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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life Of Christ

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This week’s study is focused on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.  We can not only know the story, we can also experience the eternal life with Him that God desires for each of us.


Mar. 01

Promised Like No Other


Mar. 08

A Birth Like No Other


Mar. 15

Power Like No Other


Mar. 22

Teaching Like No Other


Mar. 29

 Death Like No Other


April 5

Resurrected Like No Other



Jesus is alive—and we can live forever.


Matthew 28:1-10




An Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:1-7)

The Eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:8-10)


Resurrection!Matthew 28:1-20:

Matthew’s Gospel fittingly concludes with the most dramatic and glorious miracle in all of Scripture—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With this event stands or falls Christianity’s claim to be the one true way to God (1 Cor 15:12-19). Verses 1-10 describe how the women who had watched where Jesus was buried (27:55-56,61) went to the tomb after the Sabbath (Saturday) was passed to give His corpse a more proper anointing. To their astonishment they found an angel instead, beside an open door revealing an empty burial cave. The angel commanded them to go tell Jesus’ disciples that He was risen. On the way they met Jesus Himself, who repeated the command. Verses 11-15 comprise the sequel to 27:62-66 and disclose how flimsy alternatives to belief in the resurrection inevitably proved to be.

Verses 16-20 summarize all the major themes of the Gospel—Christ’s divine sovereignty and authority, the nature of discipleship, the universal scope of Christian faith, the importance of doing the will of God, and the promise of Christ’s presence with His followers in everything they may experience. Verse 19 has understandably come to be known as the Great Commission. Believers’ task in life in essence is to duplicate themselves in others, leading men and women in every part of the world to faith, baptism, and obedience to all of Christ’s commands. But the final word of the book (v. 20) properly returns our focus to Christ rather than keeping it on ourselves. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 68 percent of people fear death.  From a purely human viewpoint, why would anybody look forward to the cessation of life?  Jesus gives us hope in the face of death.  Jesus died, but He also rose again.  His death and resurrection conquered death for those who place their faith in Him.  We can be assured of eternal life—even beyond this physical life—because of Jesus.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


An Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:1-7)

1 After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men. 5 But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. In fact, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”








1.   How would you describe the emotional state of His disciples; the women; the crowd; the soldiers, after the crucifixion?

2.   How do you think His disciples saw their future after His death?

3.   When did the women first encounter the empty tomb (v. 1)?

4.   According to Matthew, why did the women go to the tomb?

5.   How did these two women know where Jesus was buried? (See Matt. 27:59-61; Mark 15:40.)

6.   Who were these two women named Mary and what do we know about them? (See Digging Deeper.)

7.   What was the significance of the first earthquake?  (See Matt. 27:51.)

8.   What is the significance of a second earthquake related to Jesus’ death and resurrection (v. 2)?

9.   According to verse 2, what did the angel do after he descended from heaven (v. 2)?

10.   Based on verse 3, how is the angel described?

11.   How did the appearance of the angel impact those who were standing guard over the tomb (v. 4)?

12.   Why do you think the appearance of the angel didn’t have the same effect on the women as it did on the guards?

13.   What did the angel tell the women (vv. 5-6)?

14.   What did the angel invite the women to do (v. 6b)? 

15.   After the angel’s invitation, what did he tell the women to do (v. 7)?

16.   What is the irony of the angel’s message for the disciples, He has been raised from the dead (v. 7b)?

17.   Do you think verses 6-7 have a message for believers today?  If so, what is it?

18.   What was the last thing the angel told the women (v. 7)?

19.   How would you summarize the angel’s meaning of his last statement to the women (v. 7)?

20.   Why do you think what the angel has told the women was so important for them to remember?

21.   Why does it matter that Jesus physically rose from the dead?

22.   Since Jesus is alive how can we live forever! 

23.   Why does Jesus’ resurrection places Him in a class all by Himself?

24.   What light does 1 Corinthians 15:12-23 shed on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection?


Lasting Lessons in Matt. 28:1-7:

1.  All efforts to prevent or discredit the message of Jesus’ resurrection will ultimately end in defeat.

2.  Even in the bleakest times, God is likely to send a dazzling message that He is alive and well.

3.  Once we have encountered the truth that Jesus lives, we are charged with relaying that truth to others.



The Eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:8-10)

8 So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news. 9 Just then Jesus met them and said, “Good morning!” They came up, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.”

1.   What emotions did the women experience upon leaving the tomb?

2.   What can we learn from the repeated presence of fear in these verses?

3.   How would you describe “great joy”?

4.   Have you ever felt “fear” and “joy” at the same time?

5.   How emotions do you think you would have displayed had you been of the first to visit the empty tomb?

6.   What evidence do you find in verse 8 that the women displayed an obedient spirit?

7.   How did the Jesus greet the women in verse 9?

8.   How did the women greet Jesus?

9.   What did their worship of Him say about who they understood Him to be?

10.   Based on verse 9, what was the first thing Jesus told the women?

11.   Why do you think this phrase is almost always spoken by angels who appear to people and by Jesus when He appears to His disciples?

12.   What did Jesus tell the women to do (v. 10)?

13.   In what ways did Jesus’ instructions echo what they had been told by the angle at the tomb?

14.    Where were the disciples to go? 

15.   Why do you think Jesus wanted to meet them in Galilee?

16.   What is the significance of Jesus referring to His disciples as His brothers (v. 10)?

17.   In what ways has Jesus’ resurrection impacted history?

18.   Why is worship still the appropriate response to the resurrection?

19.   Will Jesus’ resurrection impact your life in the days to come?  If so, how?  If not, why not?

20.   In what ways have you witnessed the power of Christ?


Lasting Lessons in Matt. 28:8-10:

1.  Sometimes Jesus meets us when and where we least expected Him.

2.  When we encounter the resurrected Jesus, submission and worship should immediately follow.

3.  Despite our failures, denials, and fears, Jesus sees His followers as co-laborers and calls them brothers and sisters.



If Jesus had only been born, He would have been one of many in the history of the world who had promised the good life but at the end of the day could not deliver on the promise.  Had Jesus died an ordinary death.  He would have been no more than a martyr who gave Himself for some good cause.  That which differentiates Jesus is that He delivered on His promise of eternal life, and His death, critical as it was for the salvation of the world, was not the end.  The crucial difference is that He lives!  Thereby He was able to defeat death and He can give life.  He is more than a martyr; He is in truth the Lord of all eternity! 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Matthew 28:1-10:

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:  4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. (KJV)

New International Version: Matthew 28:1-10:

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them.  “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NIV)

New Living Translation: Matthew 28:1-10:

1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.  5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”  8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” (NLT)


Lesson Outline — “Resurrected Like No Other” — Matthew 28:1-10



An Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:1-7)

The Eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:8-10)


(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Matthew 28:1-10:

The empty tomb (28:1-7)

Because the Resurrection is central to Christian theology, few subjects have received more attention. Paul goes so far as to say that if Christ was not raised from the dead, Christian faith is vain; and we are still dead in our sins.

