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December 20, 2007

25

Resolving the different gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection

by Dave Malnes

Throughout the centuries, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection as recorded in the Bible. Skeptics see serious irreconcilable differences and some Biblical scholars deny the actuality of the resurrection. The scholars state that Christ’s resurrection account must have been the “easter faith” of the disciples, but not a historical fact. For Christians who believe the whole Bible to be true, how do they respond to the historical reliability of the New Testament due to the apparent conflict between the resurrection accounts between the four gospels?

In the Bible, there are six eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, Acts 1:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Each one agrees that there was an empty tomb and that a significant number of people saw the risen Christ. However, upon reading the accounts, you are left with some questions. For instance, was there one angel or two? Or, did Christ first appear to the women or to the Apostle Peter?

I have read two books that go into this question in great detail. One man, John Wenham, wrote a book entitled “The Easter Enigma.”  Here, he did some extensive research and even visited the Holy Land. He came up with a very impressive and detailed account of the resurrection story and some very plausible reasons to the apparent conflicts.

There was also a very interesting step-by-step attempt to harmonize the resurrection account in the classic book, “The Gospels: Synopsis and Harmony” by Johs. Ylvisaker. The book was written in the early 20th century. Again, his reasoning regarding the resurrection accounts are very plausible. 

Those who express disbelief regarding the resurrection accounts in Scripture is nothing new to Christianity. In fact, during the second century, a man by the name of Tatian attempted to write a substitute to the gospels by harmonizing all of them into one story. His attempt was rejected, because the church fathers knew the gospels were inspired by God.

The fact that Jesus died and rose again from the grave is the essence of Christianity and based on the truth that Jesus visited so many people. The resurrection appearances of Jesus are clearly at the heart of early Christian belief. From the disciples in the room, to the two men on the road to Emmaus, and to the 500 people referred to in the Bible, a person can confidently believe that the resurrected Christ was indeed, a true event.

The Gospels were written by honest men whom the Lord inspired to record the truth. Any differences on the details of the eyewitness accounts do not bother me, because it doesn’t take from the central truth that there was a Jesus who died and rose again to save all mankind from their sins.

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. hokku
    Dec 20 2007

    Unfortunately, you are still evading the issue. You were asked to POST a single account of what happened from the burial of Jesus to the ascension, using every detail and omitting nothing from the relevant stories in the four gospels and in Acts and 1st Corinthians. You did not do that. Instead you just refer the reader to some old books, which of course does not fulfill the exercise. You must actually DO the exercise to see how discrepant and unreliable the biblical resurrection accounts are.

    And by the way, none of the biblical experiences other than that of Paul may be considered “eyewitness,” and of course Paul did not know Jesus prior to his supposed resurrection, and what he does claim to know of him comes from visions.

    Further, even among Paul’s “Christian” audience (1 Corinthians was written to the Christian congregation at Corinth), some did not believe in the resurrection, yet were Christians. This shows the diversity of early Christian belief. Paul wrote, “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12)

    In short, your response did not fulfill the requirements and does not address the issues of the discrepant resurrection stories directly.

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  2. merganzerman
    Dec 20 2007

    I’m sorry, but I believe the post answered the question. Obviously, not to satisfy your own skepticism. And I have to leave it at that.

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  3. hokku
    Dec 20 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “I’m sorry, but I believe the post answered the question. Obviously, not to satisfy your own skepticism. And I have to leave it at that.”

    Obviously it did NOT answer the question, which was a request for YOU to do the work and attempt to successfully harmonize the accounts, and to post the result for reader inspection.

    It always amazes me that it is next to impossible to get Christians to do this exercise. Obviously there is something in the process they so greatly fear that even though the entire process deals directly with the biblical accounts, and gives Christian apologists an excellent opportunity to defend the resurrection, they nonetheless seem terrified of looking at all the discrepant resurrection stories together and of letting the public see the result.

