John 20:1
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.
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(1) For the visit of the women to the sepulchre, and their announcement to the disciples (John 20:1-2), comp. generally Notes on Matthew 28:1-4; Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:1-4; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:1-3; Luke 24:9-11. Each of the three narratives separates the return from the visit by an account of the appearance of the angels at the sepulchre.

The first day of the week.—The same phrase occurs in Luke 24:1.

Cometh Mary Magdalene.—St. Matthew has, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary;” St. Mark has, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome;” St. Luke has, “The women which had come with Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:55), and enumerates them in Luke 24:10, as “Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the others with them.” St. John speaks of only one of the group, who was specially prominent.

And seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.—This fact is made emphatic in all the accounts. See especially Luke 24:2.



John 20:1 - John 20:18

John’s purpose in his narrative of the resurrection is not only to establish the fact, but also to depict the gradual growth of faith in it, among the disciples. The two main incidents in this passage, the visit of Peter and John to the tomb and the appearance of our Lord to Mary, give the dawning of faith before sight and the rapturous faith born of sight. In the remainder of the chapter are two more instances of faith following vision, and the teaching of the whole is summed up in Christ’s words to the doubter, ‘Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed!’

I. The open sepulchre and the bewildered alarm it excited.

The act of resurrection took place before sunrise. ‘At midnight,’ probably, ‘the Bridegroom came.’ It was fitting that He who was to scatter the darkness of the grave should rise while darkness covered the earth, and that no eye should behold ‘how’ that dead was ‘raised up.’ The earthquake and the descent of angels and the rolling away of the stone were after the tomb was empty.

John’s note of time seems somewhat earlier than that of the other Gospels, but is not so much so as to require the supposition that Mary preceded the other women. She appears alone here, because the reason for mentioning her at all is to explain how Peter and John knew of the empty tomb, and she alone had been the informant. In these Eastern lands, ‘as it began to dawn,’ ‘very early at the rising of the sun,’ and ‘while it was yet dark,’ are times very near each other, and Mary may have reached the sepulchre a little before the others. Her own words, ‘We know not,’ show that she had spoken with others who had seen the empty grave. We must therefore suppose that she had with the others come to it, seen that the sacred corpse was gone and their spices useless, exchanged hurried words of alarm and bewilderment, and then had hastened away before the appearance of the angels.

The impulse to tell the leaders of the forlorn band the news, which she thinks to be so bad, was womanly and natural. It was not hope, but wonder and sorrow that quickened her steps as she ran through the still morning to find them. Whether they were in one house or not is uncertain; but, at all events, Peter’s denial had not cut him off from his brethren, and the two who were so constantly associated before and afterwards were not far apart that morning. The disciple who had stood by the Cross to almost the last had an open heart, and probably an open house for the denier. ‘Restore such an one, . . . considering thyself.’

Mary had seen the tomb empty, and springs to the conclusion that ‘they’-some unknown persons-have taken away the dead body, which, with clinging love that tries to ignore death, she still calls ‘the Lord.’ Possibly she may have thought that the resting-place in Joseph’s new sepulchre was only meant for temporary shelter {ver. 15}. At all events the corpse was gone, and the fact suggested no hope to her. How often do we, in like manner, misinterpret as dark what is really pregnant with light, and blindly attribute to ‘them’ what Jesus does! A tone of mind thus remote from anticipation of the great fact is a precious proof of the historical truth of the resurrection; for here was no soil in which hallucinations would spring, and such people would not have believed Him risen unless they had seen Him living.

II. Peter and John at the tomb, the dawning of faith, and the continuance of bewildered wonder.

In the account, we may observe, first, the characteristic conduct of each of the two. Peter is first to set out, and John follows, both men doing according to their kind. The younger runs faster than his companion. He looked into the tomb, and saw the wrappings lying; but the reverent awe which holds back finer natures kept him from venturing in. Peter is not said to have looked before entering. He loved with all his heart, but his love was impetuous and practical, and he went straight in, and felt no reason why he should pause. His boldness encouraged his friend, as the example of strong natures does. Some of my readers will recall Bushnell’s noble sermon on ‘Unconscious Influence’ from this incident, and I need say no more about it.

Observe, too, the further witness of the folded grave-clothes. John from outside had not seen the napkin, lying carefully rolled up apart from the other cloths. It was probably laid in a part of the tomb invisible from without. But the careful disposal of these came to him, when he saw them, with a great flash of illumination. There had been no hurried removal.