The textual problems at the end of Mark compound the difficulties in sorting out literary relationships. Most now hold that Mark intended to end his Gospel with 16:8, though some still cling to the authenticity of the “long ending” (Mark 16:9-20); others suggest some such ending as Matthew 28:9-10. What is certain is that, for those who wish to attempt it, the various resurrection appearances can be harmonized in at least three different ways (cf. Broadus; Ladd). But it is more important to come to grips with the distinctive emphasis of each NT writer.

The considerable number of “minor agreements” between Matthew and Luke over against Mark strongly suggests that Matthew and Luke, if they did not simply follow one account independent of Mark, either shared as one source a written account of some resurrection appearances, or one evangelist borrowed from the other. The theological implications of the Resurrection are not treated at length by the evangelists; but the theme constantly recurs in Paul (e.g., Rom 4:24-25; 6:4; 8:34; 10:9; 1Cor 15; 2Cor 5:1-10, 15; Philippians 3:10-11; Col 2:12-13; 3:14; 1 Thess 4:14).

28:1 The Greek opse de sabbaton can be understood as meaning “late on the Sabbath”; then the next phrase would mean “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Taken together these two temporal phrases must then mean one of two things: (1) unlike Mark 16:1, not to mention the consistent witness of the NT, the events described take place on Saturday evening, the end of the Sabbath; or (2) this is evidence for a scheme of counting days from sunrise to sunrise and takes place early Sunday morning.

Instead, it is far better to take apse as an irregular preposition, meaning “after.” “After the Sabbath” is then a general time indicator, i.e., the women would not walk far during the Sabbath; so they waited till after the Sabbath. But by then Saturday night was drawing on; so early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”—the other one mentioned in 27:56 (still others are mentioned in Mark 16:1Luke 24:10)—“went to look at the tomb.” Mark says they “bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.” It has been argued that Matthew must make the change to “late on the Sabbath” because he alone introduces the account of the posting of the guard (26:62-66), which would make admittance by the women impossible. The women would not have come once the guards were posted; so they must be presented as slipping in earlier. But if the women stayed home on the Sabbath and the guard was not posted till the Sabbath would the women be likely to learn of it till they arrived on Sunday morning?

Matthew’s brief “to look at the tomb” preserves the theme of witness (27:5661); but in addition it may reflect an ancient Jewish tradition that says Jews visited the tombs of the deceased till the third day to ensure that the party was truly dead.

28:2-4.  The clause introduced by “for” (v. 2) either suggests that the violent earthquake (see 27:51) came with the “angel of the Lord” (on angels, cf. 1:20-2318:10) or was the means the angel used to open the tomb. In Matthew and Luke the angel is more clearly portrayed as an angel than in Mark (“a young man dressed in a white robe”). But the distinction should not be pressed, as angelic beings often appear in human form in the OT; and Marks young man is clearly an angel. The guards witnessed the earthquake, saw the angel, and “became like dead men” (v. 4 i.e., “fainted in terror” or the like). There is no implication that the earthquake had anything to do with releasing Jesus: the stone was rolled back, the seal broken, and the soldiers made helpless, not to let the risen Messiah escape, but to let the first witnesses in.

Too much speculative “theologizing” has accompanied some modern treatments of these verses. In particular there is nothing to suggest that the soldiers were in any sense pagan witnesses of the Resurrection. They neither heard the angel’s words nor saw the risen Jesus; and they would shortly lie about what really had happened (vv. 11-15). Furthermore it is doubtful whether Matthew intended to contrast the soldiers’ terror, based on failure to understand, with the women’s joy, who received the word of revelation. There is no evidence that the women witnessed the earthquake and the first descent of the angel; moreover their joy was mingled with fear (v. 8), for the angel’s “Do not be afraid” (v. 5) is meaningless unless they were afraid. What is stunningly clear is the restrained sobriety of these accounts as compared with the later apocryphal Gospels.

28:5-7. The angel speaks (lit., “answered”; see on 11:25) words that allay the women’s fears (cf. Mark 16:5-7Luke 24:4-8). The empty tomb by itself is capable of several explanations (cf. John 20:10-15). This explanatory word of revelation narrows the potential interpretations down to one: Jesus has risen from the dead (v. 6), a truth to be confirmed by personal appearances. In Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, announced by the angel, is also tied into Jesus’ promises “as he said” (cf. 16:2117:2320:18-19). This is one of several significant “minor agreements” of Matthew and Luke against Mark in the resurrection narratives. The women are invited to see the place where Jesus lay and commanded to go “quickly” (v. 7, a happy touch) to give his disciples the joyous message. Unlike Mark, Matthew does not explicitly mention Peter.

Jesus had promised to go ahead of his disciples into Galilee (see on 26:32); and the angel now reminds them of this (v. 7). The present tense proagei (“is going ahead”) cannot mean that Jesus is already on his way, because (1) v. 10 places him still in Jerusalem; and (2) a verb like “go ahead,” if pressed to mean Jesus was actually traveling, “would also seem to presuppose that the disciples also were on the way to Galilee.” The verb is not a progressive present but a vivid future. As he promised, Jesus will arrive in Galilee before they do and meet them there, contrary to their expectation (see on 26:3228:10).


First encounter with the risen Christ (28:8-10)

28:8-9. With mingled fear and joy, the women run to tell their news to the disciples (v. 8), when “suddenly” (the probable force of idou, “behold,” in this context) Jesus meets them (v. 9). “Greetings” (chairete) is a normal Greek salutation (cf. 26:49). The women clasp his feet and worship him. Prosekynesan (“worshiped”) can mean simply “knelt before” (see on 8:2). The same verb occurs in the only other resurrection appearance in Matthew (v. 17) and encourages the view that the “kneeling” has instinctively become worship.

