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Lesson Plan for Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24: & John 20-21


We have reached the end of the gospels in which all 4 climaxes on the same event, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The importance of this event is put well by a few different scholars who are not members of our Faith.

The first statement comes from N.T. Wright. This was quoted by Elder Gary E. Stevenson in our most recent General Conference:

"Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity." (1)

Another Christian scholar, the late Timothy Keller, points out how the Resurrection of Christ is central to any and all Christian theology:

"If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead." (2)

The Prophet Joseph Smith echoed the importance of the Resurrection of Christ in this well-known statement:

"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (3)

My personal favorite quote on the importance of the resurrection is a somewhat lengthy one from Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

"The gift of immortality to all mankind through the reality of the Resurrection is so powerful a promise that our rejoicing in these great and generous gifts should drown out any sorrow, assuage any grief, conquer any mood, dissolve any despair, and tame any tragedy. Those who now see life as pointless will one day point with adoration to the performance of the Man of Galilee in those crowded moments of time known as Gethsemane and Calvary. Those who presently say life is meaningless will yet applaud the Atonement which saves us from meaninglessness. Christ’s victory over death ended the human predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction.

Our “brightness of hope,” therefore, means that at funerals our tears are genuine, but not because of termination—rather because of interruption. Though just as wet, our tears are not of despair but are of appreciation and anticipation. Yes, for disciples, the closing of a grave is but the closing of a door which later will be flung open with rejoicing.

We say, humbly but firmly that it is the garden tomb—not life—that is empty." (4)

For our lesson today, we will mainly be in the Gospel of John and His take on the resurrection narrative.


An abundant theme we get throughout the Gospel of John that we readily miss is his tying Jesus' mission back to creation. This is how John's gospel begins in chapter 1 in his poetic telling of the mission of Jesus as 'the Word.' This referring back and drawing linguistic parallels to creation during the last few days of Jesus' life is abundant in John chapters 18-20. For example:

1. Jesus is the light of the world, and the darkness does not comprehend it. The light and dark are contrasted during the arrest account in John 18:1-8.

2. Pilate presents Jesus to the ruling class of Jewish leaders by saying, "Behold the man!" in John 19:5. Biblical scholars inside and outside the Church draw the parallel that John is trying to draw to the creation narrative. Jesus is/will become the new Adam (see 1 Corinthians 15:45). Adam in Hebrew (אָדָם) means "man." Adam, or man, was created on the sixth day of creation. Jesus is presented as the new Adam in John's narrative on the sixth day of the week, Friday. John cleverly uses Pilate's words to convey the theological point.

3. Christ's last words in mortality, while he hung on the cross, were, "It is finished" (see John 19:30). This echoes Genesis 2:1, in which creation is declared as "finished." Jesus finishes his suffering descent on the sixth day, while creation finishes on the sixth day. The Greek word used here is tetelestai, which draws parallels to the creation and shares the same root as the word for "perfection" (teleios) Christ uses in Matthew 5:48.

4. On the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, Jesus' body was laid in a tomb. He is in a state of rest in paradise (see Alma 40:12) while His body is lying, resting, in the garden tomb. John 19:38-42 speaks heavily of a garden that is meant to invoke the idea of Eden.

5. The beginning of Chapter 20 sets the stage. When translated literally, the first line says, "On the first of the sabbaths." Biblical scholars in and out of the Church note that what John is trying to emphasize is that this is "Day One" of something new, as well as the newly constituted sabbath (see Barker, King of the Jews, p. 570). The old creation has officially ended, and now the Sabbath has moved to the beginning of the week to reconstitute the old into the new.

The idea being conveyed by "Day One" is that "something new is going on on a cosmic scale." Christian theologians call this "new creation." In Latter-Day Saint parlance, we would call this the beginning of the morning of the first resurrection. 

