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Sunday, April 1, 2018

He Is Risen

Today is Easter Sunday. I celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have reread the accounts in the King James version of the New Testament showing what happened on that most significant of all days in the history of the existence of this world:

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 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.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 ¶ 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 worshipped him.
Notice in 1–6 that Matthew emphasizes the angel whose power caused an earthquake to roll away the great stone at the door of the tomb; an event that is so amazing that the Roman guards, who traditionally were very hardened men, fainted. The angel makes his startling announcement to the women who came to the tomb. Verse 9 is problematic because it disagrees with two other, more detailed accounts. But since that further story is not the focus here, it is common for seemingly unimportant details to become garbled until you read the accounts where those details assume more importance to the focus of the story.

The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 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 unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

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.

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 laid him.

7 But go your way, 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 sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

9 ¶ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Mark’s account takes the point of view of the women, and here we learn the names of three principal women and who they were, what their concern was, how that concern was resolved; how they felt upon seeing the angel, what he said to them and how they reacted to the message. Here we learn that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Lord, and she is identified not only by name but by a miracle the Lord had performed for her. This is the detail that varies from Matthew’s account, and it is corroborated by John’s account. But meanwhile, Luke repeats a lot of the details we’ve learned from both Matthew and Mark.

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

8 And they remembered his words,

9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
Like Mark, Luke emphasizes the point of view of the women who were intent on performing the burial rites common to that culture, which had not been possible right after Jesus’s death because the Sabbath was upon them. They came as early as they could to anoint the body with oil and herbs and spices, ceremonies that traditionally covered the odor of decay and were bound to the body and folded among the windings of the grave cloth or winding sheet. Luke adds another woman’s name but misses Salome, who was named by Mark. Additionally, Luke emphasizes the Lord’s words while in mortality that had told plainly what would happen to Him, and he reveals how the women were converted and then tried to convert the brethren without complete success, although they did cause Peter to run and look at the empty tomb himself.

The Gospel of John, Chapter 20
1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
John’s account picks up the story at the point that Mary Magdalene tells the apostles about the empty tomb. Being a first-person witness, John then relates what he and Peter did in response to the unbelievable news: how they ran, John arriving first but waiting to go in until Peter went first. How they had trouble connecting the empty tomb with the Lord’s words that He would rise again. How they went home.
My friend Kathy, moved by our experiences at the Garden Tomb

And then John turns to the story that has massive impact: that Mary Magdalene, of all mortals on the earth, was privileged to be the first mortal person to see and speak to the risen Lord. The extreme level of detail shows that this story, as John says, is closely quoting what Mary must have said herself when she told him and the other disciples. It includes all of her own reactions and feelings, and it has a profound level of doctrinal detail in the words of the Lord that gives it powerful veracity.

Of all on the earth at that time, the Lord chose a woman to be His first witness. I find this a strong endorsement for His extremely dignified treatment of women—the men may have led His church, but this woman was given a privilege beyond any other. What a powerful witness she must have been to everyone around her throughout the rest of her life! The Apostle Paul may have said women should keep silent in church, but I doubt that Paul himself would have silenced the testimony of Mary, the one who first knew the Resurrection was real. Obviously the Church knew her story; otherwise Mark wouldn’t have known to include that detail in his gospel. It was so important to have her voice that John himself, one of the chiefest of the Apostles, included her full story in his sacred gospel writing.

We know that in the Lord’s restored gospel and Church, women are invited to speak in every meeting they attend. Women’s voices and testimonies are equally important to men’s in spreading the knowledge of the Risen Lord. We can rely on His witnesses. We can trust His words. He will give us everything He has. He lives today. He loves us and invites us all to come to Him. Here is true peace. Here is true love. Here is where we rest in divine serenity and joy.

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