1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag’dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. – John 20:1-8
Sometime after sunset on the Sabbath Day and before dawn on the first day of the week Mary went to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. The Sabbath with its restrictions on work would have ended at sundown according to the Jewish calendar. John tells us that Jesus’ body had been hastily buried before the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday. John tells us that Mary had watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus moved Jesus’ lifeless body from the cross to the garden tomb close by. It was to that garden and to that tomb that Mary made her way in the pre-dawn darkness.
Mary was surprised to find that the tomb had been unsealed and that Jesus’ body was not there. Her immediate thought was not that something supernatural had transpired, but rather something devious. Perhaps the same men who had beaten, abused, humiliated, and crucified Jesus had now decided to desecrate his body. She didn’t know. She only knew that his body was not in the tomb where it had been laid.
John tells us that Mary hurried to tell Peter and the other disciples and that Peter and John ran to the tomb to check out Mary’s account. When they saw it just as Mary had said, John, we are told, believed. Take note of that. John saw the empty tomb, and that was all it took for him. Even before dawn, even in the darkness, John’s faith was quickened, and he believed. He believed in Easter on Easter.
Most of Jesus’ followers, including Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest needed more encouragement than just the sight of an empty tomb to come to faith. But as soon as John saw the empty tomb, he believed.
Good Father, how thankful we are for the message of the resurrection! We thank you that your grace and love overpower sin and death to offer us life in all its fullness. Help us to believe this good news and to live as more than conquerors through him who loved us. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston.