Post Resurrection Scene

Written 2003


Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1,2 show the women finding the tomb empty.

  • Who went?…Matt. 28:1 says Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came.

Mark 16:1 says Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came.

Luke 24:1 says the women who observed Jesus’ body being laid, and certain other women with them, came.

John 20:1 says Mary Magdalene came.

  • John 20:2 records Mary Magdalene as saying, “…WE do not know where they have laid Him.”  Morison says, “Why this incomprehensible ‘we’ if it was not part of his [John’s] understanding of the matter that Mary did not go unattended and that she was reporting what she had found, or rather failed to find, in company with others?

“Considerable light is thrown on this matter by a study of the famous fragment of the so-called ‘Gospel of Peter.’…’Now early on the Lord’s day Mary Magdalene…took with her the women her friends and came unto the tomb where he was laid.’” (Morison)

  • “The first and immediate effect would be one of stupor, followed quickly by an urgent sense of the necessity of immediate counsel and help.  If, therefore, as seems very probable, Mary Magdalene, the youngest and most active member of the group, volunteered to run quickly back to the city to tell the disciples Peter and John, leaving the older women to follow at their own pace, we have a situation corresponding closely with the version given in the Fourth Gospel.  This would also account satisfactorily for Mary’s breathless employment of the plural ‘we.’” (Morison)
  • Comparing all of the gospels, it can be concluded that there were at least 3 women eyewitnesses who went, and possibly more.
  • Can the women be trusted?…”In first-century Judaism, a woman’s testimony was virtually worthless.  A woman was not allowed to give testimony in a court of law except on rare occasions.  No one would have invented a story and made women the first witnesses to the empty tomb.  The presence of women was an embarrassment; this probably explains why the women are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 and the speeches in Acts, since these speeches were evangelistic.  There was no reason to include in evangelistic messages an incidental detail which would cause the audience to stumble and not deal with the main point.  The fact is included in the Gospels because the Gospels are attempting to describe what actually happened.  No other explanation can adequately account for the inclusion of this fact.” (Moreland, SSC)
  • “Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine.  There are old rabbinical sayings that said, ‘Let the words of the Law be burned rather than delivered to women’ and ‘Blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.’  Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of law.

“In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women who were friends of Jesus.  Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example.  The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb!  This shows that the gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened even if it was embarrassing.  This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status.” (Craig)

  • Note: Regarding the timing of which the women visited the tomb, all the gospels agree that it was on the first day of the week (Sunday) when they went.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that they arrived at dawn, when the sun was rising, and John tells us that they left when it was still dark.  Harmonizing the accounts, we can see that the women must have left their house very early in the morning (when it was still dark) to make their long walk to the tomb, and it was dawn when they arrived.
  • Why would the women go knowing that the tomb was guarded?…”For people who are grieving, who have lost someone they desperately loved and followed, to want to go to the tomb in a forlorn hope of anointing the body – I just don’t think some later critic can treat them like robots and say, ‘They shouldn’t have gone.’  

“Maybe they thought there would be men around who could move the stone.  If there were guards, maybe they thought they would.  I don’t know. 

“Certainly the notion of visiting a tomb to pour oils over a body is a historical Jewish practice; the only question is the feasibility of who would move the stone for them.  And I don’t think we’re in the right position to pronounce judgment on whether or not they should have simply stayed at home.” (Craig)

  • “The suggestion is that, had the women known the tomb was guarded, they would not have set out on their secret mission.

“So long as the guard is loosely thought of as being set with full public knowledge throughout the whole period of the temporary burial, it will of course be impossible to find room for the visit of the women.  But according to Matthew it was not set in this spectacular and melodramatic way.  Its necessity was not recognized for nearly twenty-four hours after Joseph had laid the body in the tomb.  It was only when the Sabbath was drawing to a close and the city was about to reawaken to its normal life that the extreme urgency of this matter seems to have been recognized.  How could three or four women be expected to know what was going on secretly at the procurator’s residence on Saturday evening, especially if, as is most probable, they went to be early in preparation for their work at dawn?” (Morison)

