Burial and Resurrection (Matthew 27:57-28:20; Mark 15:42-16:20; Luke 23:50-24:53; John 19:38-21:25)

According to Matthew 27:57 and Mark 15:42, it was “evening” (opsía) when Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. This would have been late in the afternoon, for it was still the day before the Sabbath, which began at sundown. (Mark 15:42) Joseph, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, had kept his belief in Jesus secret. Although a good and just man who looked forward to the kingdom of God, Joseph appears to have been fearful about openly identifying himself as a believer. He did not, however, give his consent to the Sanhedrin’s decision to condemn Jesus. Fully aware of the grave injustice that had been committed, Joseph overcame his fear and boldly went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. (Matthew 27:58; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-52; John 19:38; see the Notes section for comments regarding Arimathea.)

The report about the death came as a surprise to Pilate, and he inquired of the centurion in charge of the crucifixion whether Jesus had indeed died. After making certain that Jesus was dead, Pilate granted Joseph permission to take the body for burial. (Mark 15:44, 45)

It appears that Joseph had discussed his plan with another member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus (likewise a secret disciple). Both men, doubtless with the aid of servants, removed the body and prepared it for burial. Nicodemus had arranged to bring a mixture of myrrh and aloes (possibly the fragrant substance derived from the aloe tree [Aquilaria agallocha]), weighing about a hundred pounds. According to customary Jewish practice at that time, Jesus’ body was wrapped in linen bandages along with the fragrant mixture. In Joseph’s own new rock-cut tomb in a garden near Golgotha, the men placed the body and then rolled a large stone over the tomb entrance. (Matthew 27:59, 60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53; John 19:39-41) An expanded reading of Luke 23:53 in fifth-century Codex Bezae indicates that it would have been difficult for 20 men to roll the stone. The time for preparing Jesus’ body for burial had been very limited, for it was the “day of Preparation” when activities needed to be completed before the Sabbath began at sundown and work restrictions would begin to apply. (Luke 23:54)

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Clopas and the mother of Joses (Joseph) and James the less (or the younger) observed what the men did and followed them to the tomb. (Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55, 56; compare Mark 15:40; John 19:25.) After Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus left, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained seated opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:61) In view of the hurried manner in which the men had to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, the two women may have talked about what they might still be able to do. Upon returning to the place where they were staying, they quickly prepared spices and ointments. In faithful obedience to the law, they then observed the Sabbath. (Luke 23:56)

On that Sabbath day (the one following the “day of Preparation”), the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, requesting that he station a guard at the tomb until the third day. Referring to Jesus as an “impostor” or “deceiver,” they recalled that he, while still alive, had talked about rising again in three days. For this reason, they wanted a guard at the tomb so that the disciples would not be able to steal the body and then proclaim to the people that he had been raised from the dead. In their view, this deception about a claimed resurrection would be worse than the initial deception they attributed to Jesus. Pilate’s response may be understood to mean that they were to use their own guard or that he was making a guard available to them. After leaving, they sealed the stone that was over the tomb entrance and stationed the guard. (Matthew 27:62-66; see the Notes section for additional comments about the guard.)

Early in the morning of the first day of the week (the day after the Sabbath), Mary Magdalene, the other Mary (the wife of Clopas and the mother of James the less [or the younger] and Joses [Joseph]), and Salome (the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John), with the spices they had prepared before the Sabbath, headed for the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. While on the way, they talked among themselves about who would assist them to roll the stone away from the tomb entrance. Wanting to be at the location as early as possible, the women had left the place or places where they were staying while it was still dark. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; see the Notes section regarding Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1, 10, and John 20:1.)

Before the women arrived at the tomb, a powerful earthquake had occurred. An angel, with an appearance comparable to the brightness of lightning and clothed in pure white (the whiteness of snow), had descended from heaven and rolled away the stone. Terrified, those guarding the tomb trembled and came to be like dead men, unable to move. Seemingly, after recovering from the frightening experience, they left. Some of the guard went to the chief priests to report what had happened. For a time, the angel sat on the stone he had rolled away from the tomb entrance. (Matthew 28:2-4, 11)

When the women approached the tomb, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. Possibly, at this point, Mary Magdalene ran back to Jerusalem to let Peter and John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) know what she had seen. The empty tomb suggested to her that the Lord had been taken away. Including herself with the other women, she said, “We do not know where they have laid him.” (Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1, 2) Thereafter Peter and John ran as quickly as they could to the site. (John 20:3) As for Mary Magdalene, she, too, made her way back to the tomb.

Perhaps immediately after Mary Magdalene started to run back to Jerusalem, the other Mary and Salome entered the tomb. They were startled to see a young man (an angel), dressed in a white robe and seated on the right side. (Mark 16:5) He reassured them, telling them not to be alarmed or frightened and informing them that he knew they were looking for Jesus who had been crucified. The angel continued, “He is not here, for he has been raised up, just as he said. Come, see the place where he lay [the Lord lay, according to other manuscripts; they laid him (Mark 16:6)].” (Matthew 28:5, 6; note the similar wording of Mark 16:6, suggesting that both Matthew 28:5, 6, and Mark 16:6 relate to the same incident.]) Additionally, the angel directed the women to tell Peter and the other disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead and that he would be going ahead of them to Galilee, where they would see him. (Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7; see the Notes section regarding Matthew 28:7 and Mark 16:7.)

