It’s Easter again, what exactly happened at the tomb?

Posted: March 22, 2016 in Shared Thoughts
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Trips to the Tomb

I know it;s an old post, but since it is Easter this coming Sunday I figured it would be a good repost it once more for those who may have missed it. I hope it blesses you.

For centuries there has been much confusion when people try to reason the different accounts of Jesus’ resurrection as recorded by the apostles. The fact that they all seem to have a different story to tell does not help. Perhaps, a good way to consider their seemingly different reports is to view them like transparent overlays, similar to the one’s we have seen in books showing the skeleton, then the nerves and blood vessels, organs, muscular and finally the skin and hair.

The Gospels, similarly, are each reporting different events which had taken place around a major singular occurrence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact is that these different events are recorded in God’s word and are therefore true. Perhaps the answer to the confusion is to consider that there were multiple trips made to the tomb.

The best way to determine the possible order of these trips to the tomb is to consider the different details that have been given about the time of day and light of the sun. Was the sun going down or coming up? These questions are actually quite easy to answer. However, we must remember that the Sabbath, like all the other biblical days, began and ended with sundown, see Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 and Lev. 23:32.

Matthew clearly tells us that when the two Marys where first headed to the tomb it was “IN the end of the Sabbath.” Therefore, according to Matthew this trip took place Saturday evening prior to sunset, “IN the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.”

The word translated “end” is the Greek word “opse,” # 3697 in Strongs Concordance. It means – late in the day; by extension, after the close of the day: –(at) even, in the end. The translated phrase “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” adds to the confusion of most people and caused them to think Matthew is talking about the sunrise, or “dawn” as we would refer to it. The Greek word here was translated “dawn,” while at times a correct translation, is not however of necessity the intent original. The implication of the word, since it follows “opse,” properly means to “draw on,” or, “as the first day approached,” without specifying a precise time. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how the same word here translated “dawn” is translated in Luke 23:54, “And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.”

In English the word “dawn” is frequently used to mean the beginning of something – like “the dawn of space travel” would be a reference to the first flight of man in space. This careful chronological statement, “IN the END of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” was recorded by the sovereign inspiration of the Holy Ghost in harmony with biblical/Jewish days clearly showing that it was before the Sabbath was over, that is before the sunset. It is during this time frame that the women made their trip “to see the sepulcher.” All the Jews at Matthew’s time would have without a doubt understood Matthew to be referring to the time just before sunset; the end of one day and the beginning of the next. Therefore, the earliest trip to the tomb we can qualify is Matthew’s account which took place “in the end of the Sabbath,” Saturday at sunset.

Next, in Mark’s account we see that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where and how the body of Jesus was buried (Mark 5:47). Then, “when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome” purchased sweet spices that when they came to the tomb they might anoint the body of Jesus for a proper burial because His body was prepared and buried in haste “before” sunset prior to a High Sabbath. This is a point that most fail to discern, that the week of Jesus’ crucifixion there were actually two Sabbaths.

This “Sabbath” mentioned by Mark is not the seventh day weekly Sabbath, or Saturday, mention earlier in Matthew’s account. This “Sabbath” was day one of seven consecutive days of observance of the Feast of the Unleaven Bread, a “high holy day” and was therefore observed as a Sabbath since no servile work was to be done, see John 19:31. These high holy days “are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations . . . beside [apart from] the [weekly] sabbaths of the LORD,” (Lev. 23:37,38).

Lev. 23:5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover.
6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
7 In the first day [day fifteen] ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

37 These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, everything upon his day:
38 Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.

Let’s assume that Passover was on a Wednesday, which (regardless of such assumption) would have been the fourteenth day of the first month, (Lev 23:2). Then the Fifteenth day would have been Thursday, day one the Feast of the Unleaven Bread, declared by God to be a holy convocation and a High Sabbath. Therefore after the fifteenth day “was past” Friday came, they went out and “bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him” (Mark 16:1) and then, “prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the [fourth] commandment,” (Luke 23:56).

