In and Out of the Tomb: The Resurrection of Jesus

By | April 17, 2022

What follows below is a summary of what of the Gospels say about what happened at the tomb from the perspective of Jesus Himself.

In the Tomb: Matthew 27:57–66; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56; John 19:38–42

In the evening after the death of Jesus (Friday), Joseph of Arimathea took courage and secretly asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Joseph was a good and righteous man and a disciple of Jesus who was looking for the kingdom of God. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin but did not agree with their judgment and role in executing Jesus. Pilate granted him permission, so he took the corpse of Jesus, went to his garden, and laid Jesus in his own personal, unused tomb, a hollow hewn out of rock and stone.

Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin who had previously met with Jesus at night, brought myrrh with aloes, somewhere around seventy pounds in weight, to give the body a pleasing fragrance to overcome the stench of death. These spices would have placed with the clean, linen cloths with which they wrapped the body of Jesus. They laid Him on a ledge in the rock where there was enough room to sit up, as two angels did after Jesus was raised, one where His head would have been, and the other by His feet (cf. John 20:12). Joseph had a large rock rolled in front of the entrance, and everyone left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had watched from a distance. Though placed in a manger after birth, Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb (cf. Isa 53:9). His interment was fitting for a king. The Father sent His Son to die an ugly, gruesome death, but, His death for sin now over, the Father would bury Him with the utmost love and care.

The next day (Saturday), Pilate granted permission to the Sanhedrin to place a guard of soldiers at the tomb. They put a seal on the tomb to discourage anyone from moving the rock by pain of death. The Jewish leaders were probably tense. Perhaps the guards were less than thrilled with this odd and sleepless assignment. They feared that Jesus’ followers would raid His body from the tomb.

Out of the Tomb: Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–18

Early on the next day, the first day of the week, it was still dark, and the light had not yet come up. Jesus lay where it was even darker and quieter than outside. For all of the preparation to stay the stench of death, His body had known no physical decay (cf. Ps 16:10–11). In fact, whether during His time in the tomb or at the point of His resurrection, He had been healed of His abuse except for what was left of His five wounds (cf. John 20:20, 27). Then, by the power of the Father, Himself, and the Spirit (John 2:19; Acts 2:24; Rom 8:11), He arose!

Now alive and no longer dead, Jesus somehow maneuvered out of the linen cloths that bound His body and left them lying in the tomb. His arms free, He removed His face cloth, folded it up, and set it in a place by itself. He likely smelled the many spices used to prepare Him for burial. Perhaps we might say that in more ways than one, His sacrifice was a pleasing aroma to God.

He must have miraculously left through the wall just as He would later appear to the disciples in a locked room (cf. John 20:19, 26), but He did not go very far. Outside of the tomb, perhaps he watched, heard, and felt the earthquake that took place when the angel rolled away the stone from the tomb’s door. Perhaps He watched the guards fall as dead men when they saw this angel.

Maybe He then saw all of the women come to the tomb, carrying their spices to finish what the Sabbath had left undone—Joanna, Mary (Salome) who was wife to Clopas and mother to James and Joseph, and other women with them as well. Maybe He watched their amazement as they walked by the fallen soldiers and saw the two angels invite them to see the place where He had lain.

Maybe He saw Mary Magdalene immediately run off to Peter and John to tell them that the tomb was empty. He met the other women as they eventually left as well.  He felt them grab His feet, and He gave them no rebuke as they worshipped Him. He only told them to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. This was His first appearance after the resurrection.

With no one else around, the soldiers seized this moment to steal away. Some of them told the chief priests what took place and received a bribe to say that the disciples had stolen the body while they slept.

Perhaps Jesus then saw John outpace Peter only to stop at the entrance of the tomb and watch Peter enter first. Perhaps He saw Peter examine the grave clothes and the face cloth. Perhaps he watched John find his own courage, enter to see for himself, and believe. Perhaps He watched them walk away.

Maybe during their investigation is when He saw Mary Magdalene return, only to stay after they had left. She was weeping while stooping in the entrance to the tomb and explaining her tears to the angels as caused by not knowing where Jesus now lay. As He had honored the previous women with an appearance for their encouragement, so also He now came to Mary to encourage her. Standing behind her as she finished speaking to the angels, perhaps one of them motioned to turn around or perhaps she sensed His presence. Turning around, she saw Jesus but mistook Him for the gardener. She asked Him where Jesus was, only to hear His “Mary” and recognize her Lord. She worshiped Him, clinging a bit too tightly, and was kindly asked to let Him go. She then left to tell the disciples what she had seen and heard, His second appearance after the resurrection.

Before His ascension, Jesus would appear several more times: to Cleopas and another (third), Peter (fourth), all but Thomas (fifth), all with Thomas (sixth), the fishing seven (seventh), the eleven for the Great Commission (eighth), James His brother and the five hundred (ninth and tenth), and the eleven at His ascension (eleventh). After the ascension, He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (twelfth) and to John on the island of Patmos (thirteenth). He will come again for us to end the age.

Jesus arose, and these are the amazing moments surrounding the new life of our Lord at the tomb and thereafter.