The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection is the greatest miracle of all time! It is the means by which all mortals will eventually be delivered from Satan and escape the bondage of sin and death. Its power comes through the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world who personally conquered every temptation the adversary could ever inflict, and did it without committing a single sin. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

On the third day after the Lord was entombed, “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1), a great earthquake occurred in the morning and an angel of the Lord descended and rolled back the stone from the door (see Matthew 28:2). “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men” (Matthew 28:3–4).

 Written by Brett D. Benson, author of Always Remember Him.

Mary Magdalene came first to see the open tomb. She came when it was still early and dark. And when she saw “the stone taken away from the sepulchre and two angels sitting thereon” (JST John 20:1), she departed hastily and ran to find Peter and John. When she found them, she wept, saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2).

Mary’s actions tell so much concerning her faith in the Lord. She went early to the tomb and was the first to arrive that morning. She departed from there hastily and went directly to the Apostles. She wept at His absence. Mary is an example of the believers who put their trust in Him.

Peter and John ran together to the tomb. John arrived first and “stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed” (John 20:5–8).

With our faith, our great hope is in Jesus Christ who broke the bands of death that man might also live again. We have the assurance of His Resurrection from those who know. Among those who have become witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection, Peter and John were first. But even while they began to understand, Mary did not. While these two went into the tomb, Mary still stood without weeping for grief. She cried, “They have taken away the Lord” (John 20:2). After they saw, Peter and John went away, leaving Mary alone with her grief.

Again Mary looked into the tomb. This time she saw two angels, one at the head and the other at the feet where Jesus had lain. “Woman, why weepest thou?” they asked. “She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (John 20:13).

Even with witnessing angels, Mary could not be comforted. She loved her Master above all things. Still weeping for grief, Mary turned away “and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).

Then, in recorded simplicity, a single word changed everything: “Mary” (John 20:16). Mary turned at the familiar voice, and all suddenly came into focus. She responded, “Rabboni; which is to say, Master” (John 20:16). Jesus answered, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

Mary Magdalene went immediately as her Master had commanded and told the disciples what she had seen and heard. “And [her] words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). The reader may wonder at their disbelief after all of the prophecies. Even at this point “they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). Even so, “when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not” (Mark 16:11). This is in contrast to Peter and John who did believe (see John 20:8). Now three witnesses stood to testify of their understanding and build the faith of those who were soon to witness His coming to all men.

 In returning to the tomb, the two Marys witnessed the angels and heard the heaven-sent testimony of the risen Lord as delivered below.

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5–6).

 “As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matthew 28:9–10).

 As for the guards sent by Caiaphas to watch the tomb, they eventually awoke, and “behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught” (Matthew 28:11–15).

The testimony of Jesus never would go forth by those who were unworthy, be it spoken by devils or men. Even with the knowledge that proceeded to the council from the words of the guards, the chief priests continued to consult against the testimony of Jesus.

Mark records that Jesus appeared to two others who went and told their report unto the disciples and “neither believed they them” (Mark 16:13). Luke’s account provides a few more details. Traveling on the road to Emmaus, these two disciples were walking together and conversing of the things that had happened and affected them so. As they communed and reasoned about what they had heard “Jesus himself drew near, and went with them” (Luke 24:15).

They continued walking and conversed with the stranger, but the two men did not recognize their fellow traveler. The stranger asked what they talked about and why they were sad. The first disciple answered, wondering how this stranger could not know of the mysterious things that had been happening in Jerusalem. “What things?” He asked. “And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him” (Luke 24:19–20).

The two men went on to tell how they knew Jesus “had been he which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21). They explained how all of these other things that had happened were not what they had been expecting. Like the other disciples, “they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11), but to their surprise, it appeared instead like the Son of man had no power over the kingdoms of the world.

And yet, they went on to explain, a report had emerged from certain women that He lived again. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25–26).

The stranger then began to expound the scriptures to their understanding, from Moses on through all the prophets, concerning the Messiah. When they arrived at the house to which they journeyed, they asked their fellow journeyer to abide with them, for the day was far spent. There He took bread, blessed it, brake it in their presence, and gave it to them to partake of. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31). They instantly began to marvel at the unusual event and remarked, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

The two travelers returned to Jerusalem to report their findings to the eleven remaining apostles. Those who gathered under Peter responded, according to Luke’s account, “Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread” (Luke 24:34–35).

The indication here is that Jesus had also now appeared to Simon Peter. This is verified later by Paul. “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:4–5). Cephas is the name Jesus first called Peter (see John 2:42).

 Written by Brett D. Benson, author of Always Remember Him.