    That alone should let readers know that there is a great deal amiss in the resurrection accounts, and that they simply cannot bear close scrutiny and be considered reliable.

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  4. merganzerman
    Dec 21 2007

    Did you, Hokku, by chance click on the link on the post? I don’t think so, because you didn’t refer to it. Also, the exercise you persistently ask me to do, has already been done. Please read “The Easter Enigma” by John Wenham. It is very comprehensive and I don’t think I could improve on his work.

    Once you completed reading “The Easter Enigma”, for that will clearly give you an answer to your question, please respond back to me.

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  5. hokku
    Dec 21 2007

    You are still evading the issue.

    Of course various people have attempted a coordination of the discrepant resurrection stories; that is old news; they all fail. But until an individual actually does the comparison for himself (or herself) nothing will be learned, and one will not be able to see how inadequate these attempts to coordinate the discrepant stories in fact are.

    Why is it that you refuse to do the exercise? What do you fear?

    As I have said, it amazes me how hard it is to get Christians to simply read and compare the various resurrection accounts in a public forum. One would think they would want to know the truth, and would want the public to know it, but that does not seem to be the case.

    It makes quite obvious the inadequacy of the biblical case for the resurrection.

    So I am still waiting for you do do what you said you would do. Not to refer to some other site, not to refer to some book, but to do it yourself, on this site, comparing the resurrection accounts and presenting them as a single story giving every detail contained in them, omitting nothing, in chronological order. Why should that be so difficult?

    The answer is fairly obvious. You will not do it because it cannot adequately be done. You refer people elsewhere because you don’t want to discuss it here, in public. It is, according to Paul, the single most important thing upon which your belief depends, and yet you avoid dealing with it like the plague. That is very revealing.

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  6. Tom
    Dec 21 2007

    PAPER 193 – FINAL APPEARANCES AND ASCENSION
    THE sixteenth morontia manifestation of Jesus occurred on Friday, May 5, in the courtyard of Nicodemus, about nine o’clock at night. On this evening the Jerusalem believers had made their first attempt to get together since the resurrection. Assembled here at this time were the eleven apostles, the women’s corps and their associates, and about fifty other leading disciples of the Master, including a number of the Greeks. This company of believers had been visiting informally for more than half an hour when, suddenly, the morontia Master appeared in full view and immediately began to instruct them. Said Jesus:

    Page 2053
    ——————————————————————————–
    My bestowal should help all men to know that they are the children of God, but such knowledge will not suffice if they fail personally to faith-grasp the saving truth that they are the living spirit sons of the eternal Father. The gospel of the kingdom is concerned with the love of the Father and the service of his children on earth.

    1. THE APPEARANCE AT SYCHAR
    About four o’clock on Sabbath afternoon, May 13, the Master appeared to Nalda and about seventy-five Samaritan believers near Jacob’s well, at Sychar. The believers were in the habit of meeting at this place, near where Jesus had spoken to Nalda concerning the water of life. On this day, just as they had finished their discussions of the reported resurrection, Jesus suddenly appeared before them…..,
    2. THE PHOENICIAN APPEARANCE
    The Master’s eighteenth morontia appearance was at Tyre, on Tuesday, May 16, at a little before nine o’clock in the evening. Again he appeared at the close of a meeting of believers, as they were about to disperse…..,

    3. LAST APPEARANCE IN JERUSALEM
    Early Thursday morning, May 18, Jesus made his last appearance on earth as a morontia personality. As the eleven apostles were about to sit down to breakfast in the upper chamber of Mary Mark’s home, Jesus appeared to them…. and

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  7. Dec 21 2007

    At first blush, this appears to be a tough issue to tackle, because there are clearly discrepancies regarding the *facts* in the various resurrection stories. These discrepancies exist regarding other stories, as well.

    It really only becomes problematic if you define “truth” as fact. The two groups who perceive this as a stumbling block are a) skeptics (e.g. agnostics, atheists) and b) fundamentalist/literalist Christians. There’s sort of a delicious irony there.

