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Jesus conquered death when he rose from the grave.
Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb, but on the third day he rose from the dead! He appeared to Mary, his disciples, and other followers to show he had risen. Jesus’ death and Resurrection conquered sin and death so we can have forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life with God.
Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25
Today is Easter Sunday! What important event do we remember today? Easter is such an exciting and important day because we remember how Jesus rose from the grave. We have a risen Savior! We’re going to look at the accounts in the Bible that record this true historical event. The four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—all record Jesus’ crucifixion and Resurrection. Each writer had his own perspective, and some included different details they thought were important, depending on who they were writing for. From their four accounts, we get the full picture of what happened. But first, let’s review what we learned in our last lesson.
Jesus came to Jerusalem and was welcomed by the people as the promised Messiah. People threw their cloaks and tree branches on the road for Jesus to ride over. That was how they greeted kings. The people were excited because they’d heard about the amazing miracles Jesus had done: healing people, casting out demons, feeding thousands of people with one lunch, and calming storms.
Many Jewish people thought that their Messiah would be a military leader who would defeat the Romans. But that is not what Jesus came to do. What did Jesus come to save the people from? The Romans or their sins?
Our sins are a bigger problem than who is leading a country or making the rules here on earth. That’s because our sins separate us from a holy, righteous God. God planned to send his Son Jesus to earth as the perfect sacrifice. Jesus willingly chose to take our punishment when he died for us on the Cross. When he died, the punishment for sin was paid. It seemed like it was the end when Jesus died, but it wasn’t!
The Roman guards broke the legs of the two criminals crucified with Jesus so they would die faster. But when they came to Jesus, he was already dead. The guards pierced his side with a spear to make sure.
A wealthy Jewish man named Joseph from Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus. He went to Pilate, the Roman governor, and asked to have the body of Jesus so he could give him a proper burial. Pilate agreed, and Joseph took the body of Jesus down from the Cross.
Jesus was dead. Joseph took his body and wrapped it in linens. Linens were strips of cloth usually covered with spices to mask the smell of a dead body. Then Joseph laid Jesus in his own tomb in a garden near the place where Jesus was crucified.
This tomb was more like a cave carved from stone than the graves we dig in the ground today. The tomb of a wealthy man like Joseph usually had an open doorway and some steps leading into one or more rooms where they laid the bodies. But this was a new tomb; no body had been placed in it until Joseph put Jesus in there. Joseph rolled a stone in front of the entrance of the tomb, then went home for the Sabbath. Jesus’ mother and some other women went with Joseph to see where he laid Jesus’ body so they could return after the Sabbath to care for the body.
But the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus weren’t satisfied that he was dead. Let’s see what they did. Read Matthew 27:62–66
Chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to discuss the body of Jesus? These men were the Jewish religious leaders who had plotted against Jesus, arrested him, tried him, and handed him over to Pilate to be killed. They were worried about the disciples of Jesus stealing the body and claiming that Jesus rose from the dead.
These men remembered that Jesus had said he would rise on the third day. They didn’t believe that would happen, but they didn’t want Jesus’ disciples taking his body and claiming he returned to life.
Pilate suggested that they secure Jesus’ tomb with guards to keep this from happening. And that’s exactly what they did. They got Roman guards to seal the stone in front of the tomb and to stand watch. They thought there was no way Jesus was coming back.
Meanwhile, the disciples had all fled from Jesus when he was betrayed by Judas and arrested. Peter and John followed Jesus to the trial. Peter was asked if he knew Jesus, and he said “No!” three times. He was afraid he’d be arrested, too! John was at the crucifixion with Jesus’ mother, his own mother, and some other followers. After Jesus’ death, the disciples were hiding in a house.
Let’s read what happened when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary returned to the tomb. Read Matthew 28:1–10.
The women returned to the tomb on the first day of the week. They came the day after the Sabbath, or the first day of the week, which is Sunday. The Sabbath for the Jewish people began Friday evening at sunset and ended Saturday evening at sunset. So they came very early, before dawn, on Sunday morning.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. She was one of several women who followed Jesus and saw him crucified.
On the way to the tomb, the women were wondering how they would roll the stone out of the way since it was so large. But what did the women see when they came to the tomb? The stone had been rolled away by an angel, and the angel was sitting on the stone.
Why do you think the angel rolled back the stone? Some people think it was to let Jesus out of the tomb, but Jesus didn’t need help to get out of the tomb. In his resurrected body, he could appear and disappear wherever he wanted, which we’ll read about in a bit. The angel rolled away the stone so that people could see that he was gone. What did the angel look like? His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
What did the guards do when the earthquake happened and the angel came down from heaven? They trembled with fear and became like dead men. They either became unconscious, or they couldn’t move because they were so paralyzed with fear. The angel also took care of the stone.
The angel told the women not to be afraid. Jesus was risen! They could look and see the empty tomb. Next, they were told to go tell the disciples the good news. The women were fearful but joyful.
