Many exegetes claim, without proof, that Jesus resurrected before the angel rolled back the stone, in order to show that he passed through it as he could walk through doors or as he was born out of the Blessed Virgin Mother's closed, virginal womb.

Commentaries on

Mt. 28:2 And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. Matthew, ch. 28:

    Christ had already risen: for as He went out from a closed womb, so He went out from the sealed tomb.

  2. Ven. Bede, as quoted by St. Thomas in Catena in Mt. cap. 28 l. 1:

    "And came and rolled back the stone;" not to open the door for the Lord to come forth, but to give evidence to men that He was already come forth. For He who as mortal had power to enter the world through the closed womb of a Virgin, He when become immortal, was able to depart out of the world by rising from a sealed sepulchre.

  3. Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., Commentary on Matthew 22-28, ch. 28:

    And rolled away the stone, of the sepulchre of Christ. Not that He might rise out of it, for He had already risen while the sepulchre was closed, but that he might show to the women that Christ their God and Lord had already risen. Opening to them a way to the sepulchre, he showed it to them empty of the body of Christ. For as Christ was born from the closed womb of the Virgin, so also He rose from the closed sepulchre.

But what evidence is there that the Resurrection occurred before the angel rolled back the stone?

3 Answers 3


That the Angel sat upon the stone on rolling it back (Mtt 28:2) is sufficient to prove that the Resurrection of Christ had already taken place; if it had not, the Angel would have stood in reverence.

As for the seal, it was not intended to strengthen the closed entrance, as much as to serve as a check on the guards themselves, lest they be bribed by the disciples . See the propaganda the guards make after the Resurrection : "His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep "(Mtt 28:13) .

  • ". . . the Angel would have stood in reverence." I like that. Moreover, "sitting" in Scripture can signify a work has been accomplished (see Colossians 3:1). Jesus did the "hard work" of dying and resurrecting. The angel simply bore witness to what had already taken place. Don Apr 7, 2021 at 12:58

In the case of Lazarus, Jesus commands them to roll back the stone. Lazarus is returned to life and walks out.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. ... Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. ... And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:36, 41, 43, 44

In Ezekiel, the same pattern occurs of open the grave and then a cause (come back to life) and then come out.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Eze 37:12

This doesn't necessarily prove the same sequence for Christ, but may point to a pattern.

PS TO ADD. On the idea of the angel sitting, rather than standing in reverence, this actually points to the reverse when we look at the guards' reaction.

The stone is rolled back. Lightening, white raiment. And then the guards fall as dead.

Had the assumptions of the OP quotes taken place, we would see this. The resurrection, Christ walks through the stone, the guards fall as dead, and then the stone rolls away.

But again, it reads, the stone is rolled away. appearance. guards fall as dead.


Mt. 27:66 And they departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards.

On this verse, Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., Commentary on Matthew 22-28:

They sealed it with a signet, not Pilate’s, as S. Chrysostom suggests, but with their own, i.e., with the signet of the city of Jerusalem, or of the Sanhedrim, so that the stone could not be moved, nor the body be taken away, without its being detected. So, too, Darius (Dan. 6:17). Nicephorus adds that the Jews bored through both the stones of the tomb, and fastened them with an iron band. And thus, by endeavouring to prevent the resurrection of Christ, they did but add to the miracle, and furnished greater evidence for it; which God, as it were, extorted from them. So S. Chrysostom, “An undoubted demonstration is furnished by your own doings. For if the sepulchre were sealed, no room was left for fraud and deceit. But if no fraud had been committed, and the tomb was found empty, it is clear beyond all question that He had risen. Thou seest how, even against their will, they help to demonstrate the truth.” “It was not enough,” says S. Jerome, “for the Chief Priests and Pharisees to have crucified the Lord, unless they took a band of soldiers, sealed the stone, and, as far as they could, opposed His resurrection; so that all they did was for the furtherance of our faith. For the more it is kept back, the more fully is the power of the resurrection displayed.”

  • 2
    This assumes those who burried His body would not break their own seal, but this still doesn't prove He resurrected before the angel rolled back the stone (and also broke the seal).
    – Geremia
    Apr 5, 2021 at 16:13

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