#TheDifference The Resurrection Makes

easter visualDo you remember the first story you wrote as a child? At the start, we learn that stories should have a good beginning, middle and an end. Normally kids stories start “once upon a time” finish with “and they all lived happily ever after.” We learn to love fairy tales and Disney. Then we realise that life doesn’t tend t run like that. People don’t live happily ever after.  So the bleakness of life is confirmed by daily diet of East Enders and Jeremy Kyle.  Or we continue to escape into fairy tale land, longing for our happily ever after.

Then we come to the Resurrection accounts and we might be left thinking “It’s just another fairy story. Dead bodies don’t come back to life.”  So, if that’s you I want to give you an invitation this Easter to take another look at the story.

Come and See

An invitation to investigate the evidence (v1-10)

Mary finds the tomb with the stone move, thinks the body is stolen and in her distress goes and gets Peter and John. They run to the tomb  It’s empty but the grave clothes are there, neatly folded.  At this, John starts to believe.

Now for sceptics, here are a couple of things worthy of note. First of all, there’s the honest realism of Scripture. Women are chosen as the first witnesses even though in that day and age if you wanted to put forward witnesses you used men.  Women were treated as second class.  So if you wanted to invent a story you wouldn’t start with them

The account includes those little incidental details that you get with real life biography. There’s John as quicker and outrunning Peter but Peter is more  impetuous and runs straight into the tomb without caution. Then you’ve got all three people at different stages and levels of belief , it’s untidy. John is believing something though at this stage it’s unc;lear what, Peter is wondering and Mary is still weeping.

Secondly, note the expectations and responses of the witnesses. We tend to assume that these were primitive people who were likely to clutch at straws like the idea of someone coming back to life but the reality is the opposite. Culturally they are not expecting a one off resurrection. So The evidence is that they look for other possible explanations such as that the story is incomplete.

So for us today, there’s an invitation to investigate for ourselves. We can use our minds to enquire and think about the Gospel claims. If you want tos tart investigating, why not give our First Look or Rooted courses a try. Other god starting points include books like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

But this is an incomplete account so far. Yes, the tomb is empty, yes the grave clothes suggest it wasn’t robbers. We also know the Romans had done a thorough job of killing Jesus, resuscitation in the grave is unlikely. These things  move them towards belief

But, Peter is still wondering and Mary is still weeping

An invitation to meet with the risen Jesus (v11-13)

Mary returns to the tomb still weeping. Not even angels can get through to her.  Here’s a little side point. Mary doesn’t just respond to the appearance of angels. You know. We can always fin ways to explain away the weird and wonderful.  The Bible doesn’t think we can be fobbed off by a few conjuring tricks and so if your expectation is that Christians will try and convince you with a few healing rallies and such like, then that’s not God’s way.

Something deeper, something greater happens.   She meets with Jesus. He calls her by name  This is the incredible thing about he Gospel –we are not talking about some theory, it’s not evidence just to prove a historical event one way or the other. It’s a meeting with a real person. Objectively, these people met a real, physical, breathing, eating, talking man. They were convinced of his resurrection. They were so convinced that they too were willing to die for this message.

The risen Jesus is someone you can know. Meeting him changes lives.

He brings forgiveness

He brings healing

He brings hope

Go and Tell v 14-18


Jesus tells Mary “Don’t cling onto me” The sense is that you don’t need to and you can’t. You can’t because he is not controllable. You don’t need to because he won’t desert you, fail you, leave you on your own.

Instead, she is told to “Go and tell the others – “my brothers.” Go and tell starts with encouraging the immediate disciples with the good news but will soon ripple out to the whole world This is not good news to keep to ourselves Jesus commissions his followers to tell others


Have you come and seen –have you met Jesus?

Will you go and tell?


7 thoughts on “#TheDifference The Resurrection Makes

  1. “Now for sceptics, here are a couple of things worthy of note. First of all, there’s the honest realism of Scripture. Women are chosen as the first witnesses even though in that day and age if you wanted to put forward witnesses you used men. Women were treated as second class. So if you wanted to invent a story you wouldn’t start with them”

    This argument has been a common one with Christians. The problem with it is that it is not odd at all to use women as the first witnesses because this religion is aimed at controlling the second class people. Of course you make them important characters, just like you make poor fisherman important, tax collectors important, etc. There is another problem with the gospels. They don’t agree on what actually happened. This is a problem with all sorts of Christians, including a Jesuit priest who wants everyone to believe that there was a “good thief” when only *one* of the gospels says anything like this, and all of the others either say that there were no thieves or that the thieves harangued JC as much as anyone else, a direct contradiction. It’s unfortunate how much Christianity depends on ignorance of what the bible actually says. It can be a good story, when pieced together to make sense; I do love Jesus Christ Superstar. But when the stories are compared, it shows that there is no reason to believe this happened or that any supernatural entity was involved in getting the story straight.

    The Gospel of Matthew says this is what happened with the women: Joseph of Arimathea prepped the body. The women were sitting outside the tomb when the stone was placed. There was another earthquake, and the women see a singular entity, an angel, obviously supernatural. He speaks with them, they go away see Jesus, recognize him immediately and clasp his feet. We also get the claim that the ruling parties concoct a story to explain the disappearance of the body. No more mention of the women, just the apostles go to a mountain in Galilee.

    The Gospel of Mark is fairly close to Matthew. Joseph of A. preps the body. It adds that the women want to anoint the body, which would have been done before the wrapping per the funereal customs of the time. They see a man in the tomb, not an angel on the stone outside. They are told that JC isn’t there, and that he’ll be in Galilee. And it ends right there, in all of the oldest versions of the book. They don’t see Jesus, they don’t tell anyone anything. The addendum that was added later has the first met was Mary Magdalene and that she tells the story, that he appeared on the road in an unrecognizable form, etc, all cribbed from the other gospels. It also has the promise that believers can do some pretty impressive things, things that believers cannot do. Here in the US, plenty of fervent believers here in the US die from snakebites.

    The Gospel of Luke has some of the same detail, Joseph prepped the body, the women wait to annoint it. Then the alterations start. As the women stand wondering where the body is, *two* entities appear magically, described like the single entity in Matthew. Peter runs back to the tomb, where he has to bend over to see into the tomb but does not go in, an entirely different configuration of tomb than the ones before, sees the linen, and then supposedly wonders what happened, ignoring what the women said. The story is then picked up on the road to Emmaus, which is mentioned in the later addendum to Mark, not in Matthew. JC meets with the apostles not in Galilee, but in Bethany and Jerusalem. The last curious bit is that the apostles supposedly go right back to Jerusalem and celebrate at the temple, the place where the leaders of the Jews are.

    Finally, we come to the Gospel of John, where things get even stranger. Joseph and now another person Nicodemus, annointed the body with 75 *pounds* of myrrh and other ingredients and wrap the body. Mary now is alone at the tomb, the other women mentioned in other gospels are no where to be found. She runs back to where ever the apostles are at, and says the body is gone. Then we have two people going to the tomb, Peter and the mysterious “other disciple”(who is never identified as John as you claim) go back to the tomb where now the second person to see the linen is the bent over OD, not Peter, and its not just strips, there’s a separate head cloth which makes no sense with burial customs. Mary is then back at the tomb, and it is then that the two supernatural beings appear, not before as in the other stories. JC is there too, but she doesn’t recognize him at all for some reason. She finally recognizes him but then JC says not to touch him at all because he hasn’t ascended yet (it does not say “Don’t cling to me”). She tells the apostles after this, and tells them while they are hiding from the authorities (all evidently except Thomas, who doesn’t see JC the first goround), but we do get the claim that one doesn’t have to believe in Jesus blindly but asking for evidence is perfectly fine.

    As we see here, Dave, the “little incidental details” don’t match and the really big ones don’t match either.


    • Hello 1. If you want to convince a group of people and your inventing something, you are still likely to use the persuasive conventions of the time if it’s invention. So who was reached isn’t that relevant to the status of women though my be tge fact women were recognised by Jesus himself had a knock on effect to who identified with him. Mind you you find people at all levels of society among his followers. 2. Each Gospel us different in style you would not expect them to say the same things word for word but look again and you’ll see they don’t contradict. I read football match reports that single out and prioritise certain incidents, players etc and others that mention the role of others. I heard our Spanish congregation leader describe how they got started and his account includes details my account doesn’t and vice versa. This is normal and an other example of these being real life not concocted. 3. The Greek word apto has a number of meanings in English. One of which used in similar contexts is exactly to do with clinging to/ grasping. 4. And yes not unusual that one member of the scattered group might not make it at first to the rendezvous! So looking at all the Gospel accounts together and on detail you do find a natural example of eye witness accounts. By the way, here at Bearwood Chapel one of the things we encourage people to do is that detailed examination of all the gospels and to discuss, debate ask questions etc. I know your a long way away but if your ever in the UK your welcome to drop in especially at Engage or Sunday Night Church.


