John 20.1-10

Title: What do you see?

Text: John 20.1-10

CIT: Mary, Peter and John saw the resurrection at different levels.

CIS: What level of ‘seeing’ do you observe Easter?


Psalm 22.1-18; This is simply amazing when one considers that it was written 1000 years before Christ and 300 years before crucifixion would be invented. This Crucifixion was…

  • An event that shook the world – literally, the earth shook. The veil of the Temple was torn in two and graves were opened. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Mt 27.51–54).
  • An event that shook the disciples. The last three years or more – gone, wasted with nothing to show for it. They sat in an upper room shamed and afraid, with nothing to think about but their desertion and denial.

Transition: and here is where we find them as the tomb is sealed and guarded. Here is where we find them as the lifeless body of Jesus lays on a cold slab in cave carved out of the rock. They are defeated and hopeless.

In John 20.1, John picks up the story. Rd 20.1; Mary appears to be the leader of these women who are followers of Christ. This current sermon series has been all about the characters we’ve met on the way to the Cross. And, I’ll follow up on that next week and in the weeks to come in May. However, today, I’d like to not focus so much on her story, but rather on this particular story: the story of the risen Christ.

The other gospels tell us of the other women who’ve come with her. It appears that John omits them, but not really; rd v 2; note the we. Surely he knew about them because he was familiar with the other gospels; they (the gospels) had been around for years – decades even.  There is Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mark tells us that Salome was also present. According to Matthew, she is the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. Luke also includes another woman named Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza (Xouzas), the manager of Herod’s household. We know this because Luke tells us in 8.1-3: Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Read John 20.1 again, while it was still dark. Very early in the morning, getting there while it’s dawn. She sees that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. This is the 1st of 4 times this word ‘saw’ will appear in our passage (1,5,6,8). What is interesting to note, is that it is a different word in the Greek 3 our 4 times: One word in English, three different words in the Greek. Here in v 1, the Gk word is βλέπω: and it means simple observation – seeing something. I share more on that later in this passage. Our focus for the moment is what these women saw: that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. The Gk word is αἴρω. In English, we use 5 words to translate it: had been taken away from. The English doesn’t do this word justice. We see this word used other times like in Matthew 4, where Jesus said:  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Or,  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Or, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Or, Mark tells us: And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. John uses this word in Chapter 11 when Jesus tells the people to ‘take’ away the stone. Verse 41 says: So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

αἴρω:Stone lifted up and away; This adds to the intrigue of the stone being ‘rolled away’! It was rolled up and away. It was lifted up! These women saw the stone lifted up and moved out of the way. Sure, it was early, but they could see there were no soldiers and the stone was rolled up and away from the entrance. So they take off in the direction of the where the disciples are hiding out. Rd v 2; same word here – αἴρω; you could translate it: they have carried away the Lord. Rd v 3-4; This makes sense because of their ages. Hughes says that Linebackers like Peter are only good for the first 50 yards! I think it might be something to do with their ages! Consider running from here to Fresh or Stuart’s. Tyler Sarna and I race. Who are you gonna put your money on? The young man! Rd v 5; He stops, He stoops, He sees something. This is the 2nd time we see the “Saw” in this passage. Mary saw the stone rolled up and away. John now sees the linen clothes lying there, but he doesn’t go in. Smart kid.

This word ‘saw’ is the same word used in v 2 to describe Mary’s action. βλέπω: saw – simple observation – simply seeing something.

Ill.: Let me demonstrate it this way: You ‘saw’ βλέπω, many sights on your way to church this morning: buildings, cars, signs. Let’s pick cars. My guess is you saw a lot of cars on your way in; However, you probably can’t list a single liscense plate on any of those cars, other than your own.

App.: Mary and John have made a simple observation with their eyes.

But now Peter shows up; rd v 6-7; this is the 3rd time we see this word ‘saw’; this word is different than the other two. It’s the word: θεωρέω: lit.: to be a spectator; This is the word from which we get theater. I’ll never forget our Youth intern for the Summer named Wayne. I asked him his major and he said: Theater. Not Thee-ahter. This word means a much closer observation – to be attentive to what your observing.

Ill.: if you were paying attention to some liscence plates on the way into worship this morning, you might have noticed a personalized plate. XLR8 or maybe DR. DAN.

