Hi, I'm Tim Coombs, co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY and a member of the network of biblical storytellers. To learn more about its mission, go to nbsint.org.
First, Jesus is in a tomb. He is crucified, and he is wrapped in a cloth and placed in a tomb with a big stone rolled against the tomb. And this is where the stories begin to change.
In Mark, the earliest gospels, the women come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. And when they get there, the stone is already rolled away. They go inside. There is an angel there. There’s no Jesus. And the angel tells them to go and tell the disciples, especially Peter, that he is going to Galilee ahead of them. And Mark ends this gospel by saying, “And the women said nothing to anybody, because they were afraid.”
In Matthew’s gospel, there is a tremendous earthquake that rolls the stone away, and an angel comes and sits up on the stone. The guards who were there to protect anybody from taking the body just folded down like dead men. And we don’t see the body of Jesus coming out, but he is just not there.
In Luke, It’s a similar situation. The women coming to the tomb, and the body is not there. But the real resurrection story in Luke is called “The Walk to Emmaus,” where two other disciples are walking to this town about 7 miles from Jerusalem, and Jesus appears to them and walks with them on the road till they don’t recognize him. And it’s only when they are sitting at table in Emmaus, and Jesus breaks bread. And it says, “Their eyes were open, and they recognized him,” and then he disappears.
John’s gospel: Mary goes to the tomb. She does not find Jesus. She runs and tells peter, and he and the disciples who Jesus loves, they run to the tomb. Peter goes into the tomb, and they don’t see the body. And so they were perplexed and wondering. They go back, and Mary is still outside the tomb. And Jesus appears to her. She thinks it’s the gardener, and she asks if he knows where the body is. And he says, “Mary.” And then she recognizes him.
So each version from each gospel is a little bit different, but the important point is that Jesus is raised by God from the dead and leaves the tomb. And there, for Christians, is the belief that “God conquers death with life.”