28:10.  Like the angel (v. 5), Jesus stills the women’s fears and gives them a similar commission. Some have held that “my brothers” raises the status of Jesus’ eleven surviving disciples. This ignores the use of the term in Matthew; for apart from the places where “brothers” denotes a natural relationship, the term is employed of spiritual relationship—even before the Passion—explicitly referring to the fellowship of those who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah (18:1523:8; cf. 5:22-247:3-518:2135). In the two other places where Jesus uses the full expression “my brothers” (12:49-5025:40), it refers to all Jesus’ disciples and cannot possibly be limited to the apostles.

Therefore the natural way to interpret “my brothers” in v. 10 is not as a reference to the Eleven but to all those attached to his cause who were then in Jerusalem, most of whom had followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem as his “disciples” (see on 5:12, and esp. 26:32; 28:7). There were many others in addition to the Twelve who had followed Jesus (e.g., 20:17; 21:8-9, 15; 27:55; cf. 20:29; 21:46; 23:1). Apart from the Galileans, Joseph of Arimathea was certainly not Jesus’ sole disciple from the Jerusalem region (19:13-15; 27:57-61).

If this interpretation of Jesus’ words is reasonable, several interesting conclusions or possibilities are evident.

1. The view that interprets the “some” of v. 17 as a reference to others than the apostles is supported, and the resurrection appearance of vv. 16-20 may well be equivalent to the appearance before five hundred reported by Paul (1Cor 15:6).

2. Obviously Matthew does not tell all he knows or recount every resurrection appearance of which he has information. Therefore it is tendentious to argue that 28:1016-20 means that Matthew thinks Jesus appeared to his disciples only in Galilee and denies any Jerusalem appearances.

3. The interpretation of v. 10 offered here looks back to 26:3228:7: Jesus now confirms his earlier promise that, far from being left behind as a rotting corpse when his disciples return to Galilee, he will precede them there and meet them there. But now, after the resurrection, he makes the promise a command and includes all his “brothers.” Taken this way v. 10 is far from eliminating other appearances to the believers (cf. John 20:3-10Luke 24:13-49John 20:11-29) before they return to Galilee. It is simply that Matthew, for his immediate purposes, is not interested in them.

4. But why not? Or why does Matthew record only the resurrection appearance to the women and the appearance in Galilee to his followers? Some have suggested that Galilee is introduced because it is the place of revelation and ministry, whereas Jerusalem is the place of rejection and judgment. But one must wonder whether enough weight has been assigned to various facts: viz., Jesus’ ministry was not only to Galilee but to the whole of Israel (10:62315:24); opposition was directed against Jesus in Galilee as well as in Jerusalem, where the plots to kill him were hatched; at Jerusalem Jesus revealed himself as King in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (21:17); and Jerusalem, called the “holy city” (4:527:53), peculiarly drew out Jesus’ compassion (23:37-39), whereas cities in Galilee were excoriated (11:20-24).

Why, then, Matthew’s record of a resurrection appearance in Galilee? The answer surely lies in the combination of two themes that have permeated the entire Gospel. First, the Messiah emerges from a despised area and first sheds his light on a despised people (see on 4:15-16); for the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit (5:3). For this reason, too, the risen Jesus first appears to women whose value as witnesses among Jews is worthless (see on 27:55-56, 61; 28:1, 57). Second, “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15) is compatible with the growing theme of Gentile mission in this Gospel (see on 1:1; 2:1-12; 4:15-16; 8:5-13; 10:18; 12:21; 13:37; 15:21-28; 24:14 et al.) and prepares for the Great Commission (28:18-20).

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary – Matthew 28:1-10:

The Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord (28:1-10)

28:1-4.  Before dawn on Sunday morning the two Marys came to see the tomb. As they arrived there was a great earthquake. An angel... descended from heaven, rolled back the stone from the mouth of the tomb, and sat on it. The Roman guards, terrified by this radiant being clothed in glistening white, fainted.

28:5, 6.  The angel reassured the women that there was nothing for them to fear. The One they sought had risen, as He had promised. "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." The stone had been rolled away, not to let the Lord out, but to let the women see that He had risen.

28:7-10.  The angel then deputized the women to go quickly to announce the glorious news to His disciples. The Lord was alive again and would meet them in Galilee. After delivering the message, they returned to the empty tomb. It was then that Jesus Himself appeared to them, greeting them with a single word, "Rejoice!" They responded by falling at His feet and worshiping Him. He then personally commissioned them to notify the disciples that they would see Him in Galilee.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Matthew 28:1-10:

28:1. The accounts of the Resurrection in the Gospels present a picture of great excitement. There was much running back and forth. Sometimes one angel was seen, sometimes two. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, looking forward to what was about to happen, indicate that dawn was about to break. John, on the other hand, writing as an eyewitness and remembering the eerie shadows around the cemetery and the darkness still lingering, wrote, "It was yet dark." It was the beginning of one of the greatest days in the history of the world.

The difference in the accounts is added proof that no one sat down and deliberately made up a story about the Resurrection. The writers were men who were at or near the scene and could corroborate the things they had seen and heard. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring out different aspects of the event, containing the kind of differences that can be expected of eyewitness accounts, as seen by different people at slightly different times.

Though the wording is different, all four Gospels agree that the women arrived at the tomb as the first day of the week began to dawn. It is not known how many women were in the group.

Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joses) who had followed Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb. Mark 16:1 also names Salome, and Luke 24:10 further adds Joanna the wife of Chuza (Luke 8:3). Matthew tells only that they went to have a look at the tomb, implying that they were going there to mourn, as was the case with "sitting over against the sepulchre" in 27:61. It is apparent from Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1 that they had also brought the spices they had prepared.

28:2. "And, behold" suggests something unexpected: in this case it was an earthquake and the coming of an angel of the Lord. The earthquake, which in 27:51 was also linked to a resurrection, was a revelation of God's power. The word "for" introduces a subordinate clause (with the verb in the aorist, indicating a completed action) which explains the earthquake, the appearance of the angel, and the opening of the tomb. The women would have felt the earthquake while on their way to the tomb, but they did not see the angel descend and remove the stone. This appears from the form of the verb "sat upon it" (imperfect). This shows the state of affairs the women encountered when they came to the tomb. The angel had not come to release Jesus, but to open the grave for the women and to show them that it was empty.

28:3. The snowy white, shining (like lightning) appearance is characteristic of a heavenly body. It is a revelation of heavenly glory (Matthew 17:2; Acts 1:10; Revelation 1:16; Daniel 7:9; cf. Psalm 104:2). It is possible that the Greek word idea translated "countenance" does not so much refer to former appearance, as to the face in particular (cf. Daniel 10:6).

