What really happened when Jesus rose again

Originally posted: March 25 2008


The 4 Gospels, like all reliable witnesses, give their evidence in different words, because the writers saw the events of Jesus’ life from different angles. If you have got confused over “Easter”, reading the Gospel accounts of what happened, and when, on that great Sunday morning, read on. As you go down the list of events, get your Gospels and find where each event fits in the scheme. Hallelujah! Christ is alive!

1) Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less, Salome and other women, bring spices to anoint the body of Jesus early on Sunday morning, while it is dark, just as day begins to break.

2) They are still on their way to the tomb, which is out of sight, when an earthquake occurs. At the tomb itself an angel descends from the sky, rolls away the great stone blocking the tomb’s entrance, and sits on it. The guards at the tomb are seized with terror, and fall to the ground like dead men. When they come to their senses, they run into the city to tell the priests what has happened.

3) The women arrive at the tomb and find it empty, the stone rolled away and no body inside.

4) Mary Magdalene runs back to the city of Jerusalem, and tells Peter and John what she has seen.

5) Peter and John run quickly to the tomb and find it as Mary Magdalene had told them. They return to their lodgings.

6) Mary Magdalene, now back at the tomb, with the women, looks inside and sees two angels, one at the head, and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had lain. The angels ask, why are they looking for the living amongst the dead? Jesus had risen from the dead and would go ahead of the disciples into Galilee. They tell Mary Magdalene and the women to go and inform the disciples of these things.

7) The women run away. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome are so terrified, they fail to do as they are told, and say nothing to anyone. Other of the women go and tell the disciples what happened to them. Two of the disciples then leave to go to the village of Emmaus by foot.

8) FIRST AND SECOND APPEARANCES OF JESUS. Jesus then appears first to Mary Magdalene, and then to Mary mother of James, and greets them both, repeating the angels’ commission to them to tell the other disciples.

9) THIRD APPEARANCE OF JESUS. Meanwhile Mary remains standing opposite the tomb. This Mary is untitled, and is addressed by Jesus (later) as “woman” — the same way he addressed his mother, the Virgin Mary. The reason the Gospel of John does not call Mary here the “mother of Jesus” is that just a few verses earlier Jesus, on the cross, called Mary the mother of John the Apostle, making John take Jesus’ own place as the son of Mary (John 19. 26f.). Therefore this Mary is Mary the original Virgin mother of Jesus (See Note at the end). When Mary looks inside the tomb, she sees the two angels at the head and the feet where Jesus had lain. They ask her why she is weeping. She says, because they have taken away the Lord and she does not know where. She then turns and sees Jesus, who she thinks is the gardener. She recognizes Him when He says, “Mary”, and holds Him. He tells her not to touch Him, as He has not yet ascended to His Father. She is told to inform His “brethren” (meaning his foster-brothers, the children of Joseph, that is, James, Jude etc., called the “brethren of the Lord”) that He is raised from the dead. He tells her that Mary Magdalene is right now coming to where the disciples are and telling them these things. (This last sentence is often missed out of Jesus’ speech, because the original Greek did not include inverted commas to tell where the speech ended. Mary the mother of Jesus tells Joseph’s sons, because they are her family, whilst Mary Magdalene tells the disciples.)

10) Mary Magdalene, commissioned this time, as she has been, by Jesus Himself, tells the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead and has appeared to her and told her these things. They do not believe her.

11) FOURTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS. Jesus then appears to Peter.

12) FIFTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS. Jesus appears to the two disciples, Clopas and his friend, on the way to Emmaus. They do not recognize Him as He is “in another form”, but finally they see who He is in the evening, when they sit down with Him to break bread.

13) They quickly return to Jerusalem to the Eleven and those with them, and the others. The others do not believe them, but the Eleven and those with them confirm that Jesus has risen indeed, and has appeared to Peter.

14) SIXTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS. Jesus then appears to the disciples, except Thomas, who is absent. He proves to them He has a physical body, and is not a disembodied spirit.

15) SEVENTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS. Eight days later, He appears to Thomas.

Note on (9). The Mary in (9) must be some Mary other than Mary Magdalene, not only for the reasons stated in (9) but also for the following reasons: Reason A) This Mary cannot be Magdalene when she first saw the angels because there is no space of time for her going and remaining silent about her vision of the angels in the tomb, as the Gospel writer Mark says she did, till Jesus Himself appeared to her and repeated the angels’ instruction to her Himself to tell the disciples (see 7 and 8); this incident in John’s Gospel shows that the Mary who stood waiting at the tomb saw the angels, then immediately saw Jesus, without any interval between. Therefore Magdalene had already seen the angels (see 6), and: Reason B) since Magdalene had already seen the angels and been told Jesus was alive, this Mary cannot be Magdalene, since she still thinks someone has taken Jesus’ body away.