The glory of the Messiah, 13:1-20:1

3. The resurrection of Jesus, 20:1-31

i] The empty tomb


Early on Sunday morning Mary Magdalene goes to Joseph's tomb where Jesus is presently laid awaiting his own final burial place. She finds the grave empty and runs back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples; "they have taken the Lord out of his tomb and we don't know where they have laid him." The "we" reminds us that Mary was not alone. Peter and the beloved disciple, John, run to the tomb. John gets there first, then Peter, who enters, followed by John. The neatness of the burial sheets and the napkin which had been over Jesus' face, probably give the impression of someone who has simply just got out of bed. For John, the grave-clothes says it all, and so he believes that Jesus has risen from the dead.


The visits to the tomb by Mary Magdalene, Peter and the beloved disciple, establish the fact that it was empty and ordered in appearance, thus confirming Jesus as a living messiah, not a dead one. Having vanquished the powers of darkness the Son of God quietly rises; to this fact there can be only one response, faith.


i] Context: See 18:1-11. In John's gospel, the story of the resurrection, 20:1-31, is covered in the account of: the empty tomb, 20:1-10; the appearances to Mary, v11-18; the ten in the upper room, v19-23; and "doubting" Thomas, v24-29. The story of the empty tomb is reported by all the evangelists, although John's account is quite different to the three synoptic gospels. The telling of the story may be different, but the details remain the same.


ii] Structure: The narrative, The empty tomb, presents as follows:

Setting: The women discover an empty tomb, v1-2:

A1. The two disciples run to the tomb, v3;

B1. John looks but doesn't enter, v4-5;

C. Peter enters the tomb, v6-7;

B2. John enters and believes, v8-9;

A1. The two disciples return to the city, v10.


iii] Interpretation:

Dodd says of John's account of the resurrection of Jesus that it is "the most humanly moving of all the stories of the risen Christ."


Differences between the synoptic accounts of Jesus' resurrection can be noted, so also the differences between the synoptic accounts and John, but in the end the accounts harmonize nicely. What is more interesting are the indications of our author's particular interests, eg., references to the beloved disciple. Even more interesting is how John reconciles the resurrection of Jesus with his focus on the crucifixion, of Jesus' glorification as the means by which he departs to the Father, drawing along with him those who believe in him. The resurrection appearances don't quite sit with this scheme and that is particularly evident in Jesus' words to Mary, "Don't cling on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." The resurrection appearances are a kind of interlude for John, but not so for Matthew and Luke. Mark's take is even more interesting, leaving us with amazed women and an empty tomb. Yet, even Luke gives us a hint of what is an incongruous interlude with the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross ,"today you will be with me in paradise." For our author / editor, the resurrection stories are educational / revelational - Jesus is alive; he is a living messiah, not a dead one; he is a glorified messiah, reigning with the Father. This fact is emphasized in the narrative before us, as is the response of "the other disciple, the one Jesus loved" to this revelational fact. The beloved disciple is a witness to the Easter event and he provides the exemplary response to it, namely, faith. Jesus, the Son of Man, is a living messiah, and those who believe in him will possess eternal life, as he eternally possesses life in the presence of the Father.


Is John making a point when he notes that Peter saw "the strips of linen laying there", v5, and the face cloth "lying in its place, separate from the linen"? The word keimena, "lying", may not be indicating anything about the position of the linen sheets, but rather just that they are "there". Some commentators argue that the wrappings are as if a body has passed through them and that they have sunk to the bench where the body lay. This is an interesting theory, but it can't be derived from the text. Possibly, cast to one side as if a person were rising from their bed. What is clear, is that the scene is not one that would be left by grave robbers who would have stolen the linen and spices and left the body. Even if the Jewish authorities had organized the theft of the body, which would surely be counter productive, it is very unlikely that the body would be taken without its burial garb. Clearly, John is quite taken by the state of the burial cloths and so carefully records the scene.


The parenthetical comment in v9. The disciples did not invent a resurrection based on Biblical prophecy. They first believed in Jesus' resurrection, then they looked for its Biblical support. Interestingly, there isn't much Biblical support, even if Paul and others often affirmed that Jesus was raised "on the third day according to the scriptures", 1Cor.15:4. References to the third day are found in Hos.6:2, Jon.1:17, (quite unconvincing!), and to resurrection in Isa.53:10-13, Ps.15:10...... Of course, the resurrection of the Messiah is the linchpin of Biblical prophecy in that it inaugurates the kingdom of God. The resurrection itself may have little Biblical precedence, but an ever-living, life-giving, messiah is the stuff of Biblical prophecy.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 20:1

The empty tomb, v1-10. i] Setting, v1-2: Only in the synoptic gospels are we told that the women were on a mission to anoint Jesus' body. This is rather strange since Nicodemus had already undertaken the task, 19:39-40. It was normal practice for the female relatives of a deceased man to prepare him for burial and so obviously these female disciples wanted to stand in for his mother. Getting past the stone was the main problem, but when they arrived at the garden tomb the grave was open. Although it was "still dark", the women could at least make out that the grave was empty and so Mary Magdalene set off to tell the other disciples the news. She headed for Peter and "the one Jesus loved" (referring to John, most likely the source of this account). The women obviously assumed that someone (one of Jesus' enemies) had stolen his body; "they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have laid him."