    When Jesus tells the parable about the farmer who went out to sow the seeds, do you think he was referring to an actual (i.e. factual) farmer, or was he alluding to a larger Truth? I think this is relevant when we’re looking at the Gospels. Jesus did not write the Gospels – they were written by humans within a story-telling culture, where facts take a back seat to larger Truths. Details are less important.

    Nobody asks a joke teller to prove that an actual priest and an actual rabbi walked into an actual bar. (“Was is an Irish-themed bar or just a local corner bar, ‘cuz I’ve heard it both ways and want to know the truth!”)

    So, does it really matter whether Mary the Magdalene was the first person at the tomb or whether it was someone else? Not really. The empty tomb represents the larger truth, and the other bits are just details.

    I’d recommend a book by Ben Witherington III entitled What have They Done with Jesus? You might also look at Perrin & Dulin’s The New Testament for further (and much better) treatment of the issues.

    God’s Peace,

    Robaigh

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  8. merganzerman
    Dec 21 2007

    Thank you, Tom, for your contributions to this discussion.

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  9. merganzerman
    Dec 21 2007

    Robaigh,

    Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

    I can appreciate and enjoyed the term “delicious irony” you mention in your comments. I guess you would have to place me in the literalist camp — if that means that I happen to believe the whole Bible to be true.

    I would agree with you that the culture of Jesus’ day was story-oriented. In order to preserve a culture, it was very important that stories were transmitted from generation to generation, because they just didn’t have written materials. We just can’t appreciate that very well in our information-oriented society.

    I think for people who believe that Jesus is real, alive, and active in this world, that he truly died and rose again just don’ t have much problem with the slightly different eyewitness accounts of the resurrection. There is just too much evidence supporting these facts or truths of the gospels– especially in the changed lives of not only the disciples, but others who have come to faith. Then, combining with all of the appearances of Jesus… Like you refer to, if you focus on those trivial things, you miss the main point.

    So, people who desire to focus on the supposed discrepencies, without reading the books that both you and I suggested, nor desire to read the Bible to discover its central theme, will never get the point.

    Thank you again, for taking the time to contribute this discussion.

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  10. hokku
    Dec 21 2007

    The summary of Wenham’s attempt to harmonize the discrepancies makes it clear that it largely the simplistic result of wishful thinking. And of course there is far more to the discrepant accounts than the summary indicates — it barely scratches the surface.

    Why are you telling people to read other books and not to read the Bible in this case? All one need do is compare the resurrection accounts line by line to see how they differ and even in significant ways WHY they differ — all of it very human and fallible.

    But I can see you do not wish to look at the facts of the matter and deal with the problems directly. No one can make another learn, if belief rather than knowledge is the person’s goal.

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  11. merganzerman
    Dec 22 2007

    I agree with your comment, that nobody can make another learn the central truths of what the Bible teaches, especially when belief or faith is a very important element. Without faith, anybody can pick apart the Bible and make it whatever they wish — even to deny any or all of what it says to be true.

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  12. hokku
    Dec 22 2007

    You wrote:
    “Without faith, anybody can pick apart the Bible and make it whatever they wish — even to deny any or all of what it says to be true.”

    They cannot really make of it whatever they wish, because it is what it is, human flaws and all. But to overlook the fact that it is simply a collection of edited human documents, one has to be willing to suspend logical thinking and willingly overlook or consciously ignore all the problems, which of course is disastrous in most fields — imagine it being done in medicine, for example. Yet in religion, people strangely feel they can get away with it.

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  13. Dec 22 2007

    Hokku, I don’t mean to pick a fight. You make some good points. For example, I agree with you (who can argue?) that the Bible was edited by fallible humans. The scriptures are a treasure in jars of clay. I would LIKE to have a “How to live” book dictated by – or better yet, written in the very hand of – Jesus, but for whatever reason (His ways are not our ways), He chose to put his work in the hands of the Church. That means people, and that in turn means fallible.

