Good morning. Let me begin by wishing you all a Happy Easter. Today we remember the most remarkable and important event in all of human history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
This morning and for the next few weeks, we are going to summarize and review each of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in Scripture. The fact is, there are numerous independent, reliable, and time-tested accounts from people who actually saw Jesus physically alive after He rose from the dead. These provide compelling evidence that the resurrection is indeed true, that Jesus lives, and that the word of God is absolutely accurate. In addition to these instances, it is certainly possible that Jesus appeared to others whose stories were not included in the Biblical text.
The gospels provide four differing accounts as to exactly what happened on that glorious morning and in the days that followed. These details are not contradictory, but rather complementary. Still, the passages have to be reconciled in order to tell the complete story. Various proposals have been put forward as to how these individual stories fit together in a proper sequence. For the purposes of this study, I will present my interpretation of these events. However, I am acknowledging at the outset that other possibilities exist. The most important thing is that they all happened, regardless of precise order in which they occurred.
Let us begin by setting the stage for the events that would follow...
After Jesus died on the cross Friday evening, His followers hastily took His body down and readied it for burial. They rushed to bury Jesus in a nearby tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. Because the Sabbath began at sunset that night, and no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath, there was simply not enough time to perform a proper burial or complete the customary procedures before dark. Thus, Jesus’ body was wrapped in grave clothes and laid in the tomb prematurely. The grieving women who looked on fully intended to return after the Sabbath day (Saturday) was over in order to prepare the body of Jesus more properly for burial. To this end, they made and even bought some spices and perfumes to bring with them when they returned. Early Sunday morning, all of the women traveled together back to the tomb...
I. THE FIRST APPEARANCE - MARY MAGDALENE (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9-11)
Mary Magdalene is a prominent character in the gospel narratives. Her name suggests that she was from the city of Magdala which was located on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was only a short distance to the south of Capernaum, which was the base of Jesus’ operations. Thus, it is very reasonable to believe that Jesus visited Magdala during His earthly ministry, though such a visit is not expressly mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps He encountered her while He was there. Another possibility is that she had heard about the healing powers of Jesus and sought Him out, just as many others did in and around Galilee.
Scripture clearly states that Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons. Whether in Magdala or elsewhere, at some point Jesus cast these demons out. Having experienced His miraculous healing firsthand, Mary Magdalene became a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. She was among the women who traveled with Jesus and supported His ministry financially.
Mary Magdalene had witnessed both the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Early on Sunday morning, before the sun had yet risen, she (and the other women) came to the tomb where the Lord’s body had been laid. When she arrived, she found that the stone had been rolled away. Fearing the worst, Mary Magdalene hurriedly ran to tell Peter and John, leaving the other women there. She found them, told them what she’d seen, and then followed both men back to the empty tomb. The other women had already left. After a brief visit, Peter and John returned to their homes still uncertain as to what had taken place.
Mary Magdalene remained alone at the tomb and wept over the absence of Jesus’ body. Looking inside, she saw two angels seated where He had been laid. They asked her why she was crying. When Mary Magdalene turned around, she saw the risen Jesus but initially thought that He was the gardener. She asked Him if He had taken Jesus’ body somewhere. The Lord simply answered, “Mary!” Hearing His voice, immediately she recognized the risen Jesus and fell at His feet to worship. He told her to stop clinging to Him because He’d not yet ascended, but rather to go and tell the disciples that He was alive just as He’d foretold. She hurried to do so, but they didn’t believe her.
Mary Magdalene was the first person to personally witness Jesus Christ after He rose from the grave. Not only did she see Him, but she also spoke to Him and touched His resurrected body. What a tremendous blessing and honor this was!
II. THE SECOND APPEARANCE - THE OTHER WOMEN (Matthew 28:8-10)
Along with Mary Magdalene, there were other women who came to the tomb that morning as well - including “the other Mary”, Salome, and Joanna. “The other Mary” is most likely the same person as “Mary the mother of James”. It is quite possible that she was Jesus’ aunt, His mother Mary’s sister. If so, she had been present at the cross just two days before. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and therefore the mother of the apostles James and John. Joanna was one of the several women who, like Mary Magdalene, had been healed from some malady and had chosen to follow Jesus.
These women arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled away. After Mary Magdalene departed, an angel appeared and spoke to them while they were waiting outside. He invited them to go in and take a look. He also told them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee and they would see Him there. So these women went into the tomb as instructed. When they entered, they were met by two angelic men who showed them the empty grave. The women were startled and terrified. Again they were told to go tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He’d predicted.
The women left the tomb in awe of what they’d just experienced, probably only minutes before Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John arrived. They were still very uneasy and afraid of all that had happened. They determined not to tell anyone other than the disciples about what was going on, at least until they could figure out if it was true or not. As they were returning to tell the disciples, the resurrected Jesus met them. The women fell at His feet and worshiped Him. Now they knew for certain that He was alive. Jesus echoed the words of the angel who’d spoken to them earlier, saying to tell the disciples to go to Galilee and meet Him there. Hearing this, the women now rushed to tell the disciples the amazing news. Sadly, the disciples did not believe their report either.
This group of other women were the second people to personally see, speak to, and touch Jesus Christ following His resurrection. Thus, the first two appearances that Jesus made after rising from the grave were to women. Though both Mary Magdalene and the other women went and told the disciples the remarkable news, it seems that neither of their testimonies were taken very seriously. The disciples were hesitant to accept that such a miracle could actually occur.
III. THE THIRD APPEARANCE - PETER (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
Peter was one of the leading apostles. He was always quick to speak, and sometimes stuck his foot in his mouth as a result. Peter had denied Christ three times on the night of His arrest just over a day before. As such, he was still reeling with deep guilt and shame over what he’d said and done. Already that morning he’d received a report from Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty and had gone to see for himself. But when he discovered that the body was missing, Peter was perplexed and feared that graverobbers had taken it.
The Bible does not give us any details about Jesus’ appearance to Peter that day other than stating twice that it happened. When evening came and the disciples had all gathered together, Scripture indicates that the risen Lord had already spoken to Peter. The apostle Paul later confirms this in his writings. It must have occurred sometime on that same Sunday morning or early afternoon. When he told the rest of the disciples, they finally began to believe that perhaps Jesus’ resurrection was indeed true.
Peter was the third person or group of persons to actually see Jesus after He rose again. The details of this appearance are unknown, but it did happen. Jesus was alive, and the number of witnesses to this fact was beginning to increase…
The morning of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, at least 5 named people and possibly many other unnamed women saw Jesus physically alive. They spoke to Him and some actually touched His material body. He was not a ghost, spirit, or apparition. He was not a figment of their imagination or some type of hallucination. He was a man, but also God, and had died but then miraculously rose from the dead. He had born the sin of all humanity upon Himself while on the cross, died that it might be forgiven, and then was resurrected in order to forever conquer death and the grave. By placing your faith in Jesus Christ, you accept His forgiveness and the hope of eternal life that He offers. Will you repent of your sins and receive Him as your Lord and Savior today?