28:4. The guards began to tremble for fear before the angel. Literally the words are, "they were shaken." The verb form (eseisthēsan) of the word seismos (translated "earthquake" in verse 2) is used here. These soldiers, hardened as they were, trembled with fear and fell down as if they were dead. They, who should have been standing guard over a corpse, became themselves like the dead. Shortly afterwards they ran away (cf. verse 11). Note that while the fear of death overcame the soldiers, the angel simply said to the women, "Do not be afraid" (verse 5), and that they departed with fear and joy (verse 8).

28:5.  The angel turned to the women and said, "Fear not ye." The stress is on "ye" to accentuate the contrast with the guards. What first impresses the dwellers of heaven about the children of men is their fear (see also verse 10). Apparently their lives are so attuned to this earth that the heavenly world arouses fear. But for these women, and for all who like them seek Jesus, there is no reason for fear, but for joy, because Jesus, who was crucified, is risen from the dead (verse 6).

28:6.  Not the time but the fact of the Resurrection was revealed to the women: the Lord "is not here: for he is risen." The aorist ēgerthē means "it has happened once for all." The angel confirmed his message by pointing to two things. First, to Jesus' words, "as he said" (see 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). Jesus had spoken clearly about His resurrection, but apparently it had remained obscure to them. Second, to the empty tomb, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." In other words, compare what you heard from Him with what you see here. It really is true: the Lord is risen! With this twofold witness to the Resurrection the women had plenty of evidence on which to base their faith.

By emphasizing the fact that the body was not there and asking the women to look and see that it was actually gone, the angel anticipated the story propagated by the Jewish leaders (verse 12). The statement also challenged the enemies of Jesus and the doubters of that day to produce the body. Criminologists know it is not easy to get rid of a body, but no one was ever able to do anything but point to the empty tomb.

28:7.  The women were told to go immediately to tell the disciples about this mighty intervention by God into earthly events. A direct testimony of Jesus' resurrection must be given, not first to the Pharisees but first to the disciples (cf. verse 10) and then to the world (verse 19). It was the woman who sinned first at the Fall, but women were also prominent at Jesus' resurrection. They were faithful (27:55, 61; 28:1), were the first witnesses of His resurrection, and had to bring the news to the disciples who had run away (26:56). In addition, the women had to remind the disciples that Jesus would go to Galilee before them (26:32). The angel added, "There shall ye see him." Jesus died vicariously for all mankind in Jerusalem. But He would reveal himself to His disciples in Galilee, where He had lived and worked (see also verses 10 and 16). By the angel's words, "I have told you," the women were made responsible for carrying out his instructions.

28:8.  If the reading exelthousai ("going out") is accepted, it means that the women heard the angel's message while they were inside the tomb, which is not obvious in apelthousai ("going away"). The women's immediate obedience is striking. They left the tomb immediately and ran to bring the news to the disciples. Their belief was not belief as a matter of course, but consisted of fear mingled with joy, two emotions which go well together (cf. Psalm 2:11).

28:9.  The term "and behold" (see Interlinear) indicates how suddenly the Lord Jesus appeared. "Jesus met them" and "All hail" are in fact everyday expressions. The women met Jesus, and He greeted them in the normal way (something like "Hello" or "Good morning"). But the women's reaction was the complete opposite of a conventional greeting. They fell on their knees, took hold of His feet, and hung on (an expression of the highest veneration, Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 1:1054) as they worshiped Him (see verse 17 and 4:10). In this way they showed their deep subjection and gave Him highest honor. Mary Magdalene, who stayed behind in the garden near the tomb, did the same thing when Jesus appeared to her and she finally recognized Him (John 20:11-18). The women clung to Him with such joy at seeing Him again that they acted as if they were afraid He would disappear.

28:10.  Jesus, using the same words as the angel in verse 5, told the women to stop being afraid. What is important here is not so much His message as His appearance. He wanted to convince the women that He was the same Lord who had died and was buried. For them this was the third confirmation, after the message and the empty tomb (verse 6), that Jesus had risen. By telling them to stop being afraid Jesus wanted to dispel any fear (see verse 5) that the women still might have. He wanted His resurrection to be a matter of joy for His disciples. Then Jesus repeated the angel's message to tell the disciples that they were to go to Galilee (verse 7). The word "go" is emphatic, "depart, withdraw, leave me," for they were still holding on to Him. He had to deal with Mary Magdalene in the same way, for "Touch me not" in John 20:17 is literally, "Stop clinging to me, stop hanging on to me." Jesus had not yet ascended to stay. They would see Him again. For now, He wanted them to be evangelists and take the good news to His disciples.

When Jesus called the disciples "my brethern" (as previously in 12:49ff.; see 25:40), He wanted to make it clear that they had nothing to fear, despite the fact that they had forsaken Him and run away (26:56). Disciples in those days were treated as servants. Jesus called them friends even before the Cross (John 15:14, 15). But now He emphasized that they were His brothers, still in the family of God, and His fellow workers in the kingdom of God. This was good news to them and to all believers (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:19). Then Jesus reaffirmed the invitation to an encounter in Galilee (see verse 16).

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Matthew.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



TOMB OF JESUS:  According to the New Testament accounts, the tomb of Jesus was located in a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified (John 19:41) outside the city walls of Jerusalem (John 19:20). It was a “new tomb” which had been “hewn out in the rock” by Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:60; compare Luke 23:50-56) who had apparently prepared it for his own family’s use. It was not uncommon for the well-to-do to prepare such a tomb in advance because of the difficulty of digging graves in the rocky ground around Jerusalem. The tomb was large enough for someone to sit inside (Mark 16:5; compare John 20:11-12) and required that one stoop to look inside and enter (John 20:5-6, 11; compare Luke 24:12). A great rolling stone sealed the entrance (Matt. 27:60; Mark 15:46; 16:3).

This description suggests a typical Jewish tomb of the Herodian period consisting of (1) an antechamber, (2) a slow doorway which could be sealed with a stone (in many cases a rolling stone fitted into a groove or track so that the tomb could be opened and closed by rolling the stone back and forth in front of the doorway), and (3) a passageway leading to a rectangular-shaped tomb chamber. Here the body (having been wrapped in a linen cloth) could be laid lengthwise in either a rectangular, horizontal, oven-shaped shaft driven back into the vertical rock face measuring 78 x 25 x 20 inches or laid on a simple rock shelf cut laterally into the rock with a vaulted arch over it. The sequence of events narrated in the Gospel accounts (especially John 20:5-6) would seem to indicate that Jesus’ tomb had this vaulted arch.

