John 20:1-18

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They 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.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.


The Empty Tomb

As a new age dawns with the resurrection of Jesus, there are echoes of creation. Jesus is raised on the first day of the week, and new creation begins. Today, we know that the “firstfruits” resurrection of Jesus gives us the hope of resurrection at Christ’s coming (1 Cor. 15:20,23, 1 Thes. 4:14). We can see that Jesus’ unrecognizable yet familiar appearance is his resurrected body. (1 Cor. 15:35-49)

But in this text, Mary, John, and Peter don’t see that yet. Even after John sees and believes, it is still without full understanding. (v.8-9) They have seen neatly folded grave clothes, (unlike Lazarus), so this doesn’t look like a tomb that has been robbed. Mary is inconsolable wondering “where they have laid him.” 

“If all we had was the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we would never know that anyone ever interpreted the resurrection narratives as providing a basis for a future hope beyond the grave. The stories are about something else altogether:  the vindication of Jesus, the validation of his messianic claim, and the commissioning of his followers to act as his heralds, announcing to the world its new, surprising, but rightful lord.” (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God)

Why Are You Weeping?

Mary had an incredible back story. She was tortured and possessed by seven demons when she met Jesus. (Luke 8:2) Jesus had radically, undeniably changed her life. So much so that she became one of His disciples, following Him wherever He went and listed among the women who also financially supported His ministry. At His crucifixion, she stood to watch after most everyone else had left. She knew Jesus. She’s weeping because she has lost her teacher, her “rabboni.” 

Personal accounts like Mary’s weeping, the footrace between Peter and John (the beloved disciple), and the meetings with the disciples in the following passages remind us that these are eyewitness testimonies by real people whose lives were transformed by Jesus, and would be shaped from this day forward by the good news of His resurrection.

Go and Tell

In all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) the resurrection is followed by a commissioning. In John, this happens most clearly in v.21 when Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” But even before that, Jesus commissions Mary to go and tell His “brothers.” 

Because of the resurrection, believers in Jesus have become a part of God’s family. For Mary, John, and the disciples, the resurrection meant that they had work to do! This was the dawning of the mission of the Church. The resurrection of Jesus is Good News to be shared! The Kingdom has come near. As followers of Jesus, we are now sent to go and tell by the power of the Spirit.  

Discussion Questions

If the resurrection is true, where should it be on the list of important events in history? Why?

If the resurrection had never happened, would your life be any different? Explain.

How would your daily life change if the resurrection was on the forefront of your mind each day?


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