  • Did the women tell the disciples what they saw?…Matthew and Mark show an angel telling the women to tell His disciples.  Matthew, Luke, and John show the actual incident of the women telling the disciples that the tomb is empty, but in Mark 16:8 says, “…And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”…could Mark have been mistaken?:
  • “It so happens that in chapter 1, verse 44, of Mark’s Gospel there is a sentence so similar in construction and purport to the one we are now considering as to constitute a very striking parallel…Should we be justified in assuming that the silence was to be regarded as unconditional?…In strict logic, and detached from their context, the words can bear no other meaning.  Yet, we would be wrong…” (Morison).  Mark 1:44 says: “…’See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’”  

“The moment we get the full thought of the writer before us, it is obvious that he uses the words ‘See thou say nothing to any man’ in this sense: ‘Do not publish this abroad.  Keep it to yourself and to those intimately concerned.’  For he follows on with what would otherwise be a direct negative of the original injunction.” (Morison)

  • Also, it is clear that Mark can’t believe the women never said anything, because John Mark (the traditional author) obviously heard about it from someone in order to write it down.

Resurrection preached during Pentecost.

Acts 2:22-36 shows Peter boldly making the first public statement recorded in the Bible about the resurrection.

  • “…the first public statement concerning the resurrection of Jesus was made in Jerusalem during the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost] – that is to say, the feast immediately following the fatal Passover, and seven weeks after the date of the Crucifixion.” (Morison)
  • Seven weeks’ gap: fact or fiction?…”The date when Acts was first committed to writing by Luke was at least some thirty or forty years after the events in question.  There was time for the legend of the Resurrection – if legend it was – to have assumed its fullest and most developed form…

“Viewed, however, from the standpoint of pure legend, this seven weeks’ gap is an inconvenient feature, an anachronism of the first order.  It does not help the credibility of the apostles’ story.  It embarrasses it…People would say: If Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and appeared to His disciples, why did they not proclaim it from the housetops at once?  Why wait for seven weeks, until people had begun to forget about the great tragedy, and then suddenly spring their announcement on the world?

“…If the story was a complete fiction it does small credit to its originators.  Can we doubt that an absolutely untrammeled legend, told and retold many years after the event, would have avoided altogether so fatal a source of weakness and have placed the triumphant public announcement of the Resurrection on the very day that its discovery was made?…

“It would have been quite easy many years after the event, when Jerusalem lay in ruins and the sacred sites themselves were utterly lost in the debris of the final convulsion [70 AD], to have invented a story of the Resurrection in which this strange element of the seven weeks’ delay was entirely absent.  Given the initial acceptance of the fact of the Resurrection at all, it would have sounded far more convincing to foreign ears if the announcement had followed forthwith upon the discovery.  At that time there would have been no one effectively to dispute it.  It would have seemed the necessary and logical result of so remarkable and outstanding an event…

“It is clear, therefore, that from the beginning of the seven weeks’ gap, with all its disconcerting loopholes and opportunities for the skeptic, was an integral part of the Christians’ account of what happened.  They told the story of those seven weeks because it was the only story that truthful people could tell.  It was the way things fell out.  In other words, it was a fact of history.

“As soon as we realize this we begin to see that the supremely vital date when the great Christian declaration was first made publicly in Jerusalem cannot have been other than that of the Feast of Weeks in the Crucifixion year – the date Acts assigns to it, and the only date Christian tradition has ever associated with it.” (Morison)

  • Do Peter’s words indicate the resurrection claim to be very near to the crucifixion?…”Mark first the very significant words Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God [Acts 2:22].  Long before the time when Acts was first written, the Christian community had ceased to speak of Jesus in this particular way.  He had become an object of veneration, even of worship.  Thus the very phraseology of the speech betrays an early and primitive source.  It breathes the kind of atmosphere we should have expected within seven or eight weeks of the Crucifixion itself.” (Morison)
  • Acts 2:32 says: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”  “The phrase is direct and immediate.  It fits something that has recently happened.  It would be inappropriate to an event long past.  Moreover, it is repeated in closely similar language on three separate occasions in the early chapters of Acts.” (Morison)
  • Why doesn’t Peter mention the women who went to the tomb?…”We should naturally expect Peter, therefore, to bring out prominently this surprising confirmation of the disciples’ claim in the speech he made from the steps of the house.  He was announcing an almost incredible thing to an incredulous crowd.  He was manifestly anxious to convert the people to his own belief.  According to Luke, these very women were probably standing in the little group surrounding Peter when he made the speech.  Yet there is not a solitary word either about them or about their discovery.  And in two subsequent speeches he made, and which are reported quite fully in the Acts, the same startling omission is manifest…”