The traditional site of the tomb of Jesus is marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which stands over the site of a first-century rock quarry which in Jesus’ day was outside the city walls of Jerusalem and in which other typical first century tombs have been discovered. An alternative site known as the “the garden tomb” (adjacent to “Gordon’s Calvary”) and containing a tomb of the type common to the Byzantine period (A.D. 324-640) was identified in 1883.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

MARY (Maw' rih):  Greek personal name equivalent to Hebrew Miriam, meaning, “rebellious, bitter.” See Miriam.

1. Mother of Jesus. Mary seems to have been related to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and wife of the priest Zechariah. Elizabeth was also of a priestly family. If “kinswoman” in Luke 1:36 is a reference for family line and not a relationship established by marriage, then Mary’s family heritage may have been priestly. Luke presented Mary as a person of great faith prepared to be an agent of God in the birth of the Messiah. In later church tradition, two important theological beliefs focus the significance of Mary. One has to do with what is referred to as “divine maternity,” while the other is “virginial conception.” Their scriptural orientation is based on Luke 1:34 that details Mary’s response to the angel’s announcement that she would have a son. Mary questioned how this could be since she did not have a husband. The Greek states, “I am not knowing a man.” Some have interpreted the Greek text as making an eternally valid theological statement that her virginity is an on-going state that equals a “perpetual virginity.” Matthew 1:24-25 (including, [Joseph] “knew her not until she had borne a son”) would seem to challenge the perpetual virginity belief. The Luke text is sufficiently vague as to allow the growth of such doctrine. In contemporary Christianity, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches embrace these doctrines, while most Protestant churches do not. However, in all cases, Mary is a revered character in Christian tradition who is believed to represent goodness, innocence, and profound commitment to the ways of God. Mary does not play as high a profile in the Gospels as one might expect. The Gospel writers attempted to emphasize Jesus’ divine origins at the expense of de-emphasizing the importance of His mother. The Gospel of John presents women in an essential place in the public ministry of Jesus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, functions in such a role. In John 2:1-11, Mary’s presence at Jesus’ first public miracle of changing water to wine at the marriage at Cana underscores, in a profound manner, that Jesus’ destiny challenges all norms, including that of immediate family relationships. The recurring Johannine theological theme of Jesus’ “hour” being divinely directed is pointedly made by Mary’s presence in the episode (compare Mark 3:31-35; Luke 11:27-28). Mary’s presence at the foot of the cross (found only in John 19:25-27) highlights the mother’s love. Acts 1:14 indicates that Mary was present, along with other hero figures of early Christianity, in the upper room scene in Jerusalem.

2. Mary Magdalene. Magdala was an important agricultural, fishing, and trade center of ancient Galilee. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2 indicate that this Mary, from Magdala, was exorcised of some seven demons. In antiquity, demon possession was an indication of physical or spiritual illness; obviously, Mary Magdalene was quite ill before her encounter with Jesus. Mary eventually became part of an inner circle of supporters of Jesus. She was a witness of His crucifixion (Mark 15:40; Matt. 27:56; John 19:25), burial (Mark 15:47; Matt. 27:61), the empty tomb (Mark 16:18; Matt. 28:1-10; Luke 24:10), and she was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:1-18). A tradition, especially prevalent in western Christianity from about A.D. 500 onward, identified Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50. The text gives no reason for such an association, as the introduction of Mary in Luke 8 is quite removed topically from Luke 7:36. To confuse the interpretative tradition further, the sinful woman in the anointing scene of Luke 7:36-50 is often identified incorrectly with another Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. On all accounts, no evidence exists that the sinful woman of Luke 7 should be identified as Mary.

3. Mary (of Bethany), the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus seem to have been part of an inner circle of Jesus’ associates. The Gospel of John places particular emphasis on their select status. Mary from Bethany played a primary role in the episode of Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead in John 11. In John 12, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with precious oil, thus serving an important confessional function of anticipating Jesus’ death. Given the sequence of John’s Gospel, Mary is represented as a follower of Jesus who is well acquainted with Jesus’ ultimate destiny (compare Judas, the disciple in John 12:4, who is not as well informed).

4. Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome. This Mary would appear to be part of Jesus’ following from Galilee who moved with Him during His itinerant public ministry (compare Mark 15:40-41). She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and was part of the group of women who encountered the empty tomb (Mark 15:47; 16:1-8; Matt. 27:55-56; 28:1-8; Luke 23:56; 24:1-10).

5. Mary, the mother of John Mark. This woman was the owner of the house in Jerusalem where the first followers of Jesus met (Acts 12:12). Her son, John Mark, eventually became a disciple of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25).

6. Mary, the wife of Clopas. She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25) and may be the same character as Mary, the mother of James, Joses, and Salome in the Synoptic Gospels accounts.

7. Mary, from Rome. An individual Paul greeted in Romans 16:6.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




RESURRECTION in First-Century Jewish Thought

By Warren McWilliams

Warren McWilliams is the Auguie Henry Professor of Bible at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.


PECULATION ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BIBLE PASSAGE can be dangerous, but I have often wished I could read the minds of some biblical characters.  For example, Jesus’ discussion with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi was a turning-point event in His ministry.  When Jesus asked them who they thought He was, Simon Peter correctly acknowledged Him as “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).1  Then Jesus announced He would eventually “be killed, and be raised the third day” (v. 21).  I wonder what the twelve apostles believed about the possibility or probability of the resurrection of the dead.  Did the typical Jew believe in bodily resurrection?  If so, did the Jews believe the Messiah would die and that God would raise Him from the dead?

Jewish Beliefs in the First Century

The majority of Jews in the first century believed in a future resurrection of the dead.  Jesus’ disciples would not have been startled by His mention of this doctrine.  Some Jews, however, rejected such a belief.2  When the apostle Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin, he recalled that the Pharisees and the Sadducees, two of the major Jewish religious groups, disagreed on this issue and others.  Paul stressed he was on trial for his preaching about the resurrection, and a loud argument broke out. 
Describing this event, Luke commented, “For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all” (Acts 23:8).

The Sadducees’s rejection of the resurrection of the dead impacted their relationship with Jesus.  For instance, they told Jesus a story about a woman being married over time to seven brothers.  When the woman finally died and was raised from the dead, to whom would she be married?  Since the Sadducees did not accept bodily resurrection, they apparently thought this story highlighted the foolishness of the doctrine.  Jesus, however, replied that they did not understand their own Scriptures or God’s power (Matt. 22:23-32).

