Scot We’ve all been studying the life and mortal mission of Jesus Christ for the past six months. Don’t you agree that you feel closer to the Savior now than you did at the beginning of your studies? This week’s lesson has some surprises and is the culmination of the Savior’s perfect ministry. How would you have felt if you had come to the tomb early that Sunday morning after your own pain and sorrow at the loss of Jesus—and you looked in only to find it empty?
Maurine Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast of the lesson entitled “He is Risen.” We will cover thoughts and materials from Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24 and John chapters 20 and 21.
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We so appreciate our friend Paul Cardall for providing the beautiful music that opens and closes this Podcast.
The Joy of the Resurrection
Scot Maurine, if there was ever a lesson this year that I would like to have a few extra weeks to talk about—it is this one! That’s the nice thing about our home-centered and Church-supported plan “to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.” (See Quentin L. Cook, October 2018, Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ) During the week we can study and ponder and meditate and discuss these things with our family and friends—and truly expand our understandings. I was so impressed with one particular item as I studied these five chapters from the Gospels over and over again this week: Every Gospel writer in their testimony of the resurrection bore sure witness that certain women were the first to see the resurrected Lord and therefore became the first witnesses to tell the world of this unprecedented event—the most significant single event in the history of the world.
Maurine I do love these account too. Matthew documents it in such a wonderful way in the first ten verses of Chapter 28:
Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” came just before dawn on Sunday to see the sepulchre where Jesus’ body had been laid.
“And two angels of the Lord descended from heaven,” we learn from the Joseph Smith Translation, “and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it.
“And their countenance was like lightning and their raiment white as snow…”
“And the angels answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for we know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
I love that particular line: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay…” because it reminds me of the beginning of the Savior’s ministry when two disciples, Andrew and one other—likely John—heard the Savior speak and they followed Him. And Jesus saith unto them, What seek ye?—it’s that same pattern to the women. We know that ye seek Jesus. I think those original two disciples didn’t quite know what to say so they said, “Where dwellest thou?” and Jesus said unto them, “Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt…” (See John 1: 35-39) That’s the same language here of these two angels: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” There certainly is a parallel in these two ends of His ministry. Maurine
Now back to the women at the tomb. In Matthew, there are two women at the Tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (likely the Mother of James and Joses. She is the wife of Cleophas—the same disciple who was with the Lord on the road to Emmaus). In Mark there are three women—Salome is there. Salome was the wife of Zebedee and the Mother of James and John. In the account of Luke we learn that there were many women there: Mary Magdalene (who is always listed first) and Joanna, a woman of means who had followed Jesus from the beginning. She was the wife of Chusa who was steward to Herod Antipas. Luke also accounts for Mary the Mother of James “and other women that were with them.” (See Luke 24:10) All these women are undoubtedly the same who had followed Jesus throughout his entire ministry and had ministered unto Him of their substance and seen to His needs. (See Luke 8:2-3)
Scot Let’s go back to Matthew’s testimony. The angels gave the women a command: “Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.” By the way, if an angel tells you to go quickly—you run! And the women did run to carry this out!
Isn’t that a wonderful and awesome assignment? These women, who had been among the most faithful of Jesus’ disciples from the beginning of His ministry are now to go and tell the apostles what the angels had said. But it gets even better.
In verse 9 of Matthew 28: “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”
Maurine What a scene of joy! This term “all hail” is not one we use commonly in our modern English phrasing. In the Syriac and Persic versions of the Bible this is translated, “Peace be unto you.” This is more likely what he said—the common greeting of Shalom! But “all hail” can also be translated, “Let us all rejoice together!” I like that—how could anyone in this setting help but be filled with joy and rejoicing? Scot I would love to see one of our amazing Latter-day Saint artists like Walter Rane, or J. Kirk Richards or Annie Henrie Nader (or a host of others) depict this particular scene of these women and the Savior rejoicing together in those first moments after the resurrection. This is glorious indeed!
Mary Magdalene Maurine Now, you’ll notice we didn’t initially mention John’s writings. The testimony of John only documents Mary Magdalene at the tomb and he chooses to focus on her and her unique witness of the risen Lord.
She went to the tomb early, when it was yet dark, and could see that the stone was taken away. She clearly had peered into the tomb with her small olive oil lamp and could see that the body of Jesus was no longer there. There is no question that she had seen them lay the body of Jesus in the tomb—so, of course, this was extremely troubling to her and she immediately ran to tell the apostles.
