John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
The Resurrection of Jesus
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
Had the Jewish leaders stolen the body? Had grave robbers visited during the night? What to do?! Mary goes to the leader of the group.
2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,
John, the author, humbly does not refer to himself directly.
and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.
4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
The body was gone; of that there was no doubt at all. There was no evidence of haste or vandalism. Everything was orderly and in place, the grave clothes, the napkin just a little apart from the rest. It was as though the form of a dead man was preserved, but the body itself was gone. John took in all the items that called out for the incredible but inescapable conclusion. Jesus had risen from the dead. He had risen right through the grave clothes. of course! All the clues pointed to that conclusion. Then and there John believed. Jesus was alive!
9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
1But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
William Barclay says that Mary did not recognize Jesus for two reasons: 1) Her tears were blinding her to the glory of heaven; and 2) she was facing the wrong direction — towards the tomb instead of the sky.
15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
One Bible scholar has written: “Never was a one-word utterance more charged with emotion than this.”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
The fact that Jesus makes a woman the first witness of His resurrection is significant. The law courts of that day would not recognize the testimony of a woman, but Jesus did. This also argues for the historic truth of this account. If someone fabricated this story, would they make the first witnesses to the resurrection women, who were commonly (if unfairly) regarded as unreliable witnesses?
* * *
When I was a child our family went to Rose Grove Lutheran, pictured here — a small church and cemetery out in the farmland of Hamilton County, Iowa. (My parents were married there in 1946; my mother was buried there in 1999 and my father in 2014.) The picture behind the altar was from the passage above — Mary reaching for the risen Lord just outside the tomb — similar to the picture above, but Mary’s face was filled with such joy!
I have never forgotten that picture. Now, half a century later, I realize it has continued to impact my life in several ways:
1) a fervent interest in the women of the Bible;
2) a grateful heart because Jesus knows my name, just as He knew Mary’s;
3) a strong belief that the death and resurrection of Christ is the foundation of a life of significance;
4) a deep confidence that the Lord is the source of true joy; and
5) a bold proclamation which I learned from Mary and from Job — “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
* * *
AND THE GLORY
by Ann Weems
The silence breaks into morning.
The One Star lights the world.
The lily springs to life and
not even Solomon . . .
Let it begin with singing
and never end!
Oh, angels, quit your lamenting!
upon your knees in tearful prayer,
and take your hearts
We who were no people
are named anew
for he who was no more
This song tells the story of the resurrection from the point of view of Peter. HERE is “He’s Alive” sung by Dolly Parton.
1) The resurrection can seem incredible, if not impossible, to our scientific minds. What are some images you can use to explain resurrection to someone who is not familiar with John’s Gospel?
2) Lift up your hearts! We lift them up unto the Lord! Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God! Thank God for Christ’s resurrection!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.