VBS – Encounter at the Tomb – Day 4

JOHN 20:1-18

Do you look forward to that rare morning when you don’t have to set an alarm or fly out of bed before the sun is even up? And, why is it that on those rare mornings, every bird in the neighborhood decides to put on a command performance in the tree right outside your bedroom? I love the sound of birds singing, but what is up with that early morning concerto? Did you know there is a name for it? It’s called the “dawn chorus.” There are several theories about this phenomenon, but in general, it seems to center around the male birds showing their power to stake a claim to a certain territory. It’s sort of a “the night is over and I’m alive!” cry to the world.
On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, most of His followers were feeling frightened and alone. Yet in the predawn darkness, the soft crunch of footsteps could be heard headed to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. The John passage only mentions Mary Magdalene, however other Gospels list other women and Mary’s use of the word “we” in verse 2 indicates she was part of a group.
Considering that this is John’s version of what happened, it’s not surprising that his details involve those that impacted him directly. Mary Magdalene brought the news of the empty tomb to Peter and John, who raced off to see for themselves. John got to the tomb first and peered in. At this point the light of dawn was sufficient to see inside, and John described the linen burial cloths lying empty and made the special note that the head wrapping was folded up and placed separately from the rest. As John was noting this, Peter rushed past and ran straight into the tomb. John wrote that they “saw and believed” but “did not yet understand.” Isn’t this a great description of faith in Jesus? There is so much I believe and yet so much I don’t understand.
From a Jewish perspective, John covered a couple of significant points. Under Jewish law, there must be two witnesses for evidence to be considered admissible. Peter and John both saw the empty tomb. The fact that they “did not yet understand” what the resurrection meant was further evidence that they didn’t make up the story. Why would they make up facts about something that did not yet have significance to them? The neatly folded cloth also gave evidence to a careful sequence of events, not to grave robbers who would have more likely moved in haste.
After Peter and John left, Mary was still crying near the tomb. She stooped to look inside and saw two angels, one near the head of the burial shelf and one near the foot. The brief conversation is interesting. Rather than being startled that angels asked why she was crying, Mary was hyper focused on finding the body of her Lord. “They’ve taken away my Lord … and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.”
As she turned, a man was standing there who also asked why she was crying. It’s unclear why Mary did not immediately recognize Jesus. In some cases it appears that recognition only happens through divine revelation. Maybe she was crying so hard that everything was blurry. At any rate, Mary assumed the man was the gardener. (Who else would be working in the garden so early in the morning?)
Then Jesus spoke her name, “Mary.” I’m sure to Mary’s ears this was the sweetest “dawn chorus” ever heard. It was the Lord! The night was over and Jesus was alive!
Today’s bonus verse is John 14:6. Why is this verse important for today’s session?
Jesus appeared first to a woman and gave her the job of reporting His resurrection to the disciples. Why was this such a remarkable thing in that day and time?
Peter and John knew what Jesus had told them about His coming death and resurrection, yet it was hard for them to believe. Why do you think people still have a hard time believing?

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