The Apostle Mark records the actual time that the women went to the tomb was “very early in the morning the first day of the week . . . at the rising of the sun” (Mark 16:2). This different account of Mark can only be understood without contradiction as another trip to the tomb. This is probably the latest trip to the tomb because Mark alone mentions it taking place at “the rising of the sun.”

Luke’s account, like Mark’s, mentions the herbs and it being very early in the morning “upon the first day of the week.” However their account differs from each other when it comes to the number of angels at the tomb, one in Mark’s account, two in Luke’s. Also, Mark mentions that it was Salome that was with the two Marys, where Luke says it was Joanna.

Mark also tells us that the women “trembled and were amazed, neither said they anything to any man for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Yet Luke says that, “Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women that were with them told these things unto the apostles” (Luke 24:10). Are these contradictions? Or are these accounts of different trips with a different mixture of people going at different times?

Now the Apostle John’s account is completely different from everyone’s in that he states how Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb and records events unique to her visit, such as her seeing Jesus outside the tomb and mistaking Him as the gardener.

Now are all the accounts wrong? Or are some right and others wrong? If so, which ones are which? As believers in the infallibility of God’s word we must believe them all to be correct. Therefore, we must endeavor to place all the pieces of information together according to the clues given and then fill in the blanks with what might have taken place and why . . . this is only a reasoning at best.

Trip 1 – Matthew 28

1.  In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

Who went;

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Which “other Mary” Matthew is referring to we cannot tell for sure.


This visit is Saturday evening, before sunset, “in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.”


To SEE the sepulchre (tomb). They were not going to anoint the body at this time. The purpose of this trip was to ease their sorrow and pain by visiting the grave of their lost loved one.

What happened;

“Behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 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.”

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, ‘Fear not, for I know 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. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead: and behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him: lo, I have told you.”‘

(We should note that this is the only account of the ‘keepers” or soldiers in regards to any of the visits to the tomb. This is because after what happened they fled to tell the chief priests the things they saw.)

Response of the visitors;

“And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, ‘All hail.’ And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshiped Him. Then said Jesus unto them, ‘Be not afraid: go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee and there shall they see Me.”‘

Response of the disciples to the resurrection report;

Matthew does not record the women telling the disciples the news. This may possibly be because the women did not tell for fear of credibility with the disciples. This would account for a second trip in which Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James sought to take “other women” with them back to the tomb under the pretense of preparing the body of Jesus as they had earlier planned to. If so, it is likely these new women were told nothing of what the two Marys had seen earlier. Then, with the extra witness of the other women they would be bolder to confront the disciples with the news.

Trip 2 – Luke 24

1. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they [The first women] came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others [women brought they] with them.
2. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

Who went;

Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women (Luke 24:10).


“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1).

Notice the Apostle Luke says nothing in regards to the light of day? That is because it was still dark. This “very early in the morning” was apparently before sunrise.

This trip’s purpose;

The women came bringing the spices they had prepared to anoint the body of Jesus. Perhaps this was the pretense of the trip (I’ll explain why later) in which Mary Magdalene and the other Mary brought “certain others with them” (Luke 24:1).

What happened;

“They found the stone rolled away” (Luke 24:2). There was no earthquake, no soldiers, and no angel sitting upon the stone. Therefore “they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed there about, behold two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they (the two angels) said unto them, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?”‘

This first part of the comment by the angels was perhaps a rebuke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who were told earlier by the first angel, who rolled back the stone, that Jesus had risen. Not only were they told this, but they had also seen Him as well when they left the tomb earlier. Still, these two angels confirm the message to all the women, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet 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. And they remembered His words” (Luke 24.6-8).

Response of the visitors;

“And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles” (Luke 24:9,10).

Response of the disciples to the resurrection report;

“And their words seemed as idle tales, and they believed them not.”

