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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, April 6, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 20:1–18   

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 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.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (NRSV)

Only in the Gospel of John does Mary come to the tomb in darkness; in the Synoptic Gospels the story takes place at varying points of the dawning day. Only in John does Mary arrive empty-handed; in the Synoptics, various disciples come to anoint the body. In John that has already been done.

Now the light begins, but it is gradual. When Mary gets there, all she can make out is that the stone has been dislodged. By the time she runs back into the city and returns with Peter and the Beloved Disciple, there is enough light for them to make out the contents—or lack thereof—of the tomb.

The movement from darkness to light is a favorite theme for the author of this Gospel. Those in darkness are the ones who cannot see who Jesus is; those who embrace the “Light of the world” have eternal life. Each of the characters in this narrative represents a different response to the Easter event. Mary panics and leaps to a conclusion based on what she sees and what she is afraid of: the tomb has changed, so someone has taken the body. Peter acts quickly but is perplexed by the evidence. It is the Beloved Disciple whom we are meant to emulate. He sees the same things everyone else does, but in a moment of logic (grave robbers don’t neatly fold burial cloths) and intuition (which so often accompanies deep love) believes.

That’s what this Gospel calls us to, as well. Just as for those first disciples, so much of what we face is confounding and frightening. We can’t make out resurrection. But if we are patient, we just might hear Jesus saying our names.

Risen Christ, thank you for meeting me in my confusion and conviction. Help me to see what is dawning and to speak it to others. In your name. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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