Easter Sunday (C)
///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday
///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday
Click on chevron banner to open/close content
The 50 days of Easter
FR. PHIL BLOOM – It is important to remember that today is just the beginning of a season which will last for fifty days. We have seven full weeks until Pentecost Sunday on June 5, 2022. We do not need to take in everything this morning. It is enough to go the mouth of the sepulcher, to join the disciples peering into it. As our eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, we see that the tomb is empty. Perhaps we also feel some of their confusion and anxiety.
Gospel commentary excerpts from a variety of sources. Click on links to view original source material and/or read more.
Mary Magdala visits tomb (v 1)
Early in the morning
Sundown on the First day of the week (v 1)
SERMON WRITER – People believe that the dead person’s spirit remains in the vicinity of the tomb for three days, so they commonly visit the tomb during the first three days after burial. However, Sabbath regulations prohibit such visits on the Sabbath, so the earliest that Mary can visit is sundown on our Saturday evening, which ends the Sabbath and begins the first day of the week.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – “The first day of the week” for the Jews is the day we call “Sunday” (the seventh-day Sabbath (our Saturday) was the only day of the Jewish week that had a name). It was the “first day” because it was the first day of Creation (Saturday was day #7; therefore, day #1 was our Sunday). Resurrection Sunday became the first day of the New Creation in Christ!
As Catholics, we still observe the Old Covenant custom of beginning the next day at sunset; therefore, our Sunday Vigil Mass should occur at sundown on Saturday (unfortunately, this is not always strictly observed).
Clipart by Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000. Click image to view more clipart for this Sunday.
John’s “still dark” vs. Mark’s “sun had risen”
SERMON WRITER – Mark’s Gospel places this visit “very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,” John’s Gospel tells us that it is still dark… John’s Gospel has used the words “dark” and “darkness” several times, usually to speak of spiritual darkness (1:5; 3:9; 8:12; 12:35, 46). Perhaps John’s use of the word “dark” in verse 1 reflects the darkness of Mary’s understanding at this point. Jesus will switch on the light for her in verse 16, but for the moment her world is as dark as it can be.
CATHOLIC RESOURCES: Light and Darkness Symbols in John’s Gospel
Mary’s Shock (v 1c-2)
She sees the stone removed from the tomb, and runs to Peter…
Mary sees but fails to see
NAB NOTES – Mary sees the stone removed, not the empty tomb.
SERMON WRITER – She concludes, logically enough, that someone has taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. Perhaps it was the authorities visiting one further indignity on Jesus. Perhaps it was grave robbers. Imagine the emotional impact of finding the desecrated grave of a loved one. Mary has been grieving. Now she is shocked—horrified.
Mary goes to Peter & John
SERMON WRITER – Mary goes to Peter, in part, because he is a leader of the disciples. Also Peter (18:15-18, 25-27) and the beloved disciple (19:26-27) remained in the vicinity rather than fleeing with the other disciples, so they were witnesses to Jesus’ death.
“They have taken the Lord and we don’t know where”
Note the plural “we”
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Mary’s “we” confirms the Synoptic accounts that she was not alone, and other women came with her. Luke 24:10-11 records that Joanna and Mary of Clopas, the mother of James, went with her to tell the Apostles the news of Christ’s Resurrection. (see Mt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:10)
See the chart “Harmony of the Gospels: The Resurrection.”
Peter & John’s Confusion (v 3-4)
They run to the tomb
Superiority of Peter
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – If this “other disciple” is indeed St. John, he is a much younger man than St. Peter, and it is reasonable that he should run faster and arrive first.
He did not enter the tomb, however, because he recognized the priority and the superiority of Peter, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the “keys of the Kingdom” with authority over Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church (Mt 16:16-18). All the previous lists of the Apostles name Peter first followed by Andrew, and John follows James, his brother. However, from now on, when the Apostles are named, John comes immediately after Peter, who continues first in the lists (see Acts 1:13).
Tomb’s opening likely to the east
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY> – There must have been enough daylight for the two Apostles to see into the tomb’s interior, suggesting that the opening was to the east.
- There may be a connection to the instructions for God’s desert Tabernacle that the entrance was always to face toward the east (Ex 27:13; 38:13).
