John 20 : 1 - 9 ( NRSV )

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,1 Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.(1) So she ran2 and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."(2) 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.(3) The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.(4) He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.(5) 4Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,(6) and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.(7) Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;(8) for as yet they did not understand the scripture,5 that he must rise from the dead.(9)

Comment

     The early part of John's gospel, shows the possibility of a movement from "no faith" towards faith. For example, the mother of Jesus, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and the royal official (cf Jn.2:1 - 4:54). Now at the end of Jesus' story there are three more examples - the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdala and later there will be the story of Thomas.
     The focus shifts from the possibility of faith, in the early chapters of John's gospel account, to the completion of the journey to faith here! John, the evangelist, skillfully looks back, from the vantage point of the Johannine community, describing the end of the story of Jesus. Here is the foundational experience of three people, whose meeting with the Risen Lord led them to faith. The account begins with Mary Magdala going to the tomb (Jn.20:1-2), and discovering it empty, returns to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple (John).
     The role of women varies from one society to another - but generally what women do is regarded as less important that what men do! This may explain why it was less dangerous for women to be by-standers at the crucifixion, or for them to go to the tomb first. Be-that-as-it-may, Mary's love overcame fear of death and society's prejudice. She was a strong woman. Jesus died for love. Mary's source of courage was the courage to love. Women today identify with Mary's courage. According to Hebrew law, the testimony of a woman wasn't valid. Mary's testimony is validated later by the testimony of the Beloved Disciple and Peter. That was important for the Johannine community, whose journey from "no faith" to "faith" depended on the announcement of Mary and the foundation experience of the first apostles.
     Mary and the two male disciples were looking for Jesus' body - but they didn't find it in the tomb. Earlier when Jesus was asked by the Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection of the body) He said, " . . , have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him and said: 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' - God is not God of the dead! - but God of the Living!!"(Mk.12:18-27).
     Jesus understood His life was a continuation of and belonging to the same movement as the story of Sarah and Abraham etc.. For Jesus, the same power of God which was at work in the Hebrew ancestors, was at work in Him. The scriptures confirmed it! The God of the living was named by Jesus as the God whose power animated His practice. The same God, who after raising up a people from slavery and oppression through Moses, would be able to raise up other bodies.
     The Beloved disciple has now seen all the signs of death - tomb and wrapping clothes - both empty now (Jn.20:8-9). He saw and believed! The faith of this "founding father", and model disciple of the Johannine community, came from an awareness that death could not hold Jesus of Nazareth! Unlike Lazarus, who had to be untied, Jesus was free of the reality of death!! A community founded on such an experience has its own journey to make. It is nourished further in this faith by reflection on the scriptural record of the practice of the first disciples.
     If someone dies for others and nobody follows their ideas, we could speak as though that person doesn't rise. Jesus says that when they hear His voice the dead will rise. He meant that when His message of God's reign of love is heard by all and a new society is created, all those who formerly lived that message are going to rise again. The crucifixion doesn't make any sense unless there is a resurrection. If death isn't conquered it doesn't do any good to conquer anything else in the world. Paul says the last enemy to be conquered is death!
     When there is justice throughout the earth - then will come the resurrection of the dead! The error of twenty-first century Christianity, has been to believe we can enjoy the reigning of God without changing the world! Many theologians say there is no other world than this one. We know almost nothing about resurrection - so we mustn't go on about it. I believe that the tombs of all those who loved others, are empty!
footnotes:
John 20:1-9 The story of the empty tomb is found in both the Matthean and the Lucan traditions; John's version seems to be a fusion of the two.
1. [ v.1 ] Still dark: According to Mark the sun had risen, Matthew describes it as "dawning," and Luke refers to early dawn. Mary sees the stone removed, not the empty tomb.
2. [ v.2 ] Mary runs away, not directed by an angel/young man as in the synoptic accounts. The plural 'we' in the second part of her statement might reflect a tradition of more women going to the tomb.
3. [ vv.3-10 ] The basic narrative is told of Peter alone in Lk.24:12, a verse missing in important manuscripts and which may be borrowed from tradition similar to John.
4. [ vv.6-8 ] Some special feature about the state of the burial cloths caused the beloved disciple to believe. Perhaps the details emphasised that the grave had not been robbed.
5. [ v.9 ] Probably a general reference to the scriptures is intended, as in Lk.24:26 and 1 Co.15:4. Some individual Old Testament passages suggested are Ps.16:10; Ho.6:2; Jon.2:1,2,10.
 

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