By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the religion started by his followers. Every gospel describes it. The topic is a major point with Paul, the missionary apostle who wrote almost a fourth of the New Testament. The world’s other religions do not make the claim that the central person in their narratives did not stay in the tomb. In the period the Church calls the Easter Season, we do well to look again at this defining doctrine. The varied accounts include details that differ but do not contradict, as if the gospel writers purposefully included incidents not already reported. Anonline source summarizing and comparing the gospel detailsis useful: https://www.gotquestions.org resurrection-accounts.html.
The four gospels tell the same basic story. After Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lay Jesus’ body in Joseph’sstone tomb, three calendar days elapse—Friday through Sunday by tradition. All accounts agree that very early on day one of the sabbaton (Gr.) or shabbat (Heb.), i.e., the week, women come to the tomb (Matt 28: 1; Mark 16: 1-2; Luke 24: 1, 10; John 20: 1). Mary Magdalene, named in all four, is accompanied by another Mary, “the mother of James” (Mathew and Mark, Luke adds Joanna). In John, Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus himself, whom she doesn’t recognize till he calls her by name (John 20: 16). They find the stone rolled away and, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they are told by an angel or angels (Luke and John mention two) that Jesus has risen. The angel reminds them that Jesus predicted it all (Luke 24: 6-7). In Matthew and Mark, the angel says he goes ahead of them and will meet them in Galilee. The women (in John, just Mary Magdalene) then go.
Luke and John record Peter’s running to the tomb (John with him in the Gospel of John). Peter finds “the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20:6b-7).
What follows are Jesus’ meetings with his disciples—from behind a barred door (John 20: 19, in Mark 16: 14 at a meal, on the road to Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24: 13-35; Mark 16: 12-13 not naming the village), and individual interchanges—Mary Magdalene’s encounter at the tomb and Thomas, who at first tells the others, “I will not believe” (John 20: 25b). The details have a breathless quality that strongly suggests the excited reports of many eye witnesses. Mark says of the women, “terror and amazement had seized them”(Mark 16: 8). Matthew reports, “at the sight of him [the angel], the guards shook and became like dead men”(Matt 18: 4). Matthew also notes the angel’s words to the women, “Do not be afraid”(Matt 28: 5). Luke speaks of their fear: “The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground”(Luke 24: 5). John twice mentions the weeping ofMary Magdalene (John 20: 11, 13), once that Jesus says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mark 16: 10 records the “mourning and weeping of the disciples; in Luke 24: 37, they are “startled and terrified” seeing Jesus. Later, according to Matthew, “ the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them” (Matt 28: 16).
In Paul’s letter to the Christians of Corinth, he says: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me (1 Cor 15: 3-7 ~NRSV).
Jesus doesn’t just appear but talks to those he encounters. Luke describes how Jesus eats with his disciples: “Have you anything here to eat?” he says. “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence”(Luke 24: 42). Luke reports twice that he “opens their hearts to understand the scriptures”(Luke 24: 45). The men going to Emmaus say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us”(Luke 24: 33 NRSV, the source of all quotes above).