- The entrance gate to the Jerusalem Temple was also in the east, with the Sanctuary’s Holy of Holies in the Temple complex’s westernmost part.
All early Christian churches had an east-facing entrance, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
✍️ SENSES OF SCRIPTURE
Inside the Tomb (v 5-7)
Burial cloths rolled up
Jesus’ grave clothes
SERMON WRITER – The grave clothes serve three functions:
- They provide visual evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. The body is gone, but the grave clothes remind us that Jesus body was there.
- They provide evidence that Jesus’ body was not stolen. Grave robbers would not leave behind valuable linen cloth, and neither grave robbers nor Jewish authorities would take time to remove clothing from a body, delaying their escape and increasing the risk of discovery. Indeed, the orderly scene that John describes here is not what we would expect at the scene of a robbery or abduction.
- They serve a theological function. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus emerged from the tomb still wrapped in his burial clothes. Jesus had to command bystanders to free him so that Lazarus might resume his normal earthly life (11:38-44). However, when Jesus emerged from the tomb, he did so unencumbered.
John Saw and Believed (v 8-9)
But did not yet understand
John believed what?
FR. PAUL TURNER – When they saw that the body was missing and the burial cloths were left behind, the beloved disciple “believed.” But the next verse says that “they did not yet understand the Scripture that [Jesus] had to rise from the dead.” So, what did he believe? Some commentators, including Saint Augustine, thought that he believed what Mary Magdalene had told them; namely, someone had stolen the body. However, others say, no, the beloved disciple clearly believed in the resurrection based on the evidence he saw with his own eyes. He just had not yet understood all the scripture passages that could have prepared him for this day. He believed because of what he saw, not because of what he had read or heard.
Four Stages of Belief
LIFE APPLICATION BIBLE – People who hear about the resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story. Like Mary and the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.
- At first, they may think the story is a fabrication, impossible to believe (20:2).
- Like Peter, they may check out the facts and still be puzzled about what happened (20:6).
- Only when they encounter Jesus personally are they able to accept the fact of the resurrection (20:16).
- Then, as they commit themselves to the risen Lord and devote their lives to serving him, they begin to understand fully the reality of his presence with them (20:28).
Related Page: Discussion Questions
CROSS REFERENCES SOURCE: B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.).
1. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in.
6. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeing the linen clothes lie,
7. And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) The Sabbath being now over, during which it was unlawful to be there, Mary Magdalene could rest no longer, but came very early in the morning, to seek consolation at the grave: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. iii. 24) Mary Magdalene, undoubtedly the most fervent in love, of all the women that ministered to our Lord; so that John deservedly mentions her only, and says nothing of the others who were with her, as we know from the other Evangelists.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) Una sabbati is the day which Christians call the Lord’s day, after our Lord’s resurrection. Matthew calls it prima sabbati.
BEDE. Una sabbati, i. e. one day after the sabbath.
THEOPHYLACT. Or thus: The Jews called the days of the week sabbath, and the first day, one of the sabbaths, which day is a type of the life to come; for that life will be one day not cut short by any night, since God is the sun there, a sun which never sets. On this day then our Lord rose again, with an incorruptible body, even as we in the life to come shall put on incorruption.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evang. iii. 24.) What Mark says, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun (Mark 16:1), does not contradict John’s words, when it was yet dark. At the dawn of day, there are yet remains of darkness, which disappear as the light breaks in. We must not understand Mark’s words, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun, ἡλίου ἀνατεέλαντος to mean that the sun was above the horizon, but rather what we ourselves ordinarily mean by the phrase, when we want any thing to be done very early, we say at the rising of the sun, i. e. some time before the sun is risen.
GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xxii.) It is well said, When it was yet dark: Mary was seeking the Creator of all things in the tomb, and because, she found Him not, thought He was stolen. Truly it was yet dark when she came to the sepulchre.
AUGUSTINE. (Con. Evang. iii. 24) Now took place what Matthew only relates, the earthquake, and rolling away of the stone, and fright of the guards.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv. 4) Our Lord rose while the stone and seal were still on the sepulchre. But as it was necessary that others should be certified of this, the sepulchre is opened after the resurrection, and so the fact confirmed. This it was which roused Mary. For when she saw the stone taken away, she entered not nor looked in, but ran to the disciples with all the speed of love. But as yet she knew nothing for certain about the resurrection, but thought that His body had been carried off.
