THE EMPTY TOMB IS A POWERFUL WITNESS TO THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF CHRIST – ESPECIALLY WHEN INTERPRETED BY THE APPEARANCE OF CHRIST HIMSELF!
(:1-2) INTRODUCTION: THE DISCOVERY OF THE EMPTY TOMB AT FIRST CAUSES CONFUSION AND PANIC TO THE SHOCKED DISCIPLES
(Note: It is important to read the Synoptic accounts to capture some of the other details that are omitted by John.)
A. (:1) Major Security Breakdown
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”
Morris: Mary Magdalene came to the tomb very early on the first day of the week, for John tells us that it was “yet dark.” That it was still dark will perhaps explain why Mary did not see the things Peter and John saw later. . . It is not clear why John does not mention any woman other than Mary when all the other Gospels tell us that she was not alone.
Ryle: Let us note Mary’s courage, and zeal to honor her buried Lord. Not every woman would have dared to go outside the city while it was yet dark, to a grave, and specially during the Passover feast, when thousands of strangers were probably sleeping under any slight shelter near the walls of Jerusalem.
B. (:2) Good Data . . . Bad Conclusion
“And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
The reality of the bodily resurrection does not even seem to have been an option they considered. As of this point, despite Christ’s repeated attempts at teaching, they did not have an understanding of the resurrection.
Ryle: After all we must remember that true grace, and not head knowledge, is the one thing needful. We are in the hands of a merciful and compassionate Saviour, who passes by and pardons much ignorance, when He sees “a heart right in the sight of God.” Some things indeed we must know, and without knowing them we cannot be saved. . . But he that knows these things may, in other respects, be a very ignorant man. In fact, the extent to which one man may have grace together with much ignorance, and another may have much knowledge and yet no grace, is one of the greatest mysteries in religion, and one which the last day alone will unfold. Let us then seek knowledge, and be ashamed of ignorance. But above all let us make sure that, like Peter and John, we have grace and right hearts.
Stedman: When the body of Abraham Lincoln was stolen some years after his death and held for ransom, our entire nation was shocked and dismayed. After the ransom was paid, the body was recovered, and buried again under tons of cement in Springfield, Illinois.
I. (:3-10) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EMPTY TOMB HITS HOME FOR JOHN AND PETER
A. (:3-4) The Rush to Check Things Out for Themselves
“Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb. And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first.”
B. (:5-8) A Close Look at the Evidence Leaves No Other Explanation Than the Reality of the Bodily Resurrection
1. (:5) John Got the First Look
“and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.”
2. (:6-7) Peter Dashed In and Inspected Thoroughly
“Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.”
3. (:8) John Also Entered, Saw, and Immediately Believed
“So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.”
Ryle: Concerning the true meaning of this word “believed” in this place, there has been some dispute, but without good cause. It cannot of course mean that John became a true believer now for the first time. Such an idea is absurd. Nor yet can it only mean, I think, that John at last believed that the body of our Lord was not there. Such an interpretation seems to me cold, tame, and shallow. I hold that it can only bear one meaning, and that is, that John, when he saw the state of the tomb, believed that Christ had really risen from the dead. In short, he was the first of all our Lord’s followers that believed His resurrection.
C. (:9) The Message of the Resurrection Was a Difficult One to Derive from OT Prophecy
“For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”
D. (:10) Still Uncertain How to Proceed – pondering many questions in their minds
“So the disciples went away again to their own homes.”
II. (:11-18) THE TRUE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EMPTY TOMB IS REVEALED TO MARY MAGDALENE
A. (:11-13) True Significance Revealed by the Appearance of Angels
1. (:11) Mary was Heart Broken
“But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.”
2. (:12-13) Angels Demonstrate Compassion
“and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’”
Carr: There were two angels at the tomb. Two is the number of witness. These angels have been dispatched from God to bear witness to the truth that Jesus is alive from the dead. Theirs is a message of absolute hope and perfect assurance – Matt. 28:5-6!
B. (:14-17) True Significance Revealed by the Personal Appearance of the Resurrected Jesus
1. (:14) No Immediate Recognition of Jesus
“When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.”
2. (:15a) Two Probing Questions asked by Jesus
a. Why are You Grief Stricken Instead of Joy Filled?
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?”
b. Why are You Looking for the Living Among the Dead?
“Whom are you seeking?”
3. (:15b) Still Searching
“Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’”
4. (:16) Finally, Resolution!
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, Teacher)”
5. (:17) Clear Marching Orders
“Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
C. (:18) Conclusion: Mary Carries the Good News to the Other Disciples
“Mary Magdalene came announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ and that He had said these things to her.”
Carr: We are still commanded to come and see, then go and tell. The world needs to hear from a people who have been to the tomb and know that Jesus is alive. The world needs to hear of the Savior you serve!
I serve a risen Savior;
He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living;
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him;
He’s always near!
He Lives! He Lives!
Christ Jesus lives today;
He walks with me and talks with me;
along life’s narrow way.
He Lives! He Lives!
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives;
He Lives within my heart.
Rejoice, rejoice Oh Christian;
Lift up your voice and sing;
To Jesus Christ the King.
The hope of all who seek Him;
The help of all who find;
None other is so loving;
So good and kind!