The Gospel Of Saint John – Chapter 20
1 THE first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
Easter! Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus has conquered death and sin. This is the proof of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus lived. We have his teachings and the clear evidence of the miracles he worked. We know he died. Now we have the proof of our faith in Jesus. He lives again. He did not know corruption. He raised himself from the dead to be near us always and to sit, as he promised, at the right hand of his Father in heaven. We have passed through darkness and the light of our lives is with us now and always.
St John’s Gospel mentions Mary Magdalene by name, yet is clear from what she has to say, as from the other Gospels, that she is accompanied by other women as she goes to Christ’s tomb. St John tells us that it is still dark. This could be to emphasise to us the darkness of sin from which Christ’s glorious resurrection frees us. We also see Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus; she must go to tend to his body as soon as she can.
The Gospel makes it clear that, while Mary Magdalene is the first to reach the tomb, it is the Apostles who are the first to enter it. Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, understood to be John, have shared an especially close relationship with Jesus. It was to John that Jesus entrusted his mother Mary. They run to Jesus’ tomb, and it is a sign of deference to Peter that the other disciple waits for him. Peter is already viewed as the leader among the Apostles.
What they find is strange. The tomb has clearly not been robbed, for what robber would bother to take the burial clothes off the body? In any case, the burial clothes would tend to be stuck to the body, through the ointments used for embalming. The words used to describe the linen clothes are also revealing. The Greek translates as fallen, flat or lying, as if the clothes have deflated, emptied of Jesus body as he passed through them and disappeared. This contrasts with what we saw of Lazarus, whose resurrection from the dead was of his normal human body, and who had to remove his burial clothes. Christ’s glorious resurrection transcends the laws of nature, and Christ will not need these clothes again, for he is not to die again as Lazarus, in his corporal body, must.
Through what they see, the disciples now begin to believe. They have not understood the Scriptures, but now they have seen the first evidence of Christ’s glorious resurrection. Before his Passion, Christ spoke to the disciples about what would happen. It is now that they begin to understand. St Paul writes:
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6: 3-11)