App.: Mary saw the stone rolled away. No mention of missing soldiers or the evidence that they had been there for the last three days. John saw linen cloths, but no mention of the other details. Like with Peter. Look at some observations he makes: 1st, the linen clothes lying there; 2nd, he sees the head cloth folded neatly by itself; This probably needs a little explanation:

History has taught us that the Egyptians embalmed their dead. And the Greeks and Romans cremated their dead. Ever seen Troy? Or some other epic where the Greek or Roman tradition was to build a platform, place two coins over the eye sockets and set the platform on fire? Sometimes you’ll see them do all the same, but in a boat and send it out to sea… Anyway, the Jewish custom of burial was very different. The dead were wrapped with spices tightly around the body, with the head being exposed. A turban was then placed around the head. Rd 11.44; What’s interesting to me about the original language here is that in v 7, the word ‘folded up’ is a participle. A participle usually shows action. Run vs. Running. This is a perfect passive ptc. Meaning, it’s in a present state because of a past action. Rodger Fredrickson states it this way in the Preacher’s Commentary on John: “Still in the folds” is the Greek phrase. Even the head cloths are separated from the rest of the garments. It is as if the dead one had simply stepped out into life. So, the grave cloths just went flat, with their original folds all still in place. But for some reason, Jesus (or maybe an angel), folds the turban that had covered his head. I don’t know this, but I would wager a guess that there is something in the tradition being spoken to us by the folded head turban. I could be wrong, just guessing. There’s probably something in the traditions of men that we don’t know about.

Ill.: Like: I can’t remember where I was, but I was dining once. I’m pretty sure I was a guest. Whoever was with me told me to take my cloth napkin and place it in my lap. That was a signal for the server that I was ready for dinner to begin. When I was done, I was to place my napkin on the plate, indicating that I was done. That’s what this says to me.  You thought the grave was the end, but no, now that I’m risen, I’m officially done.

But wait, there is still another ‘saw’ I want you to see. Rd v 8;

  • Βλέπω – simply seeing something
  • Θεωρέω – observing something with more detail
  • εἶδον: to see and understand; To percieve something when seeing it; To see something and become aware of it. He εἶδον and he believed. He percieved the body was gone by sight and believed it was raised and alive. The only reason the stone was rolled away was so that they would know!

Hughes has a comical explanation of how he pretends this is played out between Peter and John. Peter observes the tomb and it’s state. John observes and comprehends what has taken place. “Peter, don’t you see it? No one has done anything with the body. It’s gone right through the grave clothes! Jesus is risen! He’s risen! He’s alive! The only reason the stone is gone is so we can see that Jesus is gone. Praise God! Let’s go! Last one home washes the feet!”

He then finishes this portion of his sermon with a wonderful illustration, that I’m going to steal, because it’s just so good: R. W. Dale’s biographer tells us that the great British Congregational minister had long been a distinguished leader in Christendom and was well on in life when one day, while writing an Easter sermon:

The thought of the risen Lord broke in upon him as it had never done before. “Christ is alive,” I said to myself; “alive!” and then I paused—“alive!” and then I paused again; “alive!” Can that really be true? Living as really as I myself am? I got up and walked about repeating “Christ is living!” “Christ is living!”… It was to me a new discovery. I thought that all along I had believed it; but not until that moment did I feel sure about it. I then said, “My people shall know it; I shall preach about it again and again until they believe it as I do now.”… Then began the custom of singing in Carr’s Lane on every Sunday morning an Easter hymn.

I wonder if that’s what hit John like a breeze unexpected, blowing his hair and thin beard back! Wham! He’s risen! He’s alive!

Transition: Ladies and Gentlemen, He is Alive! He’s not dead, He’s Alive! I know you’ve heard that before. I know you’ve sung that before. But I wonder if you’ve ever really comprehended it – ever wrapped your intellect around that truth.

Today, how do you ‘see’ the resurrection?

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord.

  1. Is your attendance here today just that – attendance? Do you see the resurrection through simple observation? Oh, wow, there’s an empty tomb.

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior, vainly the seal the dead, Jesus My Lord.

  1. Or, Is your perception, what you’re seeing of the resurrection more like you’re watching a Broadway play? You’re a spectator, taking in what you’re seeing?

Death cannot keeps it’s prey, Jesus my Savior, He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.

  1. Or, Do you see and truly understand that a man was killed upon a cross. His heart stopped beating. His lungs stopped breathing. His lifeless body stopped moving. He was hastily prepared for burial and placed in a tomb and sealed in there with a giant boulder. Then,

Up from the Grave he arose. With a mighty Triumph o’re his foes. He arose a victor from the Dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He Arose! Hallelujah Christ Arose!

Christ the Lord is Risen today.

Observations & Implications: It all has to do with perspective…

  1. In the light of our momentary problems, God is still on his throne.
  2. In one moment the disciples went from doom and gloom to a thrill of joy. And that moment came in what they saw and how they saw it. Perspective: It changes everything.

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Filed under John, Scripture, Sermons

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