By Tyson Thorne

October 16, 2019

John 54 Large

Before sundown on that Friday, Jesus was taken from the cross by Joseph and Nicodemus, placed in a nearby tomb Joseph owned, and the body ritually prepared. A stone door was rolled into place, and Roman guards came to seal the door and stand watch over it. After this flurry of activity, everything was still. All night, all the next day, the people went on celebrating Passover. As a high holy day no work was done. The day stretched on in an unnatural silence across the nation. That night only the crickets and frogs called out. Then came Sunday morning.

Sunday morning began with an earthquake, the epicenter of which was Jesus' tomb. The stone door was blasted open, a bright white light shown around and the Roman guards fled in fear. This John leaves out of the story, choosing instead to focus on the people to whom Jesus reached out to after his resurrection. Mary Magdalene was first to the tomb Sunday morning, first to see it empty, and first to spread the news. She took that news first to Peter and John, who immediately went to the tomb to see for themselves. Sure enough, only Jesus' burial clothes were left behind.

We're then treated to an odd observation. We're told that, after seeing the state of the tomb, John "saw and believed." Okay, believed what? Some conjecture that he believed Mary's report that someone took the body. This would not warrant the verse however. Clearly Jesus isn't there, what is to be believed about that? It is more likely John intends us to know that this is the moment he understood what Jesus meant by his teaching involving resurrection. John believed Jesus was alive once more.

The two men leave, but Mary (who had followed them back to the tomb) remains, weeping for the loss of the Lord's body. And that is when she has her experience. Two angels appear, and they ask her why she's crying. It's a ruse, however, they are distracting her before Jesus comes to her. Oddly, she doesn't recognize Jesus for who he is at first. This isn't as unusual as it first appears, however. We know some of the disciples on the road to Emaus didn't recognize Jesus who walked with them for several miles, teaching them about the Old Testament revelation concerning the Messiah. It would seem that Jesus is able to alter his appearance, or perhaps the way people see him, in his resurrected body. Even so, he can reveal his identity at will as he does with Mary. He tells her to go and tell the disciples that she has seen him, that he lives.

With Jesus' miraculous disappearance, the religious leaders were in a panic. They began to prepare spin so that the people would not follow Jesus and stay within their fold. The disciples worried that perhaps they would be targeted next. As a precaution, ten of them assembled together (Judas was lost, of course, and for some reason Thomas was not there) in a room and locked the door. Locked doors don't seem to be an issue for Jesus any longer, either, for he appeared to them there. He showed them the marks of the cross as proof of his identity. Thankfully the wounds caused by his scourging, and the crown of thorns must not have translated over to the new body. This is fortunate for all followers of Jesus, for if his appearance were that of his tortuous death, it would ruin heaven. Jesus instructs the men to carry on his work and empowers them with the girt of the Holy Spirit. This is not a permanent indwelling, however, which will come in Acts chapter 2.

Jesus gives another instruction that may confuse some readers: "If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained" (verse 23). Jesus was not ceding his authority to forgive sins to the disciples. We know from other passages (including Matthew 9.1-8) that God alone can forgive sins. Instead, it is best understood that the disciples teach that sins can be forgiven, which is the core message of the Gospel. Their power was to proclaim the forgiveness of sins which, if rejected, would result in the hearers sins being retained for later judgment.

Later that day, the disciples told Thomas what had happened, but he didn't believe them. After a little over a week goes by, Jesus appears to them again, this time with Thomas present. Showing divine knowledge, he tells Thomas to touch his woulds so that he might believe. Thomas believes.

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