The Layman's Gospel Harmony

Period 10 -- Behold the Risen Christ

Forty days in April and May, 30 AD
From Christ's Resurrection to His Ascension

As reported by:

Mark 16:1-20
Matthew 28:1-20
Luke 24:1-53
John 20:1 - 21:25

3,368 KJV Words

A God could certainly be expected to resurrect after death.

And a man who resurrects after death must certainly be God.

Though the realization of Jesus' divinity and resurrection are necessarily gifts granted by the Holy Spirit, there is no reason to despair what may seem an impossible task, for . . .

"Ask," he said, "and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)

Those promises are as good as gold for the seeker after Christ. The mission of the disciple, or would-be disciple, of Christ, is simply to seek.

The Freedom of Devotional Discipleship with Jesus the Relational Christ:

John's Gospel reports that six months before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus is attending the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles, Judaism's second most holy Feast week. Thousands of devout Jews on pilgrimage thronged the Temple Mount grounds during the Feast in Christ's time. Per John 8:20, Jesus is teaching in the treasury, a section of the Temple grounds within what is known as the Court of the Women. Hundreds if not thousands of pilgrims would have been present within hearing distance of Jesus as he spoke. Temple loyalists, Jesus' hardened adversaries, are also present. They bring before him a woman caught in adultery, ready to stone her in zealous adherence to the Law of Moses. The crowd looks on.

"What sayest thou, Master?" they ask him.

In this very public setting, Jesus utterly confounds these inflamed provocateurs with a simple command:
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7) Convicted by their own conscience, the men one by one drop their stones, abandoning their fruitless cause. Then Jesus boldly, as God, forgives the woman of her sin. But zealous Pharisees witnessing this shockingly blasphemous action are unrelenting. They continue to challenge Jesus' claim of divinity as the crowd looks on.

"I am the light of the world," replies Jesus. "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12). He testifies with impassioned eloquence to the adequate witness of God his Father, for whom he speaks. His critics fail to understand him. But as he speaks these words before the throng "many believed on him" (John 8:30).

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, 'If ye continue in my word, then
are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make
you free.'" -- John 8:31-32

Simply put, The Layman's Gospel Harmony embraces Christ's promise of John 8:32. It is a guide to exploring what one can "know" of the historic truth of the Gospels. The knowledge gained of that eternal truth will indeed set free the disciple onto a path of lifelong, devotional relationship with Jesus the Christ. When enough disciples have assembled on that path, present-day Christianity will be transformed.

Resurrection Sunday: The Gospel Nexus of Faith and Knowledge:

The four gospel accounts of Resurrection Sunday pose the biggest challenge to the premise of the Gospels as accurate histories not just because they report what is, if true, is the single most astounding event in the history of Creation. The challenge is amplified by the very nature of the reports, which at first glance present a bewildering array of apparent contradictions and fragmented reporting which would seem to defy narrative cohesion. But this is not the case.

Christ's resurrection and divinity will ever remain matters of faith. But The Layman's Gospel Harmony method of harmonizing the texts, and accounting for every single word of all four Gospels into a cohesive narrative of events, excluding or disregarding none, reveals a startlingly plausible chronological sequence which has not the ring of myth, fiction, or fabrication, but of truthfully rendered, historically reliable, eyewitness testimony.

Scholarship has shown that the Passion Week accounts form the oldest, primal narrative upon which the Church was born. The essential, miraculous truths of Resurrection Sunday they report have been fully embraced and beautifully articulated to the world by the Church to the glory of God for almost 2,000 years. However in assimilating every single word into a cohesive, chronologically plausible narrative and historic time line, The Layman's Gospel Harmony research exposes several stunning insights about Resurrection Sunday which affirm and enrich classic Christian belief about that most amazing of days. But it also deepens the miraculous wonder for the "divine editor" who guided the human hands that penned the accounts. These remarkable insights include:

  • The Essential Role of Christ's Faithful Women on Resurrection Sunday:
For more than 100 years scholarly textual analysis of the Gospels has incorporated a premise called the "criterion of embarrassment." Simply put, odd, awkward, or embarrassingly counter-productive facts included in a historical account are probably true, otherwise why would they be included? The prominence of and critical role of Christ's inner circle of faithful women supporters in male-dominated religious life is one of the great "embarrassments" which reveal the Gospels as truthful historic accounts.

The risen Christ appearing first to women is a fatal flaw in a fictional account perpetuating a lie. However, this "embarrassing" fact is the sign of honest reporting in a historical account that has preserved the original eyewitness testimonies from their earliest written forms.

The pivotal role of Christ's close women followers on Resurrection Sunday is only magnified through The Layman's Gospel Harmony findings. In a modern world where women in many nations still face harsh oppression, the Gospels are a wellspring of encouragement for women.

Accounting for all the facts and statements of all the Gospels, it must be concluded that four or more "other women" accompanied Mary Magdalene to the sealed tomb. Those "other women" remained at the empty tomb when Mary departed back to the city for Peter and John. Those other women then were the first to hear angelic report that Christ had risen. They also received the angelic order to remind the disciples that Christ would reunite with them Galilee. The other women depart with this critical mission and the tomb is left empty. John and Peter arrive and leave in despair. (Contrary to tradition, John may not have "believed" Christ had risen upon seeing the empty burial linens in the tomb but more probably accepted with bitter despair what Mary had declared, that Christ's body had been stolen.)

