John 20:1-9: He Is Risen
December 20, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Job 38:22-41, Zephaniah 3, John 20:1-9, Revelation 17
Oh, glorious day, when the stone was rolled away! But what does it mean? Could it all have been invented? And if it was true, then what implications does it have? John introduces us to the reaction of three firsthand eyewitnesses to show us how to respond.
First, there is Mary. Note that she is first. The original eyewitness of the empty tomb belonged to the eyes of a woman. This little detail has big significance: God entrusted his first eyewitness into the hands of the woman—women who in those days were not able to give credible reports in a court of law. Those who think that Christianity is anti-women have to wrestle with the facts of this account: Women are entrusted with the central truth of Christianity itself.
But Mary does not understand what has happened. In fact, she runs to tell Peter and John (“the other disciple”). She believes that Jesus is still dead: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb” (20:2). There is no explanation that at this point she can give for discovering the empty tomb. When we read this account of Mary and her first response, we realize that accepting the truth of the resurrection was not the immediate thought of those who first saw the empty tomb. They had to be persuaded. And that means that their witness is yet more credible.
Then there is John. He outran Peter to the tomb. (Did the author of the Gospel delight in including that little detail: a young man who outran another young man in a footrace to be first at Jesus’ tomb? We can imagine the bragging rights that John would have had over Peter!) But though he got there first, he did not go in first. But when he did go in, he “saw and believed” (20:8).
Peter goes in to the tomb and notes all the details of the linen cloths, including the carefully folded face cloth, indicating someone neatly folding their bed clothes after a brief nap rather than the rummaging of grave robbers. We are not told that he, unlike John, as yet believed. In either case, “They did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (20:9).
So what do we learn from these pen portraits of the first eyewitnesses? First, they were not pre-inclined to think that Jesus rose from the dead. The facts spoke for themselves. This should encourage us to believe what they saw. Second, the evidence itself was persuasive: “saw and believed.” Third, the Bible itself had predicted this, though they did not at that time by then understand what the Bible had said.
And what do we learn from this in terms of what it means for us? That Christ is risen! And that means that the whole of our lives, of our destiny, now has purpose and significance through faith in Christ. The old has gone. The new has come. Give your life for something that lasts forever!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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