Fairview Baptist Church
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
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Theme: Life Like No Other: The Life
What This Study Is About:
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.
Promised Like No Other
A Birth Like No Other
Power Like No Other
Teaching Like No Other
Like No Other
Resurrected Like No Other
is alive—and we can live forever.
An Empty Tomb (Matt. 28:1-7)
Eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:8-10)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
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.
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
SOURCE: Holman Bible
Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
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.
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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.”
would you describe the emotional state of His disciples; the women; the crowd;
the soldiers, after the crucifixion?
How do you think His disciples saw their future
after His death?
did the women first encounter the empty tomb (v. 1)?
to Matthew, why did the women go to the tomb?
did these two women know where Jesus was buried? (See Matt. 27:59-61; Mark
were these two women named Mary and what do we know about them? (See Digging
was the significance of the first earthquake?
(See Matt. 27:51.)
is the significance of a second earthquake related to Jesus’ death and
resurrection (v. 2)?
to verse 2, what did the angel do after he descended from heaven (v. 2)?
on verse 3, how is the angel described?
did the appearance of the angel impact those who were standing guard over the
tomb (v. 4)?
do you think the appearance of the angel didn’t have the same effect on the
women as it did on the guards?
did the angel tell the women (vv. 5-6)?
did the angel invite the women to do (v. 6b)?
the angel’s invitation, what did he tell the women to do (v. 7)?
is the irony of the angel’s message for the disciples, He has been raised from the dead (v. 7b)?
you think verses 6-7 have a message for believers today?
If so, what is it?
was the last thing the angel told the women (v. 7)?
would you summarize the angel’s meaning of his last statement to the women (v.
do you think what the angel has told the women was so important for them to
Why does it matter that Jesus physically rose
from the dead?
Since Jesus is alive how can we live forever!
Why does Jesus’ resurrection places Him in a
class all by Himself?
What light does 1 Corinthians 15:12-23 shed on
the reality of Jesus’ resurrection?
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
emotions did the women experience upon leaving the tomb?
What can we learn
from the repeated presence of fear in these verses?
would you describe “great joy”?
you ever felt “fear” and “joy” at the same time?
emotions do you think you would have displayed had you been of the first to
visit the empty tomb?
evidence do you find in verse 8 that the women displayed an obedient spirit?
did the Jesus greet the women in verse 9?
did the women greet Jesus?
did their worship of Him say about who they understood Him to be?
on verse 9, what was the first thing Jesus told the women?
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?
did Jesus tell the women to do (v. 10)?
what ways did Jesus’ instructions echo what they had been told by the angle at
were the disciples to go?
do you think Jesus wanted to meet them in Galilee?
is the significance of Jesus referring to His disciples as His brothers (v. 10)?
In what ways has Jesus’ resurrection impacted
Why is worship still the appropriate response to
Will Jesus’ resurrection impact your life in
the days to come? If so, how?
If not, why not?
In what ways have you
witnessed the power of Christ?
Lessons in Matt. 28:8-10:
Jesus meets us when and where we least expected Him.
we encounter the resurrected Jesus, submission and worship should
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!
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:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
King James Version: Matthew 28:1-10:
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 men. 5
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)
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
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
Outline — “Resurrected Like No Other” — Matthew
An Empty Tomb (Matt.
The Eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:8-10)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Matthew
The empty tomb
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
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 16:1; Luke
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 (27:56, 61);
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. 1:20-23; 18:10)
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
28:5-7. The angel speaks (lit., “answered”; see on 11:25) words that allay
the women’s fears (cf. Mark 16:5-7; Luke
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. 16:21; 17:23; 20:18-19).
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 26:32; 28:10).
First encounter with the risen Christ
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
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 (18:15; 23:8;
cf. 5:22-24; 7:3-5; 18:21, 35).
In the two other places where Jesus uses the full expression “my brothers” (12:49-50; 25:40),
it refers to all Jesus’ disciples and cannot possibly be limited to the
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
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
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 28:10, 16-20
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 26:32; 28:7:
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
20:3-10; Luke 24:13-49; John
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 (10:6, 23; 15:24);
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” (4:5; 27:53),
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
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
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.
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.
Believer's Bible Commentary; by William
MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald.
Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Matthew
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).
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.
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.
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
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).
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.”
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).
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
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).
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
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
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).
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
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).
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
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).
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
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
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).
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).
Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
R. Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary
of New Testament Background, ed.
Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000),
The Aniquities of the Jews
Resurrection, and Afterlife in the Old Testament” in Holman Bible Handbook, gen.
ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 364-65.
L. Alden, Job,
vol. 11 in The New American Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman & Holman, 1993), 208.
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.
Harrop, “Apocrypha” in Holman Bible
Dictionary, gen. ed. Trent C.
Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 70.
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
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
The Wars of the Jews
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.
paraphrase. See Gaius Institutes
of Roman Law 1.190-91, trans.
Edward Poste, 4th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904).
James A. Brooks, Gospel of Mark,
vol. 23 in The New American Commentary (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1991), 271.
THE REALITY OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION
By Terry Ellis
Terry Ellis is pastor of Mulberry Baptist Church,
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
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
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;
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.
1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:1; Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 10:9.
Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Margaret Kohl
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), 80.
passion and resurrection accounts of the Gospels are as follows: Matt. 26 –
28; Mark 14 – 16; Luke 22 – 24; and John 18 – 21.
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.
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.