Easter Sunday (Series A)
April 16th, 2017
Gospel: John 20:1-18
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Lesson: Exodus 14:10-15:1
Psalm: Psalm 118:15-29
CLB Commentary – Dr. Eugene Boe
John begins this account, which establishes the resurrection of Jesus with picturesque details: “early”, “first day of the week”, “still dark”.
The first person on the scene is a woman Mary Magdalene from the village of Magdala, who was a follower of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3). She had been with Jesus at Golgatha (John 19:25). Now she made her way alone to the tomb of the one who had cast out seven demons from her. She knew what life was like without Jesus. She could not desert this one who had done so much for her. Frederick Dale Bruner surmises that: “Perhaps John also wants to suggest by this solo pilgrim the Church’s deep demise in the shadow of the Cross: The Church is down to one person this morning. Interesting, too, is the fact that Mary Magdalene is the only person explicitly identified in all four Gospels as present at the Sunday-morning tomb.” 1 But to her surprise, the tomb was open and Jesus was not there as she expected he would be. What a disappointment! Someone had taken him away.
The empty tomb is confirmed by Peter and the other disciple. Andrew Lincoln concludes that “[The] introduction of the two male disciples into the story may also have a secondary function in supplying the witness of two men to the empty tomb, fulfilling the Jewish requirement for valid testimony laid down in Deut. 19:15, which this Gospel stresses elsewhere (cf. 5:31; 8:17–18), and supplementing what would have been considered the dubious witness of a woman.”2 Bruner states that “There was no one thing of which the apostles were more concerned to produce substantial proof than the resurrection of their Master.”3
However, the empty tomb is not without evidence of an alternative explanation to the possible stealing of the body of Jesus. The strips of linen were there along with the cloth that had been wrapped around his head. What could this mean? John saw and he believed. Jesus was raised from the dead. Regarding the view that John could not have believed that Jesus was raised because of what is stated in verse 9 Lincoln notes: “The uniqueness of the Beloved Disciple’s belief in Jesus’ resurrection is highlighted, therefore, because it occurs before and is independent of any such understanding of Scripture on the part of the disciples as a whole. Only later would they see that the resurrection was necessary for the fulfillment of Scripture (cf. also 2:22; 12:16 on the need for post-resurrection insight into Scripture).” 4
After all leave, Mary remains weeping because “they have taken my Lord away” she explains. Then in the speaking of her name “Mary” she recognizes the voice of her Lord. This voice cast out the demons, setting her free from their control. This voice said, “It is finished.” The redemption for sins that Jesus came to accomplish has been done. She did not want to let him go! Her Lord is alive. He has triumphed over death. The grave could not hold him! Hope is alive again. Mary now has a future. She has seen the Lord! In Christ you too have a future. Because he lives, you shall live!
1 Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI;Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2012), 1140.
2 Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel According to Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2005), 490.
3 Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI;Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 2012), 1138.
4 Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel According to Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2005), 491.