Scot At this hour she likely awakened Peter and John (if they could sleep at all through all that had happened) and told them what she had seen. “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” (John 20:2) The use of the word “we” here indicates there were likely others with her—but again, John focuses on Mary alone.
So, Peter and John ran together to the tomb (I love all this running). And John outran Peter and arrived first but waited for Peter and let him go into the sepulchre first.
Maurine The two are in a state of shock and rising belief, “For as yet they knew not the scripture that he must rise again from the dead.” A better translation is they “understood not, as yet, the scripture…” Of course, no one had ever done this before—yes, Lazarus, had been brought back from the dead by the Lord—and these two were witnesses. Yes, the son of the widow of Nain had been raised from the dead—and these two were witnesses. Yes, Jairus daughter of Capernaum had been brought back from the dead—and these two were witnesses.
But they had also been witnesses of the brutal crucifixion of their Lord. They had seen the nails in His hands and wrists. They had seen the nail in His feet. They had heard Him say, “It is finished!” They had witnessed the spear pierce His side. This was somehow different. It was all too fresh; too raw; too real. And yet they were inside the tomb where they also knew His body had been laid—and HE WAS NOT THERE!
“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.” (John 20:10)
“But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” The Two Angels
Scot This caused me to pause as I pondered about who these two angels could be. Clearly various prophets and angels have very specific missions. Gabriel, who is Noah, is the one who came to Zacharias in the temple to tell him of the miracle that would happen to him and Elizabeth in bringing forth a son in their old age. Gabriel came to young Mary to tell her of the coming of Jesus and in what manner this would happen. We believe it was mighty Michael, who was Adam, who came to strengthen the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though Nephi saw in vision the ending scenes and events of the world, he was told that John the Beloved had been given the assignment to write about them (see 1 Nephi 14:18-28). We know Moroni’s assignment was to see to the coming forth of the Stick of Joseph—The Book of Mormon—and he was there from the revealing of the plates until the completion of the printing. The list goes on and on. God works in great order in all of His perfect plan.
Maurine So, it seems like these two angels at the Empty Tomb would not be just some random angels. Although we have no known revelation on this, two Latter-day Saint writers, Thomas Wayment and Richard Holzapfel, have given some very interesting insights and speculation on this.
The authors first talk about the importance of reading Luke’s Gospel and his Book of Acts in sequence—because Luke, who wrote more than a fourth of the New Testament, meant to have his two books read together.
They write: “Another example of the connection between the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts is illustrated by the mention of two men. In Luke we read of Jesus, Peter, James, and John ascending a mountain…on the mount, Luke says, “As [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias [the Greek form of Elijah]: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease [departure, “exodus”] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:29–31). Later, at the end of the Gospel of Luke, we read a story of the empty tomb: “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:1–4).
Scot “Luke had previously identified the women in this story…But what may be overlooked is that he did the same for the two men (see Luke 9:30); they are most likely Moses and Elias (Elijah). In this case he describes the men in the same terms he used earlier—appearing in glory with shining garments. Finally, at the beginning of Acts, we read of Jesus’ Ascension: “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel” (Acts 1:9–10). Again, Luke highlights the presence of two men (Moses and Elijah), who this time appear in “white apparel.”