When the early Christians proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, the Sadducees led the persecution (Acts 4:1-2).  One reason they opposed these Christians was their own rejection of anyone’s resurrection.

Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, confirmed the New Testament’s report of the disagreement between the Sadducees and Pharisees.  In his Jewish Antiquities,  Josephus described the major Jewish religious groups of his time.  He stated the Pharisees believed in resurrection of the dead, bur the Sadducees insisted that human souls and bodies both died.3 

Although the religious leaders debated belief in the resurrection of the dead, what would the typical first-century Jew have known about this doctrine?  We can find some clues in other New Testament stories.  For instance, Jesus’ conversation with Martha after the death of her brother, Lazarus, points to a common affirmation of this doctrine.  Martha had hoped Jesus would arrive in time to keep Lazarus from dying.  When Jesus announced that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).  Martha was clearly familiar with the Jewish belief in a future resurrection from the dead.  Jesus explained to her, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25).

When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, He compared His own body to the temple and explained that His body would be raised from the dead.  We do not know how well His disciples understood this comparison at that time, but after His resurrection they saw Jesus’ point clearly (2:19-22).

Old Testament Background

Why did the Pharisees and Sadducees disagree on the resurrection of the dead?  Part of the answer is that the Sadducees did not accept all of what we call the Old Testament as inspired.  The Sadducees accepted only the first five books, the Pentateuch, as the Word of God.  When Jesus responded to their story about the woman married over time to seven brothers, He quoted from Exodus to prove that even the Scriptures they accepted affirmed God is the God of the living (Matt. 22:32; Ex. 3:6,15-16).

In contrast, the Pharisees accepted the full Old Testament that Christians use today.  This contains, though, only a few clear statements about a resurrection of the dead.  Probably the strongest is Daniel 12:2-3.  This passage points to the future destiny of both the righteous, who receive eternal life, and the wicked, who experience eternal contempt.  Psalm 49:9-15 also points to a future life beyond the greave.  Isaiah 26:19 states that the “dead will live; their bodies will rise.”

In early Hebrew thought the common belief was that all the dead went to Sheol, the realm of the dead.4  Job thought of this place as “a land of darkness and gloom . . . a land of blackness” (Job 10:21-22).  The dead existed in this shadowy underworld with no apparent hope for bodily resurrection.  Job, however, anticipated the later full-blown belief in bodily resurrection.  “Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh” (19:26).  Although Bible students debate the details of interpretation of this verse, some see an affirmation of bodily resurrection.5

Another of the strongest Old Testament statements on resurrection actually points to the restoration of the Hebrew nation rather than individual resurrection.  God revealed to Ezekiel how a valley of skeletons could become a living army.  God’s “breath” or Spirit empowered the dry bones to become living beings again (Ezek. 37:4-10).  God explained to Ezekiel that this army was the restored house of Israel.  “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you into the land of Israel” (v. 12).

Some Bible students see Hosea 6:2 as an anticipation of belief in bodily resurrection.  Also, Jesus compared Jonah’s experience to His death, burial and resurrection (Matt. 12:40).

Jewish Thought Outside the Bible

Some clues to the development of Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead surface in Jewish writings not included in our Bibles.6  Although they are not the inspired Word of God, they reflect ideas that may have been familiar in New Testament times.  For instance, the Old Testament Apocrypha is a collection of Jewish writings generally written in the Intertestamental period.  Second Maccabees “includes the story of seven brothers and their mother who was put to death.  The book clearly teaches a resurrection of the body, at least for the righteous” (2 Maccabees 7:9,14).7

The Pseudepigrapha is a collection of Jewish writings that the Jews did not consider to be inspired but to be the first-century Christians, however, quickly affirmed that Jesus was the Anointed One promised by God and that He was their resurrected Lord and Savior.  When the risen Jesus encountered the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus was able to show them that He was the One for whom they had hoped.  Jesus used the teachings of the Law of Moses and the Hebrew prophets to reassure them He was the risen Savior (Luke 24:25-27).  Early Christian sermons often linked Old Testament texts and Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:30-31 and Ps. 16:10; Acts 13:34 and Isa. 55:3).

Although contemporary Christians might want to read the minds of first-century Jews and Christians about their belief in the possibility of the resurrection of the dead.  What ultimately matters is the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.  The two on the road to Emmaus moved from puzzlement to a recognition of the risen Savior (Luke 24:31-35).  They did not ask, “Is resurrection possible?”  They announced “The Lord has certainly been raised” (v. 34).  Later the apostle Paul affirmed the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection for our faith today (1 Cor. 15:12-19).                                                                                                                                                                                        Bi

1.   All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

2.   Grant R. Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary of New Testament Background,  ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 932-33.

3.   Josephus, The Aniquities of the Jews   18.1.3-4.

4.   “Death, Resurrection, and Afterlife in the Old Testament” in Holman Bible Handbook,  gen. ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 364-65.

5.   Robert L. Alden, Job,  vol. 11 in The New American Commentary  (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 208.

6.   Grant R. Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels,  ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), 674-75.

7.   Clayton Harrop, “Apocrypha” in Holman Bible Dictionary,  gen. ed. Trent C. Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 70.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 38, No. 3; Spring 2012.


Women As Eyewitnesses . . .

By Jeremy R. Howard

Jeremy R. Howard is the Bibles and Reference Books editor for B & H Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee.


OUBTS ABOUT the intellectual and emotional reliability of women were deeply rooted in the ancient male outlook.  Jewish historian Josephus showed some willingness to believe the recollections of women,1 but of court matters he warned: “there shall be no testimony of women, because of the levity and boldness of their gender.”2  Roman jurist Gaius (A. D. 130o-180) stated the commonly held view that women “are very liable to be deceived owing to their instability of judgment” though he himself held a more enlightened view.3  These and other sources4 indicate that men commonly doubted reliability of women when it came to reporting matters of critical importance.

. . . to Jesus’ Death

Numerous women followed Jesus as disciples.  Some of them contributed financial support so Jesus and His twelve handpicked disciples could focus on ministry (Luke 8:1-3).  This involvement of women fits with the first-shall-be-last theme of Jesus’ message.  God’s is an upside-down kingdom, where the lowly and marginalized shake the world through simple acts of devotion.  These women had hoped for Jesus’ glorious triumph; now they stood at a distance and watched Him die.  Luke says “the women who had followed Him from Galilee” were there (Luke 23:49).  Notable among the female observers were Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene, both of whom the Gospel of John places at the foot of the crow at an early stage of the crucifixion (John 19:25).

