Summary: John began his resurrection story with a testimony of how he came to personal faith in the Resurrection by considering the evidence found in the open tomb. The empty tomb bore witness to a physical or bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
JOHN 20: 1-10
THE EMPTY TOMB
We have before us tonight the open sepulcher, the bewildered alarm it caused, and the faith it both elicited and excited. John's Gospel comes to a conclusion in chapter 20 with a proclamation of Jesus' victory over death and then is followed in chapter 21 by an epilogue or postscript. Each Gospel writer stresses certain aspects of the discover of the empty tomb. John began his resurrection story with a testimony of how he came to personal faith in the Resurrection by considering the evidence found in the open tomb (CIT). The empty tomb bore witness to a physical or bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first disciples where all too aware of the reality of Jesus' death on the cross. Some had witnessed it with their own eyes. The Jesus who had filled them with joy, hope, and purpose was now dead at the hands of angry religious authorities. They were devastated. Uncertain what to do they had retreated behind close doors [incase the authorities were after them.]
Then John saw the empty tomb. The reality of the empty tomb changed everything. He went from faltering to faith. The promises of Jesus then came alive to him and he believed that even over death itself, Jesus is Lord.
I. BEFORE THE DAWN, 1-2.
II. THE DAWNING OF FAITH, 3-8.
III. THE SOURCE OF FAITH, 9-10.
A group of ladies came in faith to the grave site because they desired to anoint the body with spices. Verse 1 notes that Mary's faithful follower-ship has now become leadership -- which will lead her to a most astounding discovery. "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
"The first day of the week," Sunday, Mary of Magdala and other women (we in v. 2) came to the tomb. "Mary of Magdala" is a translation of the same Greek words which elsewhere are rendered "Mary Magdalene" (Mt. 28:1; Mark 16:1, 9; Luke 24:10). [Magdala is located north of Tiberias on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee.] She is mentioned in Luke 8:1–3 among a list of women in Galilee who followed Jesus devoutly and supported His ministry (Mk. 15:41). Her devotion to Jesus was based on her gratitude for His delivering her from bondage to Satan. Along with other women, she had followed Jesus to Jerusalem to supply His and His disciples' needs (Mt. 27:55). She was even so bold as to stand with Him on Golgotha (John 19:25). She had observed His death on the cross and now was the first person at the grave, arriving "while it was still dark."
The achievement of the resurrection took place before sunrise. It was fitting that He who was to scatter the darkness of the grave should rise while darkness covered the earth. No human eye would behold ‘how' the dead was ‘raised.' [The earthquake and the descent of angels and the rolling away of the stone were after the tomb was empty.] The greatest miracles are often done in the darkest times, when no one knows and no one is watching.
This tomb had been closed with a large rock door (Mark 16:3-4) and had been sealed by the authority of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Mt. 27:65-66). The women were surprised to see an open and apparently empty tomb.
The three days after the crucifixion of Jesus passed like an eternity. I imagine that the birds didn't sing, the sun didn't shine and joy was drained out of life. For 3 days, all the demons of hell rejoiced, and Satan and the forces of darkness thought they had won the great victory. For three days, the Jewish leaders and the demons of hell congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme. But on the 3rd day, something wonderful and miraculous happened, as God the Father said to an angel in heaven, "Go get Him!" And when the angel's feet hit the ground, the stone rolled away, and up from the grave He arose..…never to die again! [Jerry Shirley, The Napkin is Still Folded]
Verse 2 reports Mary's immediate reaction of fear and dismay. "So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
She ran and told Peter and the beloved disciple (John 19:26) that a terrible thing had occurred. Her own words, ‘We know not,' show that she had spoken with others who had seen the empty grave. "We" must therefore indicate that she had she had come with others to the tomb, saw that the sacred corpse was gone and their spices useless, exchanged hurried words of alarm and bewilderment, and then had hastened away before the appearance of the angels. [Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:10].