1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance.
2 She went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 Then Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb.
4 The two of them were running, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first.
5 He bent over and saw the linen wrappings, but he did not go in.
6 Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there
7 and the cloth which had been round Jesus’s head. It was not lying with the linen wrappings but was rolled up by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death.)
Other readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4
This is a compelling narrative. Jesus’s body has disappeared and Mary Magdalene is first on the scene. You can read about her encounter with Jesus in the verses following today’s reading. This passage focuses mainly on the two disciples, Peter and another whom tradition identifies as the Apostle John.
The narrator tells us that John believes Jesus is risen as soon as he sees the abandoned linen in the grave. What causes John to believe Jesus is alive? Some commentators believe it was the folding of the grave clothes in a particular style – Jesus’s style, one that John recognised. Whoever had done this was not dead but alive. Surely this must be Jesus. This is John’s first encounter with the risen Christ.
Did John share his belief with Peter? We don’t know. All we are told is that the disciples still did not understand the Scripture which said Jesus must rise from the dead. This would soon change. But for each person it was a slightly different experience.
Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the other disciples meet Jesus face to face in the verses following today’s reading in John’s account. The eyewitness accounts of these disciples are fundamental to the faith of Christians. They knew that Jesus died on the Cross. They knew precisely where he was buried and each personally met the risen Christ. These encounters with the risen Lord confirmed their belief that he was indeed who he said he was – the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
Picture yourself on that first morning after Jesus’s crucifixion. Waking up, trying to eat and drink, and going with Mary Magdalene or Peter and John to the tomb. What would you think and feel? And by contrast, how would you feel going to bed that night?
Think about how you might explain to a friend who doesn’t follow Jesus why the events that took place that first Easter are still so important today.
Easter Sunday is one of the most joyful in the Church calendar. The words of the other Gospel writers – “He is not here; he has been raised” (Matthew 28:6) – echo down the centuries. Bring your own praise and express your joy and thanks to God. Use the verses from Psalm 118 to help you.
“You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right-hand side of God.” Colossians 3:1-4 tells us that in Christ we have experienced our own “resurrection” into a new spiritual life. Spend some time reflecting on what it means to have your life “hidden with Christ in God” and setting your heart and mind on heaven instead of earthly concerns.
Lectio divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition © 1992 American Bible Society, New York