"Greetings. Do not be afraid. ..." (Matthew 28:9-10)

Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Why would they be afraid?

As described below, this occurred when Jesus appeared before Mary Magdalene and Mary - assumably Jesus' mother. We must ask why, since these two women knew Jesus so well, why would they be afraid if they saw Jesus?

Conversely, why would Jesus scare them? As we will explain clearly below, Jesus did not appear before them in his physical body. This is why they didn't recognize him at first, and why they would be scared when they saw him.

Here Jesus is appearing to his disciples after he left his physical body. How do we know Jesus left his physical body?
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50)

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
The word "spirit" in these three verses is being translated from the Greek word πνεῦμα (pneuma), which means, according to the lexicon, "the vital principal by which the body is animated;" "the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides;" and "the soul."

Thus we can conclude that the word "spirit" is referring to the self within - the living being who lives within the physical body and leaves the physical body at the time of death.

To this we can add a verse from "The Wisdom [or Sophia] of Jesus Christ" a Gospel from The Lost Gospels of Jesus:
The Savior appeared not in his earlier form, but in the ethereal spirit. His appearance was like a beautiful illuminated angel. But I cannot properly describe his appearance. No material body could bear this – only the purified spiritual body – just as he taught us about from Galilee to the mount referred to as ‘the olives.’ (Sophia of Jesus Christ 2)

Is this when Jesus resurrected?

As we describe below, Jesus separated from his body - he rose from the body - as in resurrection.

The Book of Matthew also refers to Jesus as having been "resurrected" at the time of death:
... after Jesus' resurrection... (Matthew 27:53)
The events described in Matt. 27:51-53, which begin with "At that moment," clearly detail events at the time of death of Jesus' physical body. The inclusion of the word "resurrection" within this description of events - well before Jesus' supposed "rising from the dead" three days later - clearly indicates the Book of Matthew refers to "resurrection" as the leaving of the spirit-person from the body at the time of death.

This is confirmed by Jesus' own teachings regarding resurrection:
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead — have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:23-31)
Both the question and Jesus' answer are obviously referring to the period following the spirit-person leaving the body at the time of death.

The very word "resurrection" - translated from the Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis) - means "a raising up, rising." What is rising? The spirit-person is rising up out of the body at the time of death.

Each of us has been created by God - and thus we are made of the same spiritual essence as He is (in quality, not quantity). This living personality is unseen by the physical eyes. We know each of us is alive and has a unique personality, but we cannot see this personality with our physical eyes. It lies on another dimension. It is spiritual in essence, while our physical eyes are made of matter.

What about 'the resurrection of the dead' versus 'the living'?

When the body dies, it becomes lifeless, and begins to decompose. It becomes "dead" because the soul or person within becomes separated from that body.

At the same time, the notion of being "dead" can be used symbolically to describe someone who has not dedicated their life to the Supreme Being - a self-centered person. Thus as Jesus says that God is "the God of the living," he is speaking both practically and metaphorically.

In other words, each of us will leave our body at the time of death, but at that moment we will also be either "living" or "dead" in the spiritual sense. This is an important element of Jesus' teachings, and he is trying to drive this point home because each of us has that choice to become spiritually "living" or spiritually "dead" at every moment.

Jesus confirms this when he discusses resurrection in another situation:
"Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:14)
Here Jesus refers to "resurrection of the righteous" rather than "resurrection of the dead" because the destination of a person who has dedicated their life to loving and serving the Supreme Being will be different than the destination of someone who has lived a self-centered life. 

And being "repaid" refers to our current actions having consequences after we leave this body.

Martha, one of Jesus' students, also clarified that Jesus taught that resurrection was the spirit-person leaving the body at the time of death:
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24)
Here "the last day," translated from ἔσχατος (eschatos) and ἡμέρα (hēmera) refers to the last day of the physical body - the time of death. ἔσχατος (eschatos) means "last in time or in place" according to the lexicon, but it can only refer to time when followed by "day" - taken from ἡμέρα (hēmera).