Maurine The authors continue: “Only after we identify the common thread of two heavenly beings present on three occasions do we ask why Luke tells us these interconnected stories in the first place. In this case, Luke’s purpose in relating these three stories is most likely to emphasize that both the Law, represented by Moses, and the Prophets, represented by Elijah—two major divisions of Jewish scripture—witness all three significant events of Jesus’ ministry. First, they witness the prophecies of His departure; second, they witness that He rose and left the tomb empty; and third, they witness that He ascended to heaven. In other words, just as Jesus said: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:44–46; emphasis added). (See Life and Teachings of the New Testament Apostles: From the Day of Pentecost to the Apocalypse, Thomas A. Wayment and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah; 2010, Chapter 1)
Scot Elder Bruce R. McConkie may also infer this possibility in his section of his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary under the heading: “Two Angels Open Jesus’ Tomb.” (See McConkie, Bruce R., Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Volume 1, p. 839). Fascinating to think about, isn’t it? And it makes so much sense. The First Witness: Mary We left Mary at the tomb alone. Let’s get back to her. These two angels said to her: “Woman, why weepest thou?” I love how there is no insert here that Mary was sore afraid or fear did enter her heart—as so many times is the initial feeling from mortals in their interactions with heavenly messengers. She just answered forthwith: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that is was Jesus. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” This is an immense showing of love, confidence, devotion and faith on the part of Mary. She was willing to singlehandedly attend to the body of Jesus and see to its proper preparation and burial. “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni!” Maurine: There was something in His voice she absolutely knew. Something in the way He looked at her. Something in His gaze captured her heart and she knew—she knew it was the Jesus she loved so much. She too had been a disciple from the beginning. She had followed him and attended to His needs. She had walked hundreds of miles with Him. But she was also a witness to His horrible and brutal death by crucifixion. She had likely wept unceasingly since the moment He said, “It is finished.” And yet, here He was. She knew it! She rejoiced in it! Mary Magdalene was the first to be a witness of the resurrected Lord. Of course she threw her arms around Him—perhaps around His feet in adoration and humility. The JST gives us His words, “Hold me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” That likely means, “Don’t keep me long. Don’t hold me up.” It does not stop her loving arms already being around Him. Scot He immediately gave her the charge to go tell the brethren. This is just like Jesus to go counter-culture and let a woman tell the men what she had seen. Imagine that scene as she comes to the gathering of disciples, including the apostles, and gives her report. “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” (See John 20: 11-18) Mark records: “And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” (Mark 16:10-11) Luke records that all the women who had been at the tomb came and gave their report to the disciples, “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” (Luke 24:11) The Road to Emmaus Maurine Jesus was certainly very busy the day of His resurrection. He was putting the law of witnesses in place in multiples. We love the story only recorded by Luke of the two disciples, Cleopas and another, on the road to Emmaus. Emmaus was about 7 ½ miles from Jerusalem—about a two-hour journey. These two disciples had clearly been there during the feast. They had witnessed the crucifixion and demise of Jesus. They were sad. “And they talked together of all these things which had happened. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” Scot I like to think that our own personal daily scripture study is like this—that He draws near to us and perhaps, too, our eyes are holden that we do not know that He is there. “And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? “And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? “And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. Maurine Then they share their disappointment and discouragement: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. “Yea, and certain women (including Cleopas’ wife, by the way) also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; “And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. “And certain of the them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.” How’s that for a quick summary of all that had happened in the last few days at Jerusalem? They packed a lot into a very few sentences. Scot “Then [Jesus] said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” I’ve always wanted a full transcript of that conversation! I would love to have the Lord Himself expound all the scriptures concerning Him! We don’t know when the Lord joined them in their 7-½ mile trek to Emmaus, but it’s possible they had an hour or more of study time with the Lord—not knowing that is was He! My heart yearns to be a part of such a conversation. But again, I believe the Lord invites us daily to immerse ourselves in the scriptures and let Him expound and explain and open them to our hearts and minds. Maurine “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. “But they constrained him [they were feeling something], saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. “And their eyes were opened and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.” Can you imagine? Perhaps it was when He broke the bread and they looked, for the first time, down upon His hands, and they saw the prints of the nails—perhaps it was at that moment that they recognized and knew Him—and he vanished! “And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Scot This is our daily goal—to have Him open to us the scriptures; to have the Holy Ghost cause our hearts to burn within us as we receive insights and knowledge and personal revelation as we study the word of God. There’s certainly more to daily scripture study than just duty and routine! The Gathering in the Closed Room
“And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem (so this would now be a 15 miles round trip journey), and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them.” I love that addition, “and them that were with them.” This is a group of firm believers who stayed close to the apostles after the crucifixion of Jesus. They were all praying for understanding, I’m sure, and for strength to carry on the midst of all that had happened. The two from Emmaus added their testimony to the women’s: “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. “And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.” Maurine Don’t you love how we get to see the unfolding of their belief and joy and testimonies—to go from “idle tales” and disbelief to beginning to feel joy and rejoicing as the witnesses began to bear their own personal testimonies? “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” The word that is used in the original Greek here is eirene (i ray’ nay) and means: “to join, or to tie together into a whole.” It connotes peace and harmony that make things safe and prosperous. The Lord is inviting them into His peace—the peace that only He can give. “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. “And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.” Scot This is a scene of complete joy and overwhelming happiness. It hadn’t been that long ago that they were all at the Garden of Gethsemane and they had seen the Lord taken from them. It had been an even shorter time since the crucifixion and the laying of His body in a tomb. Surely they were still catching their spiritual breath trying to comprehend what they were seeing with their own eyes. “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and an honeycomb.” “And he took it, and did eat before them.” Elder McConkie says of this action: “Then lest any feel later that their senses had been deceived, he asked for food and ate it before them, not to satisfy hunger, but to demonstrate that resurrected beings are tangible and can eat and digest food.” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 853). Maurine This same gathering took place on the next Sunday, behind closed doors, and the Lord appeared to them again. John records that at that first gathering the Apostle Thomas had not been there and when the others told him they had seen the resurrected Lord, he said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) You know, I am so grateful for Thomas’s desire to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus. He got the appellation of “Doubting Thomas”—which I personally think is unfair. I might call him, “Thomas, the Apostle who wanted to be included.” When he did see the Lord that next Sunday he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) This interaction with Thomas brought a blessing to all of us who are the rank and file believers. Jesus said, “Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) The New Sabbath Scot Just a note here about the Sabbath: For four thousand years of history of God’s interactions with His children, the Sabbath had always been celebrated on Saturday, the seventh day, the day when God rested from all His labors of the creation of the earth. This was a day to remember Him and the creation and to honor the Sabbath and cease to do work on that Holy Day. Maurine After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the First Day of the week, Sunday, became known as the Lord’s Day, the day when He forsook the tomb and extended that same gift to all who would ever come to earth—that each and every person would be resurrected. Thus, resurrection trumps creation, and though they are both critically important in God’s plan—the celebration of the suffering, atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would be on Sunday—the First Day of the week, a day to commemorate what He did for us. Sufficient Witnesses?
