Scripture

John 20:1-18

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.

 

 

Observation

In John’s account of the resurrection, Jesus’ tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers until it was found to be empty by Mary Magdalene on the first day of the week whilst it was still dark.

It is possible Nicodemus had not been able to use all the spices he had prepared for Jesus’ body and the women now came to complete the task. Mary was probably accompanied by other women, as indicated by her use of the plural ‘we’ when she told the disciples they didn’t know where He was. John does record that she was the one who ran back to tell the disciples about the empty tomb.

Mary’s first assumption was that Jesus’ body had been stolen. As soon as Peter and John heard her news they ran to the tomb. John only referred to himself as ‘the other disciple’, rather than naming himself, but he did say he arrived there first. Peering into the tomb he could clearly see the cloths that had been used to wrap Jesus’ body. For some reason he did not go into the tomb. Peter, however, true to his character, did not hesitate. He too saw the cloths folded neatly in place. It was the custom to anoint a body and then wrap cloths around it, then add another layer of ointment and more cloths, using several layers. Over time this wrapping hardened into a sort of cocoon. If the wrappings were to be removed they would need to be cut open. Peter could see that the wrappings used for Jesus had not been cut but lay neatly ‘as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them’. (William Barclay)

John followed Peter into the tomb. The word ‘saw’ means to understand. It was at that moment that John believed, even though he had not yet met the risen Lord. John does not say that Peter also believed.

Whilst they saw evidence of the fact of the resurrection, they needed to understand the meaning and importance of the event. The resurrection confirms several issues people have about Jesus. It means:

  • Jesus is the Son of God;
  • Those who follow Him can be assured of their own resurrection;
  • Jesus’ ministry is a continuing one;
  • God and Christianity are unique among other religions;
  • Jesus died without sin, taking on the sin of human kind and paying the price for that sin once and for all.

The men left, but Mary stood outside the tomb and cried. She did not yet understand that Jesus was alive. She wanted to see what the men had seen and she stooped down to look through the entrance. But things had changed and now there were two angels, dressed in white sitting inside. So Mary did not see the grave clothes. She did not seem to realise they were angels for she asked them where they had put Jesus’ body so she could go and fetch Him.

She turned away from the tomb in distress and saw a man standing close to her. For some reason she did not recognise that this was Jesus, even when He asked her why she was crying and who she was looking for. Mary also asked him where he had put the body of Jesus repeating that she would fetch Him. She never stopped to think how she was going to physically manage to do this.

Jesus said one word to her. ‘Mary’. He called her name and she instantly knew who He was. She heard what she had not been able to see.

When Jesus told Mary not to hold onto Him, the original Greek sense of His words implies that He wanted her to stop doing something rather than not to do something. He may have been telling her not to hang on to Him and so stop Him from doing what He had to do. It is evident though, that He had a real body, even if it was different from His body in His earthly life.

Jesus commissioned Mary to go and tell the disciples what had happened. He speaks of them as His brothers. He spoke about how His relationship with the Father was different from their relationship with the Father. He also mentioned His ascension, indicating He would never die again.

Icebreaker:

Who in your life, would you love to see again – run into their arms and spend time with them? What would that mean to you? What hope does the resurrection give to you in regard to those people you have loved and lost?

Application

  • What an encounter! What is the most special time you have ever spent with Jesus? How did it come about? What happened? How did it change you?
  • How does the idea that the resurrection is a cosmic event, rather than a specific spiritual event, change your concept of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ? How can it affect your relationship with Jesus – and with people, both believers and unbelievers?
  • How do you spend Easter Saturday? Is it a holy day for you, or just a break in the events of Easter week?
  • In what area of darkness in your life do you long to feel Jesus’ touch, hear His voice, experience His love and healing? Are you waiting in the cave? How do you see evidence of your risen Lord in this area of your life? Are you watching, seeking, listening with purpose that you may respond in obedience when He touches your life? Are you willing to let Jesus intervene?
  • Do you believe you are a new creation? Why/why not?
  • If Jesus were to ask you today, ‘What are you looking for? How can I minister to you today?’ what would you answer?
  • Are you willing to spend some time, this coming week, to watch for the risen Lord to come to you in a new way? Are you willing to be open and alert to His presence? What may stop you? How does the thought of doing this make you feel? Why do you feel this way?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

Prayer

Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service

At the end of every day this week, pray for those people you have met and spent time with during the day, asking Jesus to come to them as the resurrected Lord. Pray they may realise the truth of resurrection in a new way, wherever they are in their spiritual life. Pray they may become people of The Way as they encounter the risen Jesus. Watch for the answers to your prayers. Share with the group what happens as a result.

Bibliography

John Chapter 20

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