Jesus’ mother received high revelations of His identity (see Luke 1:26-38; 2:17-19,28-33,36-38), had lived through heartache and confusion about how His life was unfolding (Luke 2:48; Mark 3:21), and now stood watching the life ebb from His mutilated body.  Her presence ensures the failure of skeptical theories suggesting Jesus did not die but only swooned on the cross, or that some other man was mistakenly crucified in His place.  Jesus died that day, a fact marked by Mary’s passing into the care of another man (John 19:26-27). 

. . . to Jesus’ Burial

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (“Joses” in Mark’s account) were present to observe Jesus’ interment (Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47).  Their presence shows up the sheer desperation of the anti-resurrection argument that says belief in Jesus’ resurrection was based on a case of mistaken identity, namely that the women blundered into the wrong tomb on Sunday morning and erroneously concluded that Jesus had exited the tomb alive.  Several difficulties accompany this argument.  First, to suggest the women misidentified the tomb is unreasonable.  They had been there roughly 36 hours earlier.  Was their memory so bad?  Further, a guard was standing outside Jesus’ tomb.  Could the women have missed this signal?  Second, even if the women had stumbled into the wrong tomb, the male disciples, and certainly Joseph of Arimathea, would have corrected their mistake, thus ending any wild speculation that the empty tomb meant a resurrection had occurred.  Third, the women did not suppose Jesus had left the tomb alive, but figured someone had stolen His body.  Mary Magdalene was beside herself with grief at this thought (John 20:11).  Finally, the wrong-tomb theory fails to account for the fact that the women, plus eventually all the male disciples, reported seeing Jesus alive again.  Had Jesus not presented Himself alive, everyone would have thought what Mary Magdalene first assumed: someone had stolen Jesus’ body.

. . . to Jesus’ Resurrection

The women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning bore heavy hearts.  Their thoughts were mournful and tragic, so much so that upon finding the tomb empty, a distraught Mary Magdalene began an inquiry into who had stolen the body (vv. 2,15).  No flights or resurrection fancy for this eyewitness!  Nothing less than the presence of Jesus Himself—standing before her, calling her name, and allowing her a brief embrace—awakened her to a more hopeful conclusion (vv. 16-18).  Tellingly, the male disciples found the women’s account unbelievable: “But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women” (Luke 24:11, HCSB).  Thus we see that the men shared in the same hopeless mindset as the women, and that setting the men in a different direction would take more than the testimony of women.  Jesus presenting Himself alive to the men in repeated episodes, however, established beyond all doubt the truthfulness of the women’s testimony (see Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:13-31; John 20:19-29; Acts 9:1-9).

Women “Witnesses and the Christian Apologetic

Women were present at this trifecta of vital events: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Christian apologists maintain that this prominent role is one evidence for the truthfulness of these events.  If the Gospel writers were out to invent stories about Jesus dying and rising from the dead, certainly they would have created a story using only elements that stood a good chance of being deemed believable in a male-dominated culture.  This is especially true for the resurrection.  A made-up story about the empty tomb would likely include accounts of the guards at the tomb falling to their knees in wonder as Jesus emerged from the tomb, alive and resplendent with signs of deity.  A made-up story about His post-resurrection appearances would have Him marching straight to the heart of Jerusalem to show Himself first to the male disciples, and then on to the Roman and Jewish powers who had executed Him.  But these are not the stories we have.  What we do have in the Gospels are accounts that conspicuously include women eyewitnesses as the first to attest to the empty tomb and the risen Lord.

Evidence from ancient literature confirms that men preferred male testimony over female testimony in matters of critical importance.  The Bible’s repeated inclusion of female eyewitnesses at Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection satisfies the criterion of embarrassment, which says authors would not include embarrassing elements unless those elements are true.  Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross, and exited that tomb alive again after three days.  Women were principle witnesses to these facts, a truth the Gospel writers were unwilling to ignore.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Bi

1.   Josephus, The Wars of the Jews  4.1.10; 7.9.1.

2.   Writer’s paraphrase.  See Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 4.8.15 in The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged,  trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 117.

3.   Writer’s paraphrase.  See Gaius Institutes of Roman Law  1.190-91, trans. Edward Poste, 4th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904).

4.   See James A. Brooks, Gospel of Mark,  vol. 23 in The New American Commentary  (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 271.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 38, No. 3; Spring 2012.



By Terry Ellis

Terry Ellis is pastor of Mulberry Baptist Church, Houma, Louisiana.

PERHAPS BECAUSE OF ITS IMPORTANCE and also its uniqueness, many thoughtful Christians as well as most agnostics cannot help but wonder at the reality of the resurrection.  Both groups may reasonably ask, “What did happen on Easter Sunday morning?”  The question is neither bad nor new. 

But how can we make a reasonable decision?  What evidence do we have?  The New Testament, of course, contains many references to the resurrection of Jesus and must serve as our primary source of information.  The resurrection is a fact assumed throughout the documents of the New Testament.  A careful and honest study of the texts that explicitly deal with this foundational Christian belief provides adequate grounds to answer the question of what actually happened on Easter Sunday morning.

The first New Testament writer, chronologically, to mention Jesus’ resurrection was Paul. Throughout his letters he referred to the resurrection,1 often using the phrase “he (Jesus) was raised.”  The passive form of the verb leaves no doubt that God was the agent of the resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul wrote most explicitly of the resurrection and subsequent appearances of the risen Lord.  This text is especially significant because, having been written about A.D. 54-55 and before any of the Gospels, it constitutes the first written description of the passion events and of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.

Paul began this passage by writing that he passed on to the Corinthians that which he had received.  The words translated as “received” and “passed on” are somewhat technical words in the Greek language used to indicate the passing on of important oral tradition.2 The ability of Jewish scholars to remember verbatim scriptural commentary and debates is legendary.  They orally passed on a great deal of important material.  Paul, in the finest rabbinical tradition, was well trained in this ability as well.  When he wrote that he passed on that which he received, we are left with the unmistakable impression that his account dates back to the earliest descriptions of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This material does not represent Paul’s passing speculation.

Concerning the resurrection, Paul wrote that Jesus was raised on the third day, and then he listed six appearances by Jesus.  Harmonizing these appearances with the appearances described in the Gospels is neither necessary or even possible.  Suffice it to say that Paul was aware of at least these six appearances.  They were the ones that had perhaps been considered to be, in his words, “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3).