“The reason for this very significant silence seems to be clear.  The physical fact for which the women alone could vouch did not stand in need of any proof or argument.  It was notorious and had been so already for seven weeks.  If St. Paul’s Cathedral were to be burned down this evening the fact that the policeman on point duty in Cheapside was the first to discover the outbreak would be a matter of some interest and would almost certainly appear in any subsequent history.  But no one would dream, two months later, of calling the constable to prove that the great and historic edifice had been destroyed.” (Morison)  

That Jesus’ tomb was empty and body was missing must have been known by the time of Pentecost, however, this was the first time the resurrection was given as a reason.

Enemies were silent regarding Jesus’ body.

Acts 2:5, 36, 37; 25:6, 7 show that the resurrection was preached among Jews.

  • “In Acts 2, Luke records Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.  There was no refutation given by the Jews to his bold proclamation of Christ’s resurrection.  Why?  Because the evidence of the empty tomb was there to disclaim it.  However, everyone knew that the grave no longer held the body of Jesus Christ.

“In Acts 25, we see Paul imprisoned in Caesarea.  Festus, ‘sitting on the judgment seat,…commanded Paul to be brought.  When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove” (vv. 6, 7).  Just what was it about Paul’s gospel that so irritated the Jews?  What point did they totally avoid in making their accusations?  Festus, in explaining the case to King Agrippa, describes the central issue as concerning ‘a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive’ (Acts 25:19).  The Jews could not explain the empty tomb.” (McDowell)

  • “The silence of the Jews is as significant as the speech of the Christians.” (Fairbairn, SLC)
  • “The simple disproof, the effective challenging, of the fact of the Resurrection would have dealt a death-blow to Christianity.  And they had every opportunity of disproof, if it were possible.” (Day, ER)
  • “The early Jewish polemic against the Christian message about Jesus’ resurrection, traces of which have already been left in the Gospels, does not offer any suggestion that Jesus’ grave had remained untouched.  The Jewish polemic would have had to have every interest in the preservation of such a report.  However, quite to the contrary, it shared the conviction with its Christian opponents that Jesus’ grave was empty.  It limited itself to explaining this fact in its own way.” (Pannenberg, as cited in Anderson, CWH)
  • “…throughout the first century, Christians were threatened, beaten, flogged, and killed because of their faith.  It would have been much simpler to have silence them by producing Jesus’ body, but this was never done.” (McDowell)
  • The silence of Christ’s enemies “is as eloquent a proof of the resurrection as the apostles’ witness.” (Stott, BC)
  • “The Jewish authorities strongly opposed this teaching [of a resurrected Savior] and were prepared to go to any lengths in order to suppress it.  Their job would have been easy if they could have invited potential converts for a quick stroll to the tomb and there produced Christ’s body…The fact that a church centering around the risen Christ could come about demonstrates that there must have been an empty tomb.” (Corduan, NDA)

Resurrection was preached in Jerusalem, the same city Jesus’ tomb laid.

Acts 2:5 shows that the resurrection was preached in Jerusalem.

  • “The terrific persecution of Saul…shows that four years later it [the Christian community] had grown to really alarming proportions [Acts 4:4]…

“Now the question the reader will have to consider seriously is whether it was possible for all this widespread agitation and conflict of ideas – involving as it did the definite claim that Jesus had risen – to have been conducted successfully, or indeed at all, in the actual and physical presence of the remains of Jesus.” (Morison)

  • “The Christian church drew its steadily mounting numbers…from the resident population of Jerusalem.  We have to account not merely for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever-growing stream of new converts that came over to it.  When we remember what certain highly placed personages in Jerusalem would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not…we begin to realize that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have stood a silent, unanswerable fact, a fact that geography and the very fates themselves had made immovable…

