Alice C. Linsley
In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is the only women at the tomb and she arrives while it is dark. When she arrived the stone was already rolled away and the angels were not there. She met Jesus in the garden and Jesus told her to go and tell the Disciples.
There is a wonderful symmetry here with angels declaring the birth of Jesus to Bethlehem shepherds and angels announcing the resurrection of Jesus to a woman who missed the Passover because she had handled the Lord's dead body. Perhaps this is why Jesus, observant of purity, instructed Mary not to touch Him. After His ascension, such a concern would not exist.
In Luke’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is accompanied by Joanna, Mary the mother of James, “and the others” (Luke 24:9). They came very early. By this account, the stone was rolled away when the women arrived and there were two angels. The angels reminded them that Jesus had spoken of His resurrection on the third day. In this account, the angels didn’t tell the women to report to the Disciples.
In Mark’s account, Mary Magdalene is accompanied by Mary the mother of James and Salome. They came very early in the morning and when they arrived the stone was rolled away. They entered the tomb and found it empty except for a young man clothed in a long white robe on the right side. The “young man” told the women to go and tell the Disciples and Peter that He was going before them to Galilee. Mark tells us that the women were so terrified that they said nothing to anyone (Mark 16:7-9).
Matthew’s account is the only one that speaks of an earthquake “for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Matt 28:2). The guards were present and they trembled with fear and became like dead men. The angel spoke to the women and told them to go quickly and tell the Disciples. They were filled with joy and ran quickly to tell the Disciples. On their way Jesus met them, saying “Rejoice!” and they fell at his feet and worshiped Him. Jesus told them that He would see the Disciples in Galilee at a certain mountain about which He had spoken before His crucifixion. In the cosmology of Abraham's people the mountain is where men encounter God. It is the spatial sacred center between heaven and earth.
While the women were reporting to the Disciples some of the guards were reporting to the chief priests. The guards' report of the events so troubled the chief priests that they immediately assembled the elders to consult. Their decision was to bribe the soldiers and to concoct a lie which they set about to circulate among the Jews.
Matthew was privy to this and his testimony is true. He went with the others into Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them and Jesus came to them and said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and 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 observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
In Mark’s Gospel, the Great Commission is given while the disciples were gathered at table (Mark 16:14). There is no mention of Galilee at all.
Luke’s Gospel has the story of Jesus meeting Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus. Jesus tells the Disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the “power from on high” comes upon them. He departs from them in Bethany.
John tells us that the Risen Lord appeared to the Disciples (minus Thomas) while they were gathered behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Later He appeared to Thomas. John ends his Gospel (chapter 20) with these words: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John has a second ending which places Jesus and the Disciples in Galilee. This is a fishing story in which the tired fishermen catch a huge harvest. After that, Peter is asked three times if he loves Jesus. Jesus also tells him, “Feed my sheep.” Finally, there is a foretelling of Peter’s death and an explanation about a rumor that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” would not experience death. Chapter 21 is believed to have been added later and represents a tradition surrounding Peter. This chapter closes with these words to Peter, spoken by Jesus in Galilee: “If I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”
According to Matthew, Jesus unquestionably wanted to meet with His disciples in Galilee following His resurrection. Galilee was Jesus' home. Archaeological evidence indicates that he was born in the royal city of Bethlehem of Galilee which was only about 5 miles from where he grew up in Nazareth. The entire region was under the royal house of Tyre that is traced back to Eden (Ezekiel 28:11-18).
Jesus speaks three places in his Gospel of where his disciples were to meet Him after His resurrection. During the Last Supper Jesus informed His disciples: “After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matt. 26:32). Three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other women were told by an angel to notify the Disciples: “He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him” (Matt. 28:7). Only three verses later, as the women were on their way to inform the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus appeared to them and said: “Rejoice!… Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (28:9-10). Sometime after, “the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them,” and “worshipped Him” (Matt. 28:16).
|Jordan River entering the Sea of Galilee
Photo by Todd Bolen
Related reading: Matthew's Testimony Concerning the Empty Tomb; The Sacred Center in Biblical Theology; Why Jesus Visited Tyre; Bethlehem in the Time of Abraham; The Ark Rested in Bethlehem; The Nazareth-Egypt Connection; Shepherd Priests