It seems likely that the women from Galilee would have been staying at various places in Jerusalem and so a number of them may well have arrived at the tomb later. Like Mary (the wife of Clopas) and Salome, the other women would have been perplexed upon seeing the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Perhaps when all the women were outside, two angels appeared. The angels, wearing brilliant garments, looked like men. Frightened, the women bowed their heads to the ground. They then heard the words, “Why are you looking among the dead for the one who lives?” The women were then reminded that, while still in Galilee, Jesus had told them that he would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and be raised on the third day. (Luke 24:2-7; see the Notes section for comments regarding Luke 24:6.) Upon hearing this, the women recalled what Jesus had said. (Luke 24:8)

They quickly left the tomb. Their great joy stemming from having learned about Jesus’ resurrection was coupled with “fear” and “trembling.” This “fear” and “trembling” probably relates to the overwhelming awe they experienced from having seen and heard angels who declared that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The women hurried (as in flight) back to Jerusalem to relate the news to the apostles and other disciples. Along the way, they said nothing to anyone, for they were in the grip of awe and amazement. (Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:9)

Post-Resurrection Appearances

Then Jesus appeared to them. After he greeted them, they took hold of his feet and prostrated themselves before him. (Matthew 28:9; see the Notes section for additional comments.) He allayed their apprehension with the words, “Do not be afraid,” adding that they should tell his brothers (the disciples) that they should go to Galilee, where he would see them. (Matthew 28:10)

Meanwhile some of the guards that had been stationed at the tomb went to the chief priests, telling them what had taken place. After consulting with certain elders, they decided to bribe the soldiers with a significant amount of money so that they would tell others that Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body while they were sleeping. The chief priests assured the guards that they would see to it that there would be nothing for them to worry about in the event Pilate heard about this. The guards took the money and did as the chief priests had instructed, resulting in this version about the empty tomb being spread among the unbelieving Jews. (Matthew 28:11-15)

After the women had departed from the tomb, Peter and John came running toward it. Probably because of being the younger man and able to move faster, John arrived first, bent down to look into the tomb, and saw the linen with which Jesus’ body had been wrapped. Upon reaching the tomb, Peter immediately entered and saw the linen wrappings. He noticed that the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was rolled up and lying by itself. John, who had reached the tomb first, entered afterward. Based on his seeing the empty tomb, the wrappings, and the rolled-up cloth, “he believed.” This suggests that what he saw in the tomb convinced him that no one could have taken the body away and left the wrappings and the cloth behind, indicating that Jesus had been raised from the dead. (John 20:3-8; see the Notes section for comments on Luke 24:12.)

In view of John’s believing, the words of John 20:9 appear to be a comment about the disciples as a group. They had not as yet come to understand the scripture, which revealed that Jesus had to rise from the dead. According to John 20:10, they individually went to their respective places.

After Peter and John had left, Mary Magdalene came back to the tomb and began to weep. While tears were flowing from her eyes, she bent down to look into the tomb. Inside were two angels, one was sitting where Jesus’ head had been and the other one where his feet had lain. Asked why she was weeping, Mary replied, “They have removed my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:11-13)

Possibly becoming aware that someone was behind her, she turned around and saw Jesus but did not recognize him. He asked her why she was weeping and for whom she was looking. Thinking he was the gardener, she wanted him, if he had taken the body, to tell her where he had placed it. In her distraught state, she added, “I will take him away.” (John 20:14, 15) It is inconceivable that she would have been strong enough to carry the body, revealing that her words were prompted by intense emotion.

Seemingly, Mary could not tear herself away from the place where the body had been. Probably, because Jesus did not immediately reply, she again looked in the direction of the tomb. Upon then hearing Jesus call her “Mary,” doubtless in the familiar tone she had often heard, she recognized him, turned around, and said, Rabbouni, meaning “Teacher.” (John 20:16)

The account does not say whether Mary then took hold of Jesus but relates his words to her, “Do not touch [or cling to] me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

Many have understood the present tense of the Greek verbs to mean that Jesus was then about to ascend to his Father and did not want Mary to delay him from doing so. Mary’s action would then be comparable to what Jacob did when trying to secure a blessing for himself by trying to hold on to the angel who wanted to ascend. (Genesis 32:26) If the present tense is meant to be taken literally, this would mean that the post-resurrection appearances were like those of angels and that the ascension from the Mount of Olives revealed that the disciples should not expect to see him again until his return in glory. (Acts 1:9-11)

If, on the other hand, the present tense simply refers to the future ascension from the Mount of Olives that was certain to take place, Jesus’ words to Mary may mean that the time for close personal association had ended. His having been raised from the dead did not mean a return to the kind of interaction with him that had existed previously.

