All the faithful followers of Jesus must have been stunned and disheartened. Here was the Man that walked on water, that calmed the stormy sea, that multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands, that raised His friend Lazarus and others from the dead, that healed a host of sick folk, that restored withered limbs, that restored sight to the blind and so many other miracles the world itself could not contain their account if they should all be written (John 20:30,31), here is that Man now crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb. There must have been many, including the apostles, who were emotionally drained and deflated. They must have felt as though all hope was lost.
A group of women that followed Jesus from Galilee, standing far enough away not to be too involved but close enough to observe, had seen the Lord hang on an old, rugged cross and then die and agonizing death (Luke 23:49). They also saw Joseph of Arimethea take the Lord’s body down from that cross and wrap it in a linen cloth and then lay it in a newly hewn sepulchre (Luke 23:53-55). Knowing now where He was lain, they returned and prepared spices for the embalming of the body (Luke 23:56). They obviously had no expectation of a resurrection at that time.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome and certain others with them which came from Galilee (Mark 16:; Luke 23:5524:1,10), brought the spices unto the sepulchre expecting to prepare the body of the Lord. When they found the stone already rolled away from the opening, they went in and found not the body of the Lord (Luke 24:3). Mary Magdalene, distressed at the missing body, immediately ran away from the sepulchre and found herself running to Peter and John (John 20:2), leaving the other women at the tomb perplexed (Luke 24:4). She told the two apostles that someone must have taken the body because it was no longer there and she did not know where they could have lain Him (John 20:2). Again, there is not yet the notion of Jesus’ resurrection in her mind, for she fears His body had been stolen. But the apostles are nursing their own thoughts.
In the meantime, the other women who had remained at the sepulchre encountered “two men in shining garments” (Luke 24:4), one standing by them and the other “young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment” (Mark 16:5). The women fell to the ground in fear (Luke 24:5). This “young man,” an angel, told the women not to be afraid because Jesus has risen. “Behold,” he says, “the place where they lay Him” (Mark 16:6). He further told them to go and tell His disciples and Peter that “He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you” (Mark 16:7). The women were frightened and fled, perhaps wandering and thinking what they should do, but they do not immediately follow the instructions of the angel because they did not tell anyone and were afraid and amazed (Mark 16:8).
After Mary Magdalene had spoken to them, Peter and John immediately set out to see this (John 20:3). They both ran together and as they came closer to the sepulchre, John outran Peter, reaching the sepulchre first (John 20:4). John stopped at the opening and looked but did not go in. His heart must have been racing from running and from wonder. He saw the linen clothes in which they had wrapped the body of the Lord. Peter finally made it to the sepulchre and entered immediately and saw the napkin and the linen burial clothes. John summoned the courage to enter and, seeing these things, believed (John 20:8). Did they speak to one another about their thoughts or did they instinctively know what each other were thinking?
Mary had followed behind Peter and John, who had now left, for she was standing there “without the sepulchre weeping” (John 20:11). She, herself, now looked again into the sepulchre and saw the two angels “sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). They ask her why she wept and she still did not consider the possibility that Jesus had risen. She told them someone had taken the body of the Lord and she knew not where (John 20:13). Then turning around she saw Jesus but only thought He was the gardener (John 20:15). He asked her why she wept and she inquired if He had taken the body, she would be glad to remove it for Him.
Just then, Jesus spoke her name, “Mary” (John 20:16). There was no mistaking this voice and the way He spoke her name. She knew then that He was Jesus, her Master, risen from the dead (John 20:16). Jesus told her to go and tell the apostles that He was ascending back to the Father. Mary then “came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her” (John 20:18). At no time did Mary think the Lord had risen until she had spoken with Him herself.
Now as the other women finally decided to tell the disciples of what had happened, Jesus appeared to them as they returned. He met them saying, “All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him” (Matt. 28:9). He then told them to tell His brethren that they would see Him in Galilee (Matt. 28:10). When the women told the apostles, adding their testimony to Mary Magdalene’s, to them their words seemed as idle tales and they believed them not (Luke 24:11).
However, when Peter heard the testimony of the women, that they had seen the Lord, he once again headed for the empty tomb. He ran again to the sepulchre, no doubt anxious to see the Lord for himself, and looked in and saw everything as he had seen it before (Luke 24:12). He “departed, wondering in himself at that which had come to pass” (Luke 24:12). But sometime while he was separated from the rest of the apostles, the Lord appeared to Peter alone (I Cor. 15:5). We are not given the details of that appearance, but it must have been a very emotional one for Peter.
Later that day, the Lord also appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He casually drew Himself near to them as they were walking, and discussing the things which had happened that day (Luke 24:14,15). He engaged them in conversation and explained to them the events that happened by means of the scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). As it was getting toward evening he tarried with them and ate (Luke 24:28-30). As He ate, their eyes were opened and they now recognized Him. But just as they recognized Him, He “vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31). In the very same hour, they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles of the events they, themselves, had witnessed (Luke 24:33).
As they told the apostles of the things that had happened to them, they were told that the Lord had appeared to Peter as well as the women (Luke 24:34,35). “And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (Luke 24:36). But the disciples were terrified and affrighted and thought Jesus was a spirit. He showed them His hands and His feet and they could hardly believe for joy (Luke 24:41). Over the next forty days the Lord would show Himself “alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 13).
Eric L. Padgett