New Testament Lesson 15 (Matt 28; Luke 24; John 20–21)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene and Other Women
● After Jesus was crucified, his body was wrapped in clean linen cloths and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, one of Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 27:57–60; Luke 23:50–53; John 19:38–42). This was done quickly because the Sabbath was about to begin.
● The morning after the Sabbath (April 6, AD 33), Mary Magdalene and other women returned to the tomb with spices and ointments to more thoroughly anoint and embalm Jesus’ body (Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:47–16:1).
— The precise time of the resurrection is not known.
— Mary arrived at or near dawn on Sunday morning (6:00 AM).
— The other women are identified by Mark.
● When Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb it was empty (Matthew 28:2–4; Luke 24:1–4).
— JST Matthew 28 states, as Luke does, that there were two angels (v. 2, footnote 2a).
● An angel spoke the words that still thrill us today: “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said (Matthew 28:5–6; Luke 24:5–8).”
Other Early Appearances of Christ
● The other women ran quickly to tell the disciples He had risen (Matthew 28:7–8; Luke 24:8–9).
● Mary remained behind, weeping (John 20:11–18; Mark 16:9–11). Jesus appeared unto her there.
— This is the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil prior to his death (Matt.26:6–13)
— She had also been healed of seven evils by Jesus (Luke 8:1–3).
● Jesus appeared to the other women on their way to the disciples (Matthew 28:9–10).
● The disciples did not believe these faithful women at first (Mark 16:9–14).
Jesus on the Road to Emmaus
● Two of the disciples went (ran) to the tomb and found it empty (John 20:1–10).
● Two other disciples—Cleopas & his companion (Luke)—were sad as they walked along the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–24).
● The resurrected Lord joined them and taught them as they walked (Luke 24:25–27).
● They returned to Jerusalem and heard of the resurrection (Luke 24:33–35). By this time, Christ has already appeared unto Peter.
The Resurrected Lord Appears to the Apostles
● The Apostles thought they were seeing a spirit when Christ appeared to them (Luke 24:36–37).
● The Savior’s reassurance to them clearly describes the nature of a resurrected being—having “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:38–43).
● Thomas was not there and did not believe the other Apostles’ testimonies that the Lord had been resurrected (John 20:24–25).
● Jesus later appeared to all of the Apostles, including Thomas, and he believed (John 20:26–29). President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Have you not heard others speak as Thomas spoke? ‘Give us,’ they say, ‘the empirical evidence. Prove before our very eyes, and our ears, and our hands, else we will not believe.’ This is the language of the time in which we live. Thomas the Doubter has become the example of men in all ages who refuse to accept other than that which they can physically prove and explain—as if they could prove love, or faith, or even such physical phenomena as electricity . . . To all within the sound of my voice who may have doubts, I repeat the words given Thomas as he felt the wounded hands of the Lord: ‘Be not faithless, but believing.’”1
WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTED CHRIST
Thousands of Early Witnesses to the Resurrection
● Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Christ (John 20:11–18).
● Jesus appeared to the other women on their way to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:9–10).
● Peter went to the tomb and shortly thereafter saw the risen Lord. (Luke 24:10–12).
● Jesus appeared unto Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32).
● He appeared unto the Apostles, without Thomas, that evening (Luke 24:36–48).
● He appeared 8 days later to the Apostles, including Thomas (John 20:24–29).
● The eleven disciples met him on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16–18).
● He appeared again to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–19).
● He was seen by more than 500 disciples at once on one occasion (1 Cor. 15:3–9).
● The Apostle Paul saw him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–6).
● The Apostle John saw him in vision on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:10–19).
● Many faithful Saints were resurrected shortly after Christ rose from the tomb . . . and were seen by the disciples (Matt. 27:52–53).
● Jesus appeared also to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:14–15).
● President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “No force beneath the heavens could now hold back the power of the Son of God. It was as if His Almighty Father could stand no more. The earth trembled. The guards fled. The stone was moved. The Lord of heaven and earth arose from the bier, shook off the burial clothes, and stepped forth to become the first fruits of them that slept. The empty tomb bore testimony of this greatest of all miracles. With the appearance of the risen Lord first to Mary and then to many others, even to upwards of five hundred, came the undeniable testimony of His everlasting power over life and death.”2
Early Attempts to Discredit the Resurrection
● There was no doubt that Jesus was dead on Friday (John 19:31–37).
● When Jesus predicted his resurrection, they pretended not to understand (John 2:18–22).
● The Pharisees understood perfectly what Jesus said, because they demanded that a guard be posted in front of the tomb so Christians could not steal his body and then pretend that He had risen (Matthew 27:57–66).
● The soldiers were terrified by the appearance of an angel (Matthew 28:2–4).
● Jewish religious leaders bribed the soldiers to keep silent about it (Matthew 28:11–15).
Modern Doubts about the Resurrection
● Studies consistently show that many ministers or leaders of Christian churches today do not believe in a literal resurrection. To many of them, the resurrection is a figurative concept, and it means something like the spirit rising to a heaven.
● They teach that we will be judged at the time of our death, with punishments or rewards at that time. The resurrection has no specific purpose in their doctrine.
RESURRECTION IS LITERAL & UNIVERSAL
The Resurrection Is Literal
● Job’s testimony of the resurrection and its connection to Christ (Job 19:25–27).
● Ezekiel’s vision of a valley full of bones that are resurrected to life (Ezekiel 37:1–10).
● Jesus demonstrated the tangible nature of a resurrected body (Luke 24:36–43).