While we do not have sufficient room to investigate and explore each appearance, we can say that Paul was convinced that Jesus’ resurrection was a reality.  He viewed these six appearances to be sufficient proof that Jesus returned to life and appeared not just to an isolated few, but to as many as 500 people at one time.  Paul did not give the impression that he was writing of a philosophical encounter.  He and others had met not an ideal but a real and resurrected person.

Moving to the Gospels, we first look at the evidence of the empty tomb.  All four Gospel writers were in agreement that Jesus was buried under the supervision of Joseph of Arimathea.3 His tomb was carved out of rock.  The door would have been a heavy stone that could be rolled over the opening, falling into a notch that would serve to seal the stone and prevent easy access.

Additionally, all four Gospel writers were in agreement that at least one woman (Mary Magdalene) went to the tomb early on the third day, found the stone rolled away, was told of the resurrection by supernatural means, and reported this news to the disciples who remained skeptical.  None of the women or the other disciples initially understood the empty tomb as evidence that Jesus was raised.  With one possible exception, they were either puzzled or assumed that Jesus’ body had been stolen.4  All four Gospels clearly agree that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was empty Sunday morning.

Matthew is the only gospel writer who dealt with some alternative understandings of the empty tomb (27:62-66).  The Jewish leaders had anticipated a plot to steal Jesus’ body so that His followers could claim that He was raised from the dead.  Guards outside the tomb would have been sufficient to prevent any such attempt.  Matthew’s unique inclusion of this story reflects an early attempt to discount the idea of a resurrection.  Matthew reminded his readers that Jesus’ enemies had already considered the possible trouble arising from an empty tomb and had taken adequate precautions.  To suppose that a dispirited group of disciples could have undertaken a covert action to remove the body, especially with the presence of Roman guards, is highly implausible.  Essentially, the disciples were faced with the necessity of trying to decide what the empty tomb that had once contained Jesus of Nazareth meant.  We, like the disciples, must try to decide what it means to us.

The most significant evidence we have to survey is the actual appearances of Jesus as narrated in the Gospels. Matthew recorded an appearance to the women as they returned from finding the tomb empty (28:9-10) and an appearance to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee (28:16-20).  If we accept the evidence presented in the oldest existing manuscripts of Mark, that Gospel ends at 16:8.  If that is the case, then Mark recorded no appearances.  In the longer ending of Mark, we find appearances to Mary Magdalene (16:9-11), two men walking in the country (16:12-13), and the eleven disciples (16:14).  In Luke, we read of appearances to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35), a reference to an appearance to Simon (24:34), and an appearance to the disciples (24:36-49).  In the Gospel of John, Jesus appeared to Mary (20:19-23), to Thomas (20:24-29), and to the disciples by the sea (21:1-23).

Again it is not necessary or even possible to harmonize and align all of the appearances.  What is obvious is that Jesus appeared a number of times, in a number of places, to a number of people.  The Gospel writers never showed a tendency to try to be exhaustive in any description of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Their obvious and primary concern was to relate the fact Jesus, who had been killed and entombed, was now alive.

Space does not allow an in-depth examination of the resurrection narratives, but we do need to note a few details that lead the Gospel reader to the conclusion that Jesus’ resurrection was real.  First, we find several references to Jesus’ body and to people touching Him.  In Matthew, the women took hold of His feet and worshiped Him (28:9-10).  Mary, in the Gospel of John, was told by Jesus not to touch Him or not to keep holding on to Him (John 20:11-18).  Also in John, Thomas was invited to touch Jesus’ wounds (20:27).  We find the same kind of invitation in Luke 24:39.  Jesus also was careful to show His wounds to the disciples (Luke 24:39; John 20:20).

The resurrected Jesus ate with various groups of disciples several times.  In Luke, He prepared to eat a meal with the Emmaus-road disciples (24:28-30).  Jesus, at His first appearance to the disciples asked for something to eat and was given a piece of broiled fish (Luke 24:41-43).  In John’s Gospel, Jesus apparently prepared and ate breakfast with His disciples beside the Sea of Galilee (21:9-14).

These texts are included in the Gospels in order to dispel the notion that what the disciples actually saw was nothing more than a vision.  In Jesus’ words, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

In addition to these references to the corporality of the resurrected Jesus we must also note the terror of the texts themselves.  Here we must look at the texture and nuances of the narratives.  One feature that stands out in the resurrection accounts is the reluctance of the disciples to believe that Jesus actually was resurrected.  If we assume for the moment that the whole thing was contrived, then we might expect that the plotters (the disciples) would have been portrayed as more courageous and confident.  We might even expect to find in the texts a strong degree of “I told you so” by the disciples.  Instead we find an unwillingness to accept the reality of the resurrection.  In short, the resurrection narratives do not sound like a hoax.  If the disciples had been so zealous as to manufacture the resurrection and resultant Christian faith, we would not likely find such unflattering portrayals of the disciples in the text.  Blind zealotry of the type necessary to fabricate an elaborate ruse of resurrection and vital religion does not lend itself to the subtle ironies and nuances we find in the resurrection narratives.

At the end of any such discussion we are still left without some details about what exactly happened on the first Easter Sunday morning.  The texts are clear in their verdict that the resurrection actually happened.  One detail we have not yet mentioned is that Jesus appeared only to believers.  This underscores the need for faith in accepting the reality of an event that inaugurated a new era.  This also suggests that when met with faith, there rises from the New Testament text a living figure, the resurrected Jesus.  The end result is that even today any believer can attest to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.                                  Bi

1.  see 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:1; Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 10:9.

2.  Willi Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Margaret Kohl (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), 80.

3.  The passion and resurrection accounts of the Gospels are as follows: Matt. 26 – 28; Mark 14 – 16; Luke 22 – 24; and John 18 – 21.

4.  The unnamed beloved disciple is the only disciple who may have believed in the resurrection based solely on the evidence of the empty tomb.  See John 20:8-9.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1994




953. What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (04/05/15) A four-part question: (1) Who was to give (2) what, (3) to bribe  whom, to betray which (4) major judge of the Israelites?   Answer Next Week? Four-part question: (1) Who was to give; (2) What; (3) To bribe whom; (4) to betray whom.

The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (03/29/15) Three-part question: (1) Who was the youngest king of Judea , (2) how old was he when he gained the throne?; (3) How long did he reign?  Answer (1) Who? Joash; (2) How old was he? Seven years old; (3) Length of reign? 40 years; 2 Chronicles 24:1.