    Nevertheless, the message in the Bible is consistent. The “trick” is to look at the whole forest and not to focus exclusively on the trees, except insofar as they serve to make up the forest.

    In this light, it doesn’t matter whether the guy who wrote John’s Gospel and the guy who wrote Matthew’s account share 100% of the facts 100% of the time.

    If I’m telling you a story, I’ll tell it a certain way, but if my friend Dan is telling the story, he’s going to change it to highlight the details he finds important. And if Dan’s telling that story to a different person, well, he’s likely to change the way he tells it yet again. Does this make any of the versions anything less than true? Not at all. Does it force the listener to abandon logic, just because Dan’s version is slightly different than mine? Of course not.

    Again, I don’t mean to rattle anybody’s cage here, but I find a certain irony in your most recent response. You write, on one hand, that the Bible is what it is, and that it can’t be twisted in order to make it do whatever someone wants. And yet, on the other hand, you seem to be asking it to answer questions it was never intended to answer. A medical journal is written a certain way in order to answer a particular set of questions – scientific questions. The Bible was written (and compiled) in order to answer certain religious questions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my Bible to try and answer questions about my appendix, and I don’t want my medical journal (or my math text) to answer religious questions for me.

    So, I guess you’re right in that sense: The Bible is what it is. It’s a religious text. And we shouldn’t expect it to be anything but that. Still doesn’t mean that I have to abandon logic to believe it. It’s just a different set of filters that I need to put on.

    Merganzerman: Thanks for your response to my response. As you might surmise from this posting, I too believe that everything in the Bible is True, so we’re on the same page there. We diverge when it comes to defining “truth,” but reasonable people may disagree about such things.

    God’s Blessings and Merry Christmas!

    Robaigh

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  14. hokku
    Dec 23 2007

    Robaigh wrote:
    “The Bible is what it is. It’s a religious text. And we shouldn’t expect it to be anything but that. Still doesn’t mean that I have to abandon logic to believe it.”

    It depends on whether one takes it literally, metaphorically, or allegorically. If, for example, the beginning of Genesis is understood just to be an inaccurate and inadequate metaphor for the origin and evolution of the universe, then one does not have to abandon logic to see it as a primitive if completely mistaken attempt at cosmology. But if one takes it as factual history, it is obviously false, and one has to abandon logic to believe it.

    So it all depends on what you mean by “true.” Merganzerman seems to think that much of the Bible is literally, historically factual and true. I suspect you think that the Bible is mistaken in many ways if understood as literal history, but that somehow it overall speaks some kind of “truth” in spite of the literal error of its text. That is too vague and fuzzy for me, but it is probably far less damaging than assuming the Bible to be literally true and thereby turning one’s back on rationality and reason.

    I think it is a mistake to say that the Bible is a religious text and thus cannot be expected to be factually correct outside a religious context. Historically that is incorrect, because historically religion, politics, social interaction and culture have not been neatly separated. And in any case, I would hold that the Bible is in any case even factually incorrect inside a religious context.

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  15. Dec 23 2007

    Hokko, close but not quite. You wrote, “I suspect you think that the Bible is mistaken in many ways if understood as literal history, but that somehow it overall speaks some kind of “truth” in spite of the literal error of its text.

    I would not say “error.” I would refer to focus or perspective. The easiest example to point out is the creation story (or series of stories) in Genesis, which allude to God’s creation of the universe. The story elements include two versions of creation of humanity, a six-day creation of the world ex nihilo, man’s naming all the animals, etc. I know you’re familiar with it, so I won’t delve further into details.

    Truth, especially for a religious text, has less to do with History as a pursuit of factual information (first A happened, which led to B, finally resulting in C, D, and E, etc.), and more to do with meaning in a Meta sense. The truth in the Genesis stories is that God created the universe. Period. It’s useless to argue about whether it took God 6 24-hour days to complete His work. (I know a lot of people like to argue that stuff, but I still say it’s useless to do so.)

