A couple of notes on the resurrection. I think I will be cutting out Mark 16:9-20 from my commentary since it is considered by most scholars to not be in the original text. It was apparently added on to Mark by someone, either because Mark died before it was completed or because the original ending was lost.
Second, there is some difficulty in harmonizing the events of the resurrection. What I give here in my blog is my best guess. The thing to remember, though, is that all the essential facts are the same. The tomb was empty when the women arrived there. Angels appeared to the women to tell them that Jesus had risen. Jesus appeared to Mary and the women. They all went to tell the disciples.
Lawyers today will tell you that in a court of law, any apparent discrepancies in the testimony of these four sources would not be able to overturn these essential points.
With that, a very quick summary as to what I believe happened. The women went to the tomb and found it empty. When Mary entered the tomb and found the body gone, she immediately left to tell the disciples. The other women lingered, however, and at that point, two angels appeared, with one giving them the good news that Jesus was alive. The women ran to tell the disciples talking to no one else along the way. (Matthew 28:5-8, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10)
Meanwhile, Mary told the disciples that the body was gone (John 20:2) and so Peter and John (probably) went to investigate, with Mary following after. After they had left, the other women arrived with their tale of the angels (Luke 24:9-11).
Peter and John then arrived at the tomb and found the body gone, and while John seems to have believed that Jesus rose from the dead, Peter wasn’t so sure. Perhaps discussing the situation, they then left. (Luke 24:12; John 20:3-9)
Mary, by this time had arrived at the tomb. Whether Peter and John were still there when she arrived is not clear, but it’s possible they had already gone. Jesus then appeared for the first time and spoke to her. She then went to tell the disciples (John 20:10-18). As she was on her way, Jesus then appeared to the other women, perhaps as they were on their way back home, discouraged that the disciples had not believed them. Encouraged once again, they returned and told the disciples what Jesus had told them, bolstered by Mary’s testimony. (Matthew 28:9-10)
I don’t know if that was the exact order of events, but it seems to be a reasonable harmonization to me.
At any rate, I want to focus on Mary for a moment. The image that strikes me most was Mary in the garden, in the depths of sorrow and despair. If the order of events were as I imagine, she had not heard the story of the other women. All she knew was that Jesus was gone. She enters the tomb, and sees the two angels, but because she never heard the other women’s story, she doesn’t recognize the angels for what they are. So when they ask her, “Why are you crying?” she simply says, “They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”
Perhaps the angels were about to tell Mary the truth when they saw Jesus appear behind her. At first, through her tears, she couldn’t recognize him, but then he spoke her name, “Mary.”
And in an instant, all of her tears of sorrow were washed away by joy.
How often are we like Mary? We’re going through a tough time, and God seems far away. We pray but our prayers bounce off the ceiling. We seek him, but we can’t seem to find him. For all we know, he’s dead.
But the truth is, he is there. Like Mary, we can’t see him, but he is there. And at the proper time, he will reveal himself to us.
So don’t give up. We all go through times of sorrow. We all go through times when God seems distant. But he is Immanuel. He is God with us. And through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, he will change our sorrow into joy.