Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

What Really Happened When Jesus Rose?

No one knows exactly what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. There was no one there to watch. No one took a photo. There is no footage. Even the Gospels do not describe the moment of Resurrection.

They do tell, however, about the aftermath and the scene at Jesus’ tomb when His followers discovered that He was no longer there. But even the Scriptures, which were not written as news stories, differ on the facts.

For instance, Matthew tells us that Pilate was afraid that the body of Jesus would be stolen and so he posted guards to keep watch. He explicitly says that they put a seal on the tomb.

Matthew describes the moment when the women came to visit the sepulchre on Sunday morning. He says there was a loud rumble and an angel appeared to roll away the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. The angel announces that Jesus has risen. Then Jesus is present and tells the women to return to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee where they will find Him.

Mark, the shortest of the Gospels, writes that when the women approached the tomb, they were worried because they didn’t know how they would roll away the stone. But as they arrived there, the stone had already been removed. As they entered the tomb, they found a young man (an angel?) who told them that Jesus had risen and that He would meet them all in Galilee.

In Luke, the stone had already been rolled away when the women arrived. Luke says the women were met by two angels. When they return to the disciples and tell them what they had found, there was disbelief but Peter ran to the site and was amazed at what he saw.

The Gospel of John, which is so different from the other three, is considered the most factual, if you’re looking for pure history because John was an actual eyewitness. In John, there are no angels to announce the Resurrection. Instead, the women find the empty tomb and then they bring Peter and John to the empty place. The two Apostles enter the tomb and find only the burial cloths. It is only then that they realize the words of Scripture that Jesus would rise from the dead.

All the accounts go on to tell about Jesus’ appearances and presence among the disciples following His Resurrection. There is the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus. There is the account of the miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Tiberius. There is the story of Doubting Thomas in John’s Gospel.

The details differ because the Gospels were written long after the events. They were written accounts of oral traditions that had been passed down among the followers of Jesus.

The stories of Jesus’ Resurrection tell us what the Apostles and the early Church experienced. They all claim that they saw Jesus after He had died and had risen from the dead. The details of the stories do not matter as much as the ideas and the beliefs that the writers are expressing.

They passed on the stories so that others would know what had happened and so that others could come to believe what they believed.

However it all occurred, there is no debating that the events of that Holy Week and Easter Sunday had a lasting impression. So impressed were His followers that they were willing to give up their lives to witness to these truths.

We might think that it would have been easier to believe if we had witnessed firsthand the life and death of Jesus. Maybe! Maybe not! But it’s all written down and the story has been passed down through the ages so that you can believe as the disciples did.

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