Day 279
John 20:1-31

The Empty Tomb; Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene and His Disciples

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. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

So Peter and the other disciples started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

People who discount the resurrection of Christ tend to portray the disciples as gullible country bumpkins with a weakness for ghost stories, or as shrewd conspirators who hatch a Resurrection plot in order to attract popular support for their movement. The Bible presents a radically different picture. It shows Jesus' followers themselves as the ones most skeptical of rumors about a risen Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is still bewildered and afraid even after an angel breaks the news plainly to her. When she meets Jesus himself near the tomb, she doesn't recognize him until he speaks her name.

Reports from the women of an empty tomb fail to convince the disciples, so Peter and another run to the graveyard to see for themselves. That same night all the disciples huddle in a locked room, afraid of the Jewish leaders, apparently still skeptical.

For his part, Jesus goes out of his way to allay the disciples' fears and superstitions. In broad daylight he visits and fishes with them. Once he asks a dubious Thomas to test his scarred skin by touch. Another time he eats a piece of broiled fish in their presence to prove he is not a ghost (Luke 24). This is no mirage, no hallucination; it is Jesus, their master, no one else.

The appearances of the risen Christ recorded in the Bible, fewer than a dozen, show a clear pattern. With one exception (found in 1 Corinthians 15:6), he visits small groups of people closeted indoors or in a remote area. By the garden tomb, in a locked room, on the road to Emmaus (eh-MAY-us), beside the Sea of Galilee, atop the Mount of Olives—such private encounters bolster the faith of people who already believe in Jesus. But as far as we know, not a single unbeliever sees Jesus after his death.

What would happen if Jesus reappeared on Pilate's porch or before the Sanhedrin, this time with a withering blast against those who ordered his death? Surely such a public scene would cause a sensation. But would it kindle faith? Jesus has already answered that question in his story of Lazarus and the rich man: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Instead, Jesus chooses another way: to let the disciples themselves spread the word, as his witnesses.

Daily Contemplation

Would you have greeted the news of Jesus' resurrection like Mary? Like Peter? Like Thomas?

From Meet the Bible by Phillip Yancey and Brenda Quinn, copyright 2000, Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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