Easter Sunday

"Empty Tomb," Interior View of the Herodian Family Tomb, first century AD, Jerusalem.

"Empty Tomb," Interior View of the Herodian Family Tomb, first century AD, Jerusalem.

The Resurrection: Matt 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20:1–18

  • The Empty Tomb (Mark 16:1–8; Matt 28:1–8; Luke 24:1–9; John 20:1–10)
  • Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9–11; Matt 28:9–10; Luke 24:10–11; John 20:11–18)
  • Chief Priests React to the Resurrection (Matt 28:11–15)
  • The Road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–35)
  • Jesus Appears to the Disciples (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:26–48; John 20:19–23 [to the Ten only])

Because Easter is not a biblical term (and has pagan origins), some suggest that “Resurrection Sunday” would be a better term.  The word itself only appears once in the King James Bible at Acts 12:4, where is is better translated as “Passover.” So significant was the event of that Sunday morning that Christians since have celebrated it as “the Lord’s Day,” and it has become our weekly sabbath, replacing the Saturday of the Old Testament. Still, for millennia the term “Easter” has come to be synonymous with resurrection, hope, and the joyful refrain “He is risen!”

William Bouguereau, The Three Marys at the Tomb, 1876.

William Bouguereau, The Three Marys at the Tomb, 1876.

All four gospels begin their resurrection narratives with an account of the empty tomb, preserving the wonder and awe that filled the women who came to the tomb that early morning to find the stone rolled away.

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, ‘Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?’ And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, ‘Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.  (Mark 16:1-6)

Eeugen Burnand, The Disciples Running to the Sepulchre, 1898.

Eeugen Burnand, The Disciples Running to the Sepulchre, 1898.

Walter Ranes, "He Is Not Here"

Walter Ranes, "He Is Not Here"

A favorite Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” catches the feelings of joy  that we share with Christians the world over at the Easter miracle.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the vict’ry won, Alleluia!
Jesus’ agony is o’er, Alleluia!
Darkness veils the earth no more, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
(Hymn 200)

The Gospel accounts make it clear that the risen Lord was seen, heard, and felt. To these accounts one can add Paul’s list of post-resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:3–9 (Peter, the rest of the Twelve, over five hundred at once, James the brother of Jesus, “all the ‘apostles,’” and, last of all, Paul).

Much later the apostle John, referring both to the reality of the Incarnation and Jesus’ continuing physical reality wrote:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1–3)

Caravaggio, "The Incredulity of St. Thomas," c. 1603.

Caravaggio, "The Incredulity of St. Thomas," c. 1603.


Each of the resurrection narratives carries beauty and power, confirming our own testimonies that Jesus indeed rose from the dead and lives today. The fact that the first to actually see him were Mary Magdalene, the other women, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus suggests that all disciples, not just the Twelve, can receive sure testimonies that Jesus lives. Nevertheless, we are grateful for such special witnesses, “to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs [Greek tekmeriois, “sure signs” or “tokens”]” (Acts 1:3).

For my final Easter message, however, I want to share the implications of his resurrection for us. Inasmuch as Jesus has overcome death, all shall live again . . . and as the Book of Mormon teaches, all will be restored to a perfect frame with imperfections corrected and challenges overcome (see Alma 11:42–44).

Samuel and Rachel on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010

Samuel and Rachel on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mounting examples in this life of those who struggle with physical, developmental, and other challenges—including those of my own precious son—have caused me to see a new need for the hope of renewal, rebirth, and healing that are so marvelously illustrated in the reality of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ own resurrection healed hearts as “grief turned to joy”:

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20–21)

The hope of the resurrection continues to heal many grieving hearts as well as bodies, giving new meaning to the prophecy “but unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). Significantly, Jesus’ final commission to the apostles included the important injunction that they go forth not only to teach and baptize (Matt 28:19–20) but also to lay hands on the sick that they should recover (Mark 16:18, 20). Certainly part of our discipleship should be that as Christ brought hope and healing, so should we work for these ends in our own small way.

Beyond this, however, is the hope of a glorious resurrection for those who accept him and are true and faithful to the covenants that they make with him. In recent years the deaths of grandparents, my father, my mother-in-law, and others dear to me have brought new meaning to this Easter message. Because He lives, so shall we . . . accordingly I close with the words of Paul that I shared at Dad’s funeral, followed by the testimonies of both Paul and Jesus himself in Revelation:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14–17; see D&C 88:95–98).

