Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrate Jesus...He Arose From The Dead

This Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In John 20:1-8, we discover that it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to discover that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. She was with Mary (the mother of Jesus), Salome and Joanna (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10) and appears to have left the other women to go tell the disciples. Mary’s initial thought was not that Jesus was alive. Her conclusion to the disciples was that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. The word “known” in verse 2 is plural showing that the other women had come to the same conclusion.

Peter and John (who calls himself “the other disciple”) ran toward the tomb. John, who was younger, was the first to arrive at the tomb. But though quicker than Peter, John was a bit more timid and stood at the entrance of the tomb upon his arrival. Peter went right inside immediately upon arriving. What is amazing in this passage is the different usages of the word “saw.” Upon arriving at the tomb, John “saw.” This is a word meaning “a quick glance.” From the entrance of the tomb where John stopped, he quickly glanced inside and all he could see were the linen wrappings. These were the burial cloths used to wrap the dead body of Jesus. Jews were not embalmed but wrapped with linen cloths in a cocoon fashion resulting in being mummified up to the head. These cloths were anointed with a sweet gum-like ointment of spices. At a quick glance, that is what John saw.

In verse 6 a different word translated “saw” is used to describe what Peter saw when he arrived at the tomb. This word means “to examine” something and was used of spectators watching a parade or a sporting event. Peter entered the tomb and examined up close the linen wrappings and the face cloth. This was a towel put over the head of the body. Peter found it rolled up and set apart from the grave clothes. There appeared to be no haste or confusion in removing the body. This evidence did not support Mary’s conclusion that the body had been stolen but Peter was not quite ready to classify this as a resurrection.

But in verse 8 we see a third word translated “saw.” This one is used to describe John after he follows Peter into the tomb. This is a word that means "to see with understanding." John sees the same evidence. The difference between John and Peter is that John understands what had really happened…Jesus had risen. Peter left wondering if it could be true (Luke 24:12). John left believing it was a miracle! That became the very purpose of John's writing…so that his readers would believe that Jesus was the Christ and that by believing they would have life through Him (John 20:31).

So which best describes your reaction to the empty tomb? Like Mary’s initial reaction, do you tend to explain Easter away by saying that something other than a resurrection took place? Like John when he first arrived at the tomb, have you only taken a quick glance at what Easter is all about without giving it much consideration? Like Peter have you taken a look at the evidence and found yourself wondering if maybe, just maybe, it was true? Or have you, like John after he entered the tomb behind Peter, examined the evidence resulting in a clear understanding of faith that Jesus truly rose from the dead?

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