I'm not surprised that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell about discovering an empty tomb differently.
We're looking at events witnessed by several people, and told from four different viewpoints.
Those witnesses had endured several very stressful days. What happened was literally incredible. And they weren't Americans writing a police report.
Under the circumstances, I'd be astonished if the Gospel accounts were as tidy as an episode from the old Dragnet series.
Dead - - -Jesus was publicly executed in a place so cosmopolitan that the notice was in three languages: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.1
Eyewitnesses included professional soldiers, who had been ordered to speed up the executions.2
"So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.I'm confident that the soldiers knew death when they saw it.
"But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs,
"but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out."
Blood and water flowing out of my Lord's body may be another indication that Jesus was sincerely dead. I've heard that piercing a dead body can release fluids from cavities surrounding the heart and lungs, as well as blood. That may be why the Gospel of John emphasizes it.
- - - And BuriedJoseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus "...took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom." (John 19:38-40)
They had every reason to believe that Jesus was dead. They may have witnessed the execution themselves, had official confirmation of the death, and were in possession of a tortured, crucified, and pierced, corpse.
When they were done, they put the body in a new tomb, chosen because it was nearby. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses stayed there, at least for a while.3
Jesus was dead, buried in a tomb prepared for someone else. The sun set, time passed, and Jesus stopped being dead.
Resurrection and Standing OrdersIt took several meetings and demonstrations, but Jesus eventually convinced the surviving apostles that they weren't seeing a ghost.
They realized that they'd walked, talked, and shared meals with God, the Word made flesh, Judge and Savior: Jesus, who had been killed but didn't stay dead.
Quite a lot has happened since that first Easter. Kingdoms, dynasties, and empires rose and fell. Astrolabes gave way to the GPS. But our standing orders haven't changed:
"11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.And that's another topic.
"Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
"teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
- "From the Empty Tomb to the Meeting with the Risen Christ"
John Paul II (February 1, 1989)
- "Death, Decisions, and a Working Lunch"
(April 8, 2012)
- " 'When:' Not 'If;' 'WHEN' "
(April 6, 2012)
- "Christ is Risen!"
(April 24, 2011)
- "The Man Who Wouldn't Stay Dead"
(March 11, 2012)
- "Hope, Joy, and Working for a Better World"
(September 13, 2011)
1 (John 19:20)2
The Crucifixion happened after the Passover feast, the next Sabbath was a particularly solemn one, and local authorities didn't want bodies hanging around.
3 (Matthew 27:59-61; Mark 15:46-47; Luke 23:53-56; John 19:38-42)
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