Focal Passage: John 20:1-18
A few years ago, my girls and I were listening to a popular podcast where a Bible teacher was explaining Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. As he was describing all of the glorious details, my oldest daughter’s eyes began beaming with fascination and she said, “Oh, I just love the story of Jesus coming out of the tomb!”
Hopefully that’s the emotion you feel when you think about Jesus being raised to life. There’s no event in world history more fascinating, mysterious and powerful than Jesus coming out of the tomb. But while each of the Gospel writers gives us specific details concerning Jesus’ resurrection, we find three unique pictures in John 20 that show us the hope we have in our risen Savior. We see a dark morning, a folded cloth, and a glorious gardener.
As Mary Magdalene approached the tomb early on the first day of the week, John specifically records that “it was still dark” (v. 1). While this detail could be a normal observation for such an early visit, John often uses the imagery of light and darkness to symbolize good and evil, belief and unbelief, courage and fear, etc. It might have been dark when Mary arrived, but it was even darker in her heart. After seeing Jesus crucified and buried, she had no hope. Who would now save her from her sins and give her eternal life? So much for the kingdom that Jesus had promised.
For Mary, it was a dark, dark morning. Likewise, we live in a dark world of hopelessness today. Billions of people wake up every morning in spiritual darkness with no hope of change or eternal life. How will they ever find healing and forgiveness and purpose? The world is a very dark place.
However, after Mary reported that the tomb was empty, Peter and John literally raced to the scene to see it with their own eyes. While they didn’t find Jesus, what they did find were “linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth … folded up in a place by itself” (v. 5-7). Again, these details might seem like casual descriptions, but John never includes items like these for no reason.
From an apologetics perspective, the folded face cloth removes the possibility that Jesus’ body was stolen, because robbers would never take the time to neatly fold a cloth before leaving. Also, the description of the “linen clothes lying there” indicates that they were lying in the same position that Jesus was lying, giving the impression that Jesus rose through them. These details provide substantial evidence that Jesus had been raised from the dead! Such a scene made an impact on John. The writer notes, “He saw and believed” (v. 8). This was the moment for John when the darkness became light and hope was restored.
Finally, after Peter and John went home, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. While she was still weeping, she heard a voice ask her who she was seeking. John records an interesting detail that while she thought it was the “gardener” it was actually Jesus. Why is this significant? Jesus came to replace the first gardener Adam who failed. Jesus is the second Adam who reverses the curse and takes away sin and death. That’s the hope a dark world needs today. Soli Deo Gloria! B&R