Studies in the gospel of John
Lesson 55: A Surprise in the Garden
The purpose of John’s gospel is to manifest Jesus’ glory.” And this chapter is the ultimate manifestation of it. That manifestation is so great that the most doubting disciple ultimately made the greatest statement of faith of all of the disciples: “My Lord and My God.” Since the book started with “the birth of faith,” it is fitting that it ends with the “Consummation of it.
In a nutshell the chapter shows, first “the person of Christ” and second, the triumph of faith in the midst of unbelief – which is the theme of the book.
It will help us understand the chapter if we look at an overview of its contents: In verses 1 through 10 we have The Empty Tomb. Then in verses 11 through 18 we have The Encounter with the Teacher. And finally we have The Entrance of Truth in verses 19 through 31
So let’s begin with the empty tomb in verses 1 through 10. And the first thing we see is the discovery in verses 1 through 9. The first discovery was made by Mary in verses 1 and 2: Her entry is in verse 1
On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark,
Other gospels say other women were with her. John probably singles out Mary because of their personal relationship described farther down. But the bottom line is they hadn’t come to look for the body.
But in the second part of verse 1 she discovers an emergency: “She saw that the stone had been taken away”
“The stone” was like a large wheel that was used on carts in those days. It ran in a trench going uphill, so it would have been very difficult for one person to move it, especially a frightened woman. And the next verses show that she was terrified. Her efficiency, however, is shown in verse 2
Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.” – she went for help
The fact that she ran shows the urgency in the situation. Her report is in the last part of verse 2: “They” have taken away the Lord out of the tomb” and we don’t know where they have laid Him.”
The discovery by Mary leads to the discovery by the men in verses 3 through 9:
On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away (2) (3) Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. (4) So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (5) And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. (4) So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (6) Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there. (7) And the handkerchief that had been around His head not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. (8) then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, came went in also; and he saw and he saw and believed. (9) For as yet they did not know the scripture that He must rise again from the dead.
Verse 9 explains a lot of the consternation and fear and confusion that we have seen in the foregoing verses – at best the disciples had only heard veiled references to the resur- rection resurrection.
Verses 5 through 9 show that just as Mary had, they also ran, but John outran Peter. Many times less demonstrative Christians have more intense interest than it would appear outwardly. But their reactions show that experiences and attitudes vary, but truth comes to all who sincerely seek it.
Notice the specific details about the grave clothes in verses 6 and 7:
(6) Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there. (7) And the handkerchief that had been around His head not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.
Grave robbers wouldn’t have taken the time to unwrap each finger and toe and all the other separate body parts in this way. This description fits better with a body “coming out” from the wrappings rather than being “taken out” of the tomb.
So that is their discovery of the empty tomb. But in verse 10 we find their departure.
Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
This may seem like they were indifferent, but these men may have been like Mary the mother of Jesus, when she got the message from Gabriel, she “kept these things and pondered them in her heart. Some deep truths require time for meditation and assimilation, so there is a break in the “action.” But in verses 11 through 18 the scene shifts and we see The Encounter with the Teacher. The setting for the encounter is in verses 11 through 13. Glorious as the appearance of the angels was, it was only “the setting” for things about to come.
But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked in. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman why are you weeping?” She said to them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”
So that is “the setting” for seeing the Savior, but in verses 14 and 15 we have the actual sighting of the savior
First she didn’t know who had taken her Lord or where they had laid Him (verse 13)
Now when she had said this, she turned and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. (15) Jesus said to her, “woman, why are you weeping, whom are you seeking? She, supposing Him to be the Gardner, said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away (16) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, Rabboni! (which is to say, teacher, It seems that the idea of a resurrection hadn’t occurred to any of the disciples, even though He hinted at it a number of times, but probably during His earthly life He was so “human” that something like resurrection just wasn’t part of their everyday life.
Finally, in verse 18 we see the spreading of the news:
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
So thus began the work of spreading the gospel, which, hopefully will continue until He returns to set up His eternal Kingdom!