    Another similar example might be the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, in which the Jews defeated the native population by circling the city for 7 days (I think). Archeology seems to indicate that Jews did “conquer” Jericho, but not in a pitched 7-day battle, but rather through years of insinuating themselves into the dominant culture, until the cultural balance had shifted.

    Closer to home: Despite Parson Weems’ stories to the contrary, George Washington never threw a dollar across the Potomac, never chopped down a cherry tree and told the truth about it. Nevertheless, Weems’ point that Washington was a national hero and a figure of great strength and integrity still stands. The story gets the point across. I wouldn’t call Weems’ story “erroneous,” even though his facts are entirely fabricated. I’d call it “mythical.”

    I understand your frustration, though, about literalism. I might even go so far, if I were in a rotten mood, to call the doctrine of “inerrancy” heretical. On a good day, I’d just agree to disagree.

    I guess my larger point is this: “error” implies a scientific context, and the Bible isn’t a science text. You say that allegorical interpretation is “too vague and fuzzy” for you, but that’s because you place more value on the authority of recordable facts than on the importance of meaning in myth. There we disagree, I reckon.

    I partly disagree with your viewpoint because consistency is not a normal human strength in that we constantly turn our backs on rationality and reason every time we play the lottery, wish upon a star, hope for the recovery of a seemingly fatally ill loved one, try to convince a skeptic of to change their point of view. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m sorry if I hijacked time and attention away from this blog. The exchange has been really enlivening. Thanks for not kicking me out sooner!

    Best,

    Robaigh

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  16. Dec 23 2007

    Sorry: one more thing before I go. Historically, myth, religion and history were not always neatly separated, either. I may have already stated a similar case earlier, but going back to the oral/aural context of Biblical times, “historical” facts did not equal “truth” for the guys who wrote these stories down. In actuality, this is the case for most cultures of the world in most times. Story and myth are what build meaning for most people across most times – a truth that’s easy to see once one recognizes that the written word as an intellectual/spiritual medium is a relatively new phenomenon. I would hate to insist that most people in most times are a bunch of idiots because they made factual “errors” when they told the stories that gave their lives meaning.
    (See just about anything by Henry Glassie, or In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz, if you’re interested. These guys are/were both material culture specialists, so that’s where their biases lie. Both geniuses, in any case.

    Sorry for the additional intrusion.

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  17. hokku
    Dec 24 2007

    Robaigh wrote:
    “The truth in the Genesis stories is that God created the universe. Period.”

    That is a belief, and it does not require Genesis and all its problems. If one is not a theist, it is not viewed as truth — just opinion.

    I suspect you are somewhere in the Joseph Campbell/Carl Jung flowerbed in which truth is embodied in myth — not found literally but metaphorically. If that is your perspective, I can live with it.

    Pleasant holidays to all.

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  18. hokku
    Dec 24 2007

    Robaigh wrote:
    “The story elements include two versions of creation of humanity, a six-day creation of the world ex nihilo….”

    I should have commented in my previous message that it is not necessarily a creation “ex nihilo.” The pointing of the Hebrew text by Rashi, which is quite sensible, reads more in English like “When God began to create the heavens and the earth — the earth being formless and void and darkness upon the face of the deep….”

    In other words, not creation “ex nihilo,” but creation out of pre-existing matter — the earth brough out of the watery abyss. Oddy enough, this is very much in keeping with other early creation accounts from the region. And it also makes much more logic. It is hardly sensible to say “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and then go on to point out how the heavens and earth were NOT created in the beginning, but only later, as Genesis reads.

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  19. merganzerman
    Dec 24 2007

    thank you, Robaigh and hokku, for your comments and replies to a very interesting discussion. It is also obvious to me that the both of you are far more intelligent than myself, so my contribution would dumb down the interaction between the two of you.