      • If you are inventing something to appeal to someone , you would use what arguments would appeal to your intended arguments. Since this religion, a variant of Judaism, was appealing to those who felt disenfranchised by the established leaders, one would appeal to women and the working man. So it is no great surprise that this religion did this. People who want to start something new do not use the persuasive conventions of the time, since those conventions support what they rebel against. As we can currently see here in the US, the idiot teapartiers are not using the same arguments as the establishment Republicans. Who was reached and who was intended to be reached is quite relevant to the status of women.

        What does “knock on effect to who identified with him” mean?

        The gospels are not in such different styles as Christians would claim. Please tell me how a style difference would cause an author to present an entirely contradictory story to other ones told about the same event? My spouse is a lit major and he would be interested to see your explanation. I would not expect things to be word for word, but I do expect factual claims to be the same e.g. the number of people, what Jesus did, what Peter did etc. These directly contradict. A football report will not say that John got the final goal when James did. One can prioritize certain players but one doesn’t report that they did something that they didn’t do. Or are sports reports so different in the UK that they lie about events?

        We are not talking about leaving out details, Dave, we are talking about directly contradictory claims. Please tell me how one story can have a one person be first in the tomb and then another story having another. There is only one “first” possible. Did Mary touch Jesus or not or did she not see him at all?

        “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

        Or ““You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”

        Or “9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.””

        Or ““Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.”

        Its’ yes or no, or had no chance. What did the apostles do after the cruxifiction: hide or celebrate at the temple? Considering real life where there cannot be two “firsts” and there can’t be a women both touching and not touching a man, or not even seeing him, your excuses fail.

        The word apto does indeed means to grasp and to cling. In the context of the verses in the bible, the command by JC is that she should not touch him since he has not ascended, not because she is somehow depending on him to stay. ““Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” I agree, if there was an other explanation offered, as you have, that would be the reason not to touch him. But it doesn’t say “do not cling to me for you want me to stay” and since JC didn’t say “don’t cling to me” in Matthew, your explanation doesn’t work.

        Hmmm, how scattered were the apostles at the cruxifiction, Dave? The women were all there. If the men weren’t, why? I would agree with you, but you need to offer a reason, especially since the other gospels say that they all were together(except for Mark where the apostles aren’t even seen again except in the latter addendum) If one looks at all of the gospel accounts and compare the details you claim so important, they do not match. I also agree that eyewitness accounts don’t often match (however, you claimed it was a “style difference” to explain the differences earlier). However, your bible isn’t claimed to be just a regular eyewitness account, this is supposedly the god inspired words of what happened, including things that were not witnessed by anyone, like JC chatting with Satan. If you wish to claim that the gospels are just what people thought they saw, that’s fine. It doesn’t do much for your claims of an actual event that led to some kind of salvation.

        I am sure that you do discuss the words of the bible, much like my former church did, where the answer for any question that was uncomfortable would be “you need to pray about it”. It would be great if I could stop by because then it’s much harder for points to be ignored. Thank you for the invitation though, that’s very kind. Perhaps your study group would be interested in what I have pointed out. You could ask them for their best arguments against an atheist’s points.


  2. Hello again. 1. Knock on effect means an impact that isn’t the main aim. In other words your reading back that becsuse a lot of people from certain classes became Christians that its intenfion was to control those classes so you make the error if reading your theory back. Thanks for accepting that the Greek word apto has the idea of cling and grasp. This is something discussed widely by NT scholars and commentaries. Remember that Jesus does allow people to touch him. Regarding styles differences – no not massively different there’s links between the texts In the synoptics but still different. In fact the common stuff means they are aware of each other so if the facts contradicted that would mean they were intending to argue Sith each other and then deliberately compiled their contradictions together to show the world that they disagreed. Now


  3. … that doesn’t sound too likely does it. More likely is that each one fills in additional details which when you read the accounts together don’t contradict but add to. For example Jesus meeting them In Galilee is not exclusive to him meeting them in Bethany too. Nor does their being in a locked room at one point exclude them later after the ascension going into the Temple to praise.


  4. Re uncomfortable questions/ answers no our answer isn’t “just go and pray” we encourage people to keep thinking asking offering answers etc. Yes face to face has its advantages. No I’m not ignoring your points but capturing everything in comments isn’t always easy and my personal time priority isn’t “debating below the line” Would love to have a more proper conversation with you about all your issues and objections and challenges. Won’t claim ro know the answer to everything but what if you were to drop me an email and I’ll respond. More than happy for you to publish the complete email conversation on your blog.


Comments are closed.