Hello readers and friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend. Today I’m going to begin a study series from the moment of resurrection to day of Pentecost. I know the stories of the empty tomb, the road to Emmaus, the doubting of Thomas, but I’ve never taken the time to just read and study what gospel has to share. I invite you to study this with me as Pentecost approaches.
But for today, let’s talk about that empty tomb.
Each of the gospels tells a different story. From which women went exactly to what they found there. But also remember that each of these gospels were written for specific groups of people and came from the oral tradition first. There are a few things they agree on.
First, the stone was rolled away. The body was not there. In some versions, there were burial shrouds present. In others, they didn’t even enter the tomb. But all accounts agree on the stone rolling away, and the tomb being empty
Second, someone always announces the fact that Jesus has risen. In Matthew it was from an angel, in Mark and Luke it was a man (or two) in white, and in John it was Jesus, himself. But this event is made very clear what has happened. If there is any confusion, it doesn’t last long.
And finally, women were the first at the tomb. Specifically, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all four gospels. And in all four gospels, word of the missing body of Jesus is shared with the disciples from these women.
I know that Matthew’s gospel was specifically written to the Jewish community as a bridge between the old and new testament. It’s interesting that an earthquake is included only in this gospel. I wonder if the Jews who read this account thought of the Israelites in Exodus 19:18 when they approached Mount Sinai as God descended on to the mountain, how the whole mountain trembled. Was the earthquake here in Matthew also signifying the presence of God in the resurrection?
In Mark there were women who witnessed the empty tomb and the announcement that Jesus had risen who were too afraid to say anything. It was only Mary Magdalene that ends up sharing the information with the disciples after her direct encounter with Jesus. In other accounts, more women shared the news, but there were probably some women who didn’t share the news with others out of fear. It is a challenge to remind us to share what the Spirit puts on our heart, despite the fear that may hold us back.
Luke is my favorite gospel in how meticulous he seems to write each scene. I imagine the interviews he had with people who were trying to recount exactly who was at the tomb that morning. He begins to list the names of some of the women, but then adds the “others” at the end. It would make sense that this would be a good number of women coming together to take care of Jesus’ body that day, both for safety as women traveling anywhere together and power in numbers considering they would have to convince the guard to let them in.
But John has my favorite scene. The one where Peter and John race to the tomb. John gets there first, but Peter goes inside the tomb first. The funny thing about this was that this is supposed to be coming from John’s perspective, so he had to let his readers know that he won the race to the tomb before Peter. But regardless, it isn’t revealed to either of them that Jesus has risen. That message is saved for Mary Magdalene to share. And according to both John and Mark, it was she who saw Jesus first, before anyone else did. She seems to be the costar in this story. The woman of seven demons who supported Jesus financially throughout his ministry. It was she who spoke those first words to the disciples, He has risen.
Whether it was the difference of eye-witness accounts or it was the emphasis the writer wanted to make to their audience, all of the stories agree that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and would make himself known to his followers for the next 40 days in many different ways. From Jerusalem to Galilee to right outside Bethany as he makes his final farewell. The tomb was only the beginning.
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