How well the women knew the disciples of Jesus. Even though there were many witnesses, the disciples refused to believe. This disbelief of the disciples was probably coupled with ridicule, much like when Peter was freed from prison by the angel and knocked at the door of the house. When the damsel “came to hearken . . . she knew Peter’s voice and ran in told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her ‘Thou art mad!”‘ (Acts 12:13,14).

The disciples were frequently given to fits of unbelief and strife amongst themselves. Now to have these women telling them the unheard of, it is not hard to see how they could lash out at these women (even though Jesus Himself told them these things would be). Mary Magdalene, overcome by their disbelief and cruelty returns to the tomb again by herself, questioning herself of all she has seen and heard.

Trip 3 – John 20

1. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

Who went;

Mary Magdalene alone.


“The first day of the week . . . early, when it is yet dark” (John 20:1).


To settle her own confusion brought on by what all she had seen and the disciples strong hurtful response toward her “idle tales.”

What happened;

Mary, upon her return, sees that the stone is indeed rolled away from the opening of the sepluchre. Determined to settle what is going on, she returns this time to find “Peter and the other disciple” and because they did not believe her first report, she now tells them a new report “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him” (John 20:2).

Response of the disciples to Mary’s new report;

“Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they both ran together: and the other did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 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 just as it had been wrapped about Jesus’ head in a place by itself. Then went in that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.”

But they believed what? They did not believe the first report of Jesus’ resurrection, but they did believe this second report that His body was stolen.

“For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home” (John 20:3-10).

How Mary’s crisis was settled;

Peter and John’s belief that the body of Jesus had been stolen offered no comfort to Mary. She had seen angels and heard their glorious report of Jesus’ resurrection and yet nobody believed her. Now in despair, she questions all she had seen and heard. Having been left by the two disciples, “Mary stood without the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain”

“And they said unto her, ‘Woman, why weepest thou?” The angels (knowing that Mary had been told by them, or other angels, that Jesus had risen) did not understand Mary’s sorrow. She said unto them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.”This statement clearly reveals how the disciples’ lack of faith had virtually destroyed Mary’s own. Fortunately the Author and Finisher of her faith was jealous for her.

“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, ‘Woman, why weepest thou?’ She supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, ‘Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away.”‘

Poor Mary, her hope was so crushed by the disciples ridicule and lack of faith, that now she too, regardless of the angelic reports, believes Jesus to be still dead.

“Jesus saith unto her, ‘Mary.’ She turned herself, and saith unto Him, ‘Rabboni’ which is to say, ‘Master”‘ (John 20:11-16).

How comforting it must have been to hear that voice of love speak her name again. A voice which she, (being one of His sheep), had come to know and trust. All Jesus said was her name and her faith was restored. Oh if we would only listen when Jesus calls us by name, what healing power His voice could have for us!

Trip 4 – Mark 16

1. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.


2. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

The fact that the sun was recorded as “rising” makes this the latest trip recorded.

Who went;

Having already been confronted by the disbelief of the disciples Mary Magdalene now goes and finds Mary the mother of James and Salome, and they get other women. Instead of them telling the other women about Jesus’ resurrection and risk being ridiculed by them as well, they kept their secret. In pretense they continue with their original plans to take the herbs, which they had purchased after the first day of the seven consecutive days of the Feast of the Unleaven Bread, and go to anoint the body of Jesus.

And as they went “they said among themselves, ‘Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?”‘ It was probably the two Mary’s asking this question of the other women. Like most people with a secret, they had a hard time keeping this one to themselves. So while not talking about what all they had seen earlier, they talk about what they know will be the first sign of Jesus’ resurrection that the other women will see.

4. And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment: and they were affrighted.

Notice how here in Mark’s account there is only “one young man” here and not “two angels?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of this being an angel, it was actually the thief on the cross next to Jesus? I’m not saying it was, but is there someone who can say it was not? The scriptures make the point how this “one young man” was clothe in a “long white garment.” It is white raiment which represents the righteousness of the saints and what better garment for the one whom by faith stood by Jesus at the end? What better reward than to be one of those privileged to declare His resurrection? Does not Matthew tell us, “And the graves were open: and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the grave after His resurrection, and went and appeared unto many?” Who can truly tell? Certainly not I. But in case you are not hearing me, once again, I’m not saying it was without a doubt the thief on the cross . . . but then who can say it was not?

