Christians have long observed that the Gospels do not record the actual resurrection of Jesus. The Evangelists record and describe Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection appearances, but not the resurrection itself. Why? The most likely explanation is that none of the early Christians observed the resurrection event. If they were making up stories as some skeptics suggest, however, surely we would expect for them to have invented an elaborate and glorious story describing how Jesus rose from the dead. It is counter-intuitive to think they would fail to describe the cornerstone event of their religion if they were fabricating stories. The fact that they do not report and describe Jesus’ actual resurrection lends a lot of historical credibility to their story.
While the Bible never records/describes the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew may provide us with a very good approximation of when the event occurred. Matthew began his account by depicting the women on the way to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning (Mt 28:1). In verse 2 he switches scenery to the tomb itself, describing what is happening at the tomb while the women are on their way: “Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it.” Why did the angel open the tomb? Could it have been to let the recently resurrected Jesus exit the tomb? If so, then Jesus was probably raised from the dead early Sunday morning, perhaps between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m.
I realize this is only a possibility. Jesus could have risen from the dead hours before the angel opened the tomb. After all, Jesus did not need the angel to open the tomb to exit it. He had the ability to appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19, 26), and thus He could have simply passed through the wall of the tomb hours before the angel ever arrived. So why would the angel roll the stone away, if not to let Jesus out? Possibly the purpose was to allow the opportunity for Jesus’ disciples to investigate the tomb to see that it was empty. We may never know for certain when Jesus rose from the dead, but perhaps, just perhaps Matthew has provided us with an answer.