Ultimately a book that does not deliver is disappointing and frustrating. A bad ending can ruin a great book.
Imagine if the end of the Gospel of John was chapter 19. Think about how dissatisfied you would be as a reader (and we as humanity). How disappointed would you be as a believer? Would you even be a believer? I wonder up to this point if the disciples who followed Jesus for the past 3 ½ years were staring at the lifeless body of Jesus hanging on the cross and thought, “What a waste of time.” At this point in their lives this was the conclusion to the story. It was over. Everything they were taught, believed and even fought for was seemingly thrown out the window. Jesus talked about eternal life, the abundant life and ushering in the Kingdom of God and there he hung lifeless on the cross. Thankfully, the story does not end here. In so many ways it is just the beginning. If the Gospel of John ended with chapter 19 then this book of the Bible could not be called the Gospel of John because the word Gospel means good news. A dead Jesus in a tomb is not good news. A risen Jesus who has ascended to the Father is Good News. In these remaining chapters we see the disciples will finally get the purpose behind all that has happened up to this point. They will see this story does have a happy ending and it ultimately ends as any good and satisfying story does, “And they lived (or will live) happily ever after."
Read John 20:1 – 10
This is the first day of the week the day after the Sabbath. The Sabbath began around 6 pm Friday and ended around 6 pm Saturday. It was early Sunday morning so it was still dark out. Mary Magdalene was at the tomb of Jesus (with other women). John does not mention these other women but the other three Gospels do and they were there to tend to the body of Jesus. This is a beautiful picture of Mary Magdalene's devotion to Jesus; even in death she care for and loved Jesus. When Mary approached the tomb she noticed the large stone had been rolled away from the opening. The tomb had been under guard by order of Pontius Pilate and it was sealed with the seal of authority of Pilate. She was concerned because she thought the body of Jesus had been stolen. She immediately went and found Peter and John.
Peter and John heard this news and immediately ran to the tomb. John felt it was important to tell the readers that he was faster than Peter. We are not sure why the detail is there but I find it curious and funny as I wondered if the two of them had a little bit of a competitive edge to them. They reached the tomb; John bent down and looked in and noticed the burial clothes were in tatters. Peter shows up later and pushes past John and goes into the tomb. In most instances the tomb opening was only 3 feet high. A grown adult would probably have to crawl in through the opening. Peter went in and he noticed the burial clothes were there in shambles but the face clothe (kind of like a handkerchief) was not with the rest of the clothes but folded in its own separate place. John went in after Peter and upon seeing the empty tomb verse 8 says, “He saw and believed.” Peter and John investigated for a bit and then they went back home. Maybe they were perplexed, maybe they were concerned or maybe they just needed time to digest what they just witnessed.
The Significance of the Resurrection
What is the significance of the resurrection? I would encourage you to read I Corinthians 15 to get a full understanding it. The reality for Christians is we put everything into the fact that Jesus Christ not only died on a cross but he also rose from the dead. The death of Jesus is essential to our Christian faith (without it atonement cannot be made) however we cannot stop with his death. The story does not end there. Good Friday is not the main point of Easter.
- Without the resurrection the plan of salvation is not complete.
- Without the resurrection there is no Gospel (Good News).
- Without the resurrection our faith is useless and empty (I Cor. 15:14 – 18).
- Without the resurrection we cannot be born again. (I Peter 1:3)
- Without the resurrection of Jesus we cannot receive resurrection of life after we die.
According to Romans 1:4 The Spirit/God publicly declares Jesus as divine by his resurrection and scripture also tells us that he has always been divine. We must always remember Jesus did not become the Son of God after he rose from the dead he always has been the Son of God from eternity past, present and future. The text implies here that Jesus was publicly declared the Son of God through the resurrection. The resurrection was his declaration of who he is. We now can accept, acknowledge and draw near to God as a result of the resurrection of Christ.
I have heard this question asked many times, “How can you be sure Jesus rose from the dead?” There are various accounts of Jesus’ appearances to people throughout the New Testament. I Corinthians 15:5 - 7 says that Jesus appeared to all of the disciples, to 500 brothers at one time and he also appeared to James (Jesus' brother) and all of the Apostles.
Just like a good story needs a conclusion a sermon needs a conclusion. When concluding one question I always ask is, “How does this passage/topic apply to us today?” What can we take home with us? The answer is quite simple… We can take with us hope. We can take with us the understanding that this life is indeed precious and we must live our lives in abundance for the Lord here on earth but also this life is not all we have. If you truly believe the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ then we have more to look forward to in this life and in life after we die. Last night I spent a few moments with a woman who is at the final phase of her life, the cancer has seemingly won and I know there is fear in the unknown. However I also know that when one has faith in Jesus one can face death without reservation. I was thinking on my way home, “It’s just a matter of time and this woman will be in the eternal presence of Jesus.” I couldn’t help but being a bit envious but the Lord has given to me another day to live here on this earth. Knowing that Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can live, die and rise again gives me strength, faith and the desire to live fully for Him because he died willingly for His children so they may have life and have it abundantly.