Significantly, Christ appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb only after Peter and John have left. This fact alone is worthy of deep contemplation. Then the Harmony shows that Christ appears his second time to the "other women" at some unknown location in Jerusalem. He reaffirms the angelic command that he will reunite with the disciples in Galilee. Since this second reminder follows Christ's first mention of reuniting in Galilee during the night of the garden betrayal, it must be concluded that this is a very important message for the disciples! Will the disciples hear and respond to the message? The answer is no, another odd, awkward, thoroughly embarrassingly truthful Gospel report.

  • The Regrettable Role of Christ's Despairing Disciples on Resurrection Sunday:
The sad picture of the distraught disciples begins with their not hearing Christ's order to reunite in Galilee, followed by Judas' betrayal and their abandonment of Christ in the Garden, then Peter's infamous denial of Christ before dawn, and the disciples complete absence, save for John, at the crucifixion. It continues Sunday morning with Peter and John walking away from the empty tomb in despair. Two disciples walking seven miles to Emmaus are so shaken by the events of Passover that they fail to recognize Christ walking with them. When these two disciples rush back to Jerusalem in the afternoon to report seeing the risen Christ, the disciples, gathered with the women, don't believe them. All day the faithful women must have been emphatically, desperately pleading that "He has risen!" and would reunite with them in Galilee. So why are the disciples just sitting there in Jerusalem denying the eyewitness claims of these others? What could have caused the group to be so confounded?

  • The Enigmatic Account of Christ's Appearance to Peter on Resurrection Sunday:
Harmonizing Mark 16:13 and Luke 24:34 reveals the great mystery of the disciples denying the claims of the risen Christ by the Emmaus two (and by certain logical extension the claims of Mary and the other women) while themselves claiming Christ had appeared to Peter in Jerusalem. It is almost as if the group was arguing over not just who had seen the risen Christ, but who had the right of seeing the risen Christ. Such arguments among the disciples are reported from earlier in Christ's ministry. Impulsive, insecure, competitive Peter, now shamed and guilt-ridden by his denial of Christ the night before, was always at the center of these earlier arguments. He probably is in this situation as well. But the truly great mystery is that if Christ appeared to Peter (also reported by Paul in I Cor. 15:5), why is there not a single word in the Gospels describing what transpired between them in that encounter? Given Peter's significance in Church history, his mentioned but unexplained encounter with Christ on Resurrection Sunday is one of the great unexplained enigmas of the Gospel accounts. And if it is true that Mark's Gospels portrays Peter's core evangelistic testimony, could this enigma possibly be related to the mysterious original ending of Mark's Gospel at 16:8?

  • How the Merciful Christ Responded to Human Weakness on Resurrection Sunday:
Just before the Garden Betrayal, Jesus advises the disciples that he will reunite with them in Galilee after he has risen (Mark 14:28, Matthew 26:32). The disciples weren't listening. In Mark's report you can almost sense how Peter's anxious defensiveness blots out Christ's very important message.

Sunday morning at the empty tomb, after Mary Magdalene has departed, the angelic presence orders the other women to remind the disciples that the risen Christ will reunite with them in Galilee (Mark 16:7, Matthew 28:7). Matthew reports the other women embarking in haste on their mission to convey the important reminder to the disciples. One wonders: will the disciples listen and respond?

Just a few minutes later (in a plausible, real time chronology estimating travel by foot through the streets of ancient Jerusalem) Christ himself appears his second time to these other women. He restates the command to tell the disciples he will reunite with them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10). Obviously, this is a very, very important message to convey to the disciples, and in divine providence this duty is given to the other women.

But what is the result of Christ's effort to communicate this critical message about reunion in Galilee? Late in the day we find the disciples hunkered down in a closed room in Jerusalem. The others mentioned as present with them (Luke 24:33) must certainly refer to Mary and the other women. We can almost sense how the women have been emphatically, desperately pleading "He has risen! He will reunite with you in Galilee!" Why then are the disciples not heading straight away for Galilee?

This is truly the most startling of the disciples many failures recorded in the Gospels. It is a failure so severe that Christ alters his original plan: while the Emmaus two and the women plead with the disciples that Christ has risen, and as the disciples, led by Peter, deny the claims of these second tier followers, Christ appears to them there in their closed room in Jerusalem. Had the disciples responded faithfully to the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ, the Gospels would have ended an entirely different way. However the Gospels once again reveal how the long suffering patience and mercy of God gracefully restores the fallen and broken at the time of most critical need.

These devotional observations are but a sampling of the insightful, original research found in The Layman's Gospel Harmony.

In conclusion...

Resurrection Sunday events have been the subject of much exotic speculation. But even among grounded, scholarly studies there remain differences of opinion about what facts can be safety deduced from the texts. The Layman's Gospel Harmony research finds that the risen Christ is reported appearing nine separate times in the Gospels, as is indicated in the following graphic visualization included in the twice award winning book: