Versions of the Resurrection

Johnny wasn’t happy to leave his Easter basket behind to go to church. His new shoes pinched his feet, and he was certain the tie around his neck was designed to choke him. In the car, he kept kicking the back of the seat, and, when his mother scolded him, he said, “I don’t know why we have to go to church on Easter. They tell the same story every year; it always comes out the same.”

Well, Johnny has a point, but he missed one of the most interesting things about the first Easter story. It doesn’t always end the same. The four Gospels that record the resurrection of Jesus have four different accounts of how it happened. If you compare the miracles of Jesus or the parables, most are nearly identical from one Gospel to another, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke. That is not true, however, about the record of Easter.

In Mark the story begins:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

It ends with the phrase:

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Gospel of John tells story this way:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran 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.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.

In Matthew’s version, Mary Magdalene is accompanied by someone identified simply as the other Mary. (How would you like to go through history known as “the other Mary”?!?)

Some people are bothered by all the differences in the four Gospels. Personally, I’m glad for them. Without the differences, the story would be much less trustworthy. It would have been easy for the early church to harmonize the stories so they were consistent, but, if you ever have been involved in a major event, you know eyewitnesses never see the same thing. They never experience the event the same way.

As it was with the first Easter, so it is with this Easter. We hear the story differently, and we experience resurrection in completely different ways. How are you experiencing yours?

by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal

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