Mary Magdalene headed back to Jerusalem and then told the disciples there that she had seen the Lord and what he had said to her. (John 20:18) According to Luke 24:10, the apostles heard about the resurrection of Jesus from Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women. In view of the more detailed account in John chapter 20 about Mary Magdalene, the words in Luke 24:10 appear to be a summary statement, with no distinction being made about when the various reports about the resurrection reached the apostles. Although the women told them what they had seen and heard, the apostles did not believe them. Whether the apostles dismissed the women’s testimony as empty talk because of a prejudicial view about the reliability of the word of women is not revealed in the account. (Luke 24:11) That such prejudice appears to have existed among Jewish men is evident from the words of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, “Let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” (Antiquities, IV, viii, 15)

Later that day, Cleopas and another disciple were traveling to Emmaus, a village located about seven miles from Jerusalem. While they were talking about what had happened to Jesus, he approached them and started to walk with them. They, however, did not recognize him. (Luke 24:13-16) According to the longer text of Mark chapter 16 found in fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Ephraemi, Codex Bezae, and other manuscripts, Jesus appeared to them in a “different form.” (Mark 16:12; see the Notes section for comments regarding Mark 16:9-20.) When he asked them about what they were discussing, they stood still, their faces reflecting sadness. (Luke 24:17; numerous later manuscripts represent Jesus as asking them about what they were discussing while they walked and were sad.)

Cleopas replied, “Are you living as a lone stranger in Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus responded, “What things?” They explained, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who proved to be a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. We, though, had hoped that he would be the one to deliver Israel. But besides all this, it is the third day from the time these things happened. Furthermore, some women from among us have astounded us, for they went early to the tomb and did not find his body. They came [to the disciples], saying they had seen a vision of angels who said he is alive. And some of those with us [Peter and John, according to John chapter 20] went to the tomb and found it just as the women said [namely, empty], but they did not see him.” (Luke 24:19-24)

Jesus reproved them for their failure to use discernment (being senseless or obtuse) and their slowness to comprehend (slowness in heart) respecting the things the prophets spoke. He asked them, “Was it not needful for the Christ to suffer these things and [afterward] to enter into his glory?” Starting with Moses and then referring to all the prophets, he explained to them things set forth in all the scriptures about himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

As they neared the village of Emmaus, Jesus seemed to indicate that he intended to travel on farther, opening an opportunity for the two disciples to initiate inviting him to remain with them. They were insistent that he stay with them, as it was already late in the day. He then accompanied them into the home. While he reclined with them at the table, he took a loaf, said a blessing, broke it, and then handed a piece of bread to each one. Observing what they appear to have seen Jesus do on other occasions, they recognized him, and he then disappeared. (Luke 24:28-31)

Cleopas and his companion remarked to one another about the effect Jesus’ words had on them, “Were not our hearts [in us, according to numerous manuscripts] burning when he spoke to us on the way, as he was explaining the scriptures to us?” This suggests that, in their hearts, or deep within themselves, they perceived a warm feeling of rekindled hope and comfort. They then decided to return to Jerusalem, letting the apostles know about their experience. When Cleopas and his companion arrived in Jerusalem, they found the apostles and others at the same place and sharing the news that Peter had actually seen the risen Lord. The two disciples then related what had happened on the way to Emmaus and how they came to recognize Jesus when he broke the loaf. (Luke 24:32-35; regarding Luke 24:33, see the Notes section.)

It was late on that day, the first day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead. Being fearful on account of the unbelieving Jews, the disciples had chosen to be assembled behind locked doors. Suddenly they saw Jesus standing in their midst. His first words to them were, “Peace [be] to you.” Jesus’ death had plunged them into a state of fear and uncertainty, robbing them of peace, an inner sense of calmness and well-being. Despite his reassuring words, the disciples were frightened. The manner in which he had suddenly appeared in their midst caused them to imagine that they were seeing a spirit, a phantom, an apparition, or a ghost. (Luke 24:36, 37; John 20:19; see the Notes section regarding Luke 24:36.) They reacted as on an earlier occasion when they saw Jesus walking toward them on water while they were in a boat. (Mark 6:49)

In response to their reaction, he asked why they were troubled and why doubts had arisen in their hearts. Jesus made it clear to them that he was indeed in their midst. They were not seeing an impalpable apparition. “See my hands and my feet,” he continued. “I am he. Touch me, and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.” (Luke 24:38-40) According to John 20:20, he showed them his hands and his side, and the reading of Luke 24:40 in the oldest extant manuscripts and in many others indicates that he showed them his hands and his feet. (See the Notes section regarding Luke 24:40.)