The Resurrection Is Universal
● Just as all men die, all men shall be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
● All people will rise from the dead and be judged of God (Alma 11:41–45).
Modern Witnesses of the Risen Christ
● Christ appeared to the boy prophet in the glorious first vision in 1820 (JS-History 14–17).
● He appeared to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon at Hiram, Ohio, on 16 February 1832. (D&C 76:19–24).
● He appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836 (D&C 110:2–4).
● He has appeared to many other faithful Saints in the latter days. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest.”3
What are some doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● The Special Sensitivity of Women (Matthew 28:7–10). Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Does it not tell us much about the intrinsic intelligence of women to read of the crucifixion scene at Calvary, ‘And many women were there beholding afar off.’ (Matt. 27:55) Their presence was a prayer; their lingering was like a litany. And who came first to the empty tomb of the risen Christ? Two women. Who was the first mortal to see the resurrected Savior? Mary of Magdala. Special spiritual sensitivity keeps the women of God hoping long afer many others have ceased.”4
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “How much there is incident to the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord which ennobles and exalts faithful women. They wept at the cross, sought to care for his wounded and lifeless body, and came to his tomb to weep and worship for their friend and Master. And so it is not strange that we find a woman, Mary of Magdala, chosen and singled out from all the disciples, even including the Apostles, to be the first mortal to see and bow in the presence of a resurrected being. Mary, who had been healed of much and who loved much, saw the risen Christ! . . . Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to other women.”5
● Feeling the Holy Spirit on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). The two disciples on the road to Emmaus felt the Holy Ghost as they walked with Jesus. President David O. McKay said, “I think that there are many in this congregation, and I hope many who have been listening over radio and television who have had their hearts ‘burn within them’ as they have listened not only to the inspirational singing, but to the sublime testimonies, and I hope as their hearts have burned within them, that they [have] realized the message that went into their hearts. I hope they have an inkling, at least, of the divine truth that they are sons of God, and that that burning within them was just a touch of harmony between them and the infinite, the Spirit of God which will enlighten our minds, quicken our understandings, and bring all things to our remembrance.”6
● Sunday — The New Sabbath Day (John 20:1). After the resurrection, “the first day of the week” became the new Sabbath day for believers in Christ. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Because Jesus came forth from the grave on the first day of the week, to commemorate that day and to keep in remembrance the glorious reality of the resurrection, the Ancient Apostles , as guided by the Spirit, changed the Sabbath to Sunday. That this change had divine approval we know from latter-day revelation . . . (D&C 59:9–17).”7
Elder Mark E. Peterson said, “With this . . . in mind, let us ask ourselves how important the Lord’s atonement is to us. How dear to us is the Lord Jesus Christ? How deeply are we concerned about immortality? Is the resurrection of vital interest to us? We can readily see that observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the depth of our conversion. Our observance or non-observance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward His suffering in Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of His atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us.”8
● Death Is Not Final. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty . . .
“Of all the victories in human history, none is so great, none so universal in its effect, none so everlasting in its consequences as the victory of the crucified Lord who came forth in the Resurrection that first Easter morning.
“We laud the captains and the kings, we praise the nations that are victorious against oppressors. We appropriately build monuments to remember their sacrifices and their triumphs over the forces of oppression. But great and important as are these achievements, none can compare with the victory of the lonely, pain-racked figure on Calvary’s cross who triumphed over death and brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind.”9
● Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Resurrection. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“Would you think it strange that I relate what I have seen in vision in relation [to] this interesting theme. Those who have died in Jesus Christ, may expect to enter into all that fruition of Joy when they come forth, which they have pursued here.
“So plain was the vision I actually saw men before they had ascended from the tomb as though they were getting up slowly. They take each other by the hand. It was my father and my son, my Mother and my daughter, my brother and my sister. When the voice calls suppose I am laid by the side of my father. What would be the first joy of my heart? Where is my father, my mother, my sister? They are by my side. I embrace them and they me . . .
“All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it . . . God has revealed his Son from the heavens and the doctrine of the resurrection also. We have a knowledge that those we bury here God [will] bring them up again, clothed upon and quickened by the spirit of the Great God.”10
The Prophet Joseph Smith also said:
“You mourners have occasion to rejoice. . . . for your (loved one) is gone to wait until the resurrection of the dead until the perf~ection of the remainder; for at the resurrection your friend will rise in perfect felicity and go to celestial glory, while many must wait myriads of years before they can receive the like blessings; and your expectations and hopes are far above what man can conceive. . . .
“I am authorized to say, by the authority of the Holy Ghost, that you have no occasion to fear; for he is gone to the home of the just. Don’t mourn, don’t weep. I know it by the testimony of the Holy Ghost that is within me; and you may wait for your friends to come forth to meet you in the morn of the celestial world . . .
“I have a father, brothers, children, and friends who have gone to a world of spirits. They are only absent for a moment. They are in the spirit, and we shall soon meet again. The time will soon arrive when the trumpet shall sound. When we depart, we shall hail our mothers, fathers, friends, and all whom we love, who have fallen asleep in Jesus.. . . . It will be an eternity of felicity.”11
1. In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 90; Ensign, May 1978, 59.
2. Conference Address, Ensign, April 1988, 67.
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 149.
4. General conference Address, April 1978; Ensign, May 1978, 10.
5. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:843, 846.
6. In Conference Report, April 1960, 121–122.
7. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:841.
8. Ensign, May 1975, 49.
9. Conference Address, Ensign, April 1988, 66.
10. S.H. Faulring (ed.), The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith: An American Prophet’s Record , 366–367.
11. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 359–360.