Jesus Appearance to Mary and the Disciples – [Archaeological Guide]

When some people think of Jesus appearing to different people… {Mary Magdalene, Peter, two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and all other disciples except Thomas}

Some think Jesus was a ghost when He appeared to those people. After all, if someone who was purportedly killed on the brutal cross and was placed in a tomb with a huge boulder—of course, people would think a ghost has appeared.

Then, what happened? Jesus said to them… “Be not afraid.” Now, let us explore…

First, it’s not “Easter.” Acts 12:4, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” The usage of “Easter” in this sentence is a poor translation, because the original Greek word is transliterated, “pascha,” or in what we know as “Passover.”

We will read today in two Scriptures. Let us begin with the first one in Matthew 28:1-13

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I 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. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 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. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.”

Now, we shall read in John 20:1-31

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

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. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, 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 it 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. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, 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.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

What we have read then, is that early in the morning of [Easter Sunday] the Resurrection Day, women went to the tomb to find that the stone that kept the tomb closed was removed, to which the Angel of the Lord told them that Jesus was actually alive (the women thought the angel was a young man, as he had appeared youthful to them). However, the angel was an angelic being embodied as a human to defer suspicion they had seen a foreign being. Soon, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden, and then to Peter, and finally to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Later that day, He appeared to all disciples except for “doubting Thomas.” After eight days, Thomas was able to palpate Jesus’ wounded areas, and believe for himself that Jesus was alive. It was clear from this evidence Jesus was not a ghost, but He was a materialized being; God in Christ in an immortal human body form.

Has Jesus appeared to you yet? Has He made His Presence known through your life? If He has not, then it is a fine time to ask Him to do so. Are you a believer? Do you believe Jesus died and then rose again to redeem us of our sins (wrongdoings)? If you believe, you shall receive eternal life and shall never die.

Now, we shall dive into some interesting things of these two bands of Scripture. In order according, here is how Jesus was seen when we resurrected: The Angel first, the women second, and the disciples last. What is most striking is that The Father (GOD) gave all power to the Son after He achieved redemption, which had been equally His with the Father and Holy Spirit before becoming a man – it’s just that His Power was limited in Jesus while being a “mortal man.” However, after resurrecting into an immortal body (which believers shall do in the future – HALLELUJAH!), He gained all glorious power back (*See also Luke 2:40, 52; Philippians 2:7; John 8:28; 17:5; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-18).

Archaeological and Historical Data

The data available for John 20 is that first they were found in Magdala (where Mary Magdalene is found – given “Magdalene” refers to where this Mary is from, to distinguish between the other ‘Marys’ Jesus was familiar with). Magdala appears to have been a fishing town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Extensive remains have been found here since 2009, where a seawall, a large harbor, and docks had been excavated. The first century boat of Jesus was discovered offshore just to the north – Josephus mentions a hippodrome. A well-planned city was unearthed in this area also, with many amenities, which was probably related to Herod Antipas’s Galilean territory, complete with a synagogue of mosaics including Jewish symbols. Jesus may have known of this, as Jesus foretold a destruction coming upon those who did evil against Him. This area of the Galilean territory was destroyed in AD 68, just a couple years before the complete destruction, especially on Titus’ hands, was completed.

The marks that Thomas had allegedly palpated were probable, as archaeological finds had shown in the Roman area of a heel bone with a stake embedded in it, which was found at Givat Hamivtar near Jerusalem.

For the tombs, there were a few different portions to the excavated tombs from the 1,000 or more that were investigated… It was fact that in these tombs were several burial chambers: a loculi (burial niches), a cut in the side walls to place the body of the deceased, and arcosolia (arched niches), where ossuaries (which were chests for bones – and no not canopic jars for their organs) were placed within. However, a few of the tombs only had one burial chamber, where a rolling stone would close off – this was fact, and it seems Jesus was placed in one of the “luxury tombs”. This would be consistent with the idea that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, and was consulted for the tomb he could provide for Jesus’ body (see Matthew 27:57). Because of these clues, we are able to truly note the Scripture is not dubious on proclaiming these details of the Resurrection – which makes the Resurrection more of a fact.

Sadducees opposed the concept of resurrection of the dead, while Pharisees were okay with it. Some Jewish literature had anticipated a general resurrection of the dead, such as the claim “God makest the dead alive” found in Shemoneh ‘Esreh. All four Gospels assert a complete resurrection of Jesus into an immortal body, and even Paul was completely convinced of this resurrection, even though Jesus did not appear to him except in the vision on the Road to Damascus (see 1 Corinthians 15). In the first century Greco-Roman world, however, most people did not believe in life after death. With Judas Maccabeus recognizing some of his dead soldiers were secret idol worshipers, he noted only a few believed in life after death. This was likely their potentially reasonable belief of life after death – which many people who were spiritual seemed to believe in life after death, because of their out of body experiences. However, paganism was rampant in these days (not as much nowadays, even so prevalent nonetheless).

Keep in mind, until the 20th century AD, the crucifixion did not have any evidence whatsoever. UNBELIEVABLE! The heel bone with the embedded stake revealed an evidence of Roman crucifixion along with other burial remains in different Roman tombs. The nail was 4.5 inches long. It appeared in the archaeological find that ropes must have been used to secure the arms instead of stakes. Josephus had observed people were crucified in different positions, such as Peter being noted for crucified upside down. It is possible this is the case, but again, the evidence is severely limited. However, the texts uncovered from Jewish and Roman laws noted the following information:

  • Those executed by hanging on a tree shall be properly entombed (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; John 19:31)
  • The body being placed in the proper designated area for executed criminals (Sanhedrin text 6:5-6)
  • Jesus was executed by Roman authorities, so He was subject to their law regarding it; therefore, Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin) went to Pilate to request a Jewish burial for Jesus (oh how noble of Joseph to recognize Jesus’ Jewish roots!!!), which is consistent with the evidence found for crucifixions, burials, and resurrections in all ancient literature from the Greco-Roman era and Jewish seminar.

Therefore, prophecy was fulfilled for Jesus’ burial according to Jewish Law (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42; 1 Corinthians 15:4). The only other ones to receive this form of luxury treatment were powerful rulers and leaders, such as the evidence of burial luxury for Queen Helena of Adiabene, the family tomb of King Herod of Jerusalem and his nearby family’s tomb, and another one located in the upper Kidron Valley. Isaiah 53:9 was correct then, if the information found is revealed evidence of this tomb resurrection. Our hope continues to lie within the revealed evidence supporting the faith of us. We are so grateful for these archaeological finds – although imperfect are those finds, they are still clues that build our faith. Keep following me… We have more to explore.