Jesus appeared and spoke to them. The women fell down and worshipped Jesus. Imagine the joy these women must have felt when they heard that Jesus was alive and then saw him! The Gospel of Luke records how the women rushed to tell the disciples and Jesus’ other followers.
The men did not believe when the women told them about the angel and seeing Jesus. But John’s Gospel records how John and Peter raced to the tomb. They saw the linen cloths that Joseph had wrapped around the body of Jesus, and they saw the cloth from Jesus’ head lying folded up in a place by itself. They knew that couldn’t happen by accident. Jesus must be alive! Jesus was risen!
Remember the guards who were supposed to stand watch at Jesus’ tomb? They eventually recovered, and some of them went to the chief priests and told them what had happened. The Jewish leaders didn’t want anyone to know Jesus was alive, so they paid the guards to spread the story that the disciples came and stole Jesus’ body while they were asleep. Does that make sense? Are guards supposed to sleep while on duty? And if they were asleep, how did they know who supposedly stole the body?
Jesus wanted his followers to know and see that he was alive. They didn’t need to be sad and afraid anymore.
Read John 20:19–20. This was the first day of the week. Remember, the first day of the week is Sunday. So this happened in the evening on the same day Jesus rose from the dead. The disciples were in a room with the doors locked. Why were they behind locked doors? They were afraid that the Jewish leaders would send guards to arrest them just like they had arrested Jesus.
Suddenly, Jesus appeared and stood in the room with them! That must have scared them because Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Jesus spoke words of comfort to them; he knew they were frightened.
Read John 20:24–29. Thomas wasn’t in the room when Jesus showed himself in verses 19–20. What did Thomas say when the other disciples said they’d seen Jesus? He didn’t believe it. He wanted to see the nail marks and the wound in Jesus’ side before he would believe it was really him that they saw.
The disciples were in a locked room eight days later, and Jesus appeared again, in his resurrected body. This time Thomas was there. Jesus showed Thomas the nail marks and wound in his side. Jesus did that for Thomas, so that Thomas would believe it was really him. Thomas did believe. He called Jesus his Lord and his God. He understood that Jesus was the Son of God.
That’s why John wrote down what he saw and heard about Jesus. In verse 31, John said he wrote these things so that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ—the Messiah and the Son of God. By believing in Jesus we can have eternal life in his name.
Jesus also appeared to other followers besides the women and his disciples. Jesus joined two men on the road to Emmaus leaving Jerusalem. When they told him that they were sad Jesus had been killed and that some women reported seeing angels and the empty tomb, Jesus taught them about himself from Old Testament Scriptures. They didn’t realize who Jesus was until he broke bread at the table with them that evening. When they finally recognized him, he vanished from their sight! They immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell other followers what they had seen and heard.
Jesus appeared again among his disciples and ate a meal with them, which proved he had a real body and was not a ghost or vision. Let’s read some of Jesus’ last words to his followers before he returned to heaven.
Read Luke 24:44–48. Jesus said he fulfilled everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Jesus was referring to what we call the Old Testament. The people back then didn’t have the New Testament, but they had the Old Testament Scriptures. He wanted them to know that he was the promised Messiah written about in the Bible.
Verse 46 was written about the Christ. It says that he should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that’s what Jesus did! He suffered death on the cross and rose again so that people from all nations could have repentance and forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just for the Jewish people. His death paid for the sins of people from every nation.
In verse 48, Jesus’ followers were called witnesses of these things. His disciples and followers were witnesses of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. They saw him die, and they touched the nail marks in his hands and feet when he came back to life. They knew it was Jesus.
Jesus went out of the city and he was taken back up into heaven. But his followers weren’t sad; they were filled with joy. They immediately began sharing the news. The disciples were changed men! They went from hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to everyone. They were no longer afraid. They knew Jesus was alive and that their sins were forgiven. No matter what happened on earth, they had Jesus’ promise of heaven when they died.
Jesus died on the cross and was placed in a tomb. But he didn’t stay there! God raised him from the dead, and Jesus appeared to many of his followers. Jesus’ Resurrection on the third day, as he promised and as Scripture says, conquered death so we can have forgiveness and eternal life with God when we die. We no longer have to fear death if we’ve repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus as our Savior.
Because the Resurrection shows that Jesus is God, many people today try to say it’s not true. They don’t want to be judged for their sins by a holy God. Instead, some say that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. But we know that is silly. We have the descriptions of Jesus’ suffering and death at the hands of the Romans. No one survived crucifixion. Others try to say that the women and disciples who saw Jesus were all having hallucinations, just imagining that they saw Jesus because they missed him so much and were so sad. But we know that’s impossible for so many people to have the same hallucination at different times and places. 1 Corinthians tells us that over 500 people saw Jesus after he’d been crucified and before he returned to heaven. That’s a lot of witnesses!
It’s sad that people try to come up with reasons to deny the truth of the Bible. But we trust in God’s Word. God promised a Savior would come, and he sent Jesus. Like the disciples, we can be changed from frightened followers to bold witnesses. We can share the good news of Jesus with others.