The glory of the Messiah, 13:1-20:1

3. The resurrection of Jesus, 20:1-31

i] The empty tomb


Early on Sunday morning Mary Magdalene goes to Joseph's tomb where Jesus is laid out awaiting a final burial place. She finds the grave empty and runs back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples; "they have taken the Lord out of his tomb and we don't know where they have laid him." The "we" reminds us that Mary was not alone. Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. The beloved disciple gets there first, but Peter enters first. Then, the beloved disciple enters the tomb, sees the grave clothes, and concludes that Jesus is risen from the dead.


He is risen! He is risen indeed!


i] Context: See 18:1-11. In John's gospel, the story of the resurrection is covered in the accounts of: the empty tomb, 20:1-10; the appearances to Mary, v11-18; the ten in the upper room, v19-23; and "doubting" Thomas, v24-29.


ii] Structure: The Empty Tomb:

Mary Magdalene visits the tomb at daybreak, v1-2;

"They have taken the Lord."

Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb, v3-5;

"The linen sheets were lying there."

They saw and they believed, v6-8;

"He saw and believed."

The testimony of Scripture, v9-10;

"Jesus had to rise from the dead."


iii] Interpretation:

Early on the Sunday morning Mary Magdalene comes to the garden tomb to perform the last rites on Jesus body. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus have performed some preparatory work, but it was the custom of the time for female relatives to wash and dress the body of a loved-one in preparation for burial. How she was going to move the stone would obviously be on her mind. Mary is not alone because she uses the plural when reporting the missing body to Peter and John. Matthew tells us that "the other Mary" was with her, Matt.28:1, while Mark adds Salome, Mk.16:1, and Luke adds Joanna, Lk.24:10. So, there were possibly four women on this early morning jaunt to the garden tomb. On reaching the tomb they find it empty. The women obviously assumed that someone (one of Jesus' enemies) had stolen his body and so run back to Jerusalem to report the news.

Although Peter sets off first, John outruns him and reaches the tomb first. John hesitated when setting out for the tomb and now he hesitates again. As he looks in, he sees the linen sheets, used to cover a body for burial, "lying there". When Peter arrives, he goes straight into the tomb. As well as seeing the linen sheets, he sees the head-cloth which was originally wrapped around Jesus' head. He notes that it is placed neatly beside the sheets. John is describing a scene of order, rather than chaos. Had grave robbers been at work they would have stolen the sheets, or at least strewn them on the floor. John is not describing the scene as if Jesus' body has risen through the sheets, but rather as if someone has gotten out of bed, having pushed the sheet back and neatly placed the head-towel to one side. John now enters the tomb, "saw" what Peter saw, and "believed". He too sees a scene evidencing the waking of someone who was asleep. Up to this point in time the disciples had failed to understand the living power of God's messiah, but now they believe.


The disciples did not invent a resurrection based on Biblical prophecy. They first believed in Jesus' resurrection, then they looked for its Biblical support. Interestingly, there isn't much Biblical support, even if they would come to affirm that Jesus was raised "on the third day according to the scriptures", 1Cor.15:4. References to the third day are found in Hos.6:2, Jon.1:17, (quite unconvincing!), and to resurrection in Isa.53:10-13, Ps.15:10, 16:8-11. Of course, the resurrection of the Messiah is the linchpin of Biblical prophecy in that it inaugurates the kingdom of God. The resurrection itself may have little Biblical precedence, but an ever-living, life-giving, messiah is the stuff of Biblical prophecy.

The visits to the tomb by Mary Magdalene, Peter and the beloved disciple, establish the fact that it was empty and ordered in appearance, thus confirming the resurrection and prompting faith. The neatness of the burial sheets and the napkin which had covered Jesus' face, seems to give the impression of someone who has simply just got out of bed. For the beloved disciple, the state of the grave-clothes says it all, and so he believes that Jesus is risen, and that in rising he has vanquished the powers of darkness. So, "the resurrection testifies that Jesus is living, that he has life in himself and can confer this life on others", Thompson,


iv] Synoptics:

The story of the empty tomb is reported by all the evangelists, although John's account is quite different to the three synoptic gospels. The telling of the story may be different, but the details remain the same.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 20:1

The empty tomb, v1-10. Mary Magdalene visits the tomb at daybreak on Sunday morning, v1-2. Mark says the women arrive at the tomb "when the sun had risen." Daybreak is probably implied.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; serving to introduce a new literary unit.