Although the disciples were filled with joy, they still appear to have found it hard to believe that Jesus was indeed alive and remained in a state of wonderment or amazement. To provide them with additional proof that they were not seeing a spirit or a phantom, he asked them whether they had something to eat. Upon being handed a piece of broiled fish, he took it and ate it as they looked on. (Luke 24:41-43)

Jesus reminded them regarding what he had said to them while he had been with them in the past, that everything written about him in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms had to be fulfilled. He explained to them the scriptures, aiding them to have a mental grasp of their significance, and then related what their commission as apostles would be, saying, “It is written, that the Christ [is] to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and [that] repentance for forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, starting from Jerusalem. And, see! I am sending upon you the promise of my Father [that is, the holy spirit]. You, however, stay in the city until you come to be clothed with power from the height.” Jesus’ words to them indicated that they would not begin proclaiming the message about him outside Jerusalem until they had been empowered by holy spirit to do so. (Luke 24:44-49)

On this occasion, according to John 20:21, Jesus again expressed his desire for his disciples to have peace. Just as the Father had sent him, he was then sending them forth, the implied purpose being for them to make known the good news about him and his resurrection. Possibly to assure the disciples that they would be certain soon to receive the holy spirit to assist them in carrying out their commission, he blew upon them and said, “Receive holy spirit.” (John 20:21, 22)

As the disciples would be carrying out their commission as persons whom Jesus had sent forth, the community of believers would grow and certain ones in their midst would fail to conduct themselves according to his example and teaching. This would require the disciples to render judgments about such erring associates. Regarding those who committed serious sins, Jesus said to the disciples, “If you forgive [their] sins, they are forgiven them. If you retain [their sins, not forgiving them], they are retained [against them].” (John 20:23) In the case of individuals who unrepentantly persisted in a life of sin, the retaining of their sins would signify their no longer being part of the community of believers. (Compare 1 Corinthians 5:1-7; 6:9, 10.)

Thomas (called Didymus or the “Twin”) was not with the other apostles when Jesus appeared to them. Later, they told him, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas, though, did not believe them, saying, “Unless I see the impression of the nails in his hands and place my finger in the impression of the nails and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24, 25; in the Greek text two words for “not” appear, indicating that Thomas would positively not believe unless he had concrete evidence.)

After “eight days” (counting the day on which the apostles saw Jesus as one of the eight), or a week later, Thomas and the others were together behind locked doors. Jesus, as on the previous occasion, appeared in their midst, saying to them, “Peace [be] to you.” Turning his attention to Thomas, he said, “Place your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and put it in my side, and cease being unbelieving but become believing.” Upon hearing an echo of the words he had used in his response to the other disciples when they told him that they had seen Jesus, Thomas was overcome with emotion. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28; see the Notes section or additional comments regarding John 20:28.)

Whether Thomas actually felt Jesus’ hands and his side is not revealed in the account. The words directed to him appear to have been enough to convince him. Jesus continued, “Do you believe because you have seen me? Fortunate are those who have not seen and [nevertheless] believe.” (John 20:29)

For the many millions who have put their faith in Jesus throughout the centuries, the kind of proof that Thomas wanted has not been granted. Yet, they believed and their lives were enriched. As Jesus said, all such believers are “fortunate,” “blessed,” or “happy,” enjoying the enviable state of well-being that comes from knowing the Son of God and his Father and being sharers in all the blessings associated therewith.

Not long thereafter the apostles and other disciples traveled back to Galilee, confident that they would meet Jesus there. Aside from seeing him again at the mountain he had designated (Matthew 28:16), the disciples did not know when or if they might see him on other occasions.

When back at his home in Galilee, Peter remarked to some of the other apostles about his intent to go fishing. They decided to go with him, pursuing their customary occupation on the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberias). With Peter, six others got into the boat. They were Thomas (Didymus [the “Twin”]), Nathanael from Cana, the sons of Zebedee (James and John), and two others. Likely Peter’s brother Andrew was one of the two unnamed apostles, and the other one may have been Nathanael’s close companion Philip. (Compare John 1:43-45.) During the entire night spent in fishing, they caught nothing. (John 21:1-3)

Early in the morning, Jesus appeared on the shore, but the apostles did not recognize him. He called out to them, “Boys [literally, children], do you have anything to eat?” “No,” came back the reply. Jesus directed them to cast their net on the right side of the boat to make a catch. When they did so, the net filled with so many fish that they were unable to haul it up. At that, John (the disciple for whom Jesus had great affection) said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Hearing this, Peter, who had been naked (probably to be prepared to jump from the boat if it became necessary to attend to a net in the water), put on his garment, plunged into the lake, and swam a distance of about 200 cubits or approximately 300 feet. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net filled with fish. (John 21:4-8)

Jesus had made preparations for them to eat. Already fish and bread were lying on a charcoal fire, and Jesus asked for some fish from the catch to be brought to him. Peter boarded the boat and hauled the net to the shore. Although it contained 153 large fish, the net did not tear. When the food was ready to eat, Jesus invited the disciples to have breakfast and handed them bread and fish. (John 21:9-13)