Here had been no hostile hands, or there would not have been this deliberation; nor friendly hands, or there would not have been such dishonour to the sacred dead as to carry away the body nude. What did it mean? Could He Himself have done for Himself what He had bade them do for Lazarus? Could He have laid aside the garments of the grave as needing them no more? ‘They have taken away’-what if it were not ‘they’ but He? No trace of hurry or struggle was there. He did ‘not go out with haste, nor go by flight,’ but calmly, deliberately, in the majesty of His lordship over death, He rose from His slumber and left order in the land of confusion.

Observe, too, the birth of the Apostle’s faith. John connects it with the sight of the folded garments. ‘Believed’ here must mean more than recognition of the fact that the grave was empty. The next clause seems to imply that it means belief in the resurrection. The scripture, which they ‘knew’ as scripture, was for John suddenly interpreted, and he was lifted out of the ignorance of its meaning, which till that moment he had shared with his fellow-disciples. Their failure to understand Christ’s frequent distinct prophecies that He would rise again the third day has been thought incredible, but is surely intelligible enough if we remember how unexampled such a thing was, and how marvellous is our power of hearing and yet not hearing the plainest truth. We all in the course of our lives are lost in astonishment when things befall us which we have been plainly told will befall. The fulfilment of all divine promises {and threatenings} is a surprise, and no warnings beforehand teach one tithe so clearly as experience.

John believed, but Peter still was in the dark. Again the former had outrun his friend. His more sensitive nature, not to say his deeper love-for that would be unjust, since their love differed in quality more than in degree-had gifted him with a more subtle and swifter-working perception. Perhaps if Peter’s heart had not been oppressed by his sin, he would have been readier to feel the sunshine of the wonderful hope. We condemn ourselves to the shade when we deny our Lord by deed or word.

III. The first appearance of the Lord, and revelation of the new form of intercourse.

Nothing had been said of Mary’s return to the tomb; but how could she stay away? The disciples might go, but she lingered, woman-like, to indulge in the bitter-sweet of tears. Eyes so filled are more apt to see angels. No wonder that these calm watchers, in their garb of purity and joy, had not been seen by the two men. The laws of such appearance are not those of ordinary optics. Spiritual susceptibility and need determine who shall see angels, and who shall see but the empty place. Wonder and adoration held these bright forms there. They had hovered over the cradle and stood by the shepherds at Bethlehem, but they bowed in yet more awestruck reverence at the grave, and death revealed to them a deeper depth of divine love.

The presence of angels was a trifle to Mary, who had only one thought-the absence of her Lord. Surely that touch in her unmoved answer, as if speaking to men, is beyond the reach of art. She says ‘My Lord’ now, and ‘I know not,’ but otherwise repeats her former words, unmoved by any hope caught from John. Her clinging love needed more than an empty grave and folded clothes arid waiting angels to stay its tears, and she turned indifferently and wearily away from the interruption of the question to plunge again into her sorrow. Chrysostom suggests that she ‘turned herself’ because she saw in the angels’ looks that they saw Christ suddenly appearing behind her; but the preceding explanation seems better. Her not knowing Jesus might be accounted for by her absorbing grief. One who looked at white-robed angels, and saw nothing extraordinary, would give but a careless glance at the approaching figure, and might well fail to recognise Him. But probably, as in the case of the two travellers to Emmaus, her ‘eyes were holden,’ and the cause of non-recognition was not so much a change in Jesus as an operation on her.

Be that as it may, it is noteworthy that His voice, which was immediately to reveal Him, at first suggested nothing to her; and even His gentle question, with the significant addition to the angels’ words, in ‘Whom seekest thou?’ which indicated His knowledge that her tears fell for some person dear and lost, only made her think of Him as being ‘the gardener,’ and therefore probably concerned in the removal of the body. If He were so, He would be friendly; and so she ventured her pathetic petition, which does not name Jesus {so full is her mind of the One, that she thinks everybody must know whom she means}, and which so overrated her own strength in saying, ‘I will take Him away,’ The first words of the risen Christ are on His lips yet to all sad hearts. He seeks our confidences, and would have us tell Him the occasions of our tears. He would have us recognise that all our griefs and all our desires point to one Person-Himself-as the one real Object of our ‘seeking,’ whom finding, we need weep no more.

