What does John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 20:2b], have to say about the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does John put all the information found in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] together in a neat chronological ordered package, since John wrote his Gospel last [around A.D. 85]? It would be nice to wrap this up in a box tied up with ribbons and bows, wouldn’t it? However, just as the three previous Gospels, John presents his narrative with his own observations, sharing his unique insights and focusing on what he believed was important to emphasize. It is true that “All Scripture is inspired by God” [II Timothy 3:16a]. It’s also true that the Holy Spirit used the unique personality of each Gospel writer to relay different perspectives concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let’s examine what John’s Gospel says in chapter 20:1-10. The narrative starts just like the other three Gospels: “Now on the first day of the week….while it was dark” However, Mary Magdalene is the only woman mentioned who goes to the tomb and sees the humungous stone rolled away from the entrance. Instantly [or so it seems], Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John to tell them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and WE do not know where they have laid Him.” [The pronoun “WE” indicates that Mary Magdalene was accompanied or was met by other women going to Jesus’ tomb.]
Next, Peter and John have a foot race to the tomb and Mary Magdalene follows. Peter was first to enter the empty tomb and saw “the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place of its own.” [It was the custom in those days for the master who is leaving his dinner but intends to return, to leave his napkin folded at his place, so that his servant would know that he was returning. When he was finished with his meal the master would just drop the napkin unfolded at his place. In the same way, the folded face cloth was a sign that Jesus was not finished because HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD!] After awhile John, who reached the tomb first, but stayed outside, finally went into the tomb, “and he believed.” What did they believe? John said they believed, yet they “went back to their homes.” Their belief was not all there yet, but their belief would grow as they began to “understand the Scripture, that [Jesus] must rise from the dead.” John and Peter were beginning to believe Jesus and what He said to them was making a little more sense because of Mary Magdalene’s “WAKE-UP CALL!” Sometimes, not always, some men need a little push to get out of their “Man-Cave“ and “keep on keeping on” and who better to do this than a woman? The opposite is also true. Men and women need to work together to spread the GOOD NEWS that JESUS IS ALIVE and wants to make a difference in people’s lives.
The Gospel of John is often called, “The Gospel of Belief.” An excellent example of a growing “belief” or “faith” is found in the life of Mary Magdalene. She, along with other women disciples heard Jesus’ teachings and watched Him live them out. They also watched Him die on the cross and saw where His body was laid. Mary Magdalene was the first one to rise early in the morning to go to Jesus tomb. Other women followed her lead. She got men to follow her lead. Even when the others left for home, she lingered at the empty tomb, hoping that something would happen. She had a faith that would not die. This is what John’s Gospel records when she was alone at the empty tomb:
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one 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.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ 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.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you know where they 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 Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ [which means Teacher]. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for 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 to announce to the disciples, ‘I HAVE SEEN THE LORD’ – and that He said these things to her.” That very evening, what Mary Magdalene told the disciples came true – Jesus appeared to them ALIVE [John 20:11-18 and 23].
Those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord have no trouble believing in the four Gospel accounts concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to take care of our sins, as well as the sins of the world [Read John 3:16], and that He defeated death by RISING FROM THE DEAD AND IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE. Jesus‘ DEATH and RESURRECTION is the focus of our faith and is most important to us. In the four Gospels we also learn about the women disciples and their sacrificial service, their perseverance and endurance, their loyalty and trust, their bravery, as well as their leadership qualities. When there were no men to lead the way, women like Mary Magdalene and the other Marys and Joanna and Salome encouraged their brothers to believe that Jesus was alive. Jesus being alive made the difference and Christianity would spread all over the World.
For the skeptics out there who read the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus and the women who first discovered the empty tomb, they have more questions they want answered. Do you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ just as the women did or do you believe that finding out how many angels and women were there at empty tomb is essential to believing? Skeptics have so many questions. Let’s face it; skeptics are always gong to be skeptical. But those who believe in Jesus Christ will “walk by faith, not by sight” [II Corinthians 5:7]. We will trust in what the Bible says and learn important truths without worrying about “every jot and tittle.” As a woman, I have much to learn from Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples. How about you?
To be continued…