prwi (a) adv. "early" - [on the first of the week mary magdalene comes] early, [it still being dark, to the tomb]. Temporal adverb modifying the verb "to come." Between 3 and 6 am. or more specifically "dawn"; "early on Sunday morning, just before dawn, ..."

th/ ... mia/ "on the first day" - on the first. The dative is adverbial, temporal / a dative of time.

twn sabbatwn (on) gen. "of the week" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "On Sunday morning", CEV.

oushV (eimi) gen. pres. part. "while [it was still dark]" - being [dark]. The genitive participle with the genitive noun "dark" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV. Some disparity here with the synoptic gospels, although the first rays of dawn is an acceptable understanding of what John is saying.

hJ Magdalhnh "[Mary] Magdalene" - Nominative noun standing in apposition to "Mary". Much is made of the disparity found in the gospel accounts as to who and how many women attended the tomb. It was probably four, but John, for obvious reasons, focuses on Mary. None-the-less, note Mary's words to the apostles "they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him", v2.

ercetai (ercomai) pres. "went" - comes. Why did Mary go to the tomb? Since Nicodemus has already performed the burial rite of anointing, she may have come to wail, but this is not what the synoptics say. Maybe the ladies came to do the job properly, given that it's women's business!

hrmenon (airw) perf. part. "[saw] that [the stone] had been removed" - [sees the stone] having been taken away. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "the stone", standing in a double accusative construction. .

ek + gen. "from" - from [the tomb]. Expressing separation; "away from."


Again we see Peter and the beloved disciple acting together. Mary assumes that Jesus is still dead, but note how she identifies him using the title "the Lord.". The word kurion, "Lord", has been used before this, although probably with the sense "Sir", but from now in it is used with its full sense as a divine title, cf., v18, 20, 28.

oun "so" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion. We are not told what actually prompts Mary's dash into the city. What does she see, the stone rolled aside, the empty tomb, angels, ....?

proV "to" - [she runs and comes] toward [simon peter and toward the other disciple]. Mary runs to Peter and to John. Are they in different localities?

efilei (filew) imperf. "[the one Jesus] loved" - [whom jesus] loved. The imperfect is durative.

autoiV pro. "-" - [and says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

hJran (airw) aor. "they have taken" - they took [the lord]. An emphatic reading prompts the question who are the "they". Possibly read as equivalent to the English passive, "has been taken", Brown.

ek + gen. "out of [the tomb]" - from [the tomb]. Expressing separation; "away from.

ouk oidamen (oida) 1st. pers. pl. "we don't know" - [and] we do not know. A clear indication that Mary is not alone.

eqhkan (tiqhmi) aor. "they have put" - [where] they placed [him]. Mary is probably saying, "we don't know where they have buried him."


ii] Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb, v3-5. John makes a point of telling us that the beloved disciple gets to the tomb first and sees the burial sheets keimena ta oqonia, "lying there", ie., he witnesses the resurrection scene, which scene is confirmed by Peter. Our author / editor is underlining the prime source for this record of events and thus its accuracy, namely, the beloved disciple / John the apostle. As Fenton notes, the scene is completely different to that of Lazarus who "came out with his hands and feet bound in the burial sheets."

oun "so" - therefore. Again, establishing a logical conclusion, as NIV.

exhlqen (exercomai) aor. sing. "started" - [peter] went out [and the other disciple]. The action is punctiliar whereas the action of the imperfect verb hrconto, "were coming", is durative, expressing progress. Possibly indicating that Peter is by himself and is then joined by John, with Mary tagging along.

eiV "[started] for [the tomb]" - [and they were coming] to/into [the tomb]. Spacial, expressing direction of action; they are heading for the tomb, rather than entering it; "set out at once for the tomb", Phillips.


etrecon (trecw) imperf. "[both] were running" - [but/and the two] were running [together]. The imperfect is durative modified by the adverb of place "together".

proedramen (protrexw) aor. "outran" - ran ahead [faster]. "The other disciple ran on ahead, faster than Peter", Barclay.

tou Petrou (oV) gen. "Peter" - of peter. The genitive is ablative, of comparison; "the other disciple ran faster than Peter."

prwtoV "[reached the tomb] first" - [and he (the other disciple) came to/into the tomb] first. Predicate adjective. Again, they have not, as yet, entered / gone into the tomb.


