What Mary and John Saw
Truth Taught – The resurrection of Jesus is the assurance that all He did and taught is true
Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen
John 20:1–18 (ESV)
20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Luke links Mary with Joanna and Susanna and “many others” as those healed of evil spirits and infirmities by Jesus. As Mary is referred to as having “seven demons” her condition must have been worse than the rest. But the moment Jesus’ compassionate eyes saw the wild-eyed and cringing woman of Magdala, He saw in her the ministering angel who would be a blessing to His own heart and to others. In His authoritative voice He commanded the tormenting demons to come out—and stay out—of her. “Back! back! to your native hell, ye foul spirits of the pit,” and the miracle happened. Her deranged and nerve-racked mind became as tranquil as the troubled lake Jesus calmed. Sanity returned, the rosy tint was restored to her cheeks, and she was made whole. Now, “clothed and in her right mind,” she was ready to become one of the most devoted woman disciples of Him to whom she owed so much. That she was deeply grateful for physical and mental healing is shown by what she endeavored to do for her Deliverer and His cause. Saved from the terrible power of hell, she gave of her best to Him who had fully emancipated her from demonic possession. When Christ saved her, He liberated the highest virtues of sacrifice, fortitude and courage.
Mary went with her Lord into the shadows, and is thus represented as being among those who followed Jesus on His last sad journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. And as they followed, they still “ministered unto Him.” Mary was present with the other holy women at the mock trial of Jesus. No longer is He on the road with crowds gathering and hanging on His words. Fearless in His declaration and denunciations, He is arrested and tried for His life. Some of His intimate friends had deserted Him, but Mary and her band did not forsake Him. The poet reminds us—
Not she with traitorous kiss her Master stung,
Not she denied Him with unfaithful tongue;
She, when Apostles fled, could dangers brave,
Last at the Cross, and earliest at the grave.
Mary was present in Pilate’s Hall and saw and heard the religious leaders clamoring for the blood of Him who was so precious to her heart. She listened as Pontius Pilate pronounced His death sentence of crucifixion although he had found no fault in Him. She witnessed and wept as Jesus left the hall to be spat upon and ill-treated by the crowd thirsting for His blood. Then she saw Him led out to Calvary’s fatal mount to be nailed to a tree.
Mary was one of the sorrowing group of holy women who stood as near as they could to comfort Jesus by their presence in the closing agonies of the crucifixion (Luke 23:49). Mary listened with a broken heart to His bitter cries and watched through those dread hours until at last the Roman soldier thrust his spear into the Saviour’s side and declared Him dead. In the renowned picture gallery in the Louvre, there is a painting of desolation, despair and love. The artist has depicted the night of the crucifixion. “The world is wrapped in shadow; the stars are dead; and yet in the darkness is seen a kneeling form. It is Mary Magdalene with loving lips and hands pressing against the bleeding feet of Christ.” Yes, she was there when they crucified her Lord.
No sooner had Jesus dismissed His spirit than the question arose among the Marys at the cross, “How could they secure that blood-stained body, and prepare it for burial?” Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, to the relief of the sorrowful mourners, had come for that very purpose. The artist Rubens, in his masterpiece, The Descent of the Cross represents Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Cleophas, assisting Joseph and Nicodemus in receiving the battered body from the tree, preparing it for burial, then placing the precious remains in the new tomb in the garden. Mary Magdalene remained “sitting over against the sepulchre” and “beholding” until Joseph had laid the Lord’s body away (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55).
Last at the cross, where Jesus died as the Lamb of God, Mary Magdalene was also the first at the garden tomb to witness the most important event in world history and the pivotal truth of Christianity, namely the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. She was at the tomb early on that first Easter morning, and as the light of earliest day filtered across Jerusalem, she peered into the cave. Seeing it was empty, she wept.
Now keeping in step with John’s purpose for writing, we see that when Mary saw her Lord she believed.
Something we must see here is that prior to this moment she did not believe that Jesus would rise from the tomb. We know this because when Jesus was not there her first inclination was to find where they (whoever they were) had taken the body.
It took Jesus, Himself to say to her, Mary it’s Me…even then at that moment in time she hardly believed.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
So, what was Mary’s response? She immediately grabbed Jesus and began to hug Him. Notice what Jesus said to her…He said that she had to let Him go so that He could finish everything. She had to let Him go so He could ascend to the Father. Then our Lord tells her that His Father is now her Father and His God is her God. Then what did she do? She went to tell the others. Her belief was made real when she saw the risen Lord.
Her evidence was Jesus Himself…
2. John Sees and Believes
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Here, we have a belief similar to ours today. John believed when he saw the evidence of the resurrection. He mentions this not to draw attention to himself but to help us in our belief. We do not have the opportunity like Mary did to see the risen Lord with our own eyes. We do, however, have the opportunity to see the evidence.
What was it that brought forth faith/belief in John?
He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.
What was it about these cloths that brought life into John’s heart? Well, I think this goes back to the event of the resurrection of Lazarus.
John 11:38–44 (ESV)
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
What John noticed was a significant difference between Jesus’ burial cloth and Lazarus’. He remembered how Lazarus was bound by the cloths and needed to be released from them.
44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Unbind him and let him go. This shows us that while Lazarus’ resurrection was real and an amazing miracle showing the power of Christ and that his resurrection was a pointer to Jesus who is the resurrection, Lazarus’ body was different. You see Lazarus would die again. If there were any bad news to tell someone whom Jesus raises is that they will endure death twice.
For our Lord, however, His body was different. This is what John saw in the cloths. They were not unwrapped like Lazarus’ the cloth covering the face of Jesus was not unwrapped but folded. You see while Jesus’ resurrection was bodily, His body was not earthly but heavenly. His body was glorified. His body passed through the cloths. This evidence was what John saw and believed. It was as if, when John saw the cloth that bound Jesus his heart was unbound. He became like Lazarus, he was unbound and let go.
The resurrection is evidence and proof that all Jesus said is true. It would be the final miracle that would prove all He did and said. This is John’s purpose behind his Gospel and behind the way he records the events surrounding the resurrection.
As we consider the evidence for ourselves, I pray that it produces faith within our hearts as well. Mary Magdaline had many good traits but we don’t have the opportunity to say, Ill believe if I see Jesus with my own eyes. Our prayer is that God would grant us faith as we examine the cloths, as it were, and believe based on eyewitness accounts and evidence like John did.
God’s plan is that His people, those who believe, would share this truth with others so that they too might believe. While there was a great number of people who saw Jesus after the resurrection, God did not show Jesus to everyone.
Notice what Peter says…
Acts 10:34–43 (ESV)
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Apostle Paul some 20-30 years after the resurrection is also preaching and notice how he uses the resurrection as proof. In his sermon, it is proof that there is coming a judgment that will be carried out by the One whom God raised from the dead.
Acts 17:30–31 (ESV)
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Finally, we also have John telling us that all our hope is to be placed on Christ and the fact that God raised Him from the dead.
John 19:35 (ESV)
35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.
John 21:24 (ESV)
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
So, the resurrection is the assurance we need to believe all God has spoken to us through His Word, the resurrection is all we need to trust that everything Jesus said and did is true. The resurrection is also proof that there is coming a day of judgment for all people and it will be carried out by Jesus the risen Lord. I’m sure, if John were here, he would ask you…do you believe?