Week Seven: March 27 – April 2
Read John 20
On the first day of the week, Jesus rose from dead, appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples and to Thomas. The final two weeks will be a shorter study with a few notes, observations and a challenge or two. Mary Magdalene was introduced to us in John at the cross together with the mother of our Lord, her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas (19:25). This is the first time we meet any of these women other than the mother of Jesus in John 2. In fact, this is the only reference in the gospels to the wife of Clopas.
John is the only gospel that has the mother of our Lord at the crucifixion. There is even some real question in Matthew and Mark if the mother of our Lord was even at the tomb on Easter morning. She is clearly absent from the resurrection stories in John.
From the time of Jesus death prior to sunset on the Sabbath (Friday night), the soldiers pierced Jesus’ body so they could determine that if he was dead and they could get all the dead men off the crosses. There is no indication what they did with the bodies on the Place of the Skull but likely the bodies lay next to the crosses awaiting family who may come and bury them. Joseph of Arimathea (an unidentified town and the only reference in the Bible of this town is its tie to Joseph in this account. Consensus among scholars locates it about 20 miles East of the coastal city of Tel Aviv) needs the permission of the governing authorities to retrieve and bury the body of Jesus. Joseph goes to Pilate to secure permission (19:38).
There is no mention of the departure of the women and the beloved disciple after Jesus died. Where they present when Joseph of Arimathea came to get Jesus’ body for burial? Did Mary Magdalene (which likely means that this Mary was from the village of Magdala located on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee) follow Joseph to see where Jesus was buried? Did Mary Magdalene know Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus and the word simply spread among the disciples (where ever they were when Jesus was crucified) as to the location of the garden tomb?
Somehow, early on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene knew where the tomb of her Lord was and she went to grieve her Lord. Unlike the other gospels, she must have known about the anointing of Jesus’ body by Nicodemus because did not bring myrrh or aloes. Additionally, this is the first reference to the fact that a stone had been laid to cover the tomb (20:1). When she sees the stone has been moved, she goes to tell Peter and the beloved disciple (20:2). It did not say that she looked inside the tomb but later she knew the body was gone from the tomb (20:2).
Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. Did they know where the tomb was located because Mary Magdalene told them? It says they raced to the tomb and the beloved disciple was faster but only looked in. Peter arrived and he went in and saw the grave clothes wrapped up. The beloved disciple then stepped into the tomb and believed (20:8). They returned to their homes (plural, 20:10)?
Mary Magdalene must have returned to the tomb and she wept outside the tomb. She did not recognize Jesus. She asks this man who she thought was the gardener where he has taken the body of her Lord. Like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who calls his sheep by name (10:3), Jesus calls Mary by name. It is apparent that the resurrected body of Jesus no longer knew the limitations of bodily life as he appeared in a room with the disciples despite the fact the door was locked (20:19). Perhaps this is why Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus. Also, because he had not ascended back to God, she was not to touch him (20:17).
When Jesus appears to the disciples in the house big things happen. It feels like the first Sunday morning go to meeting worship service. The disciples are gathered around the presence of the Lord. They share the peace of the Lord with each other. As they prepare to leave they are reminded that they are sent by the Lord to do his work in the world. There is also John’s version of the Day of Pentecost as Jesus breathes on them and they receive the Holy Spirit. Now they are not only sent but empowered by the Spirit to do the Lord’s work.
Because of the power of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus have been given the power of the keys of the kingdom to loose and bind sins (20:23). They can forgive or choose not to forgive. This power is given by Jesus to the gather community. In Matthew 16:18, the power to forgive and withhold forgiveness is given to Peter and on this rock Christ will build his church.
One of the disciples named Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared the first time. Thomas refuse to believe what the disciples said about seeing the risen Lord. He had to see for himself. Thomas was looking for proof, to see for himself, that the Lord was truly risen.
A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas. Jesus invited Thomas to touch hands and side. Thomas came to see and believe. The challenge at hand for the church today is to believe and tell others’ about Jesus even though we do not see him. As the closing summary says (20:30-31), the purpose of the gospel is to tell the story so others can hear and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and by faith experience new life. At one time, this chapter and summary was the end of the gospel of John.
- While there seem to be a number of details absent from the gospel they are not at all crucial to the center of the story. What excites you the most about the resurrection of our Lord? What if any questions does this story raise for you?
- Read 1 Corinthians 15. The tomb was empty. Jesus could be misidentified by those who knew him. He seemed to be able to appear wherever he wanted not limited by physical restrictions as a risen Lord. What are your thoughts?
- When in your life have you felt more like Thomas? What proof were you seeking and did you find what you were looking for? Because we walk by faith and not by sight, how does this impact your witness with others who doubt the existence of God?
- The closing summary tells us clearly that the purpose of the gospel is that Jesus offers life in his name. He is the Messiah, the Son of God. What does life in the name of Jesus mean to you and your life?