothes, who saw the angels that were there, and then they saw the risen Lord.
“They were eyewitnesses of those events. They knew it. It is a historic fact. It wasn’t something that happened internally. It wasn’t some mystical vision. It wasn’t some sort of psychological trauma-induced mental event. It was a flesh-and-bone risen Lord Jesus Christ who had conquered death for us.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here or anyone listening who has never trusted in Christ as Savior, that they would take this opportunity to do so, to make it clear in their own thinking that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be. He’s the Son of God; He died on the Cross for our sins and He rose from the dead the third day. As a result of that we can have eternal life by simply believing in Him.
“Father, we pray that You would drive that message home to any unbelievers listening and to any believers, that because of this, we have new life in Christ, and we are to live for Him.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”