de "-" - but, and. Transitional; serving to introduce a new literary unit.

prwi (a) "early" - Between 3 and 6 am. or more specifically "dawn"; "early on Sunday morning, just before dawn, ..."

th/ ... mia/ "on the first day" - on the first. The dative is adverbial, temporal.

twn sabbatwn (on) gen. "of the week" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "On Sunday morning", CEV.

oushV (eimi) gen. pres. part. "while [it was still dark]" - being [still dark]. The genitive absolute participial phrase is temporal, as NIV. Some disparity here with the synoptic gospels, although the first rays of dawn is an acceptable understanding of what John is saying.

Maria hJ Magdalhnh "Mary Magdalene" - Much is made of the disparity found in the gospel accounts as to who and how many women attended the tomb. It was probably four, but John, for obvious reasons, focuses on Mary. None-the-less, note Mary's words to the apostles "they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him", v2.

ercetai (ercomai) pres. "went" - comes. Why did Mary go to the tomb? Since Nicodemus has already performed the burial rite of anointing, she may have come to wail, but this is not what the synoptics say. Maybe the ladies came to do the job properly, given that it's women's business!

hrmenon (airw) perf. part. "[saw] that [the stone] had been removed" - [sees the stone] having been taken away. The participle forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what Mary saw.

ek + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."


oun "so" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion. We are not told what actually prompts Mary's dash into the city. What does she see, the stone rolled aside, the empty tomb, angels, ....?

proV "to" - Mary runs to Peter and to John. Are they in different localities?

efilei (filew) imperf. "[the one Jesus] loved" - [whom Jesus] loved. The imperfect is durative.

autoiV pro. "-" - [and says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

hJran (airw) aor. "they have taken" - they took. An emphatic reading prompts the question who are the "they". Possibly read as equivalent to the English passive, "has been taken", Brown.

ouk oidamen (oida) 1st. pers. pl. "we don't know" - A clear indication that Mary is not alone.

eqhkan (tiqhmi) aor. "they have put" - they placed. Mary is probably saying, "we don't know where they have buried him."


ii] Peter and John run to the tomb, followed by Mary Magdalene, v3. Although Peter sets off first, John outruns him and reaches the tomb before Peter.

oun "so" - therefore. Again, drawing a logical conclusion, as NIV.

exhlqen (exercomai) aor. sing. "started" - he went out. Possibly indicating that Peter is by himself and is then joined by John, with Mary tagging along.

eiV "[started] for [the tomb]" - [they were coming] to/into [the tomb]. Spacial; they are heading for the tomb, rather than entering it; "set out at once for the tomb", Phillips.


iii] John looks, but doesn't enter the tomb, v4-5. John had hesitated when setting out for the tomb and now he hesitates again. As he looks in, he sees the linen sheets, which were used to cover the body for burial, "lying there".

etrecon (trecw) imperf. "[both] were running" - [the two together] were running. The imperfect is durative.

proedramen (protrexw) aor. "outran" - ran ahead [faster]. "The other disciple ran on ahead, faster than Peter", Barclay.

tou Petrou (oV) gen. "Peter" - of Peter. The genitive is ablative, of comparison; "the other disciple ran faster than Peter."

hlqen prwtoV eiV to mnhmeion "reached the tomb first" - came first to/into the tomb. Again, they have not, as yet, entered / gone into the tomb.


parakayaV (parakuptw) aor. part. "he bent over" - having bent over, stooped down / strained to look. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he sees", as NIV; "he glanced in and saw the bandages lying on the ground", Moffatt. Possibly adverbial, temporal; "as he stooped, he saw the linen clothes lying", Berkeley.

blepei (blepw) pres. "looked in" - he sees. Obviously, "he sees in the full light of dawn."

keimena (keimai) pres. mid. part. "lying there" - lying. The participle may be taken as adjectival, limiting "the linen cloths", or as an object complement, accusative complement of the object "linen cloths, sheets." "He saw the strips of cloth lying inside the tomb", CEV.

ta oqonia (ov) pl. "strips of linen" - pieces of linen cloth. Shroud-like sheets are most likely what is intended. Strips, as in the wrappings of a mummy, is certainly not intended. "He saw the linen grave-cloths lying there", Barclay.

mentoi "but [did not go in]" - but, however [he entered not]. Adversative / contrastive conjunction.


iv] Peter enters the tomb, v6-7. When Peter arrives, he goes straight into the tomb. As well as seeing the linen sheets, he sees the head-cloth which was originally wrapped around Jesus' head. He notes that it is placed neatly beside the sheets. John is describing a scene of order, rather than chaos. Had grave robbers been at work they would have stolen the sheets, or at least strewn them on the floor. John is not describing the scene as if Jesus' body has risen through the sheets, but rather as if someone has gotten out of bed, having pushed the sheet back and neatly placed the head-towel to one side.

oun "then" - Consequential, as NIV.