They could not bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 21:12) This was because they recognized him to be Jesus. It would seem, therefore, that the recognition was not based on his physical features but on the revelation of his miraculous knowledge. Just as the clothing he wore would not have been identical to the garments the Roman soldiers then possessed, his resurrection body was different. Like the angels, he could appear and then vanish from sight. All the recorded instances of his post-resurrection appearances proved to be comparatively brief. Their main purpose, during the course of 40 days, served to convince the disciples that he was indeed alive. If he could have been readily recognized at all times, his presenting them with “many proofs” would not have been necessary. (Acts 1:3) People do not need “many proofs” to recognize a close friend who may have been away for a short time but whom they, on the basis of unsubstantiated reports, had presumed to be dead.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance at the Sea of Galilee was the third of the ones where most of the apostles saw him. (John 21:14) The first time all the apostles, with the exception of Thomas, were present. (John 20:24) On the second occasion, all the apostles saw him. (John 20:26)

After the apostles had finished eating breakfast, Jesus directed his words to Peter, saying, “Simon [son of] John [Jonah, according to the reading of other manuscripts], do you love [agapáo] me more than these?” Confident that Jesus knew the answer, Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love [philéo] you.” (John 21:15; see the Notes section for additional comments regarding John 21:15-17.)

In the question that Jesus is represented as asking, the Greek pronoun for “these” can be either masculine (referring to the other disciples) or neuter (everything related to fish and fishing). A number of translations render the question with explicit application to the disciples. “Do you love me more than these others?” (Phillips, REB) “Do you love me more than the others do?” (CEV) This would appear to be the preferable understanding. It would be more in line with Peter’s eagerness in getting to the shore as quickly as possible and his previous affirmation during the observance of the Passover that he would not be stumbled even though all the others might be and that he would be willing to die with Jesus. (Mark 14:29-31)

Indicating how Peter could express his love for him, Jesus said, “Feed my lambs [arníon].” (John 21:15) As an apostle, one whom Jesus had personally instructed, Peter was in position to care for the spiritual interests of fellow disciples. These disciples were the sheep who belonged to Jesus and for whom he had surrendered his life.

Again Jesus asked him, “Simon [son of] John [Jonah, according to other manuscripts], do you love [agapáo] me?” As he had expressed himself the first time, Peter reaffirmed his love, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love [philéo] you.” Jesus then repeated the admonition, “Tend my sheep [próbaton or probátion (little sheep) in other manuscripts].” (John 21:16)

When Jesus, for a third time, asked Peter, “Simon [son] of John [Jonah, according to other manuscripts], do you love [philéo] me?” he felt hurt. Hearing the question for the third time may have led to his recalling with sadness that he had disowned Jesus three times. Nevertheless, Peter did not waver in expressing his love for him. “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love [philéo] you.” Jesus then repeated, “Feed my sheep [próbaton or probátion (little sheep) in other manuscripts].” (John 21:17) This assignment to serve as a caring shepherd for the sheep reflected Jesus’ confidence in Peter and may well have served to lift from him any lingering burdening effect his previous three denials may have had.

At this point, Jesus looked to the end of Peter’s faithful service. In his younger years, Peter had been a man of action. Girding himself to undertake his activity and walking where he chose to go. Upon getting old, he would stretch out his hands and someone else would gird him and take him to a place where he would not want to go. Jesus thus indicated that Peter, in his declining years, would be forcibly taken to the place of execution. Dying as a martyr on account of remaining faithful to God, he would “glorify” or bring honor to him. (John 21:18, 19) According to Eusebius (c. 263 to c. 339 CE), Peter was crucified during the reign of Nero.

Jesus concluded his words to Peter with the admonition, “Follow me.” It appears that the interchange between Jesus and Peter took place a short distance from where the other disciples were and while the two of them were walking. Seemingly, Peter became aware that another disciple was following them, and he turned around. It was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved and who had asked him during the Passover meal concerning who the betrayer would be. Seeing John, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, but what about him?” Jesus directed his attention away from John. If it were to be Jesus’ will for John to be alive at his return, this should have no bearing on Peter’s course. As Jesus said to him, “What [is] that to you? Follow me.” (John 21:19-22)

Jesus’ words about John gave rise to the view among the brothers or in the community of believers that he would not die but would still be living when Jesus returned. This misunderstanding is corrected in the account by reiterating what Jesus actually said. He did not say to Peter that John would not die. Jesus expressed the thought about John conditionally, “If it is my will for him to remain until I come, what [is] that to you?” (John 21:23)

John 20:24 reveals the source of the entire account. It is one of the apostles, the one about whom Peter asked. The internal evidence identifies this one as John (one of Zebedee’s sons [John 21:2]), the “disciple who testifies about these things and who wrote these things.” The change to the first person plural verb (“we know”)in the next sentence of verse 24 may be an indication that he did not write this particular affirmation. “We know that his testimony is true.”

Whereas Jesus loved all of the apostles (John 13:1), his relationship to John appears to have been remarkably close. Therefore, the expression the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is an appropriate identifier. (John 21:20) The close relationship seems to have come into existence because of John’s exceptional attentiveness and responsiveness to Jesus’ teaching. An outstanding example of John’s attentiveness and responsiveness was his believing that Jesus had been raised from the dead when he saw the empty tomb and the linen wrappings inside. (John 20:8)

According to 1 Corinthians 15:6, upward of 500 brothers saw Jesus at one time, suggesting that this must have been at a prearranged place. Reasonably, so many would have been together in response to Jesus’ words about seeing them in Galilee at a certain mountain, which mountain is not identified in the account. (Matthew 28:10, 16) The eleven apostles had already seen Jesus in Judea and been convinced that he had indeed been raised from the dead. Based on linking Jesus’ appearance at the mountain in Galilee to the reference in 1 Corinthians 15:6, upward of 500 disciples saw him and prostrated proskynéo themselves before him as their Lord. Among them were some who doubted. (Matthew 28:17)

In view of the difficulty that the apostles had in believing the testimony of the women regarding Jesus’ resurrection, it is understandable that there were some who saw him the first time and found it hard to believe that he had really been raised from the dead. Whether their doubts, like those of Thomas, ceased is not stated in the account, but they likely were persuaded to believe on the basis of what they saw and heard.

Jesus said to the disciples, “To me, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given. Go then [now, according to fifth century Codex Bezae]; make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to heed everything I have commanded you. And, see! I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

As their Lord in possession of all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the message about him and to baptize all who became believers, teaching them to obey everything that he had commanded. As persons who had learned about the Father, his Son, and the holy spirit, the new believers would be baptized in full recognition of the role of each. (Regarding the expression “in the name of,” see the Notes section on Matthew 28:19.)

Jesus would continue to be with the disciples, looking out for their spiritual well-being. That would prove to be the case until the “end of the age,” or the time when he would return in glory and the present age would end and a new era under his beneficent rule would begin.

The final time the disciples saw Jesus was after their return to Jerusalem. On that occasion, he instructed them to stay in the city until they received the holy spirit, and they asked him whether he would be restoring the kingdom to Israel at that time. Jesus did not answer the question directly, but made it clear that it was not for them to know the times and seasons that were his Father’s exclusive domain. They would be empowered by the holy spirit to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, Samaria, and in more distant regions elsewhere. After he had led them to the Mount of Olives as far as Bethany, he raised his hands and blessed them. It was then that they prostrated (proskynéo) themselves before him, acknowledging him as their Lord. (Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:4-8)

With a cloud, he vanished from their sight. As the disciples looked skyward, two men (angels) in white garments appeared to them, telling them that Jesus would return in the way in which they had beheld him departing into heaven. Thus, on the basis of the testimony of two angels, they were assured that the Son of God would return in glory. (Acts 1:9-11) As his departure had been with a cloud, his return is associated with clouds. (Compare Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 1:7.)

Filled with joy, they descended from the Mount of Olives and returned to Jerusalem. There, in the temple precincts, they continued to bless God, doubtless because of having had their faith and hope strengthened by the many proofs that undeniably confirmed Jesus’ resurrection. (Luke 24:52, 53)

According to the long conclusion of Mark (16:19, 20), the Lord Jesus, after he was taken up to heaven, sat down at the right hand of God. The disciples thereafter went forth, declaring the glad tidings, while the Lord Jesus Christ continued to work with them, confirming the message they proclaimed with signs or miracles.

The editorial comments found in John chapters 20 (verses 30 and 31) and 21 (verse 25) could also have been written regarding the three other accounts. Jesus performed many more signs or miracles that the disciples witnessed but which were not mentioned. The narrations included sufficient essentials to provide a solid foundation for believing that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, you may have life in his name.” Using hyperbole to stress the large amount of information that could have been committed to writing, John concluded, “There are also many other things Jesus did, which, if ever they were recorded, I imagine the world could not contain the scrolls [that would be] written.” (John 21:25)

Although the preserved records are comparatively brief, millions, throughout the centuries, have come to believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. On the basis of the written accounts about his exemplary life, deeds, and teaching, they have come to live rich and rewarding lives. Although later believers, unlike the apostles and many other first-century disciples, have never seen Jesus, they love him. Through him, they have come to know his Father, resulting in their enjoyment of the real life, a life of an enduring relationship with both the Father and the Son. Accordingly, because of their faith, they have come to have life “in [Christ’s] name” or on the basis of who he is, the only one through whom a relationship with his Father is possible.

At the same time, just as the personal presence of Jesus in the first century created division among the Jewish people, with some responding to him in faith and others becoming violently opposed, the preserved records about him have had the same effect. There are those who try to discredit them with the same passion as those who fanatically cried out for Jesus to be crucified. Others have a distorted view of God’s Son and, based on what they have been taught, do not allow themselves to be led to the Father through him. They are much like the Jews in the first century who failed to recognize him for who he was, the one who could fully reveal his Father to them. They did not think of Jesus as God’s unique Son but concluded that he was Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets raised from the dead, or possibly even John the Baptist restored to life. Few were those who, like Peter, declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16) Today, too, many tend to express themselves more in line with derived views about Jesus acquired from their particular religious environment, and not with a personal conviction that reflects the language of the preserved accounts regarding him.