The keimena ta oqonia, "the linen sheets lying", may not be indicating anything about the position of the linen sheets, but rather that they are "there". Some commentators argue that the wrappings are as if a body has passed through them and they have sunk to the bench where the body lay. This is an interesting theory, but it can't be derived from the text. Possibly, cast to one side as if a person were rising from their bed. What is clear, is that the scene is not one that would be left by grave robbers who would have stolen the linen and spices and left the body. Even if the Jewish authorities had organized the theft of the body, which would surely be counter productive, it is very unlikely that the body would be taken without its burial garb. Clearly, John is quite taken with the state of the burial cloths and repeats the observation, cf. v6 and 7. As already noted, John may be comparing the scene of Jesus' rising with that of Lazarus, 11:44.

parakayaV (parakuptw) aor. part. "he bent over" - [and] having bent over, stooped down = strained to look. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he sees", as NIV; "he glanced in and saw the bandages lying on the ground", Moffatt. Possibly adverbial, temporal; "as he stooped, he saw the linen clothes lying", Berkeley.

blepei (blepw) pres. "looked in at" - he sees. Obviously, "he sees in the full light of dawn."

ta oqonia (ov) pl. "the strips of linen" - linen sheets. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." Shroud-like sheets are most likely what is intended. Strips, as in the wrappings of a mummy, is certainly not intended (Some translators were obviously affected in their youth by Lon Chaney's The Mummy's Tomb!). "He saw the linen grave-cloths lying there", Barclay.

keimena (keimai) pres. mid. part. "lying there" - [the linen sheets] lying. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "linen sheets", standing in a double accusative construction. Note that the participle is emphatic by position, placed in front of the direct object - the burial sheets are lying there, as was not the case for Lazarus. "He saw the burial sheets, they were just lying there inside the tomb."

mentoi "but" - however [he entered not]. Adversative / contrastive conjunction.


iii] They saw and they believed, v6-8. The author/editor again underlines the importance of his prime source; the beloved disciple is the first to believe in the resurrection of Jesus (contra the synoptics and the apostle Paul, cf., ICor.15:5). The beloved disciple enters the tomb first, then Peter follows, and they both see the ta oqonia keimena, "linen sheets lying", but it is the beloved disciples, who on seeing, believes.

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So", but possibly just transitional, as NIV.

akolouqwn (akolouqew) pres. part. "who was behind [him, arrived] / [came along] behind" - [simon peter and = also comes] following. The participle is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of his coming, namely, following him; "Simon Peter came behind him", Berkeley. Note Barrett's idea that the Johnnine tradition is here subordinating Peter to John. A bit far fetched, although some healthy competition between the two may be evident in this account.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow."

eishlqen (eisercomai) aor. "went / went straight" - [and] he entered into. The sense of immediacy is carried by a punctiliar aorist; "he went immediately/straight into the tomb and saw what John had seen."

eiV + acc. "into [the tomb]" - Expressing direction of action and arrival at.

keimena (keimai) pres. part. "[the strips of linen] lying there" - [and he sees the linen sheets] lying. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "linen sheets" standing in a double accusative construction. Our author again sets the scene of the empty tomb, this time through the eyes of Peter. The verb qewrei, "he sees", is stronger than blepei, "he sees", v5. Peter's initial "seeing" is more of a glance into the tomb, whereas now his "seeing" is more like careful observation, so Harris.


John now makes special mention of the soudarion, a small piece of cloth the size of a hand-towel / face-cloth which covered Jesus' face. Lazarus had a similar covering (11:44), but the one that covered Jesus is "folded up in a place by itself", ESV. Is it this fact which prompts the beloved disciple's faith?

kai "as well as" - [and along with the sheets peter] and = also [sees]. Adjunctive; "Peter also observed the state of the hand-towel that had been over Jesus' face."

to soudarion (ov) "the burial cloth" - the sudarium, face cloth. Accusative direct object of the assumed verb "to see." The sudarium (Latin) is a small towel, or large handkerchief, used to wipe the face. It is quite possible that this was of better material than the linen sheets. "Handkerchief", Phillips; "napkin", REB.

epi + gen. "around / wrapped around [Jesus head]" - [which was] upon [the head, face of him]. Spacial; the sense is more like "on, upon Jesus head / face"; "he observed that the kerchief which had been put over Jesus' head", Cassirer.

