Outside of creation itself, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was perhaps the greatest series of events in the history of mankind based on its effect upon man. Upon the historical facts and the many lessons we can learn from the resurrection hangs the very essence of the gospel of Christ and His church. For these and other reasons, it is with great purpose many argue stridently against this great event. For if true (and I believe it is), every event and principle in God’s Word is correct and established. If men can deny the resurrection, they can more easily set aside the truths established in the rest of the Bible.
It is worth noting there have been other resurrections recorded in the Bible, but Jesus’ was vastly different. He was raised, not through the hands of men, but by the godhead—the Father, the Spirit, and by Jesus Himself (Romans 6:4, 8:11; John 2:19-22). It is for this reason Jesus was called the “firstborn of the dead” (Colossians 1:18). For Jesus was the first to raise from the dead to never die again, and He was the first to raise in the church. Jesus’ own words testify to His death and subsequent resurrection (Revelation 1:17-18). There are numerous prophecies in the OT that testified of His resurrection such as Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 16:9-10. Jesus prophesied His resurrection in Mathew 12:40, 16:21, and 17:22-23. Even the Jewish leaders testified as enemies of Christ of Jesus speaking of His coming resurrection in Matthew 27:63.
There is, of course, the Pharisee Saul’s testimony. Something glorious accounted for the change in Saul from Acts 9:1 to Acts 9:20. What could have turned him from an avowed enemy of Christ and His followers to a great advocate? Simple: he saw the risen Lord!
What follows is my best understanding of the chronology of the resurrection of Jesus as told in the four gospels. I have attempted to place the various passages in as close to chronological order as I know how from His burial until His ascension to Heaven. I believe reading this glorious story from beginning to end can help us have a surer and perhaps clearer understanding of the events of this magnificent story.
Also there are a number of lessons taught that are worth noting. For instance, His disciples had trouble grasping His resurrection, even after they saw and spoke to Him. This is certainly understandable. Imagine if you saw your grandparents alive after you saw them buried. I would surmise it would be quite a shock. Perhaps this explains why Jesus revealed His resurrection to His disciples a little at a time. This may have given them time to digest the information slowly. It may be for this reason Jesus ate food with His disciples after His resurrection at least three times. Perhaps this was to verify the reality of His resurrection. It was not some spiritual hoax, for it was very real! They could see the marks upon His body from the crucifixion.
One thought I had was what exactly did the guards tell the Jewish leaders? They possibly told them of the earthquake and maybe even of the angels in Matthew 28:1-4. Whatever they told them, the Jewish leaders did not want their message spread to others. I do not think they saw the actual resurrection, but the guards saw something that made them very afraid and caused them to become like “dead men.” It is interesting that the guards’ testimony was due to the leaders’ attempts to prevent the very event the guards testified to! Accordingly I wonder what the Jewish leaders thought of the resurrection? There is no doubt in my mind that at least some of them knew of the resurrection, but they chose to ignore it for their own purposes. There is also the idea taught in Jesus’ response to the two disciples in Luke 24:25-26. Jesus called them “foolish ones” for not believing the prophets. This teaches me He expects a lot from me!
One final thought—many ignorantly accuse the apostles (or someone) of making this up. This is nonsense. If the apostles had simply “made it up,” the resurrection would have been recorded in a much different manner. Why not have the apostles all holding hands singing Kum-By-Ya at the tomb when Jesus awoke? Why portray the apostles in a light of disbelief? Surely they would have wanted to be seen as great heroes! This was revealed and recorded in the manner it actually happened. This event, recorded in a truthful and forthright way with no embellishments, would last for over 2,000 years enduring man’s scrutiny and outright attacks and attempts to disregard it. It has become indeed the greatest (true) story ever told!
An attempt at the chronological order of the resurrection:
1. Jesus is buried in a tomb prior to the Sabbath/Passover-- John 19:31-42
2. Pilate sets a guard at the tomb—Matthew 27:62-66
3. Jesus’ actual resurrection-- Matthew 28:1-4
4. Women visit the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body—Mark 16:1-4
5. The women discover the empty tomb—Mark 16:5-8
6. Peter and John hurry to the tomb—John 20:1-10
7. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene—John 20:11-18
8. The tomb guards are bribed to lie by the Jewish Council—Matthew 28:11-15
9. Jesus appears and speaks with two disciples at Emmaus—Luke 24:13-32
10. The two disciples speak to the Eleven—Luke 24:33-35
11. Jesus appears to ten of His disciples—Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-23
12. Thomas does not believe—John 20:24-25
13. Jesus appears to the eleven disciples—John 20:26-29
14. Jesus visits His disciples by the sea—John 21:1-14
15. Jesus speaks to Peter—John 21:15-19
16. Jesus speaks of John to Peter—John 21:20-24
17. Jesus commissions His disciples—Matthew 28:16-20 Mark 16:15-18
18. Jesus helped His disciples better comprehend the Scriptures—Luke 24:44-49
19. Jesus ascends to Heaven—Luke 24:50-53
May His name be praised for this glorious work of love and hope that all mankind might have an opportunity to seek the Lord in faith. Thank you, Lord, for the price You paid for us!