Quoting N.T. Wright again, from the same book Elder Stevenson quoted in General Conference this past April:

"John has so ordered his gospel that the sequence of seven signs, climaxing in the cross of Jesus on the sixth day of the week and his resting in the tomb on the seventh, functions as the week of the old creation; and now Easter functions as the beginning of the new creation… Jesus’s resurrection is to be seen as the beginning of the new world, the first day of the new week, the unveiling of the prototype of what God is now going to accomplish in the rest of the world." (Surprised By Hope, p. 238)


Chapter 20 of John begins with Mary Magdalene coming early in the morning. The literal meaning in Greek puts her at the tomb anywhere between 3 am to 6 am. She finds that the stone has been removed in front of the tomb along with the other women; notice the use of the word 'we' in verse 2. John's gospel reconciles with the synoptic gospels that it was a group of women originally at the tomb, but John hones in on Mary Magdalene for some reason. Magdalene means, in its noun form, 'tower.' In its root verb form, it means 'to be strong or great.' Either way, they all run to tell Peter and John. These two presiding apostles run to the tomb, in which John almost braggingly declares he beat Peter in a footrace (see verse 4). John waits for Peter to enter the tomb first, according to President Nelson, because Peter was the senior apostle. (5)

John goes out of his way to note here that Peter & John don't really comprehend what is happening in verses 9-10. You get that idea in the other 4 gospels as well as with the rest of the disciples.


How can we prepare ourselves for a time when the Savior will surprise us, where he will do something we just have been too naive or ignorant to understand? How do we guard against doubt creeping in simply because we misunderstood or expected something else?

G.K. Chesterton once wrote:

"We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. We want a religion that is right where we are wrong." (6)

This might be part of President Nelson's message to us to "Let God Prevail" in our lives. C.S. Lewis explained it this way:

"My idea of God is not a divine idea... It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence?" (7)

I think we would do well not to think too critically of the original disciples. We all, in some form or fashion, in the words of Joseph Smith, "set up stakes and set bounds" in our own minds on the Almighty. (9)

This sets the stage for Mary Magdalene, who comes back to the tomb a little later weeping. She has misplaced expectations. Her lack of understanding, unbeknownst to her, is causing her to weep. Might we relate?

READ JOHN 20:11-18

"11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 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.

13 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.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 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.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 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.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her."

John has a way with imagery. In verse 12, John paints a scene of two angels at the head and feet of the rock slab Jesus was laid upon. To the ancient Jew, this would have been unmistakable imagery from Exodus 25:17-22. The ancient Tabernacle had within the holy of holies the mercy seat, which was understood as the throne of God. At the ends of the throne were two cherubic figures. It is even more interesting to note that just a day or so earlier, Jesus' bloodied and torn body was laid on this surface. This calls to mind the bloody sacrifice that would have been poured on the ancient mercy seat during Yom Kippur anciently. That blood anciently atoned for Israel and brought forth renewed hope for them. Jesus's blood was laid on this makeshift throne and brought about newness for all creation. In essence, the tomb had become very sacred space.

Mary gets asked the same question by the two angels and then by this mysterious garden figure, another creation motif, behind her. Jesus asks another question on top of that, "Whom seekest though?" This is the same question Jesus posed to the small army that came to arrest Him in John 18. It also uses the same verbiage from the Savior's sermon on the Mount when he commands us to "ask, seek, and knock" (see Matthew 7:7).

Mary doesn't understand at first but then immediately recognizes Jesus after He calls her by name. Notice in verse 14 that Mary was already facing the Savior. In verse 16, she turns again after being called by her name. How could she turn to the Savior if she was already facing Him? Saint Augustine gives his opinion and says the second time she turns, it is not her body. After being called by name, her heart is now prepared to recognize the Savior. (10)


What can this teach us about recognizing the Savior in our lives?

Elder David A. Bednar has said:

"On a future day, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ. On that blessed day, we will know He knows each of us by name. And I witness and promise we can not only know about the Lord but also come to know Him as we exercise faith in, follow, serve, and believe Him." (11)

Mary then, according to the Greek and the JST, clings and holds onto Jesus and doesn't want to let go. Jesus had just taught the disciples the previous week abundantly about how they are to cling to Him. Maybe Mary, naively, is trying to obey the master. On a lesser level, I often used verse 17 as a missionary in connection with the thief on the cross to show the reality of the spirit world. In other words, Jesus had been to paradise but had not yet ascended to the Father. That bares witness to the existence of the spirit world.

