With these words, the women who had come to the tomb of Jesus at dawn on the first day of the week were greeted by two angels who stood before them. In keeping with the law of Moses, they had rested on the Sabbath and had returned to complete the burial rites of the Saviour which they had begun on the day of His death. Now, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
The women went to tell the apostles what they had learned. Immediately Peter and John ran to the sepulchre to confirm their report. A little later Mary Magdalene stood weeping near the tomb. Suddenly Jesus appeared to her, but she did not recognise Him until He called her by name. He told her to go to His brethren to tell them that He would ascend unto the Father. This she quickly did.
About this time Jesus appeared to the other women, possibly including Mary Magdalene. The stories of His appearances raised the hopes of the apostles who had been as lost as sheep without a shepherd after the crucifixion. Other reports came to their ears. Christ had shown Himself to two disciples walking in the countryside on the road to Emmaus and had been seen by Cephas (Peter).
Even so, they must have been startled when later that day Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst as they were gathered in a closed room. But the lacerations of His body soon convinced them that the One who stood before them was their Master in the flesh. He showed them that He was not in the form of a spirit by eating a broiled fish in their presence. Luke 24:43
The apostles no longer doubted the resurrection of Jesus, except for Thomas who was absent. When told of these events, he declared, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ John 20:25
Just a week later Jesus again appeared to the disciples. This time Thomas was present.
Christ addressed Himself to Thomas. ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ John 20:27
Thomas did believe as he cried out, ‘My Lord and my God.’
The fact that the apostles, and especially Thomas, were turned from scepticism to belief is one of the strongest proofs of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Later Christ appeared to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee and again to the eleven on a mountain. We are told that He presented Himself to 500 at one time and also to James. 1 Corinthians 15:6-7
Finally, He appeared to all the apostles at His ascension into heaven, forty days after the resurrection. As Jesus spoke with them, giving them His final words of exhortation, He ascended into the clouds of heaven and was seen by them no more.
The importance of the resurrection of Jesus is summed up by Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:14-15 / 1 Corinthians 15:17.
Jesus died to atone for our sins. But we could not know that He did so unless we also knew that He arose from the grave, for one who did not have the power to conquer death would not have the power to forgive sins. Only in the light of the empty tomb does the cross have significance.
Furthermore, the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the possibility of our resurrection. If He could conquer death for Himself, He can overcome it for His disciples. The Christian’s hope of eternal life is inseparably connected with the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Christ also shows that Jesus brought an end to the old covenant and its law when He died on the cross. The Mosaic Age in which Israel had been living for 1500 years ended at Calvary. There Jesus blotted out ‘our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.’ Colossians 2:14
From that time forth all men, Jews and Gentiles, have lived in the Christian Age and are subject to the laws of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.
Before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples a commission. It is recorded in different forms in the first three gospels. Although He had previously given them a limited commission to go only to the Jews, His new commission was worldwide in its scope.
Let us read the three accounts of the Great Commission.
Jesus insists that His disciples take the gospel to others.
Therefore, He instructed the apostles to go. They were to teach or preach the Gospel, which as we shall later learn includes the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They proclaimed Christ, not politics, science or economics. Their message was to be taken to all nations.
Unlike the law of Moses, the gospel story is intended for those of every race or nationality who will accept Jesus as their Saviour. Christians cannot allow racial prejudice to confine their efforts to proclaim Christ.
The conditions of salvation as given in the commission are simple. A sinner must believe in Christ, repent and then be baptised. Baptism is to be into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) rather than into the Name of Jesus only. The blessings of forgiveness of sins and salvation come as a result of one’s baptism rather than preceding it. Jesus states, ‘He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.’ Mark 16:16
The Great Commission concluded by instructing the apostles to teach the converts all of those things which Christ has commanded them. It is not enough to show the lost how to come to Christ. They must also be taught how to live for Him so that they may receive the eternal reward at the end of the way.