The religious leaders who had arranged the death of Jesus remembered His promise to rise, and so they took precautions. In addition to the large stone rolled across the tomb’s entrance, they had the tomb sealed and guarded by soldiers. But they did not understand that no rock, no seal, and no guard could keep the Son of God from rising again!
While the Gospel of John details the events of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, it leaves the actual event of His rising cloaked in mystery. The resurrection is subtly stated, reported after-the-fact through the eyes of Jesus’ closest followers. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early on Sunday morning and was startled to find the stone rolled away. John saw it next, noticing that the strips of linen that had wrapped the corpse of Jesus were lying there, wrapping nothing! Peter came next (v.7), noticing that the linen cloth that had wrapped Jesus’ head was “folded up in a place by itself.”
Peter and John were certainly amazed and excited, but they had not yet connected the dots; the picture of Jesus’ rising was still coming into focus for them. They returned home, leaving Mary weeping, peering into the empty tomb (Mark’s gospel records that there were other women with her, but John tells the story specifically from Mary’s perspective). Suddenly, two shining angels appeared, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain.
The angels asked, “Why are you weeping?” They knew that since Jesus was alive again there was no need to cry! Jesus approaching from behind, repeated the same question and added, “For whom are you looking?”
In a touching scene that is brilliantly understated, Mary assumed the voice behind her belonged to the gardner. But then the voice spoke her name, “Mary.” There must have been something familiar in the way He said it, because she immediately knew it was Jesus! Now her tears were gone and her questions were answered — “I have seen The Lord,” she announced to the disciples.
Later that day the disciples would see Jesus with their own eyes. Walking through the walls of the locked room where they were gathered, Jesus spoke peace to them and showed them the evidence of the crucifixion: the nail-wounds in His feet and hands and the spear-wound in His side. No living person ever bore those scars of death!
Verses 24-25 give the disciple Thomas his “Doubting” nickname. His doubts were erased a week later when he, too, saw the risen Christ and believed. That belief later carried Thomas to evangelize India, where he died preaching the gospel. Thomas and the others carried the gospel in response to Jesus’ sending, in the strength of Jesus’ authority, and in the power of the Holy Spirit (v.21-23).
As you celebrate Easter in a few days, remember that you have been sent as well. The same power and authority available to the apostles is available to you. This Easter, like the first Easter, is a time for celebration and evangelization!