By Chaplain Mike
We are marking the Great Fifty Days of Easter with a series of devotional thoughts on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Today we look at John’s story of that first Easter morning, from John 20:1-10 (MSG).
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.
The Apostle John loves to portray dramatic scenes of individuals and their encounters with Jesus. Who could forget Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus in the nighttime, or Christ’s visit with the Samaritan woman at the well? Throughout his Gospel, John shows how people, one by one, come to “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” and how in believing they find “life in his name” (John 20:31).
Perhaps that is why he focuses in on one of the women who came to the tomb that first Easter morningâ€”Mary Magdelene. In this first Easter story, John introduces her in preparation for the next pericope, where she will have a personal encounter with the risen Christ. Here, she plays the role of witness, seeing the stone rolled away from Jesus’ grave, then running and reporting with wildly beating heart that something shocking had taken place.
Then, a dash to the tomb! Peter and an unnamed disciple (most likely John himself) raced to check out Mary’s story. Though John arrived first, Peter actually went ahead of him and entered the tomb itself. There, he saw no body. Only grave clothes lying in place as though a body had passed through them, with the head wrappings neatly folded to the side.
This was not a scene that suggested grave robbers. Nothing was in disarray. No sign of greedy plunderers having made off with the expensive spices or linens.
When John followed Peter to survey the scene, as the Message paraphrase puts it, he “took one look at the evidence, and believed.”
The text notes that they had not yet put it all together yet. They hadn’t worked it out from the prophecies, promises, and typology of the First Testament Scriptures. They hadn’t analyzed and meditated and come to conclusions about the texts that gave a full portrait of the Messiahâ€”God-sent, God-approved, rejected by those he came to save, dead and buried, raised again in victory.
But just one look at the evidence. Just one look…
I thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the kingdom of your Son; and I pray that, as by his death he has recalled me to life, so by his love he may raise me to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Prayer for the Week from The Divine Hours)