“If the body of Jesus still lay in the tomb where Joseph had deposited it, why did they not say so?  A cold and dispassionate statement of the real facts, issued by someone in authority, and publicly exhibited in the temple precincts, would have been like a bucket of water upon the kindling fire of the Christian heresy…

“Apparently they did nothing of the kind, for the reason that they could not.  In all the fragments and echoes of this far-off controversy that have come down to us we are nowhere told that any responsible person asserted that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb.  We are only given reasons why it was not there.  Running all through these ancient documents is the persistent assumption that the tomb of Christ was vacant…

“The vacant tomb itself must have been the final and unanswerable objective witness…the disciples were committed to prosecuting their campaign within a quarter of an hour’s walk of the place in which, if their contention was false, the moldering remains of their great Leader lay.” (Morison)

  • “Now if anyone will sit down and try to reason out quietly how it was that this small body of personal adherents of Jesus grew within four or five years to the dimensions required by the severity of the Great Persecution, he will be increasingly perplexed by one fact – the fact that all this took place within a surprisingly short distance from Joseph’s tomb.” (Morison)
  • “We can imagine any one of these statements [what type of person Jesus was, was he a sorcerer?, etc.] being discussed in a private or semi-public meeting in Jerusalem, after the excitable Jewish manner, with much heat and volubility, and then the whole company, so to say, putting on their hats and going home without a single person giving a thought to that silent chamber in Joseph’s grotto.  But we cannot by any stretch of the imagination conceive of such meetings being held in the very heart of the city, to celebrate and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus without the mind of every single hearer going back instantly to the crucial matter of the tomb.” (Morison)
  • “If we could imagine all this taking place in Capernaum or Tiberias or any other town far remote from the scene of the trial and Crucifixion, it would be possible to think of it as meeting with some measure of success…

“But history decrees that this controversy had to be fought out in Jerusalem where no real illusions could prevail…” (Morison)

  • “Even if the disciples failed to check the empty tomb, the Jewish authorities could have been guilty of no such oversight.  When therefore the disciples began to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem and people responded, and when religious authorities stood helplessly by, the tomb must have been empty.  The simple fact that the Christian fellowship, founded on belief in Jesus’ resurrection, came into existence and flourished in the very city where he was executed and buried is powerful evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb.” (Craig, DJRD)
  • “Have you noticed that the references to the empty tomb all come in the Gospels, which were written to give the Christian community the facts they wanted to know?  In the public preaching to those who were not believers, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, there is an enormous emphasis on the fact of the resurrection but not a single reference to the empty tomb.  Now, why?  To me there is only one answer: There was no point in arguing about the empty tomb.  Everyone, friend and opponent, knew that it was empty.  The only questions worth arguing about were why it was empty and what its emptiness proved.” (Anderson, RJC)
  • “It is a matter of history that the apostles from the very beginning made many converts in Jerusalem, hostile as it was, by proclaiming the glad news that Christ had risen from the grave – and they did it within a short walk from the sepulcher.  Any one of their hearers could have visited the tomb and come back again between lunch and whatever may have been the equivalent of afternoon tea.  Is it conceivable, then, that the apostles would have had this success if the body of the one they proclaimed as risen Lord was all the time decomposing in Joseph’s tomb?  Would a great company of the priests and many hard-headed Pharisees have been impressed with the proclamation of a resurrection which was in fact no resurrection at all…?” (Anderson, CWH)
  • “Why did Paul encounter such unbelief in Greece [Acts 17:32], and not in Jerusalem?  Because while in Jerusalem the fact of the empty tomb was indisputable (it was right there for people to examine), in Athens the evidence was far away, so that the emptiness of the tomb was not common knowledge.  Paul’s hearers had not checked the story out for themselves, and rather than go to any trouble to investigate, they were satisfied to jest in ignorance.” (McDowell)
  • “Paul told Agrippa and everyone in the court that Christ ‘would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles’ (Acts 26:23)…

“Again, just as in Athens, Paul met with unbelief.  His message was that Christ is risen from the dead (Acts 26:23), and again no evidence to the contrary was presented in rebuttal.  Only vain mockery came from Festus.  Paul’s defense was uttered in words ‘of sober truth’ (Acts 26:25).” (McDowell)

Tomb was forgotten.

