Matthew 28:1-15 (English Standard Version)
1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.
12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers
13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
It's Resurrection Sunday - Not Easter Sunday
Jesus rose from the tomb at sunrise the first day of the week following the regular Sabbath (Sunday) . Jesus death and resurrection were intricately tied to the Jewish Passover and God's plan for deliverance.
The celebration of Easter comes from traditions outside of Judaism and Christianity. Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity. It is a day where the amount of darkness and the amount of daylight is exactly identical, balance has been restored. The springtime celebrations were held by pagans to honor the gods of fertility. In English-speaking countries, and in Germany, Easter takes its name from a pagan goddess of fertility. Springtime is when new growth begins. It's when the land becomes fertile.
Today the two separate celebrations have become intertwined. The word Easter does not appear anywhere in the new testament. There are no eggs and no bunny rabbits mentioned anywhere in the gospels. The celebration of Resurrection Sunday and Easter Sunday fall on the same date, but are they the same?
Very early Sunday morning when the Sabbath was over some women went to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Who were they and why did they go?
The Gospel of John 20:1 only lists one woman as going to the tomb, Mary Magdalene. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb entrance and ran to the disciples to tell them Jesus body was missing.
Matthew 28:1 says that it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went to the tomb. The earth shook, a bright angel came and rolled the stone away, sat on it, and spoke to the two women. He told them to hurry and tell the disciples that Jesus had been raised to life.
Mark 16:1 says that Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James were bringing spices to put on Jesus body and found that the stone had been rolled away. A young man in a white robe was sitting there and told them to go and tell his disciples that God had raised Jesus to life.
Luke 23:55-56 tells us that the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee watched as Jesus body was placed in the tomb and went to prepare spices for his burial. Very early Sunday morning they went to the tomb carrying the spices they had prepared and found the stone rolled away from the entrance. Two men in shining white clothes stood beside them and told them Jesus wasn't there, he was raised from death. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women. They went and told the others what had happened.
The numbers of women who went to the tomb and their names differ in each of the four gospels. What consistencies were there?
The Gospel of John lists just 1 woman, Matthew lists 2 women. Mark lists 3 women. Luke tells us there were more than 4 women. The numbers of women who went to the tomb early that Sunday morning differ but all four accounts name Mary Magdalene as first to see the empty tomb, whether by herself or with others. In each story, it is the women who go to tell the disciples about the empty tomb.
Were there any men who witnessed the empty tomb early on Sunday morning. If yes, who did they tell?
Matthew is the only gospel writer who tells of men who first witnessed the empty tomb. Matthew says that the men who were guarding the tomb were so frightened at the sight of the angel rolling the stone away that they shook from fear and fell down, as though they were dead. (Maybe that's where we get the term "frightened to death.")
Matthew says that the guards went to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. The Jewish leaders bribed the guards not to talk about what had happened and to tell a different story. Matthew says that they took the money and did what they were told. The "dead" men didn't talk.
Why did God deem it wise to have women be the first recorded wiitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus that Sunday morning?
The old testament law says that only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. In Matthew 18 Jesus said,"take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses."
It's interesting that God chose women to be the first to tell the good news of Jesus resurrection. In the culture of the time a woman's testimony did not have a lot of validity. However, because there was not just one of them telling the story their testimony had some validity.
In John's gospel Mary Magdalene alone tells two disciples and they run to the tomb to confirm her unbelievable story. Peter and John observe that the tomb is empty but John does not record that anything was said, only that John believed and apparently Peter still had questions.
Why wasn't one of Jesus' twelve disciples among the first to witness and tell of Jesus resurrection?
Peter had bragged just a few days before that he would never deny Jesus and then on the night that Jesus was arrested denied him three times. Would he have been a reliable witness.
Judas betrayed Jesus for money and Mark 14:50 tells us all of Jesus' disciples ran off and left him. However, John was there at the crucifixion standing next Jesus' mother just before he died.
Luke tells us that the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee were there at the crucifixion. They stayed until after Jesus died and watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took Jesus body from the cross, carried it to the tomb with about 75 pounds of spices, wrapped the body in cloth, and then rolled the stone against the entrance of the tomb. They then went home to prepare spices for his dead body.
The women were faithful to the end even when it seemed that Jesus had been taken from them. They were prepared to serve him even after he was dead. The disciples whom Jesus had chosen and taught for three years were at a loss when their teacher was arrested and killed. They were distracted by confusion and by fear for their own lives.
What can we learn from this?
The men guarding the tomb who were frightened "as though they were dead" could have talked but were paid not to talk. The women who encountered the empty tomb were told to go talk.
God works in mysterious ways. It becomes obvious in the days that follow that the women's story did not have a lot of credibility with the men, the eleven remaining disciples. We know this because they were totally surprised when Jesus appeared to them in person. They were unprepared to believe without additional convincing even then.
Mary Magdalene was faithful to Jesus to the end. She told the story of the empty tomb even when not believed. Her faithfulness is rewarded in the gospel narratives. Hers is the one name that is named as a witness to the empty tomb in all four gospels.