    I’m not a theologically trained pastor, priest or minister, but I have been granted the unique opportunity to deliver a Christmas message at my congregation tomorrow morning, on Christmas day. It is a rather a simple message, a message that most everybody who will be in attendance will be familiar. Most will accept my message to be true, because it has been such a significant part of their lives for so long. The reason why I share this is because as is the case with all of the stories of the Bible (Resurrection, miracles, etc..), they are kept simple so all people, no matter how smart or educated they are, can understand. Despite the skeptics insistence of error throughout the centuries, the Christian faith still exists and stands strong today — because of its life-changing message.

    So, we can go around and around with hokku, and I’m afraid his rational mind will never quite accept this simple message. Like the Bible says, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Though it brings a tear to my eye, I have to accept that and allow people to reject God’s grace and his simple message.

    God Bless… and Merry Christmas

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  20. hokku
    Dec 24 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “Despite the skeptics insistence of error throughout the centuries, the Christian faith still exists and stands strong today — because of its life-changing message.”

    Christians have never even been able to agree among themselves as to what is correct. There are multitudes of disagreeing Christian sects, and there were differing Christian sects from the time of the earliest records.

    When you speak of “skeptics insistence of error throught the centuries,” you have to keep in mind that disagreeing with the authorities was strictly forbidden for centuries and quite dangerous — and for centuries there was a union of Church and State — the State offering itself as the prosecutory “legal” arm of the Church. Some of the first Quakers coming to America, for example, were hanged by the Puritans for disagreement.

    It is only in relatively modern times that not only do those within and without Christianity who point out biblical errors and discrepancies have the freedom to proclaim these errors without legal retribution (remember that Calvin had someone who disagreed with him on the Trinity killed), but it is also in modern times that we have greater resources regarding the Bible and its origins than were available to many in earlier centuries. And, of course, those who recognize the Bible as a fallible, human book have today much greater and easier access to large numbers of people via the Internet. So may the evidence spread and the facts speak.

    Enjoy the holidays.

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  21. Dec 24 2007

    Merganzerman: Good luck with your presentation. I’m sure it will be grand. May God’s Spirit be with you!

    All: Happy Christmas (or holiday of your own choosing)!

    R

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  22. FIGHTING EEL
    Dec 19 2008

    EVERYTHING WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE IS FROM THE WORD OF GOD WITHOUT ANY ERRORS. TO NOT THINK SO IS A SIN & ALL SINNERS GO TO HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY.

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  23. Kris
    Apr 12 2009

    Here is a website that attempts a method of harmonizing the resurrection accounts: http://www.jesuswalk.com/resurrection/resurrection-harmonization.htm

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  24. Jim
    May 12 2012

    Chap. 82 – “Why Weepest Thou?”