In other words, it is a metaphorical use of the term. We still use this metaphor to some degree, as we might say, "the last days of ...." when we are referring to a period of time just before someone dies.

Note that prior to Martha's statement, Jesus said to her:
"Your brother will rise again." (John 11:23)
But didn't Jesus' dead body rise after three days? Nope. We can see this clearly from each of the descriptions of how they found the tomb. 

Why do the Gospels describe Jesus' 'rising' differently?

In Matthew, we find that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" came to the tomb and met with the following:
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matthew 28:2)
The angel then shows the Marys where Jesus was laid, to find him gone:
"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." (Matthew 28:6)
In Luke, we find that the 'women who had come with Jesus from Galilee' (Luke 23:51) found the tomb stone already rolled away and then: 'suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them' (Luke 24:4) and told them that Jesus had "risen!"

But Luke 24:5 also says:
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
Meanwhile, the Book of John says that it was Mary Magdalene alone who went to the tomb 'while it was still dark' and found that 'the stone had been removed from the entrance.' (John 20:1)

Mary then left and told Simon Peter, and they and another disciple dashed to the tomb to confirm it was empty. They saw strips of linen there in the tomb. After they left, Mary then 'saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.'

After they asked her why she was crying, suddenly Jesus appears to her in the tomb:
she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:14)
In Mark we find the event explained differently:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. (Mark 16:1)
They also found the tomb stone rolled away, but they found something altogether different:
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16:5)
The 'young man' (not Jesus, and not two angels) then notified them that Jesus "has risen!" (Mark 16:6)

So which is it? Was it three women, two women or just Mary who found the tomb open? Was the tomb rolled upon by an angel who appeared when they were there and the guards where there, or was the tomb already laying open with no guards there? Was there one angel who opened the tomb, or were there two angels, or was there just one 'young man' there? Or was Jesus there and spoke to Mary?

Yes, each of the Gospels tells a different version of this event. Which is correct?

The varying stories can only mean that Jesus' appearance was described with hearsay. This means the writers were not all eyewitnesses. If all four Gospel writers were eyewitnesses, the event would be told the same each time.

This doesn't mean one of the versions is not true. One of the versions could well be true while the other three are less true or simply turned into legends after being passed on from person to person for a while before having been written down.

Who started the notion that Jesus' physical body 'rose'?

What the different versions have in common is that Jesus' dead body did not rise.

At the same time, the very foundation upon which many base their proposal that Jesus was 'special' - his "rising from the dead" - is so flimsy that any person who wanted to discredit such a notion could do so quite easily by simply comparing the stories between the Gospels?

Who started this notion anyway? It was the Roman Catholic institution that drew its doctrine primarily from Paul's teachings. Paul was not a direct disciple or student of Jesus. Rather, he was a Roman Pharisee who persecuted Jesus' followers and then claimed to have had a vision of Jesus.

Directly after his supposed vision (in which he saw a light and heard a voice) Paul began teaching a philosophy that departed from Jesus' own teachings and the teachings of Jesus' direct disciples such as James and Peter. This is despite the claim that he was an apostle of Jesus.

In other words, unlike Jesus' direct disciples, Paul did not study under Jesus. Nor did he spend years learning and training under Jesus as Peter and James and other disciples of Jesus had.

What Paul did was launch a doctrine that focused on anyone easily becoming "saved" by accepting that Jesus "died for our sins."

Jesus' teachings taught a person had to have a change of heart - and make significant lifestyle changes and come to worship and love God. Paul's doctrine - today called Pauline Theology - created a new philosophy that simply joining Paul's assembly/church would declare them "saved."

Paul's doctrine created a large following among the Romans of that era. And when the Roman government legalized Christianity early in the Fourth Century, they embraced Paul's version of Christianity over the more orthodox teachings.

As a result, the events of Jesus' life surrounding the crucifixion and the resurrection were emphasized, while Jesus' teachings themselves were de-emphasized.

