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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus

Don Stewart :: Can a Reasonable Scenario of the Events Surrounding Jesus' Resurrection Be Proposed?

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Can a Reasonable Scenario of the Events Surrounding Jesus’ Resurrection Be Proposed?

Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus – Question 19

Yes it can. While each of the four gospel writers looks at the events of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from a different perspective a reasonable reconciliation of the events can be proposed. We can offer the following possible scenario:

  1. After the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but before dawn on Easter Sunday, an earthquake took place. At this time an angel of the Lord rolled away the large stone from the entrance to the tomb and then sat upon it (Matthew 28:2-4).
  2. As Sunday morning was beginning to dawn, three women approached the tomb (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome). Their intent was to anoint the body of Jesus with perfumed oil. The oil was to be brought by a second group of women who set out later to the tomb (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1). This first group was amazed to find the stone rolled away when they arrived.
  3. At least one of the women entered into the tomb and announced that the body of Jesus was not there. This is an inference from John 20:2 where we know more than one woman was present.
  4. Mary Magdalene immediately returned to inform Peter and John that someone had removed Jesus’ body (John 20:2).
  5. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome saw an angel inside of the tomb. This angel, who was wearing white garments, had the appearance of a young man. The angel announced that Jesus was risen from the dead and that they should go tell Jesus’ disciples that He would meet them in the Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7).
  6. These two women returned to the city without greeting anyone along the way. They were left speechless by the events which transpired (Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8).
  7. Another group of women from the Galilee, along with Joanna (see Luke 8:3), arrived at the tomb carrying perfumed oil to anoint the body of Jesus. They met the angel, along with another angel (Luke 24:4, 23). They then returned to report the angel’s message of the resurrection to the eleven as well as to other disciples that had gathered together (Matthew 26:56; Luke 24:1-9; 22:23).
  8. Having been informed by Mary Magdalene that the body was gone, Peter and John (and possibly others [Luke 24:24]) ran to the tomb without encountering Mary and Salome. They saw the grave clothes but not the resurrected Christ. Then they went back home (John 20:3-10; Luke 24:12). The grave clothes caused John to believe that something had happened.
  9. Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John to the tomb. She saw two angels inside, and then met Jesus after supposing Him to be the gardener (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-17).
  10. Mary Magdalene then returned to inform the disciples that Jesus had risen (Mark 16:10, 11; John 20:18).
  11. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome meet Jesus on their way back from the tomb. Jesus commands them to tell His disciples that He will meet them in Galilee.
  12. The disciples, who now had reports of the empty tomb and resurrection of Christ from three sources—Mary Magdalene, Joanna and the women from Galilee, and Mary and Salome, still refused to believe these witnesses (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11).
  13. During that same afternoon, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They returned to Jerusalem to report the appearance to the eleven and the other disciples (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35).
  14. Jesus appeared to Peter sometime before these two disciples returned to speak to the Eleven.
  15. That evening Jesus appeared to ten disciples—Judas was dead and Thomas was absent (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33; 36-43; John 20:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
  16. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the eleven with Thomas being present (John 20:26-29).
  17. Sometime later, seven disciples encountered Jesus on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-22).
  18. Still later, the eleven met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18).
  19. Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  20. Jesus appeared to James, the son of His mother Mary, His half-brother (1 Corinthians 15:7).
  21. Before His ascension, He appeared to the eleven near Bethany (Mark 16:9-20; Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Corinthians 15:7).
  22. Finally, Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9, 22, 26).

This is a reasonable scenario of the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus given the accounts we have in the New Testament. While it is certainly not the only possible reconstruction as to what happened, it does make sense out of the available evidence.

Again, we want to emphasize that the main details of Jesus’ resurrection are clear from the gospel records. He indeed did come back from the dead and appear to a number of people. This is the good news of the gospel.

Summary – Question 19
Can a Reasonable Scenario of the Events Surrounding Jesus’ Resurrection Be Proposed?

When the resurrection accounts which are contained in the four gospels are compared we find that there are obvious differences between them. These differences have caused many people to contend that no reasonable scenario of what took place can be proposed.

Yet, a reasonable order of the events can be put together when comparing the four gospel accounts. In fact, instead of making the story less believable, it actually increases our reasons for believing it. For one thing, four people telling an accurate story of an event would agree in the main facts but certainly would not all provide the same details. This is what we find in the gospel accounts.

However, there is a central core of information that they all agree upon. Any differences between them occur in secondary details. Careful investigation will show how these details can be harmonized. The possible harmony we just presented gives evidence of this. While this may not be the exact order in which the events unfolded, it does make complete sense out of all the evidence.

Are the Reports about Jesus' Resurrection Hopelessly Contradictory? ← Prior Section
Can We Really Know What Happened to Jesus and Does It Actually Matter What Occurred? Next Section →
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