    The women who had stood by the cross of Christ waited and watched for the hours of the Sabbath to pass. On the first day of the week, very early, they made their way to the tomb, taking with them precious spices to anoint the Saviour’s body. They did not think about His rising from the dead. The sun of their hope had set, and night had settled down on their hearts. As they walked, they recounted Christ’s works of mercy and His words of comfort. But they remembered not His words, “I will see you again.” John 16:22. {DA 788.1}
    Ignorant of what was even then taking place, they drew near the garden, saying as they went, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?” They knew that they could not remove the stone, yet they kept on their way. And lo, the heavens were suddenly alight with glory that came not from the rising sun. The earth trembled. They saw that the great stone was rolled away. The grave was empty. {DA 788.2}
    The women had not all come to the tomb from the same direction. Mary Magdalene was the first to reach the place; and upon seeing that the stone was removed, she hurried away to tell the disciples. Meanwhile the other women came up. A light was shining about the tomb, but the body of Jesus was not there. As they lingered about the place, suddenly they saw that they were not alone. A young man clothed in shining garments was sitting by the tomb. It was the angel who had rolled away the stone. He had taken the guise of humanity that he
    789
    might not alarm these friends of Jesus. Yet about him the light of the heavenly glory was still shining, and the women were afraid. They turned to flee, but the angel’s words stayed their steps. “Fear not ye,” he said; “for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.” Again they look into the tomb, and again they hear the wonderful news. Another angel in human form is there, and he says, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” {DA 788.3}
    He is risen, He is risen! The women repeat the words again and again. No need now for the anointing spices. The Saviour is living, and not dead. They remember now that when speaking of His death He said that He would rise again. What a day is this to the world! Quickly the women departed from the sepulcher “with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word.” {DA 789.1}
    Mary had not heard the good news. She went to Peter and John with the sorrowful message, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him.” The disciples hurried to the tomb, and found it as Mary had said. They saw the shroud and the napkin, but they did not find their Lord. Yet even here was testimony that He had risen. The graveclothes were not thrown heedlessly aside, but carefully folded, each in a place by itself. John “saw, and believed.” He did not yet understand the scripture that Christ must rise from the dead; but he now remembered the Saviour’s words foretelling His resurrection. {DA 789.2}
    It was Christ Himself who had placed those graveclothes with such care. When the mighty angel came down to the tomb, he was joined by another, who with his company had been keeping guard over the Lord’s body. As the angel from heaven rolled away the stone, the other entered the tomb, and unbound the wrappings from the body of Jesus. But it was the Saviour’s hand that folded each, and laid it in its place. In His sight who guides alike the star and the atom, there is nothing unimportant. Order and perfection are seen in all His work. {DA 789.3}
    Mary had followed John and Peter to the tomb; when they returned to Jerusalem, she remained. As she looked into the empty tomb, grief filled her heart. Looking in, she saw the two angels, one at the head and
    790
    the other at the foot where Jesus had lain. “Woman, why weepest thou?” they asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she answered, “and I know not where they have laid Him.” {DA 789.4}
    Then she turned away, even from the angels, thinking that she must find someone who could tell her what had been done with the body of Jesus. Another voice addressed her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Through her tear-dimmed eyes, Mary saw the form of a man, and thinking that it was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” If this rich man’s tomb was thought too honorable a burial place for Jesus, she herself would provide a place for Him. There was a grave that Christ’s own voice had made vacant, the grave where Lazarus had lain. Might she not there find a burial place for her Lord? She felt that to care for His precious crucified body would be a great consolation to her in her grief. {DA 790.1}
    But now in His own familiar voice Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Now she knew that it was not a stranger who was addressing her, and turning she saw before her the living Christ. In her joy she forgot that He had been crucified. Springing toward Him, as if to embrace His feet, she said, “Rabboni.” But Christ raised His hand, saying, Detain Me not; “for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” And Mary went her way to the disciples with the joyful message. {DA 790.2}
    Jesus refused to receive the homage of His people until He had the assurance that His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. He ascended to the heavenly courts, and from God Himself heard the assurance that His atonement for the sins of men had been ample, that through His blood all might gain eternal life. The Father ratified the covenant made with Christ, that He would receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son. Christ was to complete His work, and fulfill His pledge to “make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” Isaiah 13:12. All power in heaven and on earth was given to the Prince of Life, and He returned to His followers in a world of sin, that He might impart to them of His power and glory. {DA 790.3}