If correctly identified, Arimathea lay near the northern border of Judea, about 16 miles east of Joppa and over 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Although originally from Arimathea, Joseph, as a member of the Sanhedrin, must have had a residence in Jerusalem, as suggested by his owning an unused tomb just outside the city. (Matthew 27:60)

The words of Pilate, “You have a guard,” can be understood as meaning, “You have your own guard.” (Matthew 27:65) The other possible significance is, “The guard is yours.” Both meanings are found in translations or their footnotes. “You have a guard of soldiers.” (NRSV) “Take a guard.” (NRSV, footnote) “You may have your guard.” (NJB) “Use your own guard.” (NJB, footnote) “All right, take some of your soldiers and guard the tomb as well as you know how.” (CEV) “You may have a guard.” (REB)

The apocryphal account known as the “Gospel According to Peter” explicitly identifies the guard as consisting of Roman soldiers. It says that Pilate provided a centurion named Peironius (Petronius) and other soldiers to guard the tomb.

John 20:1 does not mention that other women accompanied Mary Magdalene. This is understandable, for the account specifically focuses on her testimony regarding Christ’s resurrection.

Only Mark 16:1 mentions Salome as being with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the ones also referred to in Matthew 28:1). Verses 1 and 10 of Luke 24 indicate that there were more than three women. In verse 10, Joanna is named. It is likely that one of the other women would have been Susanna. (Compare Luke 8:1-3.) The differences in the inclusion and omission of names reveal that the writers of the highly condensed accounts did not intend to provide all the details. The specifics they did include primarily served to establish the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

The absence of details in the accounts does not make it possible to determine precisely what may have occurred at a particular time and who may or may not have been present. Included, however, are the essentials (the empty tomb, angelic testimony, and the post-resurrection appearances) for establishing that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead.

The words, “He is not here, for he has been raised,” are basically the same in Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6, and in many manuscripts of Luke 24:6. In the Westcott and Hort text, the words in Luke are marked by double brackets. In the opinion of Westcott and Hort, the reading of fifth-century Codex Bezae, which omits the words, reflects the original text of Luke, with the inclusion of the additional statement being considered as an interpolation.

Westcott and Hort, however, did not have the benefit of manuscript evidence that came to light in more recent years. The oldest extant manuscript (P75 of the late second or early third century) does not omit the words. So there is little reason for rejecting the longer reading found in the largest number of manuscripts, including fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. The shorter text of fifth-century Codex Bezae, on the other hand, has very little manuscript support.

According to Matthew 28:7, the angel is represented as saying, “I have told you.” In Mark 16:7, Jesus is referred to as having said that he would be going ahead of the disciples to Galilee. This difference is immaterial, as both statements are true.

In Matthew 28:9, a form of the Greek word proskynéo appears. Although often translated “worship,” the Greek term is descriptive of the act of falling to one’s knees and bowing with one’s forehead touching the ground. The context determines whether the prostration is a gesture of respect or an act of veneration or worship.

In fifth-century Codex Bezae reading of Luke 24:3, the words, “of the Lord Jesus,” are omitted after “body.”

Fifth-century Codex Bezae does not include the words of Luke 24:12, but they are found in all the oldest extant Greek manuscripts and many others. The reference to Peter’s running to the tomb and bending down to see the wrappings is an abbreviated version of the narration found in John 20:3-7. That Peter was not the only one to go to the site after the report about the empty tomb is revealed in the words of Luke 24:24, which relate that the two disciples who were on the way to Emmaus mentioned that “some of those with us” had gone there.

In Luke 24:13, fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus reads “one hundred sixty stadia.” This would be a distance of about 22 Roman miles and, therefore, too far for the disciples to have been able to travel back to Jerusalem and still to arrive there in the same evening. The superior manuscript support is for the reading “sixty stadia” or about seven Roman miles, which distance would reasonably harmonize with the narrative.

Luke 24:33 makes reference to the “eleven,” the designation applying to the apostles. According to John 20:24, Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to them and is referred to as “one of the twelve.” At the time, there were only eleven apostles, though the original number (with the inclusion of Judas Iscariot) was twelve. So it appears that “the twelve” came to denote all the apostles, whereas the reference to “eleven” indicated that one was missing (in this case, Thomas).

In Luke 24:36, the inclusion of the words, “and he said to them, ‘Peace [be] to you,’” has strong manuscript support, including that of the oldest extant manuscripts. Fifth-century Codex Bezae, however, omits the words. Other manuscripts contain an expanded reading, “And he said to them, ‘Peace [be] to you. I am [It is I]; do not be afraid.’”

Fifth-century Codex Bezae omits verse 40 in Luke chapter 24. This verse is found in all the oldest extant manuscripts and many others. So there is little reason not to regard the words as part of the text.

Jesus’ words directing the disciples to stay in Jerusalem related to their being in the city to receive the holy spirit and thus being empowered to carry out the commission he had given to them. (Luke 24:49) It did not preclude their going back to Galilee for a short time. In fact, they had to do so. Jesus, personally and through angels, instructed the women who had gone to the tomb to inform the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee. (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7) Probably not long after the incident involving Thomas, the disciples traveled back to their homes there.