GLOSS. And therefore she ran to tell the disciples, that they might seek Him with her, or grieve with her: Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) This is the way in which he usually mentions himself. Jesus loved all, but him in an especial and familiar way. And saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.
GREGORY. (iii. Mor. ix.) She puts the part for the whole; she had come only to seek for the body of our Lord, and now she laments that our Lord, the whole of Him, is taken away.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) Some of the Greek copies have, taken away my Lord, which is more expressive of love, and of the feeling of an handmaiden. But only a few have this reading.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) The Evangelist does not deprive the woman of this praise, nor leaves out from shame, that they had the news first from her. As soon as they hear it, they hasten to the sepulchre.
GREGORY. (xxii. in Evang.) But Peter and John before the others, for they loved most; Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
THEOPHYLACT. But how came they to the sepulchre, while the soldiers were guarding it? an easy question to answer. After our Lord’s resurrection and the earthquake, and the appearance of the angel at the sepulchre, the guards withdrew, and told the Pharisees what had happened.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) After saying, came to the sepulchre, he goes back and tells us how they came: So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre; meaning himself, but he always speaks of himself, as if he were speaking of another person.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxv) On coming he sees the linen clothes set aside: And he slooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying. But he makes no further search: yet went he not in. Peter on the other hand, being of a more fervid temper, pursued the search, and examined every thing: Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Which circumstances were proof of His resurrection. For had they carried Him away, they would not have stripped Him; nor, if any had stolen Him, would they have taken the trouble to wrap up the napkin, and put it in a place by itself, apart from the linen clothes; but would have taken away the body as it was. John mentioned the myrrh first of all, for this reason, i. e. to shew you that He could not have been stolen away. For myrrh would make the linen adhere to the body, and so caused trouble to the thieves, and they would never have been so senseless as to have taken this unnecessary pains about the matter. After Peter however, John entered: Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. cxxii) i. e. That Jesus had risen again, some think: but what follows contradicts this notion. He saw the sepulchre empty, and believed what the woman had said: For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. If he did not yet know that He must rise again from the dead, he could not believe that He had risen. They had heard as much indeed from our Lord, and very openly, but they were so accustomed to hear parables from Him, that they took this for a parable, and thought He meant something else.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxii. in Evang.) But this account of the Evangelist1 must not be thought to be without some mystical meaning. By John, the younger of the two, the synagogue; by Peter, the elder, the Gentile Church is represented: for though the synagogue was before the Gentile Church as regards the worship of God, as regards time the Gentile world was before the synagogue. They ran together, because the Gentile world ran side by side with the synagogue from first to last, in respect of purity and community of life, though a purity and community of understanding2 they had not. The synagogue came first to the sepulchre, but entered not: it knew the commandments of the law, and had heard the prophecies of our Lord’s incarnation and death, but would not believe in Him who died. Then cometh Simon Peter, and enteredinto the sepulchre: the Gentile Church both knew Jesus Christ as dead man, and believed in Him as living God. The napkin about our Lord’s head is not found with the linen clothes, i. e. God, the Head of Christ, and the incomprehensible mysteries of the Godhead are removed from our poor knowledge; His power transcends the nature of the creature. And it is found not only apart, but also wrapped together; because of the linen wrapped together, neither beginning nor end is seen; and the height of the Divine nature had neither beginning nor end. And it is into one place: for where there is division, God is not; and they merit His grace, who do not occasion scandal by dividing themselves into sects. But as a napkin is what is used in labouring to wipe the sweat of the brow, by the napkin here we may understand the labour of God: which napkin is found apart, because the suffering of our Redeemer is far removed from ours; inasmuch as He suffered innocently, that which we suffer justly; He submitted Himself to death voluntarily, we by necessity. But after Peter entered, John entered too; for at the end of the world even Judæa shall be gathered in to the true faith.
THEOPHYLACT. Or thus: Peter is practical and prompt, John contemplative and intelligent, and learned in divine things. Now the contemplative man is generally beforehand in knowledge and intelligence, but the practical by his fervour and activity gets the advance of the other’s perception, and sees first into the divine mystery.