“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb
and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
John 20:1 (NIV)
“Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb”
Mark 16:2 (NIV)
Bible scholars who teach that the resurrection stories contradict each other are ignorant of the laws of evidence. They should listen to people trained in understanding how witnesses to the same event describe what they saw and heard. Sadly they often will not listen to others better educated than themselves concerning how witnesses describe a commonly observed event.
Our verses today “appear” to be contradictory. Did the women go to the tomb before sunrise or after? An expert in the laws of evidence would respond by saying that John is talking about when the women started for the tomb and Mark is talking about what happened shortly after dawn as they approached the tomb.
For those of us who have been in countries near the equator we know that the sun rises in a very few moments. It goes from complete darkness to full sunlight quickly. If you go to northern Canada it takes the sun hours to rise above the horizon at certain seasons.
In Palestine the sun rises much quicker than countries nearer the north and south poles.
So we harmonize the accounts in the Bible knowing that honest witnesses will vary in detail as they describe the same event. These variances in description assure us that they are honest and did not lie.
In one way, Easter is celebrated every Sunday as God’s people gather to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection on that day every week. Some Christians do not observe Easter simply because every Lord’s Day they come together and sing hymns on the resurrection of Jesus.
We are confident that the message of Easter is really true because those who witnessed it clearly pass the test of authentic witnesses. The detail is varied and complimentary. Thus we joyfully embrace the teaching of the empty tomb.
Jesus is alive and at the Father’s right hand where He rules over all creation for the ultimate good of His people. May this Easter Sunday fill your heart with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Urge the leaders of your church to sing the hymns of our Lord’s resurrection on other Sundays than just Easter Sunday. Every Sunday is really Easter Sunday.