“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2)
It is wise to not only examine John’s Gospel account of the resurrection of Jesus but also to study the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) also. Rather than discovering contradictions, we find a complete understanding of what occurred on the first resurrection Sunday.
To begin with, the resurrection took place on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning. The text indicates that she arrived at the tomb while it was still dark. She did so, according to Luke 24:1. In order to finish anointing Jesus’ body. She would have be unable to do so the previous day because it was the Sabbath.
Matthew 28:1 states that, “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” This Mary was the mother of James the Less and Joses (Matthew 27:56). Even though John does not specifically mention the second Mary, John 20:2 indicates that Mary Magdalene said to Simon and John after finding the empty tomb, ““They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Mary uses the personal pronoun “we” instead of “I.” This indicates that Mary was not alone when she came to the tomb, as Matthew’s Gospel verifies.
The Gospel of Mark provides even more information. Mark 16:1-2 says, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” Mark mentions a third woman, Salome, accompanied Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Less. Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John (Matthew 27:56).
John Calvin writes that, “Although John says nothing about her (Mary Magdalene’s) companions, yet the other Evangelists, who relate that there were many along with her, say nothing that is contradicted by John’s narrative.”
While it should be noted that John’s account of Jesus’ burial does not mention a stone being rolled in front of the tomb, he does refer to it when the women came to the tomb that first resurrection morning. Today’s text, which mentions the removal of the stone, clearly indicates that the tomb was sealed with a heavy stone (John 19:38–20:1; Mark 15:42–46).
As Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “Why were Mary and the other women at the tomb? Luke 24:1 says that they went there with the spices that they “had prepared.” Jesus had been buried respectfully but in haste because He was put in the tomb just before the Sabbath began, on the Day of Preparation (John 19:42). Perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were unable to finish applying the burial spices to the body of Jesus, and the women went back to finish the job. But when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away, and Mary Magdalene’s first suspicion was that the body of the Lord had been stolen (John 20:1–2). But it would soon be clear that something far more amazing had occurred.”
AS we continue to delve more deeply into the differing accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, we do not discover inaccuracies or even contradictions. Rather, we discover four different viewpoints of the same event. Taken as a whole, they neither contradict each other of the truth of the empty tomb.
May God’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!