Verse 16 tells us that Mary turned herself to see Him when He next spoke, so that, at the close of her first answer to Him, she must have once more resumed her gaze into the tomb, as if she despaired of the newcomer giving the help she had asked.

Who can say anything about that transcendent recognition, in which all the stooping love of the risen Lord is smelted into one word, and the burst of rapture, awe, astonishment, and devotion pours itself through the narrow channel of one other? If this narrative is the work of some anonymous author late in the second century, he is indeed a ‘Great Unknown,’ and has managed to imagine one of the two or three most pathetic ‘situations’ in literature. Surely it is more reasonable to suppose him no obscure genius, but a well-known recorder of what he had seen, and knew for fact. Christ’s calling by name ever reveals His loving presence. We may be sure that He knows us by name, and we should reply by the same swift cry of absolute submission as sprung to Mary’s lips. ‘Rabboni! Master!’ is the fit answer to His call.

But Mary’s exclamation was imperfect in that it expressed the resumption of no more than the old bond, and her gladness needed enlightenment. Things were not to be as they had been. Christ’s ‘Mary!’ had indeed assured her of His faithful remembrance and of her present place in His love; but when she clung to His feet she was seeking to keep what she had to learn to give up. Therefore Jesus, who invited the touch which was to establish faith and banish doubt {Luke 24:39; John 20:27}, bids her unclasp her hands, and gently instils the ending of the blessed past by opening to her the superior joys of the begun future. His words contain for us all the very heart of our possible relation to Him, and teach us that we need envy none who companied with Him here. His ascension to the Father is the condition of our truest approach to Him. His prohibition encloses a permission. ‘Touch Me not! for I am not yet ascended,’ implies ‘When I am, you may.’

Further, the ascended Christ is still our Brother. Neither the mystery of death nor the impending mystery of dominion broke the tie. Again, the Resurrection is the beginning of Ascension, and is only then rightly understood when it is considered as the first upward step to the throne. ‘I ascend,’ not ‘I have risen, and will soon leave you,’ as if the Ascension only began forty days after on Olivet. It is already in process. Once more the ascended Christ, our Brother still, and capable of the touch of reverent love, is yet separated from us by the character, even while united to us by the fact, of His filial and dependent relation to God. He cannot say ‘Our Father’ as if standing on the common human ground. He is ‘Son’ as we are not, and we are ‘sons’ through Him, and can only call God our Father because He is Christ’s.

Such were the immortal hopes and new thoughts which Mary hastened from the presence of her recovered Lord to bring to the disciples. Fragrant though but partially understood, they were like half-opened blossoms from the tree of life planted in the midst of that garden, to bloom unfading, and ever disclosing new beauty in believing hearts till the end of time.

