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The Events of the Morning of Christ’s Resurrection

By Russell McKinney

Mitchell CountyRussell McKinney Mitchell County Roan Mountain Baptist Church

A lot happened on that first Easter Sunday morning. Unfortunately, piecing together a harmonized, chronological list of it all requires a ton of spade work in Bible study. So, I thought it would be helpful if I provided such a list. Here we go.

#1: Jesus resurrects, passing through the solid rock of His cave-like tomb without disturbing the tomb itself.

#2: Just before dawn on Sunday morning, an angel descends from heaven, causing a great earthquake at the tomb. The angel’s face shines like lightning and his clothes are as white as snow. The angel rolls back the massive circular stone that serves as the door to the tomb and then sits down upon the stone. The whole event causes the Roman guards who are guarding the tomb to faint from fear. (Matthew 28:2-4)

#3: Since the Jewish Sabbath has ended at sundown on Saturday afternoon, a group of women make their way out to the tomb sometime around dawn on Sunday morning. They have prepared spices to further anoint Christ’s corpse for burial. The group consists of Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, Mary (the mother of the apostle known as James the Less), and other unnamed women. They are wondering how they are going to remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb to go inside the tomb and anoint Christ’s corpse. They have no way of knowing the angel has already rolled away the stone. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1,10; John 20:1)

#4: Arriving at the tomb, the women see from a distance that the stone has been removed from the tomb’s entrance. They don’t see any Roman guards at the tomb because by now those guards have recovered from their fainting and have fled the scene to report to the Jewish chief priests. (Matthew 28:11-15; Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1)

#5: While the rest of the women proceed toward the tomb, Mary Magdalene dispatches herself to find Peter and John and tell them that Christ’s body has either been relocated or stolen. She finds them and says to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter and John then immediately race out together toward the tomb. (John 20:1-3)

#6: Meanwhile, back at the tomb site, after Mary Magdalene leaves the group to find Peter and John, the rest of the women continue toward the tomb and go inside it to investigate. Once inside, they see two angels who are dressed in shining garments (long white robes) and have the appearance of young men. Presumably, one of the angels is the same one who had rolled away the stone and terrified the Roman guards. By now, however, he (like the other angel) has taken upon himself the appearance of a young man in order not to frighten the women. Nevertheless, a wave of fear comes over the women and they bow their faces to the ground. To ease their fears, the angels say to them some sequenced version of the following conversation: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’? But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:4-7; Luke 24:3-8)

#7: The women immediately leave the site to do what the angels have told them to do, and not long afterward Peter and John get there. John, having outrun Peter, arrives at the tomb first, cautiously stops at the entrance, and peers inside the tomb. He doesn’t enter the tomb, but from his vantage point, he can see two linen cloths (Christ’s burial cloths) lying in one part of the tomb. Peter then arrives at the tomb’s entrance and barges on into the tomb. He sees the same linen cloths John had noticed but also sees the face cloth that had been wrapped around Christ’s head. That cloth is neatly folded and lying by itself away from the other cloths. Only then does John finally enter the tomb. After having become eyewitnesses to the emptiness of the tomb, the two men then return to their homes. (John 20:4-10)

#8: Sometime after Peter and John’s departure from the tomb, Mary Magdalene, having been left behind by Peter and John running to the tomb, returns to the site herself. Because she still doesn’t know what has happened to Christ’s body, she just stands at the tomb’s entrance, looking inside the tomb and crying. She sees two angels clothed in white (obviously the same two the group of women had seen earlier) in the tomb. One of the angels is positioned where Christ’s head had lain and the other one is positioned where His feet had lain. The angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answers, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Then she turns around and sees Jesus standing not far from her outside the tomb. But she doesn’t recognize Him even when He asks her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Assuming Him to be the gardener/groundskeeper, she says, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” At that point, Jesus says to her, “Mary!” and she realizes who He is. She says, “Rabboni” (“Teacher”), and in response, Jesus says to her, “Do not touch Me (some translations render it “Do not cling to Me”) for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God.’” Thus, Mary Magdalene becomes the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. She then leaves the tomb site to go tell the other disciples that she has seen Him. (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-17)

#9: Following His appearance to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appears to the group of women of whom she had originally been a member that morning. These were the women who had come to the tomb, found it empty, went inside it, seen the two angels, and been told to go report to the disciples. The women are making their way to carry out that assignment when suddenly Jesus appears to them. He says to them, “Rejoice!” (some translations render it “Greetings” or “All hail”) to which they respond by falling at His feet, grabbing hold of His feet, and worshiping Him. Jesus tells them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” (Matthew 28:8-10)

#10: At some unnamed point and time that morning, the resurrected Jesus appears to Peter. The gospels make no mention of this appearance, but 1 Corinthians 15:5 plainly says that Jesus was seen by Cephas (Peter) before Him being seen by the rest of the disciples. Accordingly, since John 20:19-23 records the story of Jesus appearing to the other apostles on the Sunday evening of His resurrection day, it stands to reason that the personal appearance to Peter took place either sometime that Sunday morning or at the latest sometime early that Sunday afternoon. Most commentators place the appearance on Sunday morning sometime after Christ’s appearance to the group of women.

Well, as you can see, that first Easter morning was certainly a busy one. Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t get so bogged down in all the minutia of details that you miss the main event. JESUS AROSE!!! We Christians serve a RISEN Savior, and one day we too will get to see Him face to face in all His resurrected, glorified grandeur. I am looking forward to that day and I trust that you are as well.


Russell Mckinney lives in the English Woods area of Spruce Pine and serves as the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church in Bakersville.

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