Moriah, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb

Chapter 6. The Resurrection Morning - Part A

We will now look at the events of Resurrection Morning (Sunday April 3rd, AD 33, according to our current Calendar), by harmonising the accounts in the 4 Gospels. In so doing, we will discover more features of the Garden Tomb that perfectly fulfil the requirements of the Gospel accounts. Since no other Tombs in the area can do this, we are led to the obvious and exciting conclusion that this is the very Tomb of Christ, where He rose from the dead!

Before we follow the action of Resurrection Morning, it will be helpful to first identify the different groups of women who came to the Tomb and then witnessed to the apostles. There is a helpful summary statement in Luke 24:10: “It was (1) Mary Magdalene, (2) Joanna, (3) Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the Apostles.” In other words, these were the leaders of 3 different groups of women who witnessed to the apostles that the Tomb was empty. As we shall see, initially Mary Magdalene and Mary (mother of James) came to the Tomb together, but then Mary Magdalene went off on her own to tell Peter and John, leaving the other Mary to lead the remaining women in that group, which included Salome. In addition, there was a second group of women led by Joanna, who arrived at the Tomb soon after the first group had left. Thus, we need to keep track of two groups of women, as well as Mary Magdalene, who went off on her own.

To find out more about these women, we first of all note that they were also witnesses of His Death on the Cross and His Burial.

Luke 23:49: “All His (male) acquaintances (including Joseph and Nicodemus), and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” But none of the disciples were there except John, for the 9 had fled from Gethsemene to Bethany, and only Peter and John had returned to be present for His Trial before the High-Priest, after which a fearful, depressed and ashamed Peter was in hiding in Jerusalem, having denied Christ thrice. 

Matthew 27:55,56: “Many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were: (1) Mary Magdalene, (2) Mary the mother of James and Joses, and (3) the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

Mark 15:40,41: “There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were: (1) Mary Magdalene, (2) Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and (3) Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.”

Comparing these 2 lists, we deduce that Salome was Zebedee’s wife, and the mother of the Apostles James and John, the ‘sons of thunder’! It was Salome who had asked for her 2 sons to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus in His Kingdom (Matthew 20:20,21). 

John 19:25: “Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” As well as Jesus’ mother Mary (who is not mentioned in the resurrection narratives), we again have 3 leading ladies listed: (1) Mary Magdalene, (2) Mary, the wife of Clopas, 
who must also be Mary, the mother of James and Joses in the other list. (Later, that afternoon, Jesus appeared to her husband Clopas or Cleopas, as he walked on the road to Emmaus - Luke 24:13-35). We also have a lady described as (3) His mother’s sister. Again, by comparing with the other lists of leading ladies at the Cross, we can deduce that Salome was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus!

Joanna, mentioned in Luke 24:10 as one of the leading ladies who went to the Tomb, is described in Luke 8:3 as one of the well-off women who helped provide for Jesus and His team in Galilee along with Mary Magdalene and Susanna. She was the wife of Chuza, the steward of Herod Antipas, who held a high position, equivalent to finance minister or manager of the royal estates. As a senior and permanent member of Herod’s Court, he and Joanna would have stayed at Herod’s Palace. Being in the ‘upper crust’ of Jewish society, Joanna would be well-known to Joseph and Nicodemus. 

Therefore in Luke 23:49, Joanna would have been part of the group of women ‘who followed Him from Galilee’, who stood at a distance, watching Christ’s Death on the Cross. She and her group of 

wealthy ladies, which probably included Susanna, may well have stood slightly apart from the trio of watching women we have previously described, because of her standing in Herod’s Court. 

*These Women were also present to witness the Burial.
Joseph and Nicodemus performed the Burial (John 19:38-42). 

Matthew 27:61: “And (1) Mary Magdalene was there, 
and (2) the other Mary, sitting opposite the Tomb.”

Mark 15:47 agrees: “And (1) Mary Magdalene and 
(2) Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.” 

Notice there is no mention of the 3rd woman of this group, Salome, the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is because when Jesus (while on the Cross) committed His mother to John’s care (John 19:26,27) it says: “from that hour John took her to his own home.” It would have been natural for Salome to go with her sister. There then follows a gap in John’s narrative of some hours, suggesting that he stayed with Mary for a while, before returning to witness the final words of Christ on the Cross, and then His Death. 

Luke is less specific, implying that there were also other women at the Tomb, including the well-off ladies with Joanna: 

Luke 23:55: “the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after (Joseph and Nicodemus), and they observed the Tomb and how His body was laid.” It seems Luke’s account is written from Joanna’s viewpoint, whereas Matthew and Mark describe events from the viewpoint of the other Group of women, who could only observe ‘where He was laid’ from a respectful distance. But Joanna’s ladies being well-known to Joseph and Nicodemus, were able to also go inside the Tomb and observe ‘how His body was laid.’ Luke’s link to Joanna is seen by his special mention of her (24:10). It explains how Luke had inside information of the Trial in Herod’s Palace (23:6-12), for Joanna was his informant.

Luke 23:56: “Then they (Joanna’s ladies) returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils (at Herod’s Palace). And they rested on the Sabbath according to the (4th) Commandment.” Notice these wealthy ladies already had in their possession the spices they needed, whereas the other group of ladies, Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James) and Salome had to wait until Saturday evening, when the Sabbath was past, to buy spices, so that they might come to anoint Him at Dawn on Sunday morning (Mark 16:1,2).

Normally the body would be prepared for burial by washing and anointing it with perfumed oils, before dressing it in a clean outer garment, but there was no time to do all of this, for the Sabbath was about to begin, so Joseph got a large linen cloth and and Nicodemus got alot of dry spices as a temporary measure. Meanwhile, the two groups of women would have agreed to return to the Tomb at the first possible moment after the Sabbath was over (early Sunday morning) to anoint the body properly, having prepared their oils and spices.

*Soon after DAWN on Resurrection Sunday, the first Group of women (Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, Salome) arrive: 

Matthew 28:1: “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the Tomb, but the Stone had been rolled away.” 

Mark 16:1-4 agrees: “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the Tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will ROLL away the Stone from the door of the Tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the Stone had been rolled away, for it was VERY LARGE.” 

This first group of women arrived at the Garden just after dawn, and since no one else was there, they began to discuss how they could roll the Stone back, because it had a VERY LARGE Rolling-Stone (c.f. Matthew 26:60). Either they had not thought about this problem until now, or more likely, they had expected to meet up with the other Group of women coming from Herod’s Palace led by Joanna, so that between them they could move the Stone. But since Joanna had not arrived yet, they were discussing how they could move the Stone. They did not know, of course, that the Tomb had been officially sealed and guarded, which would have made it impossible anyway. 
Matthew 28:2-4 reveals the dramatic events that had taken place, just previously at dawn, to remove this problem: 
“Behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” By the time the women had arrived the soldiers had fled, and the angel had entered the Tomb awaiting their arrival.

Although there were at least two other women with her (Mary, the mother of James, and Salome), John focuses in on Mary Magdalene:
John 20:1: “Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the Tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the Stone had been taken away from the Tomb.” 

Although Mary arrived with the other women soon after sunrise, she had started her journey (either from Bethany, or from John’s house on the other side of Jerusalem), while it was still dark.

Unlike the other women who stayed by the Tomb and then went in to investigate further, Mary, in a state of panic, immediately turned and ran, as soon as she saw the Rolling Stone had been removed. 
She assumed the worst, that someone had taken the body away:

John 20:2: “Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple (John), whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 
“They have taken away the Lord out of the Tomb, 
and WE do not know where they have laid Him.”
The ‘WE’ in v2, shows other women were with Mary in agreement with the other Gospels. Since Mary did not stay and enter the Tomb, she did not see the angel, so she could only report the Empty Tomb.

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