John 19:31-42 | As evening approached on the day of the crucifixion, Joseph, a secret disciple of Jesus, summoned up courage and went to see Pilate (John 19:38). He asked Pilate, the governor of Judea, for the body of Jesus. After confirming that Jesus was dead, Pilate granted permission for Joseph to have the body (Mark 15:45). Accompanied by Nicodemus (John 19:39), Joseph took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in linen cloth, and placed the body in “his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock” (Matt. 27:60). Mary Magdalene was among a group of women that followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how the body of Jesus was laid in it (Luke 23:55). Joseph then “rolled a big stone in front of the entrance of the tomb and went away” (Matt. 27:60).
John 20:1-8 | Mary Magdalene was among those who had personally witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus (Matt. 27:55-56). She watched Him die and returned to the site of the tomb early on Sunday morning (see also Luke 24:1). When Mary arrived at the tomb, she “saw that the stone had been removed” (John 20:1). She ran back to Jerusalem and told “Simon Peter” and John, “the other disciple,” that the body of Jesus had been taken out of the tomb (v. 2). The two disciples ran to the tomb to investigate what had happened (John 20:3-4). John glanced into the tomb and saw “the strips of linen lying there” (John 20:5). Peter “went into the tomb” and he too saw the “strips of linen lying there,” like an empty cocoon retaining the shape of Jesus’ body (John 20:6-7). Then John went inside the tomb and realized what had taken place. This was no grave robbery — Jesus was alive (John 20:8)!
The large stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb was not removed to let Jesus out. The stone was removed to let the world in! Mary Magdalene, John, and Peter were the first to look into the empty tomb. John was the first to understand the meaning of what he saw. He also was the first to believe that Jesus was alive, even before he saw Him. Perhaps he remembered what Jesus had said about His resurrection (see John 2:22; 16:22 and Matt. 26:31-32). The tomb of Jesus remains open and empty to this day. People can visit the empty tomb and consider for themselves its meaning and significance.
John 20:11-15 | “Mary” lingered outside the empty tomb “crying” (John 20:11). She was deeply moved by Jesus’ death. After all, He had dramatically changed the course of her life. Mary had faithfully followed and served Jesus (see Luke 8:2-3). When she went to the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint His body (see Mark 16:1) — a final act of gratitude — her grief intensified when she found the tomb opened and His body missing. The empty tomb seemed to add insult to injury.
As Mary wept, she “bent over” and looked “into the tomb” (John 20:11) and saw “two angels” who asked why she was crying (John 20:13). Mary responded that someone had removed Jesus’ body and she did not know where to find it. At that point Jesus addressed Mary with the same question the angels had asked: “Why are you weeping?” (John 20:15). Mary did not realize that it was Jesus who had asked her the question. Thinking the gardener had addressed her, Mary assumed he would know where the body of Jesus had been taken (John 20:15). “Tell me where they have taken him,” she asked, “and I will get him” (John 20:15).
John 20:16-18 | Mary’s profound grief was suddenly swept away by the sound of a single word — “Mary” (John 20:16). She recognized the voice of Jesus, just like a sheep recognizes the voice of its shepherd (see John 10:3,14). At the sound of her name Mary whirled about and saw Jesus standing there (John 20:16). Jesus was alive! Mary cried out “Rabboni” and fell at His feet (see Matt. 28:9) and held tightly to Jesus (John 20:17). Jesus told Mary to report the news of His resurrection and approaching ascension to His “brothers,” or disciples. Mary became the first to deliver the good news about the resurrection. She “went to the disciples” (John 20:18), who were “mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:10), and reported to them that Jesus was alive. Mary’s announcement continues to echo down the corridors of time to our present day. Jesus lives today! We should live with an awareness of His presence and a determination to tell others this good news.
John 20:19-21 | On the morning of the resurrection, Jesus’ followers were hiding behind locked doors (John 20:19). They had been in hiding since the night of His arrest when they had “deserted Him and fled” (Mark 14:50-52). After the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the disciples continued to cower in “fear” behind securely locked doors (John 20:19). Perhaps they feared the Jews would search for and arrest them as they had Jesus. Maybe they discussed strategies for leaving the city without attracting attention. Perhaps they wondered what they would do without Jesus. These followers of Jesus were, in a sense, entombed and immobilized by their grief, fears, and doubts.
Sometime during the morning of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene “went to the disciples” (20:18) and told them that she had seen the risen Christ. Unfortunately, the disciples stubbornly refused to believe Mary (Mark 16:11). However, later in the evening “Jesus came and stood among them” (John 20:19). The locked doors did not impede Jesus from entering into the room where they were hiding. His resurrection body had properties that allowed Him to enter the room in spite of the locked doors. The disciples were “startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost” (Luke 24:37). Jesus broke the silence and calmed their fears with the words, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). Jesus then reassured them He was not a ghost (v. 20) and again said to them “Peace be with you!” (John 20:21).
As Jesus stood in the midst of His disciples, He commissioned them to be on mission for Him (see also Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:8). “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said to them, “I am sending you” (John 20:21). His words unlocked the doors that had kept His disciples entombed. They had a very important job to do. Jesus expected His followers to leave the security of their hiding place to carry the message of His victory over sin and death, His power to save, and the invitation to accept His love and grace to all people everywhere. The disciples courageously left the room where they were hiding and faithfully proclaimed the gospel throughout their world.
Jesus commissions every believer today to function as His representative (see 2 Cor. 5:20). “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). We are obligated (see Rom. 1:14) to share that message with all people in all places (see Luke 24:47 and Matt. 28:19-20). Every one of the 5.6 billion people on our planet deserves the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news about Jesus Christ. The greatest crime we can commit against others is to withhold the gospel from them. Like the disciples, we have a job to do. So, let’s leave the security and comfort of our hiding places and tell the world that Jesus is alive.