Happy Easter. For the uninitiated, this holiday really has nothing to do with a bunny and colored eggs. What we’re celebrating is this:
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. (Mark 16:1-6, New Living Translation, emphases added)
The other accounts differ somewhat. Here’s John’s version (from the Gospel of John movie – verbatim, from the Today’s English Version):
It is possible to make too much of the differences, however.
Of the discrepancies between the empty tomb stories, most (not quite all) can be harmonized fairly easily. Note that the evangelists all agree on what we might call the main elements: Early on the first day of the week certain women, among them Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb; they found it empty: they met an angel or angels; and they were either told or else discovered that Jesus was alive. In addition, there is striking agreement between John and at least one of the Synoptics on each of these points: The women informed Peter and/or other disciples of their discovery; Peter went to the tomb and found it empty; the risen Jesus appeared to the women; and he gave them instruction for the early disciples. – Stephen T. Davis, “Is it Rational for Christians to Believe in the Resurrection? in Peterson and VanArragon (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell, 2004), 164-73, p. 169, bold added.
In that book, Davis squares off with atheist philosopher Michael Martin – the exchange is well worth reading. They get into the probabilities, the importance of one’s background beliefs, the evidence of Paul’s letters, alternative hypotheses to resurrection, and so on.
Sometimes difficulties force one to revise one’s beliefs, and sometimes not.
Bonus link: historical / NT scholar Larry Hurtado on how the resurrection was understood in early Christianity.