“‘I am he that liveth and was dead; behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death’ . . . He which testifieth these things saith, ‘Surely I come quickly.  Amen.’ Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 1:18; 22:20)

8 comments for “Easter Sunday

  1. April 3, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks to all who have “tuned in” and taken the journey with me through Holy Week. I was a little self-conscious about “overdoing” things with so many, lengthy posts this week, but it is a labor or love for me. Although analysis of and reflection on scriptural passages do not attract the attention of more controversial and sensational subjects, I have appreciated the responses and kind comments. See you again next Christmas?

  2. April 4, 2010 at 1:38 am

    It’s been a wonderful series, Eric. You’re welcome back at Christmas, or any time in between.

  3. Matt A.
    April 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Eric, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and readings. I have saved them and will use them again in future years.

  4. James
    April 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Eric, this is a pretty epic series. But you didn’t write about the best part today. :-)

    “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
    –2 Corinthians 5:17-21

    It’s not *just* about the afterlife or being restored to a perfect frame (although that’s also awesome). It’s about Christ’s forgiveness and restoration immediately. If you are in Christ, who you once were is dead; you’re a new person reconciled with God. That? Is awesome.

  5. April 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Ah, love the realized eschatology, James! It is worth pointing out that the NT Greek word for “atonement” is katallage, which has the basic meaning of “reconciliation” as opposed to “covering (as with blood)” or redeem (meaning “to buy back”), which is more of the OT Hebrew sense of kpr. My point is that the noun katallage and the verb katallaso (“to reconcile”) are the very words used in your 2 Cor 5 passage.

  6. James
    April 5, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Ooh, I didn’t realize that about the word. Interesting. Strongs also defines it as “exchange” and “restoration.” How does that impact the interpretation of the passage?

    You mentioned realized eschatology? Not that I think every NT writing about the endtimes is about Christ’s ministry, but I just can’t parse 2 Cor 5 as an eschatological chapter. :-)

    The first half of the chapter talks about Heaven, but it’s a thing of the present. Heaven and the judgement seat are just a death away. But even if it is eschatological, then Paul says “Therefore,”. He seems to be indicating that the end is his motivation for sharing the things in verses 17-21. Notably, old things have already passed away and the reconciliation has already taken place. Because the old creature is gone and the reconciliation already happened, it seems as if the “new creature” is now.
    It also doesn’t seem to fit with the larger context of the book; in chapter 6 onward, Paul is pretty plainly talking about things happening in the present. In chapter 3, Paul started talking about being transformed to be more like the Lord.

    There’s also the connection to Isa 43:18-21.
    Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
    Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
    The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
    This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

    In Isaiah, God’s “new thing” was bringing his people out of exile, out of bondage and restoring them. Now, if Paul’s reference was eschatological, he was making the reference to show a parallel between the new Heaven and the new Earth. That could sort of fit with the earlier reference to Heaven. But, if the larger context can be relied upon and Paul didn’t abruptly start discussing the endtimes halfway through before switching gears and talking about practical stuff, Paul could have been pointing out the parallel between Israel’s freedom from exile and the freedom from sin for Christ’s people brought about by Christ’s death.

    Finally, directly after this at the start of chapter 6, Paul says this,
    “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”

    I don’t know. It seems pretty emphatic that this stuff is happening (or in the process of happening) right now. *shrug* Make of that what you will. :-)

  7. Crossed the Tiber
    April 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Christmas? For certain non-Mormons among us, the Octave of Easter (Eight days of Solemnities) is just beginning with the Easter Season formally stretching, not surprisingly, out 50 days to the namesake Pentecost. Within that period there will, of course, be the Holy Day of Ascension and not long thereafter, the Holy Day of Pentecost (to celebrate the Descent of the Holy Ghost). Surely all of these are fitting for some “reflection” and perhaps some attempted “analysis”? If not, may I suggest the Holy Season of Advent be visited in this context before Christmas? With each passing year, Mormons seems more and more willing to dip their feet in the water of Advent. Who knows? Maybe in the not too distant future, some semblance of Lent may actually make an appearance within Mormondom. Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani.

  8. Craig M.
    April 5, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for this series – it really helped to prepare me spiritually for Easter, as well as the passing of my grandmother on Friday.

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