Our lesson this week is our Easter – Resurrection Sunday – Sunday School lesson. After Jesus was crucified, His body was taken by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who placed Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb (Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:43-46; John 19:38-42). In our lesson this week, we take a look at the resurrection of Christ.
He is Risen from the Dead
Our lesson opens on the first day of the week with Mary Magdalene. I always make a point when it comes to the resurrection of Christ to emphasize Jesus being resurrected the third day.
The third day
Jesus, when He first predicted His death to the disciples, said, “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again (Matt. 20:18-19).”
There is often conversation as to whether or not Jesus really rose on the third day. Many people that argue against Jesus truly rising on the third day often try to count days according to the modern 24 hour clock. Something we must realize is that the Jews counted days by sunset to sunset. So, sunset was the beginning of a new day.
Jesus was crucified starting at the third hour (9am) according to Mark’s gospel (Mark 15:25). Then, by the sixth hour (12pm) to the ninth hour (3pm), scripture tells us that darkness fell over the land (Mark 15:33). It was around the ninth hour that Jesus physically died.
Now, the Jews desired for Jesus to have been crucified before Sabbath which would start at sunset. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus placed Jesus in the tomb before sunset because they could do no work on Sabbath. So, by the Jews’ keeping of time, Jesus was crucified and buried on the same day; still on the grave on Sabbath, and then the next sunset would begin the third day.
We are told that the first day of the week, Mary went to the tomb while it was still dark (v.1). So, before sunrise, on the first day of the week (Sunday), Mary went to the tomb and found it empty. The fact that there was no body in the tomb on what was the third day, meant that something had happened, in Mary’s mind.
Empty tomb conspiracy
So, we’re told that Mary ran to where Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” were, saying, “they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him (v.2).”
Mary was of the belief that Jesus’ body had been stolen from the tomb which, honestly, at that time made some sense for her to believe. In Matthew’s gospel, we are told that there were guards that stood watch over Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:1-4, 11-15). Why? Because the religious leaders did not want Jesus’ body to be taken by Jesus’ followers; they didn’t want people to buy into Jesus’ resurrection.
So, on both ends of it, you had the religious leaders fearing that Jesus’ body would be stolen. Then, on the opposite side, Mary Magdalene thought “they” stole Jesus’ body; “they” being the religious leaders. So, conspiracy was essentially born from the religious leaders after Jesus was crucified and for Mary Magdalene and the others that were with her.
From this scripture, we know that others were with Mary because she said to Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved that “‘we’ do not know where they have laid Him.” The others that were with Mary Magdalene are told to us in the synoptic gospels: Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10).
Also, we need to discuss the “disciple whom Jesus loved” that is mentioned here as well. The disciple mentioned here is John. John referred to himself essentially in third person throughout his gospel so as not to bring attention to himself for glory.
However, we know that John is the beloved disciple because at the end of his gospel he spoke of the time when Peter asked Jesus about the future of the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:20). Afterwards, John wrote, “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).”
Confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection
Now, what’s fascinating about Mary Magdalene’s thinking is that, when she and the others initially went to the tomb, there was an angel. In Matthew’s gospel, the angel was the one to roll away stone covering the tomb and it shook the guards that were guarding the tomb (Matt. 28:2-4).
The angel spoke to the women and said to them that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb but that He was risen (Matt. 28:5-6). The angel then told the women to check the tomb and to then go to tell Jesus’ disciples that He is risen (Matt. 28:6-7). Matthew then wrote that the women with fear and great joy to the disciples (Matt. 28:8).
So, does what Matthew writes in his gospel come into conflict with John’s writing? I don’t necessarily think so. I do believe that Mary Magdalene and the others were moving in great haste to get to the disciples and when they reached Peter and John, they said the first thing that came to their minds. I also think it’s possible that while the women spoke, Peter and John rushed out before they could finish speaking.
I make that last suggestion because we see the rush that both Peter and John were in racing to the tomb (vss.3-4). John, the younger man, beat Peter to the tomb and peeked inside. When he peeked inside the tomb, John saw the linen that Jesus had been wrapped in lying in the tomb (v.5).
Let’s consider for a moment what this meant. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus came out of the tomb bound, hand and foot, wearing graveclothes; his face was also wrapped with a cloth as well. Jesus said to the people, “Loose him, and let him go (John 11:44).”
So, for the linen to be lying in the tomb would either suggest that someone was there to loosen the linen that He had been wrapped in or Jesus was able to come out of them Himself. Now, if you did go over my study about the transfiguration of Jesus, then you should definitely want to do so because we took a look at His post resurrected body.
In His post resurrected body, Jesus could vanish and appear wherever and whenever. So, when He was resurrected, Jesus wouldn’t have needed for anyone to remove the linen from Him as He was no longer bound to our physical world. The fact that the clothes were simply lying there would suggest there was no foul play. If Jesus’ body had been taken, there would have been no clothes.
Then Peter arrived at the tomb and he walked into the tomb to see the linen as well. He also saw the handkerchief that would’ve been on Jesus’ head that was lying separately from the linen. However, what is significant about the handkerchief is that it was folded up (v.7).
What did the folded up handkerchief signify? Well, it was indication more to that there was no foul play with Jesus’ body being taken. John then went into the tomb and he saw the same thing with the handkerchief. When John saw this, we are told that he believed (v.8).
Believing in the resurrection
What did John believe? John didn’t believe that the body of Jesus had been taken. What John did believe was that Jesus was risen.
What’s fascinating about this point is that John writes that they did not know the Scripture that He must rise again (v.9). What is fascinating about this point is that Jesus had said on separate occasions to the disciples that He would be killed and rise the third day.
To this point, I am not going to blame the disciples for not remembering because many of us can become quite forgetful of things we read and hear as well. It is in those moments where the Holy Spirit serves in the role of leading us to the truth. As Jesus said to the disciples, after He would go away, the Spirit of Truth would come to those that genuinely believe (John 16:12-13).
When Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet, prior to His arrest as the feast of Passover, He said something to Peter that rang true in the end. Jesus said to Peter, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this (John 13:7).” Though they did not understand what Jesus had to do, prior to His crucifixion, they believed and understood afterwards because of the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
As Paul wrote, nobody can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). The resurrection of Christ is the fulfillment of scripture. Not only is the resurrection of Christ fulfillment of scripture but it is also the fulfillment of God’s everlasting covenant with mankind. Again, should you believe in His only begotten Son, you will have everlasting life.