10 Steps to Reflect On for the Morning After Easter
I have tackled my share of jigsaw puzzles over the years, and the most satisfying part is when you’re into the home stretch and all of the pieces are coming together fast and furious. There is a particularly special feeling of completion when that one last piece clicks into place.
I had that feeling recently when a Bible class took me through the events of Easter morning and showed me how all of the puzzle pieces from the four Gospels fit together.
The first Easter morning was a crazy and confusing climax to the most incredible week in the history of the world. But if you read the accounts in the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it’s easy to get confused about how all of the stories fit together. There are a lot of names to keep track of and a lot of running around, as people hurried from John’s house to the tomb, and from Jerusalem to Bethany and Emmaus, encountering angels and Jesus along the way.
I have been auditing a class on the New Testament at the Urbana Theological Seminary here in Illinois, and our professor, Dr. Ken Cuffey, walked us through the steps of that first Easter Day. He based his melding of the stories on the book, Easter Enigma, by John Wenham.
So here I go with my condensed version…Easter morning in 10 steps.
- The day began with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome taking spices to the tomb early in the morning. The spices were for controlling odors and honoring the deceased’s body.
Most of you are probably familiar with Mary Magdalene, but who in the world were Salome and this other Mary? (There are an awful lot of Mary’s running around in the New Testament. Some people count seven of them.) Here’s what we know about the other two women:
–Mary, the mother of James, is the wife of Clopas. She is also sometimes referred to as the “Other Mary,” although I’m pretty sure she didn’t write “Other Mary” on her nametag at synagogue potlucks. Just to get you good and confused, both this Mary and Salome have children named James.
–Salome is the sister of Jesus’s mother, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of the disciples, James and John.
So Mary Magdalene, the Other Mary, and Salome went to the tomb where they saw that the grave had been opened. (Mark 16:1-3 and Matthew 28:1.)
- Seeing the gravestone moved, Mary Magdalene ran back into the city. She left the gravesite to report to the disciples what they discovered, leaving Salome and the Other Mary back at the tomb.
Mary Magdalene probably dashed through the city’s Gennath Gate to reach John’s house in the southern part of Jerusalem, where she told John and Peter about the empty tomb (John 20:1-2).
- While all of this was happening, Joanna left the Hasmonean Palace in Jerusalem and headed for the tomb. Coming from the palace, Joanna would most likely have passed through the city’s Ephraim Gate. That’s why she didn’t encounter Mary Magdalene, who went in and out of an entirely different gate.
Joanna was a wealthy woman who followed Jesus, and she was the wife of the steward to Herod Antipas. When she reached the tomb, she found Salome and the Other Mary still there, and they entered the tomb, where they discovered two angels.
“He is not here; He has risen!” the angels announced. (Luke 24:2-8)
- Salome, Joanna, and the Other Mary dashed back to John’s house in the city. The three women gave the disciples an update, following up on Mary Magdalene’s report. (Luke 24:9-11)
- John and Peter sprinted to the tomb, followed behind by Mary Magdalene. John was the faster runner, and he reached the tomb first, where he found the strips of linen but no body. (John 20:3-9) Mary Magdalene, meanwhile, was right behind the men, probably winded from all of her running around.
- After finding the tomb empty, John and Peter returned to the house, leaving Mary Magdalene alone and overcome with emotion. Crying, Mary Magdalene peeked into the tomb and saw two angels in white. The angels asked why she was crying, and she said, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they put him.”
As Mary turned around, she encountered a man, whom she believed to be a gardener. When she suddenly realized it was Jesus, she cried “Rabboni!”—Aramaic for “Teacher.” (John 20:10-18)
- The Other Mary and Salome headed to nearby Bethany, because nine of the disciples were staying there and still hadn’t heard the news. On the way, they encountered Jesus and fell at his feet. (Matthew 28:8-10)
- Clopas and a companion set out for Emmaus, and they met Jesus on the way. Remember, Clopas was the husband of the Other Mary. You’re going to be tested on all of this. (Luke 24:13-32)
- Hearing news of the resurrection, the other nine apostles (except for Thomas) marched from Bethany to Jerusalem, where they all came together in a room. (Luke 24:33 and John 20:19).
- Clopas and his companion, who had been on the Road to Emmaus, returned to Jerusalem with their report of seeing Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus appeared to all of the disciples gathered together. (John 20:19-23 and Luke 24:33-43)
Jesus managed to enter this room, even though the doors were locked, and He announced, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed the disciples His hands and His side, and the disciples were overjoyed. Good old Doubting Thomas wasn’t there, but he had his own dramatic encounter with Jesus one week later.
A lot more happened, as Jesus continued to make miraculous appearances in Galilee before His ascension, but hopefully this gives you some idea of how the events unfolded on Easter morning. It was a confusing, chaotic morning, but that’s just what you would have expected, as people spread the news of this remarkable turn of events. The confusion is actually a sign that the story was true.
But that’s not the only aspect of the story that reinforces its authenticity. Another thing was the role of women. As you can see, women were the first to discover and report that Jesus’s body was gone. If you were going to concoct such a story, you probably wouldn’t have selected women as your first eyewitnesses. In a world where women were not considered reliable witnesses, someone making up such a story would have chosen men as the eyewitnesses.
“Let not the testimony of women be admitted because of the levity and boldness of their sex,” the ancient historian Josephus once said. But two thousand years ago, it was the testimony of a few women that turned the world upside down. It’s a piece of the puzzle that no one saw coming.
History by the Slice Family Activity
Read the resurrection accounts in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. Then discuss these questions:
- Why do you think Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize Jesus at first?
- Why do you think Jesus wanted to show the disciples His wounds after His resurrection?
- Where is Bethany located in relation to Jerusalem? (You’ll need to check online for a map.)
- Where is Emmaus in relation to Jerusalem? (Again, check a map.)
- Who were the different women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna? What do we know about them?
- How dangerous was the story of the resurrection to the followers of Jesus?
- What would you have done if you had discovered the empty tomb?
By: Doug Peterson has written 42 books for VeggieTales and is the author of four historical novels: The Disappearing Man, The Puzzle People, The Vanishing Woman, and The Lincoln League. Visit Doug at www.bydougpeterson.com.
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