Mary then runs off to witness of the resurrected Lord to the other disciples in verse 18. It is for this reason she was referred to anciently as "the Apostle to the Apostles" (The New Testament In Its World, N.T. Wright, p. 676).


Verses 19-23 of chapter 20 are very sacred, where we have the Savior appearing unto the disciples, presumably in the same "upper room" (see Luke 22:12) they were in before Gethsemane. It is of interest to note that Matthew has them gathering into "THE mountain" (literal Greek, caps added for emphasis) in Galilee in Matthew 28:16. This is possibly a reference to the mountain the original Sermon on the Mount was given earlier in Jesus' ministry since the Greek for 'appointed' (extaxato) more fully means they were to return to the place they were originally called as Apostles. According to Luke, they were called on that mount in Galilee (see Luke 6:12-16). (12) Either way, the location where Jesus showed Himself unto His disciples was a very sacred space. Jesus shows His hands and side unto them and tells them to receive the Holy Ghost. Interestingly, here we have more new creation imagery as this is similar to the wording found in Genesis 2:7 in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament). Near the end of creation, God breathed the spirit of Adam and Eve into their bodies. Here we have the Savior "breathing" the spirit into the disciples. It is interesting to note that verse 23 defines "receiving the Holy Ghost" in verse 22. It calls to mind maybe what Joseph Smith meant in D&C 109:15, but I digress.

During these events, one of the apostles was not present, Thomas. He hears all about the experience of the risen Lord from the other Apostles and exclaims he needs to feel the prints of the wounds in Jesus' body. We usually attach the frailty of doubt to Thomas because of this, but one scholar has noted, "We should not fault Thomas for expecting the apostolic witness that the others had received before carrying the message of the Resurrection abroad." (13)

READ JOHN 20:26-31

"26 ¶ 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.

27 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.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 ¶ And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 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."

In verse 28, we have the first time in all the gospels that one of the disciples unequivocally declares Jesus to be God (New Testament: For Latter-Day Saints, Wayment, p. 205).

The word 'believe' in some form is used 6 times in these short verses about Thomas (see verses 25, 27, 29, & 31). They all come from or have their root in a very important Greek word, pistis. This word, often translated as 'faith' or 'believe,' is indispensable to understanding Paul's writings and his talk of grace (charis) coming up later this year. Pistis was a contractual word used anciently to have people become loyal or declare their allegiance to some person or party. At its heart, it is a call to make a covenant or contract backed up by collateral. (14)

Therefore, to fully understand Jesus' words here, we must see the idea of covenants at the heart of what He saying. The signs, therefore, that John speaks of in verses 30 & 31 are for the specific purpose of drawing all people to the Savior and make covenants with Him.


How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ affect our covenants with Him? Why would the nail marks in His hands and wounds in His side be an ultimate witness of our need to covenant with Him?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said:

"The hills and the mountains may disappear. The seas and oceans may dry up completely. The least likely things in the world may happen, but “[Christ's] kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of [His] peace be removed [from thee]”. After all, he has, he reminds us, “graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (1 Nephi 21:16). Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion, Christ is not going to turn his back on us now." (15)

The resurrection of Christ is a sure sign that our covenants with Him are immovable.

In a spirit of sacredness, it is worth pointing out that John calls the tokens in Christ's body one of the many signs He showed the disciples that day. Luke, in Acts 1:3, refers briefly to the experience we just read about and calls these signs "many infallible proofs," which comes from the Greek word tekmēriois. This word more literally means "sure sign" or "token." (16)(17). In other words, John and Luke both tell us that these wounds are sure signs and a token unto us that Jesus is the Christ. This ought to highlight the importance of our temple covenants and how Christ-centric they are.


We transition to John chapter 21, where many scholars believe this was added to the Gospel of John sometime later. If you read the end of chapter 20, it reads like an ending, but John felt like making this apparent addendum to his Gospel account.

The disciples have gathered themselves, again, at the Sea of Galilee. Most scholars in and out of the Church point out that the appearance of Christ in this chapter is most likely a post-40-day resurrected-ministry appearance. In other words, we might be at least a few months after the events of Christ's resurrection.

