Read John 20:1 - 31
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
16Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)
John gives us an very brief encounter of that Easter Sunday morning. He gives us the encounters of a small group of people. There is Mary, Peter, John, and Thomas by name and then the rest of the Disiciples by group.
Mary cannot contain herself anymore. Some believe that Mary loved Jesus more than anyone else. At this time, it was common for family to visit the graves for the first three days after burial. The Jews believed the spirit of the deceased hung around the body for three day and then left. Some people who experienced death and then came back to life share stories of watching what was happening around their bodies. But because Saturday was the Sabbath, Mary could not go then and had to wait until Sunday. And she went at what was probably the last watch of the night before dawn which was typically 4 to 6AM.
We see her anguish. She has assumed they have stolen the body. John in this 20th chapter really hits home at this idea of believing in the resurrection. He shows the struggle from Mary, from Thomas and the confusion from John and Peter.
The folded up cloth is an interesting image. The Greek word here would literally mean that the burial cloth had the folds as though the body just came up through the linen, with the folds as they would naturally appear if the body was removed without disturbing the cloth. The linen would have been separate as this covered Jesus’ face. To Peter and John, this would have a been a clue that the body was not stolen, but risen. John records that they believed, but did not fully understand.
John then transitions to three stories where it is seeing that is believing. First Jesus appears to Mary. Then Jesus appears to the 10 Disciples (Judas as gone and Thomas was missing from the group that first night), and then finally to Thomas.
Jesus bring home the point that they believe because they saw, but blessed are those who did not see but believe. But it is important that people saw and interacted with the risen Christ. They become the authentic witnesses. And how can we trust that they actually saw. Unfortunately for them, but as a witness to future generations including us today, all the disciple except John would die horrific deaths because they refused to not disown Jesus as the risen Son of God. This is critical because why would they die if the resurrection was a lie. You would think that if it was a lie and there was another motive, some might die, but some would want to save their lives as very few people would die for a lie.
Many of the disciples traveled far, leaving home and friends to share what they witnessed. We can trust their witness as true. John in this portion of his letter is trying his best to show the power of their witness at the time. He is writing from an old age, exiled himself for his beliefs.
How does believing Jesus is the resurrected Son of God empower you to live this life? This is the ultimate question we are faced with when we say yes to Christ being our Savior.
Thoughts and questions
Blessings and Peace