John 20:1-9. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene alone early, when it was yet dark — See notes on Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; where the circumstance of John’s mentioning only Mary Magdalene as visiting the sepulchre, is accounted for, and explained at large. And seeth — With the other women, mentioned by the three other evangelists; the stone taken away from the sepulchre — And that the tomb was open. Probably, in consequence of the distinguished ardour of her affection for her dear Lord and Master, she had advanced a little way before the others, and therefore first discovered that the stone was removed. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter — That is, after she and the other women had entered into the sepulchre, had made search for the body there, and had not found it, (Luke 24:3,) but before she and they had seen the angels, who informed them that he was risen: for after that it is very improbable that she should speak as the evangelist says she did to Peter, in the next words, They have taken away the Lord, &c., and we know not where they have laid him. Peter, therefore — Upon hearing that the stone was removed, and the body gone; went forth, and that other disciple — Immediately, and made all possible haste to the sepulchre, to satisfy themselves whether what was told them was a fact, and to see if they could make any further discoveries. Some think the other disciples were with Peter and John, when Mary gave them this information; but it seems more probable that she told it only to them; at least, it is evident that only these two went to the sepulchre. So they ran both together — Being eager and anxious to have their doubts cleared up. And the other disciple — John, being probably the younger man; outran Peter, and came first to the sepulchre — He did not, however, go in, perhaps being afraid; he only stooped down; and saw the linen clothes lying — Or rollers which had been about Christ’s body. Then cometh Simon Peter — Following him very quickly; and went into the sepulchre — Without hesitation; and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, &c. — And that in such regular order as fully satisfied him that the body had not been taken away in a hasty manner, by persons who feared being interrupted or detected. Doubtless, the angels who ministered to him, when he rose, folded up the napkin and the linen clothes, and laid them in this order. Then went in also that other disciple — Who, being less adventurous than Peter, had hitherto stood without; and he saw — That the body was not there; and believed — That it had been taken away, as Mary had told them. Thus Grotius, Bengelius, Wesley, Macknight, Campbell, and most commentators understand the clause, which sense certainly the next words favour. Whitby, however, and Doddridge, view it in a different light. “Peter,” says the former, “only saw and admired what was done; (Luke 24:12;) but John saw and believed, not the words of Mary, for we find not that either of them suspected her of falsehood, but the resurrection of Jesus, or the words of Christ, After three days I will rise again. This, John saith, was the reason of his faith, not the predictions of the Old Testament; for, as for the apostles, (John 20:9,) as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Dr. Doddridge speaks to the same purpose. “I understand it,” says he, “as a modest intimation, that he, (John,) first indeed of all others, believed the truth of Christ’s resurrection, inferring it, as he reasonably mighty from the order in which he found the sepulchre. The words,” adds he, “have a force and grace in this interpretation, which I think no other can give them.” In consistency with this view of the passage, he translates and paraphrases the next verse as follows. “For hitherto they did not know, or had not known, as ουδεπω ηδεισαν properly means; the full meaning of the various intimations of Scripture, to which Jesus had so often referred, to convince them that he must certainly rise from the dead; which if they had considered, they would cheerfully have expected the accomplishment of them, and would not have been so much surprised at the news which Mary brought them.”

Whichever be the sense of the clause, it must, at least, be acknowledged, that the circumstances of which these two disciples were now spectators “were very awakening, and very proper to prepare their minds for something extraordinary, since nothing but the resurrection of Jesus could, in right reason, be concluded from them. The body, they saw, was gone; but by whom could it be taken away, and for what purpose? Not by friends; for then, in all probability, they would have known something about it. Not by Jews; for they had nothing to do with it. Pilate, to whom alone the disposal of it belonged, as the body of a malefactor executed by his orders, had given it to his disciples, who laid it in the sepulchre but two days before: and wherefore should they remove it again so soon? Not to bury it; for in that case they would not have left the linen clothes or winding-sheet, and the napkin, folded up behind them. Whoever, therefore, had removed the body, they could not have done it with a design to bury it, and yet no other purpose for the removal of it could be imagined. Besides, it must have been removed in the night by stealth, and consequently in a hurry. How then came the winding-sheet and napkin to be folded up, and disposed in so orderly a manner in the sepulchre? Add to this, that the stone was very large; and therefore many people must have been concerned in this transaction; not one of whom was there to give an answer to any such questions. These, and such like reflections, could not but rise in their minds, and these difficulties could not but dispose them to expect some extraordinary event; especially as they knew the life of Jesus was a life of miracles, and that his death was attended with prodigies and wonders; all which would now come crowding into their memories.” Still, however, they did not understand from the prophets, that the Messiah was to rise again from the dead: on the contrary, they supposed them to have predicted that he should not die, but abide for ever; which was an additional cause of perplexity to them, and an obstacle to their believing Jesus was risen. See West.

20:1-10 If Christ gave his life a ransom, and had not taken it again, it would not have appeared that his giving it was accepted as satisfaction. It was a great trial to Mary, that the body was gone. Weak believers often make that the matter of complaint, which is really just ground of hope, and matter of joy. It is well when those more honoured than others with the privileges of disciples, are more active than others in the duty of disciples; more willing to take pains, and run hazards, in a good work. We must do our best, and neither envy those who can do better, nor despise those who do as well as they can, though they come behind. The disciple whom Jesus loved in a special manner, and who therefore in a special manner loved Jesus, was foremost. The love of Christ will make us to abound in every duty more than any thing else. He that was behind was Peter, who had denied Christ. A sense of guilt hinders us in the service of God. As yet the disciples knew not the Scripture; they Christ must rise again from the dead.For an account of the resurrection of Christ, see the notes at Matthew 28.CHAPTER 20

Joh 20:1-18. Mary's Visit to the Sepulchre, and Return to It with Peter and John—Her Risen Lord Appears to Her.

