“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).
Paul’s words point to a pivotal moment in our history. The scriptures brought us here. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 24:44, “that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” His resurrection is our hope (1 Peter 1:20-21), is our justification (Romans 4:25), and it is our life (Romans 8:11).
In studying through the gospels, it becomes clear that each writer presents tremendous evidence of Christ’s resurrection, but not always with the same details. In this article, I will present a chronological narrative of the resurrection encompassing all details provided by the four inspired authors. I pray you will find this aerial view helpful in your own study. Due to constraints, references will include only one gospel reference. Any additional commentary has been italicized.
Early on the first day of the week, prior to sunrise, a great earthquake shook. An angel descended from heaven and rolled the stone away from the door (Matthew 28:1-2). When the angel finished, he sat on the stone. His presence, the earthquake, and the rolled stone terrified the guards (Matthew 28:4).
A group of ladies headed to the tomb that morning, planning to anoint Jesus’ body with valuable spices (Mark 16:2). There was no need, though. Indeed, Mary Magdalene had already anointed his body in life (Mark 14:8-9). When they arrived, they found the stone rolled away (Luke 24:2). Mary Magdalene ran to find Peter and John (John 20:2). The remaining ladies entered the tomb and found two angels. They told the ladies not to be afraid, but to go and tell the disciples he is risen (Luke 24:3-8). At first the ladies were quite distressed and told no one, “for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Soon thereafter the initial shock wore off, and they went to tell the disciples (Luke 24:9-10).
Mary found Peter and John and urged them to the tomb. John outran Peter, but Peter entered the tomb first. They saw his clothes folded but no body. Peter and John went back to their homes amazed at what they saw (John 20:3-10). Mary stayed at the tomb weeping. She met two angels. These angels asked her a question. They did not respond to her answer, letting Jesus do the talking. When Jesus arrived, Mary thought he was the gardener. Jesus helped her see and encouraged her to go tell the other disciples what to expect (John 20:11-18).
While the ladies were on their way to tell the disciples, Jesus met them with the exclamation, “Rejoice!” (Matthew 28:9-10). It is noteworthy that Jesus presented himself, first, to many ladies. Our Lord values faithful women within his kingdom.
The guards came to the chief priests and elders, who told the guards to lie. This must have been a difficult proposition, because Roman soldiers were known for doing whatever it took to accomplish their assigned duties (cf. Acts 27:42-43). However, the Jews promised to appease the governor, and so the soldiers complied (Matthew 28:11-15).
The group of ladies told the disciples they met the risen Lord. However, the disciples did not believe (Luke 24:11). Mary Magdalene also came and told them what she saw. Again, the disciples did not believe (Mark 16:3).
Sometime that day two disciples walked toward a village called Emmaus. Jesus met them on the way and explained to them the scriptures. When they arrived in the village, Jesus opened their eyes. Immediately, they ran back to tell the others what they witnessed (Luke 24:13-35).
That evening, Jesus appeared to a group of disciples, including 10 of the apostles. He rebuked them for not believing the testimony of others (John 20:19-23). He also offered them peace, of which he had spoken so often just prior to his crucifixion (cf. John 14:1, 27).
On the eighth day after resurrecting, Jesus appeared to his disciple Thomas (John 20:24-29). He wanted men to believe the testimony of others. He challenges us who have not seen to still believe the faithful eye-witnesses, knowing we will be blessed for having done so.
Some days thereafter, the disciples were waiting for Jesus in Galilee. Not really knowing what was coming next, they decided to go back to fishing. Jesus met them on the shore and filled their nets with fish. He then encouraged them to see that their purpose wasn’t in catching fish, but in catching people (John 21:1-23). The 11 disciples and Jesus go up on a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus sent them out to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Throughout this interim period, Jesus showed himself alive to over 500 hundred disciples (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Finally, Jesus led them to Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem (Luke 24:50-53). He gave them their final instructions and ascended into heaven. He was with them forty days after resurrecting from the grave (Acts 1:4-12)
The angels told us this one who ascended will also descend (Acts 1:11). When he comes again, will you be ready?
“Therefore stay awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning…” (Mark 13:35)