alla "-" - is not with the linen sheets lying, but is lying apart, by itself]. Strong adversative in a counter point construction; "not ....., but ......" The face-cloth was not lying with/like the linen sheets.

meta + gen. "-" - with. Expressing accompaniment. That the face-cloth was not "with" the sheets is the most accepted meaning, but "like", referring to condition rather than place, or "among", are other possibilities.

entetuligmenon (entulissw) perf. pas. part. "the cloth was folded up / the cloth was still lying" - having been folded up, rolled up. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object soudarion, "face-cloth", in a double accusative construction. Peter sees the face-cloth, which was originally over Jesus' face, not with the linen sheets, but now lying by itself, lying folded up / rolled up. Brown suggests rolled in the shape it had around Jesus head. "Neatly placed" is implied, with or beside the linen. All this, for John, prompts belief, v8. "Still in its folds", Barclay.

eiV eJna topon "by itself / in its place" - into one place. "In the same place as the linen sheets" rather than a "different place", is the natural reading of the phrase. That is, the linen sheets have been pushed aside as if a person were getting out of bed, but the face-cloth is folded neatly and placed with/beside the linen. It is clear that there is a point to these details, details which, for the beloved disciple, prompts faith.

cwriV "separate from the linen" - apart, by itself. "But separately" is the most accepted meaning, but the phrase may just serve to emphasize the negative, "but on the contrary." So again, what is being described? Is it the position of the face-cloth (separate to the linen), or the way it is placed?


tote "Finally" - [therefore] then [the other disciple and = also entered]. Temporal adverb used with oun, "therefore", to establish a logical connection; "So then the other disciple."

oJ elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "who had come" - the one having come [first to the tomb]. The participle may be treated as a substantive standing in apposition to "the other disciple", or simply adjectival, attributive, limiting, by description, "the other disciple", as NIV.

episteusen (pisteuw) aor. "[he saw and] believed" - [and he saw and] believed. The object of belief is not stated, but presumably "he saw and believed that Jesus had risen from the dead", although the verb is often used by John in an absolute sense. Clearly, it is the arrangement of the linen sheets and the face-cloth that prompts the beloved disciple to believe. As already noted, what our author seems to describe is a scene that looks as if someone has just got out of bed, rather than a scene disturbed by grave robbers. Such a scene is likely to confront a disciple with Jesus' promise that death will not hold him, a promise even now realized before their very eyes. None-the-less, the association between seeing and believing depreciates the value of the beloved disciple's faith. As John reminds us in 20:29, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe", NRSV.


This parenthetical comment by John seems to indicate that the beloved / other disciple's faith is limited, presumably because it is based on seeing. Faith has weight when it is based on knowing, particularly knowing the scriptures, for the resurrection is according to the scriptures, cf., 1Cor.15:4. Of course, when it comes to finding OT texts for the resurrection of the messiah, they are few and far between. None-the-less, the scriptural evidence, plus that of the apostolic witness, is the ground upon which we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, a rising which gifts eternal life to all who believe.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause; introducing an explanatory note; "At that time Peter and the other disciples did not know that the Scriptures said that Jesus would rise to life", CEV. Still, cause is evident; "This happened the way it did because up to this very time they had not understood what is said of him in the scripture, that he was destined to rise from the dead", Cassirer.

oudepw "[they still did] not [understand from scripture]" - not yet [they knew the scripture]. "Not as yet" in the sense of not up to this point in time.

oJti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they did not understand, up to this point in time.

dei "had to [rise]" - it is necessary. Expressing divine necessity. The necessity of Christ's rising for lost Israel / broken humanity, under the sovereign will of God, as foretold in the Law and the Prophets, is not as yet clear to the disciples. The empty tomb settles this problem.

anasthnai (anisthmi) aor. inf. "had to rise" - to rise [him]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary", "to rise [from the dead] is necessary."

ek "from" - out of, from [dead]. Expressing separation, "away from."


oun "then" - therefore. Transitional, here temporal; "consequently, then, accordingly, ..."

proV autouV "to their homes" - [the disciples went again] to their own homes. They went back to where they were when Mary called them. This verse serves to clear the way for Mary's meeting with Jesus. "So the disciples went back home", Barclay.


John Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]