The words of Thomas (“My Lord and my God” [John 20:28]) somewhat parallel how Manoah expressed himself when he and his wife saw the angel who had appeared to them ascend in a flame. Overwhelmed by the emotional impact, Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die, for we have seen God.” (Judges 13:20-22)

For the Israelites in the first century and earlier, the term for “god” did not have the restrictive meaning that it has come to have among speakers of modern languages, particularly among professing Christians. In ancient Israel, judges, kings, or rulers could be called “gods.” (Psalm 82:1, 6, 7) In a first-century BCE nonbiblical fragment (11Q13), extensive reference is made to Melchizedek as a heavenly deliverer and judge. The “gods of justice,” “sons of God,” or the angels are portrayed as assisting him to bring about the destruction of Belial (Satan). Other first-century BCE manuscript fragments (4Q400, 4Q402, 4Q403, 4Q404, 4Q405) refer to angels as “gods” and portray them as praising the “God of gods.”

In view of the way Israelites used the term for “god,” one needs to exercise care not to read into Thomas’ words theological concepts that would have been foreign to his Jewish background and mode of expression. Although the Hebrew and Greek terms for “god” had a wider application than is common in English and other languages, Jesus’ Jewish disciples would not have been confused about the identity of the one to whom he referred as his Father and the only true God. (John 17:3)

In John 21:15-17, Jesus is twice represented as using a form of the Greek term agapáo (love) and once philéo (love). Peter, in his response, is represented as saying philéo. Of the two terms, agapáo is often broader in scope, with philéo being a love that is frequently more closely associated with close friendship and affection. As in the case of the English word “love,” the context determines the nature of the kind of love or affection the verbs agapáo and philéo may be understood to convey. It appears preferable not to attempt to draw too sharp a distinction between the two terms, seeking instead to ascertain the significance from the context.

The expression “in the name of” can signify “in recognition of” or “by reason of being.” In the case of one acting in the name of someone else, it points to an existing relationship. Believers, upon being baptized, do enter a new family relationship. They, upon being immersed in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the holy spirit, come to have God as their Father, his Son as their Lord, and the holy spirit as their helper. In this relationship, they enjoy a newness of life effected through the operation of the holy spirit within them. (Matthew 28:19)

A number of late manuscripts follow Mark 16:8 with a short conclusion, which refers to the women as telling those with Peter about what they had been commanded. Additionally, this short conclusion indicates that Jesus sent out the disciples so that, through them, the “holy and incorruptible preaching” about eternal salvation would be carried out from east to west.

Fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Bezae and other later manuscripts contain a longer conclusion, which has been numbered verses 9 to 20. Mention is made of his post-resurrection appearances. Mary Magdalene told those who were mourning and weeping that she had seen Jesus, but they did not believe her. (Compare John 20:18.) While two disciples were walking on a road, he appeared to them in “another form,” and they reported this to the other disciples. (Compare Luke 24:13-35.) According to Mark 16:13, their words were not believed, and no mention is made of Jesus’ previous appearance to Peter. If the long conclusion preserves a dependable tradition, perhaps this is to be understood that some (not all) among the disciples did not believe them. While the disciples were reclining at the table, Jesus appeared and reproached them for not believing those who had seen him after his being raised from the dead. Whereas Luke 24:36 does not speak of the disciples as reclining at the time, the fact that they were able to hand him a piece of broiled fish does indicate that they had been eating. (Luke 24:42)

On that occasion, Jesus is portrayed as commissioning the disciples to go into the world and to preach the evangel (the good news about him) to all creation. Those who would believe and get baptized would be saved, coming to possess the real life, but those who refused to believe would be condemned. Believers would be empowered to perform signs or miracles. In the name of Jesus, they would expel demons and be able to speak in tongues other than their native language. (Compare Matthew 10:8; Acts 2:5-11.) The reference to being able to pick up serpents and not being hurt from drinking anything poisonous could signify that no enemy power would be able to harm them. Regardless of the efforts enemies would put forth, they would be unable to stop the proclamation of the glad tidings. (Compare Luke 10:19.) By laying their hands on the sick, the disciples would be able to cure them. (Compare Matthew 10:8.)

Another addition to Mark chapter 16 appears in a manuscript thought to date either from the fourth or the fifth century. The disciples are represented as telling Jesus that the “age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan,” who prevents the truth and power of God from squelching the “unclean things of the spirits.” Therefore, they asked Jesus to reveal his righteousness, which may be understood to mean his taking action against Satan. Jesus’ reply indicated that “the limit of the years for Satan’s power” had been fulfilled, but that other frightful things would be drawing near. With reference to himself, Jesus is represented as saying that he died for those who sinned, that they might return to the truth, cease sinning, and inherit, in heaven, “the spiritual and imperishable glory of righteousness,” probably meaning the absolute righteousness of the sinless state.