1, 2. The first day … cometh Mary Magdalene early, &c.—(See on [1914]Mr 16:1-4; and Mt 28:1, 2).

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—Dear disciple! thy dead Lord is to thee "the Lord" still.John 20:1-10 Mary Magdalene, seeing the stone taken away from the

sepulchre, runneth to tell Peter and John, who go

thither, and find not the body.

John 20:11-18 Mary seeth two angels sitting in the sepulchre;

Jesus himself appeareth to her.

John 20:19-23 He appeareth to his disciples.

John 20:24,25 The incredulity of Thomas.

John 20:26-29 Jesus appeareth again to the disciples, and

satisfieth the doubts of Thomas; who confesseth him.

John 20:30,31 The sufficiency of what is written for a ground of


Chapter Introduction

The evangelist St. John giving a fuller account than the other evangelists of Christ’s resurrection, and his converse upon the earth forty days, until he ascended up into heaven, we have in our notes on the other evangelists been shorter, reserving ourselves for a fuller account of it till we should come to these two last chapters of this evangelist.

Matthew saith, In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; he also mentions another Mary in company with Mary Magdalene. Mark tells us that other Mary was the mother of James and Salome. Luke saith, they came, referring to the women which came with him from Galilee, Luke 23:55. For the time, Luke saith it was upon the first day of the week; Mark saith it was when the sabbath was past; our evangelist saith it was when it was yet dark; so that Matthew’s oqe de sabbatwn, which we translate, in the end of the sabbath, must be interpreted by Mark, when the sabbath was past; and indeed Matthew plainly expounds himself, adding, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; which must be seven or eight hours after the Jewish sabbath was ended, for that ended with the setting of the sun the night before. The other evangelists tell us, that the design of their coming was to show their last act of love, in anointing or embalming the body of Jesus; for which purpose they had bought materials the night wherein he was crucified, but rested on the sabbath day, which ending about sunset, probably they slept some hours, and early in the morning, in the twilight, they come with their spices. Hence appears, that there is no contradiction at all between the four evangelists about the time of these women’s coming to the sepulchre. Matthew saith it was about the dawning of the first day of the week; Mark saith it was when the sabbath was past; Luke saith it was upon the first day of the week; so saith John: which would make one admire that so many words should have been spent by divines in untying a knot here, where there is indeed none. Though John, in his history of our Saviour’s burial, saith nothing of any stone rolled to the mouth of the sepulchre; yet Matthew doth; and of the Jews’ sealing of it, and setting a watch, Matthew 27:64-66. Mark (Mark 16:3) tells us also, that these women were thoughtful as they came, who should roll the stone away; and Matthew also tells us how it came rolled away, viz. by an angel. John saith nothing but that the stone was rolled away. So then the history runs thus: Early on the first day of the week an angel, in a glorious appearance, (described by Mark), cometh down, rolleth away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and Christ ariseth: soon after, these women came with spices, and were thoughtful as they came who should roll away the stone; but when they came to the sepulchre they found that, as to that, their cares were needless, for the stone was rolled away to their hands.

The first day of the week,.... On the sixth day of the week, towards the close of it, Christ was interred; he lay in the grave all the seventh day, and on the first day of the week rose from the dead: so the women, after they had observed where the body was laid, went home and prepared spices and ointments, to anoint it; but the sabbath coming on, they were prevented; on which they rested, according to the Jewish law: but as soon as it was over,

cometh Mary Magdalene; not alone, but other women with her; who had attended Christ at the cross, observed where he was buried, and had prepared spices to anoint him, and now came for that purpose; for not merely to see the sepulchre, and weep at the grave, did she with the rest come, but to perform this piece of funeral service:

early, when it was yet dark; as it was when she set out, the day just began to dawn; though by that time she got to the sepulchre, the sun was rising:

unto the sepulchre; where she saw the body of Jesus laid by Joseph, in a tomb of his, and in his garden; by whose leave, it is probable, being asked over night, she with her companions were admitted:

and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre: which Joseph rolled there, and the Pharisees sealed and set a watch to observe it. This was removed by an angel; for though Christ himself could easily have done it, it was proper it should be done by a messenger from heaven, by the order of divine justice, who had laid him as a prisoner there. Mary's coming so early to the grave, shows her great love and affection to Christ, her zeal, courage, and diligence, in manifesting her respect unto him: and oftentimes so it is, that the greatest sinners, when converted, are most eminent for grace, particularly faith, love, and humility; and are most diligent in the discharge of duty.

