Summary: Year C Easter Sunday, John 20: 1-9, April 15, 2001
Year C Easter Sunday, John 20: 1-9,April 15, 2001
Visiting the tomb and finding the body of Jesus gone, Mary Magdalene reports the fact to Peter and the Beloved Disciple who run to the tomb. They both observe the same facts, but the Beloved Disciple believes that Jesus is risen.
Chapter 20 consists of four scenes that teach of different responses to the risen Jesus. In the first scene verses one to nine. Jesus does not even appear. It is a story about the empty tomb. The second scene is about Jesus appearance to Mary Magdalene verses eleven t eighteen at the tomb. Scene three takes place on Easter Sunday night in a locked room. Jesus appears to the ten disciples and then, in scene four a week later, he appears again to them, but this time Thomas is present and his response highlighted. All these scenes take place in Jerusalem, as do the appearances in Luke and Mark 16:1-8. In chapter 21, an epilogue to the gospel work, Jesus appears in two more scenes that take place in Galilee. The author is as much or more concerned with the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on the disciples, faith response, as or than the fact of it.
In itself this story of the empty tomb did not originally convey the idea of resurrection, except to the beloved disciple who interpreted the facts correctly. The subsequent stories of Jesus’ appearances clarified the meaning of the empty tomb, since no one saw the actually event of Jesus’ rising from the dead.
In verse one, “First day of the week,” Sunday. The days of the week are not named in the Bible.
Tomb: The entrance to such tombs was a small opening about a yard high from the ground. Hence the need to bend down to see in. A boulder rolled against the entrance could seal the tomb.
The more elaborate ones had a wheel-shaped slab that rolled in a tract across the entrance, having the effect of a sliding or rolling door.
Mary Magdalene: Mark and Luke say she and other women came to anoint the body, since it had to be buried hastily before Sabbath sunset. Matthew simply states that they came to see the tomb. John gives no reason for the visit. It was believed that the person’s spirit lingered around the tomb for three days.
In verse two, “to Simon Peter,” Both Peter and the “Beloved Disciple,” present at the cross, were reported by John to have stayed around in Jerusalem, so it would be natural for Magdalene to report to them.
“The other disciple whom Jesus loved,” Though he was clearly an historical personage, one of the disciples, though not necessarily one of the Twelve, his name is never given. He represents all faithful disciples of all ages.
In verse four, “the other disciple,” He arrived first, meaning he was the first to believe in the Resurrection. He is also the first to recognize Jesus in 21:7. The fact that he outran Peter has been the subject of much speculation as to its significance. No reason is given in the text. He is presented as the ideal follower who does not need an appearance of Jesus to believe in him. Peter and John are portrayed as friends not rivals. The Beloved Disciple is the quickest to look for Jesus and the first to believe in him.
In verse five, The fact that the burial clothes were still there is meant to prove that Mary was wrong to suppose that the body was stolen. The only possible explanation of the facts was that Jesus had been raised from the dead. We recall that Lazarus needed his burial clothes. He would use them again for he would die again. Jesus had no need of them, so they remained behind. But they were evidence to the beloved disciple not of theft or death but of life.
In verse seven, “the napkin,’ John singles out the napkin for special mention. What thieves would stop to fold the clothes if they stole the body? This was a signal to faith eyes that unbelief would miss. Perhaps there was something distinctive in the way it was folded, letting the believing, loving disciple in on a “sign.” Subtly, the author is communicating that love sees “signs” otherwise missed.
In verse eight, “saw and believed,’ John does not specify what the beloved disciple believed, but there can be no doubt what he means. He means that he drew the only possible conclusion from the facts and the reader is expected to do the same. THE DISCIPLE HAS REACHED RESURRECTION FAITH WITHOUT AN APPEARANCE OF JESUS!
In verse nine, Things had happened pretty fast. Only the beloved disciple had kept his wits about him. The empty tomb threw Magdalene, who loved Jesus, too, for a loop. She jumped to the conclusion that his body had been stolen by enemies. The Jewish authorities would accuse Jesus’ followers of the same thing. Peter saw the same facts as the other disciple, but he was still overcome by the recent events to be able to see or think straight. Remember he loved Jesus, too, but with human (philia) love, not yet the agape love of the other disciple which 21:15-19 will point out. It took time for the truth to dawn on the disciples. Only later when they calmed down and thought about it and prayed about it could they see it all as the fulfillment of a pattern foretold in Scripture. When they did that they could flesh out the implications and applications of a Risen Jesus.