“Consider first the small but highly significant fact that not a trace exists in the Acts, or the Missionary Epistles or in any apocryphal document of indisputable early date, of anyone going to pay homage at the shrine of Jesus Christ.  It is remarkable – this absolutely unbroken silence concerning the most sacred place in Christian memory.  Would no woman, to whom the Master’s form was a hallowed recollection, ever wish to spend a few moments at that holy site?  Would Peter and John and Andrew never feel the call of a sanctuary that held all that was mortal of the Great Master?  Would Saul himself, recalling his earlier arrogance and self-assurance, not have made one solitary journey and shed hot tears of repentance for his denial of the Name?  If these people really knew that the Lord was buried there, it is very, very strange.

“To a critic of the resurrection, this extraordinary silence of antiquity concerning the later history of the grave of Jesus produces, I’m sure, a feeling of profound disquiet and unrest.” (Morison)

  • “It is impossible to read the records of the period without being profoundly impressed by the way in which, for friend and foe alike, the tomb of Jesus sinks into utter and undisturbed oblivion.  No one in later years seems to have gone to Joseph’s garden, and looking at the rock-hewn cave, to have said, ‘This is the place where the Lord is buried.’  No hostile investigation seems to have been made to show that the martyred remains of the great Teacher still lay where they were deposited some days, weeks, or months earlier.  Still more strikingly, no one pretending to have an intimate and special knowledge seems to have said, ‘Not here was He ultimately buried, but there.’  Instead of these quite natural consequences flowing from so extraordinary an event, we get this stony appearance of indifference.  From the moment the women returned from the Garden, the tomb of Jesus passed, historically, into complete oblivion.

“…the number of people in Jerusalem who were intimately known to Jesus during His lifetime and who might be subject to some kind of illusion on the occasion of His death was really quite small and inconsiderable.  If we reckon them at thirty we are probably well within the mark.  This minute body was scattered among a vast concourse of pilgrims from the provinces and distant countries, numbering in all some hundreds of thousands.  One would have thought that out of this great and varied multitude there would have been not a few to whom the decisive issue was the condition of the grave, that a controversy would have sprung up as to its contents, and that the issue would have been hotly disputed on both sides.

“But there is no trace of any such controversy…The only controversy of which we have any record, and it was clearly a heated one, was on the vexed question as to whether the disciples had secretly removed the body.” (Morison)

  • Why did Jesus’ sepulcher not become an object of veneration?  J.N.D. Anderson comments that “it is also significant that no suggestion has come down to us that the tomb became a place of reverence or pilgrimage in the days of the early church.  Even if those who were convinced Christians might have been deflected from visiting the sepulcher by their assurance that their Master had risen from the dead, what of all those who had heard His teaching, and even known the miracle of His healing touch, without joining the Christian community?  They, too, it would seem, knew that His body was not there, and must have concluded that a visit to the tomb would be pointless.” (Anderson, CWH)

Other facts concluding the tomb was empty.

  • Michael Green cites a secular source of early origin that bears testimony to Jesus’ empty tomb.  This piece of evidence “is called the Nazareth Inscription, after the town where it was found.  It is an imperial edict, belonging either to the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) or of Claudius (A.D. 41-54).  And it is an invective, backed with heavy sanctions, against meddling around with tombs and graves!  It looks very much as if the news of the empty tomb had got back to Rome in a garbled form (Pilate would have had to report: and he would obviously have said that the tomb had been rifled).  This edict, it seems, is the imperial reaction.” (Green, MA)
  • “If it could be shown that there was a single document of admittedly early date dealing with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus in which it was even remotely hinted that such was the case, I for one should attach to that hint very considerable weight.  It would at least introduce the same kind of uncertainty that exists concerning certain other aspects of the problem.  It would provide a peg, however shaky and insecure, on which to hang a doubt.  But the documents are adamant on this fundamental feature of the Easter dawn.” (Morison)
  • “First, the empty tomb is definitely implicit in the early tradition that is passed along by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, which is a very old and reliable source of historical information about Jesus.

