(I will confess that my notes, covering ten verses, are ten pages long. I am not one of those post a day people, my brain does not work that efficiently. And prepping for bible study takes me several days. Because I do not want to inundate you I am cutting this into segments.
One other thing. I fairly consistently end each of my posts with a tie into how you can have this life in Christ that the disciples found. I suppose it is as simple as what the thief on the cross did; he acknowledged that Jesus was a man who had done no wrong. He said this because he had an understanding, and we are not given any clarity on that prior to these men being hung on their crosses. That understanding was translated into him acknowledging Jesus and as simple as it seems, having a faith in him. Jesus Christ put himself on that cross for you, to gain your freedom from the bondage of sin. He rose from the grave so that you could have a place secured for you with the Father. Place your faith in him, and let him grow inside of you.)
As I prepared for bible study (we are diving into John’s gospel chapter 20), as usual I am confronted by things that grab my attention. Not wanting to spoil the story I will tell you that John explained that while no one else seemed to believe, (We assume that these disciples of Jesus were superheros and all of them were incessant and notable believers from day one) he did.
I think one of the dominant questions is: What did John believe?
You can only find the answer to this question by asking some others. That is why I opened with the verse from Matthew, because to some degree it answers the question – what did John believe this day?
Matthew 16:21 NIV From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
John 20:1 NIV Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
Why the prominence of the first day of the week?
Keep in mind that John was writing to a Jewish audience with the intent of establishing that Jesus was God, that Jesus did what he said he would, and that there was conclusive evidence to back up what he said. John himself being an eyewitness. He later, in 1 John, makes this point once again. We were there!
1 John 1:1 NIV That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
This idea of Jesus coming out of the tomb, no matter what that means, was such a fearful thing to the chief priests that they requested guards to be placed at the tomb.
Matthew 27:62-64 NIV The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. (63) “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ (64) So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” Matthew 27:65-66 NIV “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” (66) So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Someone stealing the body; was that really the reason that the chief priests (Annas and Caiphas) made this plea to Pilate, or was it because they could not have reasons to doubt their own rebellion against God? (Can you say blasphemy?)
Hung on the cross and then placed in the tomb before sunset Friday evening marked the beginning of the three days. Sunday morning, being the first day of the week (highly significant) marked the end of the three days.
I did not give this idea of “the first day” adequate time, but thoughts have developed as I am making this post. Jesus emergence from the grave on the first day of the week could easily mark the beginning of the new covenant.
Jesus, hanging on the cross said, “it is finished”. Ask yourself, what did that mean? His life being over? No because only days later they saw him and ate with him. You don’t eat fish with a dead man. One could play the conjecture game for hours, but the biggest clue that answers the question about what was finished took place as he partook of his last passover meal with the boys before his death.
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt 26:27-29, NIV)
I have heard that Superstition had the Jewish community convinced that the soul roamed around in the tomb for three days. To wait that long and find Jesus alive would have established that for Jesus to be alive would only be through the power of God. When they found him alive after the three days where was he? Outside the tomb. Come on! He let them handle him.
Strangely John only gives us an account of one coming to the tomb so early in the morning, but there were others.
Why did John focus on Mary Magdalene? There was something about her that got John’s attention, and I do not think it was instantaneous. I believe that John saw the depth of Mary’s love for a long time.
Mark 16:1-2 NIV When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. (2) Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.
Luke’s gospel tells us that Joanna had been there also.
Luke 24:9-10 NIV When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. (10) It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
Who was Joanna? Seeing that this was outside of the scope of John’s conversation I am not so sure we need to focus to deeply on this. You can see a big portion of her importance by reading Luke 8:3. Just note that John’s version differs from the others, indicating that he had a alternative motive for writing than Mark did. Mark’s gospel is believed to have been written while he was in Rome with Peter, and many are solidly convinced that Peter dictated it to Mark. Mark also wrote this to a gentile audience (Romans) some 30 to 40 years before John wrote his gospel.
I cannot read John’s gospel without seeing the Jewishness of it. An example of this for me is the opening sentence of chapter twenty. My gentile mind immediately thinks Monday when I see a statement like, “it was the first day of the week”, but the Jewish mind immediately recognizes that is was Sunday morning and Sabbath has ended giving all these characters the right to “work.” It is this emphasis that I think he wanted us to understand.
I offer this commentary.
Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – From Mary Magdalene Christ had cast out seven devils. Grateful for his great mercy, she was one of his firmest and most faithful followers, and was first at the sepulchre, and was first permitted to see her risen Lord. The “other Mary” was not the mother of Jesus, but the mother of James and Joses (Mark). Mark tells us that “Salome” attended them. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. From Luke Luk_24:10 it appears that Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward (see Luk_8:3), was with them. These four women, Mark says Mar_16:1, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint him. They had prepared a part of them on the evening before the Sabbath, Luk_23:56. They now, according to Mark, completed the preparation and bought more; or the meaning in Mark may be merely that, “having bought” sweet spices, without specifying the time when, they came now to embalm him. 1
- 1Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (1798-1870)