Peter and the disciples are out again fishing, something they often did before they were called by the Savior a few years earlier. What we get at the beginning of the chapter is another miracle where Jesus helps the disciples present to catch a very hefty load of fish in their nets. They come to shore and begin to eat around a fire. Jesus and Peter have the most interesting conversation:

READ JOHN 21:15-19

"15 ¶ So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me."


What message do you think Jesus is trying to give Peter? What message might we extract from this conversation?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has commented on these verses, specifically referring to the Savior's intent:

"The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”

To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.” (18)

The Greek in these verses hint even more towards Peter's feebleness. The first two times Jesus asks the question, "Lovest thou me?...," He uses the word agape for 'love.' This is the word universally translated as 'charity' in the New Testament. What is interesting is that every time Peter responds to the question, he uses a different word. He uses the Greek word philō. This word means the affectionate love between good friends. (19)

In other words, Peter & Jesus are still not on the same page! Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him, while Peter responds with, "You know I am your friend!" Imagine if we responded to our spouses that way, not to be critical of Peter, but you get the point.

The last time Jesus asks the question, we get one of the greatest examples of the Lord's patience with us. The third time Jesus asks the question, "Lovest thou me?", He uses the same word Peter has used, philō

N.T. Wright has commented on the significance of this:

"You might expect Jesus to say, "Well Peter you really messed up. I'm disappointed in you. I thought you were going to be such a great leader of my people after I'm gone and I'm really not sure I can trust you. We'll have to put you on a six-month rehabilitation course and maybe you'll get back there." No! Jesus doesn't do any of that, he takes Peter where he is... [Christ is] saying in effect, "Okay, Peter, if that's where you are that's where we'll start." I think that's how Jesus meets us all again and again when we come to him, knowing perfectly well that we've messed up; that we've got things wrong; that we've denied him by what we've done; or we've failed to believe in him as we should. " (20)

It is my opinion that John adds this to his gospel because they probably had Saints in the ancient church being bogged down by continually falling short. This story between Jesus and Peter shows us that Christ will continually meet us where we are. Some might mistake that notion for permissiveness, but it is no different than a parent who tries, again and again, to get a wayward child on the right track. The only way for us to meet our potential is for Christ to coach us where we need to go.


I wanted to save these for when we got to 1 Corinthians 15 this year, but we do not have Sunday School the week those scriptures are to be read. The following are details about the resurrection of Christ that are not well-known in the Church. I largely borrowed this idea from the following video from Scripture Central. (21)

1. Resurrected bodies are spiritual bodies (see D&C 88:27). This is a little confusing, but the idea was explained by Joseph Smith when he said that resurrected bodies will have light, or spirit, running through their veins and not blood. (22)

2. There are keys of resurrection. President Oaks, as recently as April 2014 General Conference, taught that the resurrection is accomplished through "keys of resurrection." These keys, obviously, have not been delegated to man on Earth. (23) President Kimball, in another General Conference address, explains that this means that the resurrection is an ordinance. (24) Jesus Christ is the only person who ever lived who had the power to raise Himself. In addition, it is my opinion that this explains what Christ was doing when he was not found in the tomb on that first Easter Sunday. How else did many Saints on that same day arise and appear unto many people in Jerusalem (see Matthew 27:52-53)? Jesus was out raising people from their graves because He was the only person authorized out of all of Heavenly Father's children to do so at that moment in time. Who else could have made that happen if the resurrection was accomplished through priesthood keys? Imagine Jesus raising His cousin and intimate friend, John the Baptist, from the grave. Or even raising His father, Joseph. Imagine the reunions!

3. What will our loved ones look like in the resurrection? We usually get the idea that the graves are going to burst open, and all the men will be buff, and all the women will be beauty queens. Joseph Smith taught, though, "that all men [and women] will come from the grave as they lie down, whether old or young... Children will be enthroned in the presence of God and the Lamb; with bodies of the same stature that they had on earth". (25) Joseph F. Smith, as well as Joseph Fielding Smith, have further elaborated that all of us will rather quickly change to our perfected state afterward. (26) The idea is that everyone you know you will see as you remembered them, and then, like a growing child, will become that perfected person and body that we all expect in the resurrection. In this sense, the resurrection is more of a healing process than many of us have previously thought.


  1. Excelente, más contenidos así por favor.


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