The Passion Narrative, 18:1-20:31

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

ii] Jesus appears to Mary


Peter and the other disciple are on their way back to Jerusalem by the time Mary Magdalene gets back to the tomb. When she looks inside she sees two angels seated on the plinth where Jesus' body lay. She then turns and sees Jesus standing nearby, although at first sight she thinks he is the local gardner. On asking where Jesus' body is, she gets the reply "Mary", and immediately she recognizes that her gardner is Jesus himself. After a word from Jesus, she returns to Jerusalem to report the good news to the other disciples.


"The Gardner has returned to reclaim his garden", Klink.


i] Context: See 18:1-11.


ii] Structure: Jesus appears to Mary:

Mary's angelic vision, v11-13;

"They have taken my Lord away."

Mary is reunited with Jesus, v14-17;


Mary passes on the good news to Jesus' disciples, v18

"I am about to ascend to my Father."


iii] Interpretation:

Mary Magdalene, Mary of / from Magdala, has returned to the tomb and she sees what John describes as two angels sitting on the plinth where Jesus was laid out, one at the head and another at the foot. Although Mary has seen an angelic vision, what is on her mind is a missing body. She must have heard something behind her because she swings around and sees a person standing nearby whom she assumes is a gardner. She realizes that he is Jesus when she hears her name spoken by the Lord. Mary's response is recorded by John in her native tongue, namely Aramaic. Rather than the word rabbi, "master, teacher / lord = sir", she uses the word rabbuni, "my master, teacher, lord", a much stronger word, often used when addressing God. As Stibbe notes, this is an "owned faith" rather than an "affiliated faith." Her emotions are obviously high and so she grabs hold of Jesus - she probably prostrates herself and grabs hold of his feet. As Dodd says, John's description is "the most humanly moving of all the stories of the risen Christ."

Jesus' response is problematic; the words ,"do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father", has prompted endless debate. At face value, Jesus' words could be stating something as simple as, "you don't have to cling to me, I will never leave you again", so Hunter. The words are usually taken as a gentle rebuke, ie., she should not be trying to reestablish the old relationship she had with Jesus, but recognize the new relationship she will have through the Spirit that will be established after Jesus' ascension, so Ridderbos, Kostenberger, .... Obviously Mary is allowed to touch Jesus, given that Thomas was invited to touch him, but clinging may be the problem. Jesus is alive and will soon ascend to the Father and Mary needs to get back to the disciples and pass on this fact. Thompson argues that the point Jesus is making is that he is alive, he has completed his mission and that he is now doing what he stated he would do, namely, return to the Father. Rather than cling, Mary should go and tell. See v17 below.

Anyway, Mary does what she is asked to do; she returns and tells the disciples the good news, "I have seen the Lord." As well as telling them that Jesus is alive, she also recounts what he said to her.


On behalf of God's broken people, Jesus has fulfilled the covenant requirements and so realized the promised blessing of life. Jesus' disciples must now learn how to relate to a risen Lord - do not cling to what was, but proclaim what is.


iv] Synoptics

Jesus' resurrection is beyond description because it is beyond explanation, so human words will never explain the mystery of our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are lucky that we at least have approximations of this day, but we must await that coming day when we will see Jesus as he is. Anyway, all four gospels record aspects of this day with their own particular variations. When it comes to the "angels", Luke describes two men "in dazzling apparel", Mark describes a young lad, and Matthew a single angel. So, John agrees with Luke. All four gospels emphasize the prime role of the women's testimony, particularly Luke, cf., 24:22-24. This is an interesting fact, given the cultural parameters of the time - the testimony of a woman carries little weight. Obviously Jesus didn't agree with this assessment!

Text - 20:11

Jesus appears to Mary, v11-18; i] Mary's angelic vision, v11-13.

de "Now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, as NIV.

proV + dat. "-" - [mary had stood outside] toward [the tomb]. A variant en exists. This spacial preposition is usually followed by the accusative, expressing movement toward, but here with the dative it expresses a stationary presence, "close to, in front of, facing", Harris. With the adverb of place exw, "outside", we get the sense "Mary was standing just outside the tomb", TH.

oun "-" - therefore. Here simply transitional; "and as she wept", ESV.

wJV "as" - while [she was weeping she stooped to look into the tomb]. Temporal use of this conjunction. The infinitive of purpose is assumed, an example of Semitic short-talk; "she stooped to look inside", JB.