Why do the four Gospels differ on these facts?

Not only do the four Gospels differ. There are other oddities. For example, if Jesus was crucified on Friday afternoon, the third day (or in three days) would be Monday, not Sunday as preached among the Roman Catholic institution and most sects today.

Or how about the notion that Jesus was encouraging his disciples to "eat his body" and "drink his blood" - as is still practiced today in Roman Catholic institutions in the form of crackers and wine? Did Jesus really teach his followers to become cannibals?

Yet this institution and others have been involved in this and so many other inconsistencies in their doctrines. This of course includes the conspiracy theory of conspiracy theories - that the end of the world will come on a certain predicted date - which never happened.

It is now interesting that some are still predicting future dates - after they got all the previous doomsday dates wrong.

Did they think that people would be so gullible? 

It is interesting that the early Roman Catholic Church actually took the scriptures away from the people so they couldn't see these inconsistencies with their teachings. They confiscated all the circulating manuscripts, burned the ones they did not like, and then translated the ones that were the most similar (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) into Latin - a language the common person did not even speak.

And then they only reproduced just enough copies to circulate amongst the bishops and priests (and the Roman Emperor of course).

It was against the law to own one of these early Bibles in the Roman Empire. Only a priest or bishop was allowed by Roman law to own a Bible - or any other written scripture. A common person could not own a Bible - or any scripture for that matter.

Yes, the Romans burnt all the libraries that contained all scriptural manuscripts, save a few copies that were held in secret at the Vatican under lock and key. The only manuscripts we have found were buried in the desert to escape the destruction of the Roman Catholic institution, which burned every library they could find except their own.

The Romans effectively squelched any ability to investigate the authenticity of their translations and manipulations for over 1,000 years, through the end of the Holy Roman Empire. They imprisoned or burnt at the stake any person who disagreed with the teachings of their Roman Catholic priests or bishops.

This era of indoctrination which included Jesus' supposed 'rising from the dead' was not questioned because to do so would have meant being burnt at the stake or at least put in prison. After so many centuries, the interpretation has continued unquestioned. 

In the tradition of the Romans, even to this day, if anyone questions this interpretation, they will immediately be labeled a heretic.

It is ironic that as we mentioned in the beginning, prior to Jesus' body even being put in the tomb, the Book of Matthew's text clearly states that Jesus' resurrection already took place - at the time of the death of his body.

Was Jesus' mission to 'die for our sins?'

If Jesus' mission was merely to "die for our sins" then we must ask ourselves: Why did Jesus spend so much time teaching? And why didn't he just teach, "wait for my crucifixion then you will automatically be saved as long as you claim it."?

But he didn't Jesus never said this. He didn't teach that we would automatically be saved by simply claiming that he died for our sins. This may have been Paul's teaching. But it wasn't Jesus' teaching.

Rather, Jesus taught that we should ask God to forgive our sins. He actually taught his followers to pray (as part of the Lord's Prayer):
"And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us." (Luke 11:4)
This means that suggesting that Jesus "died for my sins" is teaching something contrary to Jesus' own teachings.

The reality is that God does not need to send his Son (loving servant) to the earth to "pay for our sins by dying on the cross." Each of us is responsible for our own actions. But God is also gracious and merciful, and will forgive our sins should we request it from Him and be prepared to forgive anyone who may have wronged us.

These are Jesus' teachings and these teachings were consistent with the teachings of the Saints of the Old Testament. They were consistent with the teachings of Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, Eli, Abraham, Jacob, and so many others. He often quoted the teachings of the Prophets because he was carrying out their instructions - to serve and please God.

We can understand, though a serious investigation of the Scriptures, that Jesus' principal mission was to save us and bring us back to the spiritual realm through his teachings:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50)
Jesus' teachings are about devotion to the Supreme Being. Coming to know Him, love Him and serve Him. This is why his most important teaching was:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)