Scot So, Maurine, as we draw to the close of this episode, I have to ask a question: Do we have sufficient eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ? We live in a new world that not only is fast turning away from the Savior—but some even want to deny that He ever existed—or, if He did, He was not who He said He was. So, how about witnesses? Maurine Let’s document as many as we can. We’ve talked about Mary Magdalene. We’ve talked about the other Mary, Joanna, Salome and many other women. We know of Cleopas and his walking companion on the road to Emmaus. We know of the 11 apostles behind closed doors—and “them that were with them.” That could be scores more. We know that He appeared to more than 500 at once (see 1 Corinthians 15:6) and, of course, we know that Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle, was an eyewitness. Scot And we are so blessed to know of the visit of the Savior to the Nephites. We know that during that first visit there were two-thousand five hundred men, women and children who were not only eyewitnesses but they were able to “thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do,” as the record states, “going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.” (See 3 Nephi 11:14-15; 17:25) Maurine
And we know that the very next day after that marvelous experience with the Lord, an enormous crowd of the Nephites gathered to see Him—based on the witnesses and testimonies of those who had seen Him the day before. I love this verse of joy and gladness and glad tidings: “And it was noised abroad among the people immediately, before it was yet dark, that the multitude had seen Jesus, and that he had ministered unto them, and that he would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude. “Yea, and even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and insomuch did they send forth unto the people that there were many, yea, an exceedingly great number, did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude.” (3 Nephi 18:2-3) Scot And that crowd was so large they divided them into 12 groups so they could be taught be the 12 Disciples Jesus had chosen. Now, we can only guestimate, but it’s possible that this special meeting could have had 30,000 people—2,500 of whom had been there the day before. So, we have numerous eyewitnesses who would help to convert a whole nation within a very short time. Maurine And in our time we have the wonderful and powerful witness of the head of this dispensation—Joseph Smith. He was an eyewitness of the Savior Jesus Christ, beginning with the First Vision in the early spring of 1820 and then he saw and visited with the Savior on numerous other occasions for the rest of his life. Joseph’s witness is true:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! Scot “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father– “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76: 22-24) And joining Joseph Smith as eyewitnesses are Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon—but also Martin Harris, John Murdock, Zebedee Coltrin, Philo Dibble and numerous others. Maurine And we know of others in the history of the Church including Melvin J. Ballard, Franklin D. Richards, Orson F. Whitney and George Q. Cannon. We know there are other witnesses who have given their testimonies and many who have not. President Eyring said in General Conference: “I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra.” (Henry B. Eyring, Come Unto Me, April 2013) And, of course, all the apostles of our time—all 102 of them—could give and do give similar witnesses and testimonies. Scot I feel to exclaim with Paul the Apostle: “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) We give our testimonies, too, that He lives. We love Him. We feel His influence in our lives. We love to talk of Him, to preach of Him and to help and encourage all to come unto Him, the Holy One of Israel. Maurine Thanks for listening. What a blessing to talk of the resurrection this week! Next week’s lesson is: “Ye Shall be Witnesses Unto Me” and covers Acts chapters 1-5. We’ve loved being with you. Please tell others about this Podcast at: latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast See you next time.