Each of the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John includes a record of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s not surprising that each of these accounts was different considering that the authors experienced this event at different times and in different situations. What appears to be consistent about Jesus’ return from death was that everyone that saw his resurrected body talked about it through a process of giving their own personal testimony. In other words, each person shared their experience by stating, this is what I saw with my own eyes, not what someone else has told me about it. The exception to this rule was the personal testimony of the women that first encountered Jesus on what is now known as Easter morning. In the time period when Jesus’ death and resurrection happened, a woman’s testimony wasn’t considered valid. Therefore, it’s no wonder they didn’t believe Mary when she came and told Jesus’ eleven apostles that she had seen him and he was alive (Mark 16:11).
Luke’s gospel indicated there were several women that testified to Jesus’ resurrection as a result of their own personal experience. He said, “It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:10-11). The Greek word that is translated idle tales, leros (lay´-ros) means “twaddle, i.e. an incredible story…Leros denotes an incredible tale in that it is foolish talk, nonsense, lacking credibility” (G3026). The reason why the apostles didn’t believe the women may have been because they were hysterical, but it is possible that these women were both calm and coherent when they relayed the details of what happened and yet, for some reason, the apostles refused to believe them.
Perhaps, the best explanation for why the apostles didn’t believe Mary when she told them Jesus was alive can be found in Luke’s concluding statement, “and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). The Greek words Luke used, apisteo autos suggested that it was actually unbelief or more specifically, the apostles own unwillingness to trust in God that made them reject the news that Jesus had been resurrected. Two of the apostles, Peter and John, went to the tomb to investigate Mary’s story and found that the tomb was indeed empty just like she had told them, but they still refused to believe that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:36-41). That might explain why Jesus appeared to the women first, rather than his own apostles. Even though their testimony didn’t carry much weight, at least Mary and the other women were willing to believe that what they had seen and heard when they went to Jesus’ tomb was real, not a mere fantasy or wishful thinking.
The place where Jesus was crucified was known as “a place of a skull” (Matthew 27:33). The Apostle John noted that it was “called in Hebrew Golgotha” (John 19:17) and Luke’s gospel provided the Latin version of this word, calvaria which is where the English term Calvary comes from. The exact location of this spot is unknown, but some think it “may have been a small hill (though the Gospels say nothing of a hill) that looked like a skull, or it may have been so named because of the many executions that took place there” (note on Mark 15:22). The name of the site was probably given so that there would be no confusion about the fact that a public execution actually took place. It is possible that Jesus knew of the site before he was taken there and had mentally prepared himself for the inevitable crucifixion that was going to take place.
Crucifixion was “a Roman means of execution in which the victim was nailed to a cross. Men condemned to death were usually forced to carry a beam of the cross often weighing 30 or 40 pounds, to the place of crucifixion. A cross might be shaped like a T, an X, a Y, or an I, as well as like the traditional form. A condemned man would normally carry a beam of it to the place of execution. Somewhere along the way Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21), probably because Jesus was weakened by the flogging. Heavy wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel bones. If the life of the victim lingered too long, death was hastened by breaking his legs (see John 19:33). Archeologists have discovered the bones of a crucified man, near Jerusalem, dating between A.D. 7 and 66, which shed light on the position of the victim when nailed to the cross. Only slaves, the basest of criminals, and offenders who were not Roman citizens were executed in this manner. First-century authors vividly describe the agony and disgrace of being crucified” (notes on Mark 15-21, 24 and John 19:17).
Luke’s record of Jesus’ crucifixion contains details that are not found in the other three gospels. Luke opened his letter with this statement:
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightiest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)
Luke’s motivation for writing his letter to Theophilus was to explain what had happened to Jesus in terms that were understandable to a non-Jewish Roman citizen. Luke was a physician and had spent a considerable amount of time traveling with the Apostle Paul. His education was probably an advantage in translating the Jewish records into modern language that could be understood by the general population. Luke’s use of the term calvaria, or in English Calvary, as the name of the place where Jesus was crucified has made it a well-known landmark that is still visited some 2000 years later.