“Second, the site of Jesus’ tomb was known to Christian and Jew alike.  So if it weren’t empty, it would be impossible for a movement founded on belief in the Resurrection to have come into existence in the same city where this man had been publicly executed and buried.  

“Third, we can tell from the language, grammar, and style that Mark got his empty tomb story – actually, his whole passion narrative – from an earlier source.  In fact there’s evidence it was written before A.D. 37, which is much too early for legend to have seriously corrupted it.

“Fourth, there’s the simplicity of the empty tomb story in Mark.  Fictional apocryphal accounts from the second century contain all kinds of flowery narratives, in which Jesus comes out of the tomb in glory and power, with everybody seeing him, including the priests, Jewish authorities, and Roman guards.  Those are the way legends read, but these don’t come until generations after the events, which is after eyewitnesses have died off.  By contrast, Mark’s account of the story of the empty tomb is stark in its simplicity and unadorned by theological reflection.

“Fifth, the unanimous testimony that the empty tomb was discovered by women argues for the authenticity of the story, because this would have been embarrassing for the disciples to admit and most certainly would have been covered up if this were a legend.

“Sixth, the earliest Jewish polemic presupposes the historicity of the empty tomb.  In other words, there was nobody who was claiming that the tomb still contained Jesus’ body.  The question always was, ‘What happened to the body?’

“The Jews proposed the ridiculous story that the guards had fallen asleep.  Obviously, they were grasping at straws.  But the point is this: they started with the assumption that the tomb was vacant!  Shy?  Because they knew it was!” (Craig)

The Grave Clothes

John 20:3-9 describes the peculiar way the linen clothes were lying.

  • “And then Simon Peter came along and, characteristically, blundered straight in, followed by John; and they took note of the linen clothes and the napkin, which was not lying with the linen clothes but was apart, wrapped into one place.  The Greek there seems to suggest that the linen clothes were lying, not strewn about the tomb, but where the body had been, and that there was a gap where the neck of Christ had lain – and that the napkin which had been about His head was not with the linen clothes but apart and wrapped in its own place, which I suppose means still done up, as though the body had simply withdrawn itself.  We are told that when John saw that, he needed no further testimony from man or angel; he saw and believed, and his testimony has come down to us.” (Anderson, RJC)
  • “The words ‘not lying with the linen cloths’ yield me something;…they tell me incidentally that the linen cloths were all in one place.  If they were lying, as I take them to have done, all upon the lower part of the ledge, the expression is perfectly clear; but if the linen cloths had been lying, one here and one there, as though they had been thrown hastily aside, there would have been no meaning in saying that the napkin was ‘not lying with the linen cloths,’ for the ‘linen cloths’ would not have defined any particular spot.  We again note the introduction of the word ‘lying’ when it is not absolutely required.  The napkin was not lying flat, as the linen cloths were, and S. John, perhaps, marks the difference.” (Latham, RM)
  • “There lie the clothes – they are fallen a little together, but are still wrapped fold over fold, and no grain of spice is displaced.  The napkin, too, is lying on the low step which serves as a pillow for the head of the corpse; it is twisted into a sort of wig, and is all by itself.  The very quietude of the scene makes it seem to have something to say.  It spoke to those who saw it, and it speaks to me when I conjure it before my mind’s eye, with the morning light from the open doorway streaming in.

“What it says, I make out to be this: ‘All that was Jesus of Nazareth has suffered its change and is gone.  We, – grave-clothes, and spices, and napkin, – belong to the earth and remain.’” (Latham, RM)

  • The position in which the grave clothes laid were as if the body they wrapped around had just vanished from them.  What thief would remove, then rewrap the grave clothes before leaving, especially clothes held together with a gummy consistency ( see “Pre-Resurrection Scene” Bible study under The Grave Clothes)?

The Seal.

Mark 16:4 shows the stone was rolled away, therefore, the seal must have been broken.

  • “The door could not be opened, therefore, without breaking the seal; which was a crime against the authority of the proprietor of the seal.” (Whedon, CGM)
  • “The seal was broken when the stone was rolled away.  The person or persons who were responsible for breaking the seal would have the provincial governor and his agencies to answer to.  Indeed, at the time of Christ’s resurrection everyone feared the breaking of the Roman seal.” (McDowell)

The Roman Guard.

