At the break of dawn on the first day of the week, few of the women followers of Jesus went to His tomb. When they were at the tomb they saw that that stone had been removed from the entrance. One of those who had gone to the tomb was Mary Magdalene who came running back to the disciples to tell them what she had seen.
They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”John 20:2
Often we are reduced to our basic understanding of who Christ is. We are not able to fathom the extent of His power when we experience His wondrous works in our lives. Some even try to rationalise His supernatural intervention using medical sciences, their good fortunes and even their wit that gave them a way out of their problems. Mary and the other women who witnessed the empty tomb would have often heard Jesus talk about this day, but when the day finally arrived they were puzzled.
Their faith in Jesus had deteriorated due to what they had witnessed just a couple of days ago, His death on the cross. At this moment it is more rational to think that His body was stolen by the Pharisees and the chief priests in their attempts of not even giving His disciples the satisfaction of a memorial, to destroy the very memory of Jesus. Thus by rationalising the resurrection of Jesus they are taking away His importance and giving it to someone else. And by rationalising His intervention in our lives, we too are doing the same by giving it to the undeserving.
The Sprint to the Garden
After Mary reported the news to the disciples, Peter and another disciple ran straight for Jesus’ tomb. When they reached the tomb and looked inside, they did not find a mess but found the strips of linen and the cloth that had been used to wrap around Jesus’ head, lying in their place. When they saw the empty tomb, that is when they believed (even though at this point they did not understand the scriptures that said that Jesus had to rise from the dead).
John gives us details of the inside of the tomb that no other gospel records. Perhaps the other disciple who accompanied Peter that day was John himself. Also, the serene condition of the tomb and its contents are proof that this was not a grave robbery but the resurrection of our Saviour. At this point, it is difficult to say what the disciples exactly believed as they had not yet seen the risen Jesus themselves. They went back home and locked themselves in the room for they feared the Jewish leaders and that they would come after them next. So perhaps what they believed in was only Mary’s account of the empty tomb.
Meeting the Gardner
Mary had returned to the site of the tomb and stood outside it weeping. As she bent over to look inside the tomb she saw two angels in white seated on the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. Not realizing who these men were, Mary made the same plea to them as well, to return her the body of her rabbi. Just then she turned around and saw the one she had been looking for,
but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, 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.John 20:14-15
Something similar happened to the two disciples who were travelling to Emmaus as well. Even after spending the better part of the afternoon with Him, the two men were not able to recognise Jesus till the time they broke bread together. They were only able to recognise Jesus when He allowed for it. During His time on earth when Jesus was about to be captured before His time, He would often camouflage Himself and disappear into the crowds.
This is the resurrected Jesus now in all His glory and He chose to reveal Himself to Mary and the other disciples at the appointed time. He was gradually building up the faith of His disciples that had been shattered and Mary was the first one to get that opportunity. Mary, mistaking Jesus for the gardener could also be intended to help us relate Him to Adam who was the gardener at Eden and the first man. Through the disobedience of one man we were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man, we are made righteous (Romans 5:19).
Mary went to the disciples with the news that she had seen the risen Jesus. On that same evening, the disciples were together behind locked doors when suddenly Jesus came and stood in their midst. He greeted them and showed them the scars on His hands and side where the nails and the spear had pierced His body. Seeing the scars, the disciples believed and were thrilled at the sight of their Rabbi.
The disciples were behind locked doors but Jesus could still come in and out as He pleased. So the grave was opened not for Jesus to come out but for the disciples to go in and believe. The stone was removed for the benefit of the disciples much like His presence amongst them after His resurrection. He told them that just as the Father had sent Him to them, He was sending them into the world.
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.John 20:22
This is perhaps another callback to the garden where God breathed life into the nostrils of Man. Jesus is the life that God breathed into all mankind. Over here Jesus is breathing the Holy Spirit on His disciples. The Spirit helps us know the heart of God and thereby restores the connection that was broken because of our sin. Even in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God descended on His people and strengthened them to carry out His will.
During Jesus’ ministry, He sent out His disciples to the lost sheep of Israel after giving them the power to heal and drive out impure spirits. But on another occasion, the disciples (nine of them) were not able to drive the demon out of the little boy (Mark 9). So the Spirit of God had descended on them earlier also so that they could carry out His will. But now Jesus is giving the disciples His Spirit as a replacement for His fellowship with them. The manifestation of the Spirit would have happened at different points of their ministry as per the leading of God but at this moment they were given the assurance of the Advocate in their lives.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you foreverJohn 14:16
Garden to Garden
Life has come to a full circle as it began in one garden that was at the centre of the earth and was redeemed in another garden that had a tomb at its centre. The redemption plan is now complete and the proof is that empty grave in the garden. Our sins had been laid on Jesus and His death on the cross has now redeemed us. Not only did He die for our sins but He was also raised and ascended to be with the Father.
Do we believe in Jesus because of hearing about the signs and wonders that others have experienced? Or do we believe in Him after reading about the experiences of the apostles mentioned in the Bible? He has won the battle for our soul and freed us from the clutches of eternal damnation. We are connected back to His Father, our Father. That is something all of us need to experience in order to truly believe in the Redemption plan that unfolded that day in that Garden as Jesus proved himself to be the one and only Messiah.
V2: Who does Mary think would have stolen the body of Jesus?
V2: Why did she not realise that Jesus has risen?
V2: Do we do the same when witnessing a miracle, do we rationalise it?
V6-7: Why is John describing the scene at the grave with such details?
V8: What did John believe? If he believed then why did they still not understand from the scripture that Jesus had to rise?
V11: Why did Jesus appear to Mary and not to any other disciples?
V14: Why was Mary not able to recognise Jesus?
V19: Why was the stone that covered the mouth of the grave removed when the resurrected Jesus could enter and exit a closed room?
V22: When did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit. Here or on the day of Pentecost?
V23: We all know that only God can forgive sin. Then why is Jesus authorizing His disciples to forgive the sins of the people?
V29: Why do we believe in Jesus, because of some miracle or something else?