Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dawn of a New Day

It was early in the morning. His followers were still in misbelief and fear from the crucifixion of Christ three days earlier. John 19:28-37 They did not comprehend what we have studied these past weeks. The Word (Wisdom) was in the Beginning, creating with God, and was God. Prov 8:22-35; John 1:1-3,14 They witnessed the miracles Jesus performed and His many teachings, but they heard Him not when He told them of His purpose for living as a Man to die for the sins of humanity that they might have eternal life. John 2:11;3:16 His death occurred close to the Jewish Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret disciples, went to Pontius Pilate, governor of Rome, and requested Jesus' body. Pilate allowed them to do so. They began the preparation of Jesus' body for burial according to Jewish burial customs but had to stop because the Jewish Sabbath was approaching. John 19:39-40 Jesus' body was placed in a tomb owned by Joseph. Tombs, in those times, were normally owned by the wealthy. They were carved out of the side of hills with a small room and a slab for the body to be placed on the inside. Outside there would be a large, flat, coin-like stone that would be rolled down in a groove once the body was in the tomb. Jesus' followers had hurriedly placed His body in the tomb with the intention of going back after the Jewish Sabbath to complete the ceremony. Our lesson begins early in the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. We shall focus on John 20:1-10-19-20.

'The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.' John 20:1 Mary of Magdala was first introduced to the Scriptures in Luke 8:2-3 as ministering to Jesus of her substance. She had been delivered of seven devils and was a disciple to the end. She was present during the agony of Jesus on the cross until He was taken down. John 19:25; Matt 27:61; Mark 15:47;16:1; Luke 23:55 Many times Mary Magdalene's name was mentioned first when listed in a Scripture. John was the last gospel writer to give his account. He knew what the other writers had written, but he wrote from the perspective of an eyewitness led by the Spirit. He did not state the other women were not present. He simply focused his writing on the conduct of Mary Magdalene. The verse states she came the first day of the week. This day is Sunday and now known as the "Lord's Day". Rev 1:10 It was so early, it was yet dark. The sun had not yet risen. But Mary Magdalene was able to see the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. I wonder how did she (or she and the other women) intend to move what I imagine was a massive stone in order to give Jesus His proper burial? They did not have to worry about moving the stone. An angel probably moved it so they could come in. (Jesus did not need assistance.) They were now questioning where Jesus' body had gone. Who took Jesus?

'Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.' John 20:2 From this we can assume that Mary Magdalene looked in the tomb in addition to seeing the stone rolled away. She went to the tomb looking for the dead body of Jesus Christ. She did not find it and is horrified that someone may have stolen it for whatever purpose. Her friends, the disciples Peter and John, must come to the rescue immediately. She states "we" which would indicate she was not the only person present to see the stone rolled away and a missing body.

'Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,' John 20:3-6 Peter and John quickly absorbed the news from Mary Magdalene and ran toward the gravesite. They were upset and running fast. John was probably younger than Peter and, therefore, outrunning him. When John reached the gravesite, he looked in the tomb. However, probably out of respect for Peter's leadership of the disciples, he did not go in. Peter went directly in the tomb upon his arrival. He observed linen clothes lying in the tomb. The Scripture does not say where the linen grave clothes were lying, only that they were left lying to be observed.

'And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.' John 20:7 It was the wisdom of God to place the napkin that was about Jesus' head in a place nicely folded and separate from where the linen grave clothes were lying. Why would a thief take the time to disrobe a corpse and leave the clothes neatly in separate places at the gravesite? Why would a thief take a naked corpse? He would more likely take the corpse clothed. Or he would leave the naked corpse and take the clothes. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44), he had to keep on his grave clothes as he would continue to need them. Jesus no longer needed His grave clothes. He had risen to put on the clothes of His glorified body. He did not need the clothes of the corrupt body.

'Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.' John 20:8-10 Everything John previously noted about the missing Jesus was from the outside of the sepulchre. Now he goes in to look around and make further investigation. He saw the linen grave clothes that had been left and the folded napkin. And he believed. Perhaps Peter believed and did not convey his belief to John. However, John is the writer of this book and is writing his testimony that he believed. But what exactly did he believe? How comfortable was he with his belief? John also wrote "...they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" Had not they heard Jesus tell the Pharisees 'For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.' Matt 12:40 Since he believed, his heart should have been overflowing with joy because he had proof his Master had risen. They appear simply too grief stricken to remember all the things they knew regarding the Resurrection; i.e Ps 16:9-10, Luke 24:26,46 Yes, they had heard what the Lord said. The Resurrection was beyond their comprehension.

In John 20:11-18 the scene turns to Mary Magdalene. She looked inside the sepulchre and saw two angels. They asked her why she was upset. She told them someone had taken away her Lord and she did not know where they had taken Him. She then turned around and a man whom she perceived to be the gardener asked her why she was crying. She told the gardner if he had taken her Master she would gladly take Him away. The gardner was the risen Jesus. He called her by her name, 'Mary'. She recognized Him and responded 'Rabboni', meaning Master. Jesus told Mary she could not touch Him because He had not yet ascended to God, the Father, in heaven. He instructed her to go tell the disciples that He had risen. She was obedient to His instructions.

'Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. John 20:19-20 On the same Sunday evening, when the doors were fastened, ten of the eleven disciples were assembled. The doors could have been locked, but the Scripture simply states they were shut. The disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews. They believed if their Master, who they had witnessed perform miracles, preach and teach, could be caught by the Jews and turned over to the Roman government for crucifixion, they did not stand a chance. Their fears were overruling the teachings they had received from Jesus. In spite of Mary's testimony, the disciples continued to fear for their safety. They needed a personal experience. All of a sudden, Jesus walked in without opening the doors. According to Luke 24:37, they thought He was a ghost. He calmed their fears with His familiar Jewish greeting '...Peace be unto you' and allowed them to see the evidence of His wounds in His hands and side. They were overjoyed and believed that Jesus was alive. Death had not conquered the grave. It had been the dawn of a new day. He had risen!

Written by Deborah C Davis

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