The Greatest Story Ever Told

Day 47

Holy Week – Easter Sunday

Matthew 28
Mark 16
Luke 24
John 20 & 21

The dramatic and triumphant conclusion to The Greatest Story Ever Told is the resurrection of Jesus. It is the happy ending of all happy endings. It is also to the introduction to the sequel to The Greatest Story Ever Told, which we might call, “To the Ends of the Earth”.

The eyewitness accounts from the events of that first Easter Sunday are honest accounts. The Holy Spirit inspired the Gospel writers to record these accounts, but trying to fit all the details together is difficult (which is further evidence that they are reporting a real event). Nevertheless, let me try to give you a chronology of the key events in Jerusalem on the first Sunday following Passover in the year A.D. 30.

Sometime around 5:00 A.M., maybe a little earlier, Jerusalem was rattled by an earthquake. This is the second earthquake in Jerusalem that weekend. The first one occurred at 3:00 P.M. on Friday — the moment Jesus died. I believe the second earthquake occurred at the moment of the resurrection.

Immediately after the earthquake an angel came to the garden of Joseph of Arimathea and rolled back the large stone that was sealing the tomb. This was not to let Jesus out (apparently the resurrected Christ operates in extra-dimensionality and coming and going is no problem).

At the same time these events are happening, three women from Galilee who are staying in Bethany are making their way to Joseph’s garden. These three women are Mary Magdalene, Mary Clopas and Salome. They are coming at the first opportunity since the crucifixion to add spices to the body of Jesus. If the resurrection occurred in the year A.D. 30, it is April 11. (The other possible year is A.D. 33. I lean toward A.D. 30). It’s not yet light, but they know it will be soon. The temperature is probably in the upper 40’s. Their route from Bethany would take them past the old quarry known as Calvary. The city walls would be on their left and Calvary on their right. They are probably thankful that it is still dark so they don’t have to look at the Place of the Skull and be further reminded of the awful events of Friday.

As they enter the gate into the walled garden it is still dark and they are almost at the tomb before they realize the stone has been rolled away! They can only assume that the body of Jesus has been stolen.

Mary Magdalene, the youngest of the women, runs to the upper city of Jerusalem to tell Peter and John what she has discovered. This will take twenty minutes or more. When she tells Peter and John what she has discovered (that the tomb is empty), Peter and John set off running for the tomb. Mary follows, but she is no longer running.

Meanwhile back in the garden: Mary Clopas and Salome have been waiting by the tomb. Two other women have come to the tomb to join them in anointing the body of Jesus; these women are Joanna and Susanna. These women are married to prominent men and live in the wealthy Hasmonean quarter of Jerusalem. The five of them had probably planned to meet at the tomb on Sunday at sunrise.

With the arrival of Joanna and Susanna (and now that it’s getting lighter), the four women decide to look into the tomb. To their shock they discover that the tomb is not empty! There is a young man in a long robe sitting to the right. They are frightened by this discovery. The young man speaks and says, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus. He’s not here, because He has risen. Come and see where He lay.” Then this young man, who perhaps they have now figured out is an angel, tells them to go tell the disciples. Off they go.

Now Peter and John arrive at the garden. For some reason there are no angels at the tomb when Peter and John arrive. I have my ideas about why this is. In their run from the upper city of Jerusalem, John got to the tomb first (he tells us he outran Peter!). But John only looks into the tomb. When Peter gets there, he enters the tomb, followed by John. They inspect the abandoned grave clothes. What John sees is enough evidence for him to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and John return to Jerusalem.

Now Mary Magdalene arrives back at the tomb and she is weeping. It’s light now. She looks into the tomb. Maybe she even stuck her head into the doorway of the tomb, because she discovers, not one young man, but two young men (angels) sitting in the tomb. They ask her why she is weeping and she says it’s because the body of Jesus has been stolen. As Mary, still weeping, turns around, she notices a man is standing nearby. She assumes he is the gardener. She asks him about the missing body. The “gardener” says, “Mary.” And Mary says, “Rabboni” and falls at the feet of Jesus worshiping Him.

Mary Magdalene is the first person to see Jesus after He had risen from the dead.

Jesus made four more appearances that day…

1. That morning to the other four women as they were on their way to report to the disciples.

2. Later in the day in a private appearance to Peter.

3. Late in the afternoon to Cleopas and another disciple as they traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

4. That evening to the disciples (without Thomas) in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

That is the summary of how seventeen people on the first Easter Sunday made the life changing discovery that Jesus is alive.

How did you make your discovery of the risen Savior?

Maybe it was dramatic, maybe it was simple. Maybe it was sudden, maybe it progressive. The important thing is that you have made your own discovery of the greatest fact in history: Jesus is alive!