Formations 04.17.2022: Views of the Tomb

John 20:1-8, 11-18

It may be tough to find something new to say about this familiar passage. I wonder, though, if we don’t do a disservice to our students—and to the text—by looking for novelty rather than resting in wonder. What if our familiarity with the Easter story were an asset, not a detriment?

For example, since we know these characters, maybe we can better put ourselves in their sandals and imagine the story from their point of view. Peter and “the other disciple,” traditionally identified as John, hear Mary Magdalene’s story about the empty tomb and run to see for themselves.

John gets there first but waits for Peter to enter the tomb. Going in, Peter sees the linen grave wrappings. The other disciple sees…and believes.

What did John see that caused him to believe while Peter apparently needs a little more time to get there? Why is it that faith comes easier for some than for others?

These two return to their homes, and the focus returns to Mary Magdalene. When we saw her last, she was distraught because, like Peter, she didn’t yet understand what she had seen. Fearing that someone had stolen Jesus’ body, she returns to the tomb to weep.

Angels appear to ask her why she is weeping, but unlike in other Gospels, they don’t announce Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus does that himself—first coming to her with his appearance veiled. Soon, though, he calls her by name, and her eyes are opened. Jesus declares that he is about to ascend to his Father, and Mary goes to proclaim the good news: “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18).

What might Mary have been feeling as she stood there, weeping? What might she have felt when she heard Jesus speak her name? How does Jesus address Mary’s fears and guide her from despair to exultant witness?

We all come to Easter by our own path. Some of us have unwavering faith while others struggle to believe. Some of us bring great sorrow and confusion that others cannot imagine.

Discussion

• What are some of your fondest memories of Easter?
• With whom do you most identify in this story: Peter, the other disciple, or Mary Magdalene? Why?
• Why do you think Jesus appeared to Mary but not yet to the other disciples?
• What questions do you have about the resurrection of Jesus?
• How does Jesus’ resurrection touch me in my spiritual journey today?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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