    While the Saviour was in God’s presence, receiving gifts for His church, the disciples thought upon His empty tomb, and mourned and wept. The day that was a day of rejoicing to all heaven was to the disciples a day of uncertainty, confusion, and perplexity. Their unbelief
    793
    in the testimony of the women gives evidence of how low their faith had sunk. The news of Christ’s resurrection was so different from what they had anticipated that they could not believe it. It was too good to be true, they thought. They had heard so much of the doctrines and the so-called scientific theories of the Sadducees that the impression made on their minds in regard to the resurrection was vague. They scarcely knew what the resurrection from the dead could mean. They were unable to take in the great subject. {DA 790.4}
    “Go your way,” the angels had said to the women, “tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” These angels had been with Christ as guardian angels throughout His life on earth. They had witnessed His trial and crucifixion. They had heard His words to His disciples. This was shown by their message to the disciples, and should have convinced them of its truth. Such words could have come only from the messengers of their risen Lord. {DA 793.1}
    “Tell His disciples and Peter,” the angels said. Since the death of Christ, Peter had been bowed down with remorse. His shameful denial of the Lord, and the Saviour’s look of love and anguish, were ever before him. Of all the disciples he had suffered most bitterly. To him the assurance is given that his repentance is accepted and his sin forgiven. He is mentioned by name. {DA 793.2}
    “Tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him.” All the disciples had forsaken Jesus, and the call to meet Him again includes them all. He has not cast them off. When Mary Magdalene told them she had seen the Lord, she repeated the call to the meeting in Galilee. And a third time the message was sent to them. After He had ascended to the Father, Jesus appeared to the other women, saying, “All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshiped Him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.” {DA 793.3}
    Christ’s first work on earth after His resurrection was to convince His disciples of His undiminished love and tender regard for them. To give them proof that He was their living Saviour, that He had broken the fetters of the tomb, and could no longer be held by the enemy death; to reveal that He had the same heart of love as when He was with them as their beloved Teacher, He appeared to them again and again. He would draw the bonds of love still closer around them. Go tell My brethren, He said, that they meet Me in Galilee. {DA 793.4}
    As they heard this appointment, so definitely given, the disciples began to think of Christ’s words to them foretelling His resurrection. But even now they did not rejoice. They could not cast off their doubt and perplexity. Even when the women declared that they had seen the Lord, the disciples would not believe. They thought them under an illusion. {DA 794.1}
    Trouble seemed crowding upon trouble. On the sixth day of the week they had seen their Master die; on the first day of the next week they found themselves deprived of His body, and they were accused of having stolen it away for the sake of deceiving the people. They despaired of ever correcting the false impressions that were gaining ground against them. They feared the enmity of the priests and the wrath of the people. They longed for the presence of Jesus, who had helped them in every perplexity. {DA 794.2}
    Often they repeated the words, “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” Lonely and sick at heart they remembered His words, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 24:21; 23:31. They met together in the upper chamber, and closed and fastened the doors, knowing that the fate of their beloved Teacher might at any time be theirs. {DA 794.3}
    And all the time they might have been rejoicing in the knowledge of a risen Saviour. In the garden, Mary had stood weeping, when Jesus was close beside her. Her eyes were so blinded by tears that she did not discern Him. And the hearts of the disciples were so full of grief that they did not believe the angels’ message or the words of Christ Himself. {DA 794.4}
    How many are still doing what these disciples did! How many echo Mary’s despairing cry, “They have taken away the Lord, . . . and we know not where they have laid Him”! To how many might the Saviour’s words be spoken, “Why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” He is close beside them, but their tear-blinded eyes do not discern Him. He speaks to them, but they do not understand. {DA 794.5}
    Oh that the bowed head might be lifted, that the eyes might be opened to behold Him, that the ears might listen to His voice! “Go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen.” Bid them look not to Joseph’s new tomb, that was closed with a great stone, and sealed with the Roman seal. Christ is not there. Look not to the empty sepulcher. Mourn not as those who are hopeless and helpless. Jesus lives, and because He lives, we shall live also. From grateful hearts, from lips touched with holy fire, let the glad song ring out, Christ is risen! He lives to make intercession for us. Grasp this hope, and it will hold the soul like a sure, tried anchor. Believe, and thou shalt see the glory of God. {DA 794.6}

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  25. Jim
    May 12 2012

    This chapter is from the book”The Desire of Ages”, by Ellen White. It is the most believable and rational harmonization I have ever read on the subject.

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