For the final time we return to the Empty Tomb, this time in John 20:1-10. Note the distinctive Johnannine features. Mary Magdalene visits alone here, not to complete the burial details (as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have already accomplished) but just to grieve. The stone is not just rolled away but completely removed. We meet the Beloved Disciple, the presumptive founder of the church which promulgated this gospel, the Johnannine hero always beside or in front of Peter. He (of course) outruns Peter and (of course) does not disrespect the inner tomb by entering. Peter (of course) comes huffing up and plows (of course) straight into the tomb itself, discovering two fascinating details. The burial linens for Jesus’ body are lying in place, i.e. not unwrapped but just….deflated. But the facial cloth is folded, a very provocative detail indeed. Seeing nothing and no one else, they simply return home. Wait…homes?! Here in Jerusalem?! Peter’s from Galilee and the Beloved Disciple is from…hey wait a minute. A native Jerusalemite disciple? Huh!
The narrative details here stun the reader. Always John provides the scriptural road less travelled! Mary of Magdala becomes the Apostolic Apostle (tautology rules!), witnessing resurrection to the Apostles! Their hero outruns Peter (who in all fairness gets the Johannine short end of the stick always!) but it is Peter who breathlessly stumbles inside to see what Empty really looks like. The Johannine community had heard all the previous resurrection stories, and nowhere else are the burial linens described. Quick Quiz Question….in which gospel did the resuscitated Lazarus come shuffling out of his tomb still mummified in his tightly wrapped burial linens so visibly that Jesus has to command His astonished disciples to unbind (or unwrap) Lazarus to liberate him?! Someone’s going to stick the superhero bible landing here…wait for it, here it comes…and YES! You guessed correctly, the Gospel of John is the correct answer! Now we see John’s brilliant strategy to include that seeming minute detail there!
Jesus needed no external, angelic assistance in removing His shroud. He did not unwrap, He transcended it before nearly folding his facial shroud to leave it on the headstone, almost a “The Risen Christ was Here” message for John’s church! The stone is not moved a little; it is disappeared completely! Mary, Peter and BD (Beloved Disciple for the cool bible kids) did not see a littleempty from a modest God. No, they saw something completely supra-natural and beyond any human ken. Or, to quote Outlander, “I dinna ken ye!”
- What say you?! How do you respond and receive John’s Empty Tomb account over against the other New Testament resurrection passages we have visited previously?!
- Do the distinctive Johannine features enhance, distract or disturb your understanding of this moment? Or, if your answer to all three options is Yes, how do you like being an Anglican?!
- Have you ever actually envisioned this moment at such a granular perspective? What did Jesus’ resurrection actually look like in the instant it occurred?!