John's record is similar to that of Luke at this point.

en + dat. "in [white]" - [and she sees] in [white robes]. Adverbial modal, expressing the manner of her seeing; "In the midst of her tears she peered inside and saw two angels in white sitting", Rieu. "White" is indicating heavenly origin, expressed by Luke with the words "bright shining", so probably with the sense "radiant white", even "shining", Harris; "clothed in radiant white robes." Note Matthew's description of angels in 28:3 - an appearance like lightning and a garment white as snow. Possibly an allusion to the two cherubs on either side of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, so Brown.

kaqezomenouV (kaqezomai) pres. mid. part. "seated" - [two angels] sitting. Accusative complement of the direct object "angels" standing in a double accusative construction.

o{pou "where" - where [the body of jesus was lying]. Spacial conjunction. The genitive "of Jesus" is adjectival, possessive. The imperfect verb "was lying" obviously carries the durative sense "had been lying"; "Where Jesus' body had been", CEV.

pros + dat. "at [the head]" - [one] toward [the head and one] toward [the feet]. Again a rare usage of this spacial preposition, expressing a stationary presence rather than movement toward. Given that en, "on", or epi, "upon", may have been expected, a sense like "facing" may be intended; "seated facing the head and the other facing the feet." None-the-less, "at", or "where the head lay / feet lay" is also possible, so Barrett.


kai "-" - and. Coordinating, typical Semitic form and so left untranslated.

auth/ dat. pro. "[they asked] her" - [these ones say] to her [woman, why you weep]?. Dative of indirect object.

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

oJti "-" - that [they took the lord of me from the tomb and i do not know where they placed him]. Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what Mary says, although Barrett suggests causal is also possible, "because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know there they have placed him", Berkeley. Note, it is now "my Lord" and "I do not know where they have laid him", rather than "our", and "we". Is the point being made that Mary is by herself, the other women having not returned to the tomb from Jerusalem? John stresses the point that the first person to see the risen Lord is a woman, Mary of Magdala.


Mary is reunited with Jesus, v14-17. When Mary turns to see Jesus she does not recognize him. Is it still too dark, or is she not looking straight at him? It is often suggested that Jesus is in the process of transforming into his transcendent self and so he is not easily recognizable - as in the story of the catch of fish in chapter 21, or the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, cf., Lk.24:13ff. When it comes to the revelation of the risen Christ, Jesus takes the initiative.

eipousa (legw) aor. part. "at [this]" - [these things] having said. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal; "on saying this", Berkeley, "as she said this", Rieu.

eiV + acc. "[she turned] around - [she turned] into [the back]. Expressing the direction of the action, so "toward the back." The article ta serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb "back" into a substantive, "the back, the rear." So, she turned toward the back of her, behind her = "she turned around."

estwta (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing there" - [and she sees jesus] having stood there. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "Jesus", standing in a double accusative construction, and so asserts a fact about the object "Jesus", namely that Jesus is standing behind her. "She caught sight of Jesus standing there", Brown.

oJti "that [it was Jesus]" - [and = but she did not know] that [it is jesus]. Introducing a dependents statement of perception expressing what she did not know; "but she did not recognize him", REB.


Again we see another example of misunderstanding leading to enlightenment. Brown notes the theory of Kastner who suggests that the misunderstanding comes from the fact that Jesus has left his burial garments in the tomb and is now standing naked. That indeed would be confusing, if not startling! Bernard solves the problem, "The eye of love clothes the vision in familiar garments" - but surely only after she recognizes that it is Jesus !!!! And so it goes on .......

auth/ dat. pro. "[he asked] her" - [jesus says] to her [woman, why do you weep, whom do you seek?]. Dative of indirect object. The question "why are you crying?" is the same question the angels asked - Mary has nothing to cry about - and the question "who are you looking for?" is the same question Jesus asked the soldiers at the time of his arrest - Johannine irony??? "Lady, why do you weep? Whom are you looking for?", Rieu.

dokousa (dokew) pres. part. "thinking" - [that one] thinking, supposing, imagining. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal.

oJti "-" - that [he is the gardner, says to him]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Mary is thinking.

ei + ind. "if [you have carried him away]" - [lord = sir], if, as is the case [you carried = removed him then tell me where you put him and i will take him]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true. Mary assumes that the gardner has taken the body away. Note that su, "you", is emphatic by use, also the repeated use of auton, "him", rather than "his corpse, body" - the use is relational.


"The Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and they recognize his voice, 10:3", Barrett,

ekeinh pro. "she" - jesus said to her, mary] that one. The distant demonstrative pronoun is again used as a personal pronoun, as in v15, and again without any negative connotations.

strafeisa (strefw) aor. pas. part. "turned toward him" - turning [said to him in hebrew, my rabbi, which it says = which means, teacher]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say"; "she turned and said." Mary has already turned around, so what is this turning about? Cassirer has "turned toward him" - she now focuses on her gardener; Rieu has "facing him once more"; Phillips has "at this she turned right around"; Junkins has "jerking her face toward him." A variant for "turned" exists, namely "she recognized him" - Black accepts it. The translation of the Hebrew rabbouni, "my Rabbi", needs to be something stronger than "teacher" - Phillips has "Master"; Cassirer has "My Master." We would probably say something like "My Lord."


Jesus tells Mary not to aptou, "hold", him, and then explains that it is because "I am ascending to my Father." Both statements are replete with mystery; see Interpretation above.

mh .. aJptou (aJaptw) pres. imp. "do not hold [me]" - [jesus said to her] do not touch, hold [me]. The negated present imperative is often regarded as a command to cease an action already commenced, so Mary has taken hold of Jesus and he is telling her to let go. Yet, this puts too much weight on the grammar, and is not necessarily the case. Although the likely scenario is that she has fallen to the ground and taken hold of Jesus' feet in respectful devotion, John simply doesn't give us the details. So, Jesus could even be saying "don't even think of touching me." None-the-less, most translations go with "stop clinging to me."

gar "for" - because [not yet i have ascended toward the father]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus is telling Mary not to hold / touch him, namely, because he has not yet ascended (see possible meanings above). It is possible to understand the reason in the sense, "don't hold onto me gar, "because" (given that I have not yet ascended to the Father) you need to go and tell the brothers that I am about to ascend ......", ie., the time is short and Mary needs to get moving and tell rather rather than cling. See Zerwick #476.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a new instruction. An adversative sense in English conveys this step, as NIV, "but instead", although it is not really adversative.

autoiV dat. pro. "tell them" - [go toward the the brothers of me (the disciples) and say] to them. " Dative of indirect object.

anabainw pres. "I am ascending" - i am going up, ascending [toward the father of me and father of you and god of me and god of you.] It is likely that the present tense is futuristic, "I will be ascending"; "I am about to go up to him who is my Father", Cassirer.


iii] Mary passes on the good news to Jesus' disciples, v18. Mary's use of the title "Lord", "I have seen the Lord", rather than "Jesus", or even "My Master", serves as our Easter confession - "He is risen." She then passes on the message she was given for the disciple, namely that Jesus is about to ascend to the Father and take his rightful place at the Father's right hand as King of Kings, Lord of Lords - the day of glory is at hand.

aggellousa (aggellw) pres. part. "[went to the disciples] with the news" - [mary magdalene comes] announcing [to the disciples]. The NIV takes the participle as adverbial, modal, expressing manner, but it can also be treated as attendant on the verb "to come", "Mary Magdalene went and announced", ESV. Barrett notes that a future participle expressing purpose may be intended, given that future participles are redundant in Hellenistic Greek by this time.

oJti "that" - that [i have see the lord and that these things he said to her]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of direct speech expressing what she says, followed by an assumed oJti, "that", introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech referring to the other matter she was to report on, "these things", namely, "I am ascending to my Father .....", so Zerwick; "Mary announced to the disciples (oJti = that) 'I have seen the Lord', and reported (oJti = that) these things he said to her." "So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her", TEV.


John Introduction

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