Matt. 28:2-4, 11-15 show that the guards knew what had happened.

  • Thomas Thorburn shows that the guard that had kept the watch feared their doom.  After the stone had been rolled away and the seal broken, they were as good as court-martialed.  Thorburn writes: “The soldiers cannot have alleged they were asleep, for they well knew that the penalty of sleeping upon a watch was death – always rigorously enforced.” (Thorburn, RNMC)
  • “Here the soldiers would have practically no other alternative than to trust to the good offices of the priests.  The body (we will suppose) was gone, and their negligence in any case would (under ordinary circumstances) be punishable by death.” (Thorburn)

Peter’s change.

Comparing Mark 8:33 and Mark 14:66-72 with Acts 2 shows a dramatic change in Peter.

  • In Mark 8:33 Jesus severely rebukes Peter saying, “Get thee behind me Satan”.  “This is not the kind of reminiscence that would do a man’s reputation any good, especially when it appeared in a quasi-official document read Sunday by Sunday in a large proportion of the churches of Christendom.  There can be only one intelligible reason for its inclusion and acceptance.  It was a historic part of the whole gamut of strange experiences by the disciples during the great Ministry, and it had to remain.

“Or take that other and even more famous episode, on which the fierce light of publicity has beaten through all the centuries – the denial of Jesus by Peter in the outer court of the high priest’s house.  This episode belongs unmistakably to the historic recollections of those far-off days.  What possible explanation can we devise of this humiliating story appearing in an admittedly pro-Christian document, bearing the name of the friend and interpreter of Peter [Mark], other than the perfectly natural and consistent one that it was the stark and naked truth.  If evidence were needed of the high standard of veracity prevailing in the early church we have it here in its most convincing form.” (Morison)

  • Comparing the boldness by which Peter proclaims Christ to thousands of people at Pentecost (see Resurrection preached during Pentecost section above) with his cowardly denial of Jesus to a mere servant girl, it is clear that something very convincing happened within the 53 days in between these events.  Peter was convinced Jesus resurrected!

James’s change.

Mark 6:2-4 and John 7:3-5 show Jesus’ brother James did not believe in Him.

Acts 12:17-19; Acts 21:17; Galatians 1:18, 19 show that James, the brother of Jesus, believed in the resurrection and was an early church leader.

  • Was James a believer?…Reading Acts 21:17-19, “The phrase ‘he went in unto Jerusalem, and the elders were present’ confirms what we know from other sources, viz., that at this particular time James was the dominant figure of the Christian movement in Jerusalem.  He had risen to become head of the resident mother church.  His authority was far-reaching and paramount.  It was to him, as representing Christianity at the very cradle of its inception, that Paul went to report on his mission.” (Morison)
  • Reading Acts 12:17, “Clearly James, in the absence of Peter himself, was the predominant figure and the leader-designate of the party [A.D. 44].” (Morison)
  • Also, Galatians 1:18, 19 reference James as being an apostle [someone who saw Jesus’ resurrected body].  “Thus as early as A.D. 36 this man James was a prominent figure in the early community, sharing with Peter (and as Galatians 2:9 shows, with John) the leadership of the party.” (Morison)
  • What did James think about his brother before the resurrection?…”It seems obvious from a careful reading of this chapter [Mark 3] that the ‘friends’ of Jesus referred to in the earlier quotation [Mark 3:20, 21, 31-33] were His relatives, and that the whole object of their coming to the door of the house and calling was to get Him away.  The explanation given is that in their view He was ‘beside Himself’ or, as we should put it today, that His mind was unhinged.” (Morison)
  • Mark 6:2-4 and John 7:3-5 also clearly indicate that James did not believe in Jesus while He was living on earth.  “The gospels tell us Jesus’ family, including James, were embarrassed by what he was claiming to be.  They didn’t believe in him; they confronted him.  In ancient Judaism it was highly embarrassing for a rabbi’s family not to accept him.  Therefore the gospel writers would have no motive for fabricating this skepticism if it weren’t true.

