Imagine that you had been following Jesus as He taught around Galilee, in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. What if you had seen the miracles, heard the teachings, experienced the compassion felt the love, known the man and were convinced that he was the promised Messiah? It must have felt like devastating, soul crushing despair for them to watch their friend be crucified. Imagine that Sunday comes and people are seeing angels, the saints of old come out of their graves and walk around Jerusalem, and Jesus, the man you saw crucified and pierced through with the sword, the man you watched die is seen, ALIVE. There must have been excitement, fear, joy, chaos and every emotion known to man that morning.
Four people wrote down the events of that EPIC morning. In order to get the full story of what happened on the day of Jesus' Resurrection, we need to read all 4 Gospel accounts. This post is my humble attempt to combine and harmonize the reports of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into a single narrative:
Early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath day of rest was over, a group of women who were followers of Jesus came to his tomb. This group included Mary Magdalene; another Mary, who was the mother of James and Salome; and also Johanna. They purchased spices and brought them to Jesus' grave to make sure the body was given a proper and respectful burial. As they walked along in the twilight before dawn, they wondered how they would move the very large and heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb, but as they arrived at sunrise, suddenly there was a great earthquake, an angel from heaven came like a flash of lightning and rolled the stone away from the tomb. They found him sitting there on top of the rock, to the right of the tomb, wearing bright white robes. The men guarding the tomb appeared like dead men, either passed out or catatonic with fear. The angel told the women Jesus had risen from the dead, reminded them of His words, and invited them to look inside the empty tomb, telling them to let the disciples know He would meet them in Galilee. At this point, I believe the women may have run back and forth to the other disciples, with some of the women entering the tomb on the first trip and some upon their return visit. At one point, Mary Magdalene, cried out to the disciples that Jesus had been taken and she did not know where. Mary, who had carefully watched as Jesus was put in the tomb, now stood outside of it, sobbing that they had taken Jesus and she did not know where they had put him. Upon looking inside, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Johanna met 2 more angels, all dressed in white with the appearance of young men. The angels affirmed that Jesus was alive, reminded the women again of Jesus' own words that He would be resurrected on the 3rd day and sent the women to tell the other disciples the Good News. As they ran out, joyful, fearful, excited and astonished, they ran into JESUS and grabbed onto his feet worshipping Him. They were not seeing a ghost either, they physically touched his resurrected, corporeal body. At first, Mary M. thought he was the gardener, but when Jesus said her name, she recognized him and he had to ask them not to cling to his feet because he had not yet ascended to the Father and was going to.
Next, while the women ran to the disciples (or ran back to the disciples), the Guards of the tomb gathered themselves up and went to the Jewish leaders who paid them off to tell a lie that the disciples stole the body while they were sleeping. It wasn't a very good lie, because if they were sleeping then they would not have known what happened to the body. The Jewish religious leaders also promised to bribe Pilate, the governor, to keep the guards out of trouble if necessary. Fortunately, both Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus were prominent members of the Sanhedrin, and secret followers of Christ. As members of the Jewish high council, they were probably aware of these dirty dealings and they are most likely the ones who informed the disciples of the devious deception. In future years, other Jewish leaders would come to believe, so they could have told the truth as well. Sadly, this lie has caused many Jews through the centuries not to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.
When the women ran to the disciples, to the place where Jesus' inner circle and other believers were gathered, they were so overwhelmed that they did not mention these events to anyone along the road. When they told the disciples, most did not believe them or couldn't understand their erratic communication at first, but Peter and John sprinted out the door and raced to the tomb, John got their first. As I mentioned before, the women might have run to the disciples after meeting the first angel and before meeting the 2 angels inside the tomb and subsequently encountering Jesus. John's Gospel seems to indicate this may have been the case and it harmonizes nicely with the other accounts. John Mark, the writer of "Mark," may very well have followed them back, the young man had a knack for being a silent observer after all. Peter and John entered the tomb, found the white linen which Joseph of Arimethea had wrapped the body in and found the face cloth folded and laying separately. Then they left. Eventually the women were able to calm down from the incredible shock and excitement of speaking to angels and seeing Jesus alive and explain everything they had seen and experienced, proclaiming the good news about Jesus' rising from the dead to the disciples.
After the Resurrection, many of the bodies of the Old Testament saints were raised from the dead, came out of the tombs and entered Jerusalem, appearing to many people. Jesus may have taken them to heaven to the Father before this next series of events.
Later, that same day, Jesus appeared to Peter and Cleopas as they walked the 7 mile road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He explained to them all of the things about Himself in the Scriptures from the first 5 books of Moses and all of the Prophets, affirming the validity of the Old Testament canon of Scripture that is in our Bible today. They didn't recognize Him at first, but when He broke bread together with them, they realized it was Jesus and then He vanished into thin air. They immediately went back to Jerusalem to the place where the other disciples were gathered together.
Next, while they were telling the other believers about these things, Jesus suddenly appeared right in the middle of them and spoke Peace to them. They thought He was a ghost, so he let them touch his very real body, showed them the scars on his hands and feet and then ate a piece of fish right in front of them, so that there could be absolutely no doubt He was raised, body and soul, from the dead. He then affirmed again the Law of Moses, the Prophets and also affirmed the Psalms as being Holy Scripture and opened their minds to understand the Bible. He declared that repentance for forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in His Name to all nations. He appointed them as witnesses to these things and then told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power before going out.
In all, Jesus would appear to over 500 eyewitnesses. He did indeed meet with the disciples in Galilee as He promised and then before ascending into heaven, He delivered the Great Commission, calling all of us as believers to go into all the world, bringing the good news of His Resurrection and of forgiveness of sins through His name to every nation, Baptizing and making disciples as we go.