Resurrection, Appearances, and Ascension
Christ's Resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is vital to Christianity because it is the proof that our sins are gone, and that God is satisfied with the work of Calvary. The Lord rose bodily from the dead, not merely in spirit, as some have taught through the ages. When Paul summed up the gospel that he preached, he said that he preached Christ who died, was buried, and had risen from the dead; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 17, Romans 10:9. When comparing Christianity to other religions we should ask ourselves: where is Confucius? Where is Buddha? Where is Muhammad? They are all dead. We have a Savior who was raised from among the dead - His tomb is empty. Christ's suffering and death was the payment of our debt, but His resurrection is the receipt that proves our debt was paid; “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Not only is the resurrection critical to justification, but Paul shows that it is also critical to the resurrection of believers, because Christ is "risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). It is really a cornerstone of the Christian faith; "but if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). What would we have for our faith if the gospels said nothing of Christ's resurrection?
The Women Visit the Empty Tomb (16:1-8)
A Synopsis of Events. By comparing all four gospels, we get a comprehensive outline of the events that unfolded surrounding the resurrection of Christ, the angelic appearances, and the appearances of Christ. Often these passages are picked at by infidel scoffers to undermine faith in the Divine record. When we study it, all the details fit together perfectly, and yet each gospel maintains its own slant. Following is a brief synopsis. On what was our Saturday evening, at "the dusk of the next day after sabbath", the two Marys came to the sepulchre, and then went home (Matt. 28:1). Apparently, they brought spices with them (Mark 16:1), and left them there. Early the next morning "when it was still dark" (John 20:1), Mary Magdalene came and saw the stone removed and the body gone. She ran to tell Peter and John. Peter and John came to the tomb to investigate, but did not know the scripture, and therefore remained dumbfounded. They returned home. However, Mary remained by the tomb weeping. She stooped down to look in and saw two angels, one at the head and the other at the foot of where the Lord had lain (John 20:12). This was a special vision, which only Mary Magdalene saw. The two angels asked her why she was weeping. Then the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden (although she didn't recognize Him at first), and told her to go to the disciples and declare that He was about to ascend to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Mark 16:10 makes it clear that Jesus "appeared first to Mary of Magdala". Then, after "the rising of the sun", the other Mary and Salome arrived (the three are grouped together in the synoptic gospels). One angel was outside the tomb, which Matthew notes as saying "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Mark speaks of the other angel (called a man) sitting at the right side of the place, who says "Behold the place where they laid him". Both angels are accounted for. Mary the wife of Cleopas and Salome (Joanna) get a different message from Mary Magdalene; "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said to you" (Mark 16:7). Then other women arrived who had travelled from Galilee, grouped with the former three, but called "the others with them" (Luke 24:10). These women apparently brought more spices in addition to those brought by the women on the previous evening (Luke 24:1). These ones also stood dumbfounded for a moment, and then "two men suddenly stood by them in shining raiment" (Luke 24:4). It would be the same two angels, now together again. These other women receive still yet a different message; more of a rebuke for their not believing the Lord's words. All the women went together to the eleven apostles (Luke 24:10). At first, they ran with the mixed emotions of fear and joy. But then Jesus met them on the way, saying "Hail" (rejoice), and "fear not" (Matt. 28:8-10). The women delivered their respective messages, but the eleven refused to believe them (Mark 16:11). Peter rose up, and perhaps a few others with him (Luke 24:24), and went to the tomb again, but was still bewildered; i.e. he "wondered at these things" (Luke 24:12). When Peter returned from his second visit, the Lord met him and had a private interview (Luke 24:34). After that, the Lord appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-35), and then "that same day at evening" to the apostles gathered behind closed doors (John 20:19).
1 And the sabbath being now past, Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought aromatic spices that they might come and embalm him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week they come to the sepulchre, the sun having risen. 3 And they said to one another, Who shall roll us away the stone out of the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they see that the stone has been rolled away, for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed and alarmed; 6 but he says to them, Be not alarmed. Ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, the crucified one. He is risen, he is not here; behold the place where they had put him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said to you.
How many angels were there? By comparing all four gospels we see that there were two angels. The soldiers saw only one angel in the night. Mary Magdalene saw two angels "while it was yet dark" (John 20:1). After sunrise, the other Mary and Salome saw one angel outside the tomb saying "Come, see the place..." (Matt. 28:6) and another inside saying "Behold the place" (Mark 16:6). The other women saw two angels after they arrived (Luke 24:4). How many angels were there? Two. However, the two are not always mentioned together.
8 And they went out, and fled from the sepulchre. And trembling and excessive amazement possessed them, and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.
His Appearing to Mary Magdalene (16:9-11)
9 Now when he had risen very early, the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary of Magdala, out of whom he had cast seven demons. 10 “She” went and brought word to those that had been with him, who were grieving and weeping. 11 And when these heard that he was alive and had been seen of her, they disbelieved it.
His Appearing to the Two Disciples on the Road (16:12-13)
12 And after these things he was manifested in another form to two of them as they walked, going into the country; 13 and “they” went and brought word to the rest; neither did they believe them.
His Appearing to the Eleven and their Commission (16:14-18)
14 Afterwards as they lay at table he was manifested to the eleven, and reproached them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen him risen. 15 And he said to them, Go into all the world, and preach the glad tidings to all the creation. 16 He that believes and is baptised shall be saved, and he that disbelieves shall be condemned. 17 And these signs shall follow those that have believed: in my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 they shall take up serpents; and if they should drink any deadly thing it shall not injure them; they shall lay hands upon the infirm, and they shall be well.
His Continued Work from Heaven (16:19-20)
19 The Lord therefore, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God. v.19 There is only one gospel that tells us how Jesus was exalted after His ascension; the gospel of Mark, which presents Christ as Jehovah’s Perfect Servant. This is significant! True greatness is a result of true humility, and exaltation by God is always preceded by humility before Him.
20 And they, going forth, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs following upon it.