“Later the historian Josephus tells us that James, the brother of Jesus, who was the leader of the Jerusalem church, was stoned to death because of his belief in his brother.  Why did James’s life change?  Paul tells us: the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.  There’s no other explanation.” (Moreland)

James was convinced Jesus resurrected!

Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, was changed.

Galatians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 show Paul to be a fervent believer in Jesus.

  • “Now if the conclusions of our present study be justified, the fact was that the tomb was vacant on Sunday morning.  I submit that when Saul came on the scene this fact was not doubted.  It never had been.  But it was the subject of a bitter difference of opinion between the opposing camps.  The Christians asserted that the body had been raised.  The Jewish rulers declared that it had been stolen.” (Morison)
  • “One of the most influential testimonies to Christianity was when Saul of Tarsus, perhaps Christianity’s most rabid antagonist, became the Apostle Paul.  Saul was a Hebrew zealot, a religious leader…

“Paul’s ‘offence with the Christian message was not,’ as Jacques Dupont writes, ‘with the affirmation of Jesus’ messiahship [but]…with the attributing to Jesus of a saving role which robbed the law of all its value in the purpose of salvation…[Paul was] violently hostile to the Christian faith because of the importance which he attached to the law as a way of salvation…

The Encyclopaedia Britannica states that the new sect of Judaism calling themselves Christians struck at the essence of Paul’s Jewish training and rabbinic studies.  To exterminate this sect became his passion (Galatians 1:13).  So Paul began his pursuit to death of ‘the sect of the Nazarenes’ (Acts 26:9-11).  He literally ‘laid waste the church’ (Acts 8:3).” (McDowell, MTC)

  • “He started for Damascus with that intent [to destroy the Christian movement].  He arrived there an utterly shaken and repentant man.  Nothing that he saw or heard or experienced thereafter had the slightest effect on this settled state of mind…He went into Arabia for a time of solitary seclusion to think it out.  He came back the same radically altered man…

“As we read the letters of his middle and later life we find no trace of any mental weakening, rather the coming to maturity of a fine intellect, and intensely logical and ordered mind.” (Morison)

  • “But how did this reorientation of a man’s entire presuppositions survive the solitary communion in Arabia, the nine years’ patient waiting in Tarsus, and all the bitter persecutions and hardships of the great missions?  Why was one of the greatest intellects of the ages brought over and fixed in an instant of time from one pole of dogmatic belief to another?” (Morison)
  • “And the curious thing is…that once this conviction had been reached [Jesus’ resurrection], its effect on any normally constituted mind was enduring.  The vacancy of the tomb was a historic fact – fixed and unalterable.  Its authority grew rather than declined with the passing of the years.  It was never shaken throughout Paul’s lifetime, and in the writer’s judgment it remains unshaken to this day.” (Morison)
  • “As a Pharisee, he [Paul] hated anything that disrupted the traditions of the Jewish people.  To him, this new countermovement called Christianity would have been the height of disloyalty.  In fact, he worked out his frustration by executing Christians when he had a chance.

“Suddenly he doesn’t just ease off Christians but joins their movement!  How did this happen?  Well, everyone agrees Paul wrote Galatians, and he tells us himself in that letter what caused him to take a 180-degree turn and become the chief proponent of the Christian faith.  By his own pen he says he saw the risen Christ and heard Christ appoint him to be one of his followers.” (Moreland)

  • “Two professors at Oxford, Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton, were determined to destroy the basis of the Christian faith.  West was going to demonstrate the fallacy of the resurrection and Lyttleton was going to prove that Saul of tarsus had never converted to Christianity.  Both men came to the opposite conclusion and became ardent followers of Jesus.  Lord Lyttleton writes: ‘The conversion and apostleship of Saint Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a Divine Revelation.’  He concludes that if Paul’s twenty-five years of suffering and service for Christ were a reality, then his conversion was true, for everything he did began with that sudden change.  And if his conversion was true, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for everything Paul was and did he attributed to the sight of the risen Christ.” (McDowell, MTC)
  • Paul was convinced Jesus resurrected!
  • Anyone not believing that Jesus resurrected, has to find some explanation for Peter, Paul, and James’s dramatic changes!

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