The {1} 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.

(1) Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, are the first witnesses of the resurrection, and these cannot justly be suspected, for they themselves could hardly be persuaded of it; therefore, they would obviously not invent such a story on purpose.

John 20:1-2. On the designation of the first day of the week by μία τῶν σαββ., as well as on the irreconcilable deviation of John,[259] who (“for brevity’s sake!” Hengstenberg, indeed, thinks) makes only Mary Magdalene go to the grave, from the Synoptics, see on Matthew 28:1. Of a hastening beforehand on the part of Mary, in advance of the remaining women (Luthardt, Lange, Ewald), there is no trace in the text. But when Luthardt even is of opinion that John, from the point of view of placing over against the consummation of Jesus Himself the perfecting of the disciples’ faith, could not well have mentioned the other women (why not?), this would be a very doubtful consideration in reference to the historical truth of the apostle; just as doubtful, if he left other women without mention only for the reason that he heard the first intelligence from the mouth of the Magdalene (Tholuck). The reason, borrowed from οἴδαμεν, for the supposed plurality of the women is abundantly outweighed by ΟἾΔΑ, John 20:13.

ΣΚΟΤΊΑς ἜΤΙ ΟὔΣΗς] Consequently not first after sunrise, Mark 16:2. See in loc. “Ostenditur mulieris sedulitas,” Grotius.

εἰς τ. μνημ.] to the grave; comp. John 11:31; John 11:38.

ἐκ τοῦ μνημ.] The stone had filled the opening of the grave outwards.

καὶ πρὸς, κ.τ.λ.] From the repetition of ΠΡΌς, Bengel infers: “non una fuisse utrumque discipulum.” But comp. John 20:3, and see, generally, Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 293 f. [E. T. p. 3.40 ff.]; comp. also Kuhner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 2. 52, i. 3. 3.

ὃν ἐφίλει] Comp. John 11:3, of Lazarus. Elsewhere of John: ὋΝ ἨΓΆΠΑ, John 19:26, John 21:7; John 21:20. With ἘΦΊΛΕΙ the recollection speaks with more feeling.

ΟἼΔΑΜΕΝ] The plur. does not presuppose that Mary had gone not alone to the grave, which is opposed to the account of John, but in her excitement she includes also the disciples, with whom she was speaking, and generally those also who stood nearer to the Crucified One, along with herself, although they as yet knew nothing of the removal itself. She speaks with a certain self-forgetfulness, from the consciousness of fellowship, in opposition to the parties to whom she attributes the ᾖραν. Note, further, how the possibility of having arisen remains as yet entirely remote from her mind. Not a word of any angelic communication (Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4 ff., Luke 24:23), etc., which some, of course, seek prudently to cover by an intention on John’s part to be concise (see especially Hengstenberg).

The harmonists, who make Mary to have only hastened on before the rest of the women, must lead them to Peter and John by another way than that which she followed. But surely it would have been most natural for her, in the first instance, to run to meet her companions who were following her, with the marvellous news, which, however, with Ewald, who makes the plur. οἴδαμεν indicate this, could only be read between the lines.

[259] In no section of the evangelical history have harmonists, with their artificial mosaic work, been compelled to expend more labour, and with less success, than in the section on the resurrection. The adjustment of the differences between John and the Synoptics, as also between the latter amongst themselves, is impossible, but the grand fact itself and the chief traits of the history stand all the more firmly.

John 20:1-10. The empty tomb.

1–10. The first Evidence of the Resurrection

1. The first day] Better, But on the first day; literally, ‘day one.’ We have the same expression Luke 24:1.

the stone taken away] All four Gospels note the displacement of the stone; S. Mark alone notes the placing of it and S. Matthew the sealing. The words ‘taken away from’ should rather be lifted out of: the Synoptists all speak of ‘rolling away’ the stone.

John 20:1. Εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον) unto the sepulchre.—τὸν λίθον, the stone) which had been rolled to the mouth of it, according to custom: ch. John 11:38 [Lazarus’ tomb, which was “a cave”].