akolouqwn (akolouqew) pres. part. "who was behind [him, arrived] / [came along] behind" - following. The participle is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his coming, namely, following him; "Simon Peter came behind him", Berkeley. Note Barrett's idea that the Johnnine tradition is here subordinating Peter to John. A bit far fetched, although some healthy competition between the two may be evident in this account.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object / complement.

eishlqen (eisercomai) aor. "went / went straight" - he entered into a space. The sense of immediacy is carried by a punctiliar aorist; "he went immediately/straight into the tomb and saw what John had seen."

eiV + acc. "into [the tomb]" - As Zerwick notes, the preposition here carries its true sense of movement toward and into.

keimena (keimai) pres. part. "[the strips of linen] lying there" - [the linen cloths] lying. The participle may be taken as adjectival, describing / limiting, "the strips of linen", or as an object complement in a double accusative construction. Our author again sets the scene of the empty tomb, this time through the eyes of Peter.


kai "as well as" - and. Adjunctive; along with the sheets, Peter observed the state of the towel that had been over Jesus' face. "And also the kerchief."

to soudarion (ov) "the burial cloth" - the sadarium. The sudarium (Latin) is a small towel, or large handkerchief, used to wipe the face. It is quite possible that this was of better material than the linen sheets. "Handkerchief", Phillips; "napkin", REB.

epi + gen. "around / wrapped around [Jesus head]" - [which was] upon [the head/face of him] The sense is more like "on, upon Jesus head / face"; "he observed that the kerchief which had been put over Jesus' head", Cassirer.

entetuligmenon (entulissw) perf. pas. part. "the cloth was folded up / the cloth was still lying" - [and Peter also sees that the sundarium ..... is not with the linen sheets lying, but lays apart / by itself], having been folded up / rolled up. The participle forms an adverbial participial construction, modal, expressing the manner of the sadarium's placement or lying, the verb being assumed. Peter sees the sadarium, which was originally over Jesus' face, not with the linen sheets, but now lying by itself, lying folded up. The main verbs in this sentence, which consists of verses 6 and 7, are "comes" and "sees". "Neatly placed" is implied, with or beside the linen. All this, for John, prompts belief, v8. "Still in its folds", Barclay.

eiV eJna topon "by itself / in its place" - in one place. "In the same place [as the linen sheets]" rather than a "different place", is the natural reading of the phrase. That is, the linen sheets have been pushed aside as if a person were getting out of bed, but the sadarium is folded neatly and placed with/beside the linen. It is clear that there is a point to these details, details which, for the author, prompts faith.

ou "-" - not. The sudarium was not lying with/like the linen sheets.

meta "-" - with. That the sudarium was not "with" the sheets (ie. expressing accompaniment) is the most accepted meaning, but "like", referring to condition rather than place, or "among", are other possibilities.

alla cwriV "separate from the linen" - but apart. "But separately" is the most accepted meaning, but the phrase may just serve to emphasize the negative, "but on the contrary." So again, what is being described? Is it the position of the sudarium (separate to the linen), or the way it is placed?


v] John now enters the tomb, "saw" what Peter saw, and "believed", v8-9. He too sees a scene evidencing the waking of someone who was asleep. Up to this point in time the disciples had failed to understand the living power of God's messiah, but now they believe.

tote "Finally" - then. Temporal adverb; "then the other disciple."

oJ elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "who had come" - the one having come. The participle may be treated as forming a substantive standing in apposition to "the other disciple", or simply adjectival, attributive, limiting, by description, "the other disciple."

episteusen (pisteuw) aor. "[he saw and] believed" - Clearly, it is the arrangement of the linen sheets and the sadarium that prompts John to believe, but believe what? As already noted, what our author seems to describe is a scene that looks as if someone has just got out of bed, rather than a scene disturbed by grave robbers. Such a scene is likely to confront a disciple with Jesus' promise that death will not hold him, a promise even now realized before their very eyes.


Parenthetical comment by the author.

gar "-" - for. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciple / disciples only came to believe at this point in time, namely, because they had not understood the scriptures regarding the resurrection of the messiah; "This happened the way it did because up to this very time they had not understood what is said of him in the scripture, that he was destined to rise from the dead", Cassirer.

oudepw "[they still did] not [understand from scripture]" - not yet [they knew the scripture]. "Not as yet" in the sense of not up to this point in time, as above.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they did not understand, up to this point in time.

dei "had to [rise]" - it is necessary. Expressing divine necessity. The necessity of Christ's rising for lost Israel and broken humanity, under the sovereign will of God, as foretold in the Law and the Prophets, is certainly well beyond the understanding of the disciples. The empty tomb settles this problem.

anasthnai (anisthmi) aor. inf. "had to rise" - to rise. The infinitive functions as the subject of the verb "is necessary", "to rise from the dead is necessary."

ek "from" - out of, from. Expressing separation here.


vi] Having seen the empty tomb, the disciples go back to where they are staying in Jerusalem, v10.

oun "then" - therefore. Here drawing a logical conclusion, here temporal; "consequently, then, accordingly, ..."

proV autouV "to their homes" - to their. They went back to where they were when Mary called them. This verse serves to clear the way for Mary's meeting with Jesus. "So the disciples went back home", Barclay.


John Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]