Read John 20:1-18

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." 14At 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. (NIV)


We now get to John’s version of what happened that first Easter morning.  John’s focus is on the two people who appeared to love Jesus the most from all that is written.  Mary was devoted to Jesus and never stopped believing.  John calls himself, the disciple whom Jesus loved.  Now, one of the interesting things is that Jewish thought at the time was that the soul of the deceased person hung around the gravesite for three days, so loved ones would come and visit the site each of the first three days after burial.  But in Jesus’ case, the first day was the Sabbath and to walk to the tomb would have probably broken the Sabbath laws as you could not walk but a certain distance and it is assumed that the distance from the tomb to where Mary was staying exceeded that distance.  But Mary could wait no longer.  We read that she came early in the morning.  The Greek translated to “while it was still dark” is a word used to describe the last watch of the night which means she came between 3am and 6 am.

We see in this encounter that Mary runs to find Peter who is still seen as the leader of the group of disciples.  John is with Peter at this time as they are probably both staying in the same place while traveling to Jerusalem from their home in Galilee.  They were fishing partners and knew each other well.  And John tells us they both run to the tomb with John winning the race.  But Peter is the first to go in and see.  We also see the John tells us he is the first to believe, but Mary is the first to see the risen Lord.

We also see that Mary cannot leave the tomb. Her love is so deep, that she must find out what happened.  The disciples simply look and return to their lodging.  And John tells us of what some have called, “the great recognition.”

We have one strange point in this passage and that is that Jesus tells Mary not to touch him.  Scholars have debated what was really said and what was really meant.  The gist of what many believe is that Jesus wanted Mary to go and tell the others and to demonstrate that Mary was not afraid.  When Jesus appears to others, he says “do not fear.”  But we get the image that Mary is not fearful, but overwhelmed with joy.  So, some say that the translation should be, “stop hanging on to me, I have ascended yet, go and tell my brothers the good news.”  And it is easy to see this being the case.  John was stressing the love drives out fear.  But Mary was the evangelist. She was the first to go and tell others about the risen Lord.  It is a calling on all of us out of our great love of Christ.

There is so much in this passage, so any comments or questions.
Blessings and Peace

Pastor Harry