6. And he saith unto them, ‘Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they had lain Him.

For even here we can see his reference to Jesus as being “of Nazareth” is the way the people referred to one another back then. Like “Paul of Tarsus” or “Simon, a Cyrenian,” or “Joseph of Arimathea,” or “Mnason of Cyprus.” Men identified men with where they came from. The angel in Matthew referred to Jesus as the “Lord.” This by far is the most accurate account of Jesus, “Lord.” To refer to Jesus as being from Nazareth is more the perspective of man than that of God or the angels. They know from whence He truly came.

7.  But go your way, [as you were previously told], and tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.

8. And they went out quickly and fled from the sepulcher; for they trembled and were amazed; neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid.

Can you imagine Mary Magdalene going back to try and tell the disciples again what they all saw? If indeed it was the thief on the cross? Can you see her telling them that she saw the thief as well? “I saw the thief that was crucified with Jesus and he said Jesus is alive too!” I’m sure that would have gone over really big.

Luke and John both mention how the women, then Mary, all told someone what they saw and heard, but not here. This time the encounter and message were not told “to any man: for they were afraid.” What were the women afraid of? The reason they told no one because they “afraid” of more and even greater ridicule. Now had this “young man . . . clothed in a long white garment” had been an angel, his angelic position would have perhaps obliged the women to go and tell. But if this “man,” was the condemned thief, what authority had he? Of course you and l, not in their situation, can readily see his authority would be of God. But put yourself in their position. Put yourself in Mary Magdalene’s, after all she had been through. What would you do?

It was not until Sunday evening (before sunset because it is still the first day of the week) that Jesus appeared unto all the disciples “as they sat at meat.” Then Jesus rebuked them for “their unbelief (lack of faith) and hardness of heart (lack of compassion on the women), because they believed not them which had seen Him after He had risen!”

Please, do not be as they were, slow to believe all that the scriptures tell you. It truly is as Jesus said unto Thomas, “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Therefore I pray you too may be blessed for your belief in His resurrection.

In light of the fact the Jesus’ resurrection took place on the Sabbath, and not Sunday morning, (as most have been taught), one would do well to be prayerful regarding the soundness of teaching of Sunday being the new “Christian Sabbath” or proof for ignoring the Sabbath. For if such teaching is founded solely upon the assumption that Sunday is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, then the foundation for Sunday being the new “Lord’s Day” may well be one of sand and not stone.

When considering the Sabbath, I am reminded of the words of God spoken to us by His prophet Isaiah as he prophesied of the Lord’s coming judgment. “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and turneth it upside down . . . because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, [thus] broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24:1-5). Notice “laws” is plural and “ordinance” is singular. Of all the Ten Commandments there is only one ordinance given, that being “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” These are sobering words that cause me to cautiously consider the wisdom of some who seemingly dismiss the Fourth Commandment but not the rest.

However, please, please, do not let this be a means of divisiveness. In these times we must focus on drawing near to God and seeking Him while He may be found. The Sabbath may indeed be a blessing to those who find rest and communion with God on that day – but it is no wise a foundational stone for their salvation. Jesus Christ slain and resurrected  is the only foundation for salvation in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Remember, if at all possible, follow peace with all men and that true faith works by love, sacrificial love.

1Co 13:8 Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we all only know in part, and therefore we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then this which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 Likewise, presently we see through a glass, darkly; but then it will be face to face: now I can only know in part; but then I will know even as also I am known.
13 Right now abides faith, hope, charity,  but of these three the greatest is charity.

Live for the King.

Chart of Days and Events

  1. doug says:

    Thank you for these facts,… thats very helpful to me being a new Christian


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