Verses 1-31. - 2. The complete glorification of Jesus in his resurrection. The record pauses for the awful day of that great sabbath, and resumes the marvelous recital when the greatest event in the history of the world is assumed and asserted to have taken place. Heathen and foes admit the fact of the death of Jesus; the evidence is overwhelming, multiform, sufficient to establish itself to the ordinary reason of mankind. It is a matter of indubitable history. The proof was given to all the world; but it is otherwise with the fact of the anastasis of Jesus. That stupendous event was revealed to the eye and mind of faith by a series of communications, which afford to different classes, groups, kinds, and states of mind specimens of the manner and quality of the resurrection-life. "Many infallible proofs" wrought (as St. Luke says, Acts 1.) irresistible conviction as to the reality of the Resurrection. The Church of Christ was originated by a faith in this new and transcendental mode of existence. A generation of men passed, scores of communities were called into being throughout Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Lybia, Asia Minor, Achaia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Crete, and even in Italy and the capital of the Roman empire, all of them held together by the life-giving conviction of the reality of a world of spiritual body, into which the redeemed enter. Of this reality the resurrection-life of Christ was the type, the proof, the first fruit, and the earnest. This most astounding fact was preached in Galatia and Macedonia, in Corinth and Rome, in Babylon and Alexandria, before one word of the Gospels had been put on parchment. When the preaching of the apostles was reduced to written form, it was not with the idea of recording a fully detailed or easily harmonizable account of the Easter Day, or of providing rational, or juridical, or historic evidence of the method or order of the great events, but rather to provide five independent series of evidences to the revelations which the apostles and apostolic company received of the nature and quality of the new life for humanity which had now begun. Several details of profound interest occur in the synoptic narrative, concerning which John is silent - such e.g. as the rolling of a stone to the door of the sepulcher, the sealing of the stone by the Roman guard, the resurrection-appearances of the saints, the special preparation made by the women for further embalmment on the following days the great earthquake, the two companies of women that resorted to the sepulcher at successive intervals of time, and the different signs and even appearances by which their timorous hope was quickened into an adoring homage and world-compelling faith. Though John does not recite these well-known narratives, he presupposes some of them. Thus

(1) although, unlike the synoptists, he says nothing of the stone that was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, yet (ver. 1) he refers to the fact that (τὸν λίθον) the stone was taken up or away.

(2) Although he says nothing of the two groups of women, yet he implies that Mary Magdalene was not alone at the sepulcher (οὐκ οἴδαμεν): "We know not where they have laid him." With far greater particularity than St. Luke (Luke 24:12), he describes Peter's visit to the sepulcher, and gives further details of facts which occurred at more than one interview between our Lord and his apostles, of which Luke and Mark had given a more shadowy outline (cf. here vers. 19-25 with Luke 24:36, etc.; Mark 16:14). But we are not intending here to produce a history or harmony of these records, but to follow throughout the impressions produced by the Lord's self-manifestation upon the mind of the beloved disciple; not passing over the difficulties which his peculiar experiences have occasioned, when brought side by side with the synoptic and Pauline narratives. John first of all (vers. 1-10) describes how he came to believe personally in the resurrection of Jesus; then (vers. 11-18) the way in which the first manifestation was made to Mary of Magdala (vers. 19-23); how ten of the apostles, including himself, received a full and satisfying assurance of the stupendous fact (vers. 24-29); how once more, after an interval of eight days, not only Thomas, the most anxious, doubting, and incredulous of the eleven, but the entire group, came into full persuasion, not only of Christ's resurrection, but of his Divine nature and claims, his Messiahship and Sonship, and of their own personal possession of life in him and through him. Verses 1-10. -

(1) The process of John's own personal conviction, by the discovery that the sepulcher was deserted. Verse 1. - Now on the first day of the week (τῶν σαββάτων, σαββάτα, in the plural, is used for the whole of the week, sabbaton including in itself the various days that intervened between sabbath and sabbath, the first, second, third, etc. Μιᾷ here and in Luke 24:1 and Matthew 28:1 corresponds with the πρώτῃ. of Mark 16:9). All the evangelists agree about the day of the week, which thenceforward became the new beginning of weeks, "the Lord's day." Cometh Mary the Magdalene. Here all the evangelists are at one, although, judging from the synoptists, she must have been accompanied by other women. This is implied in the οἴδαμεν of ver. 2, though Meyer repudiates such a hint by the remark that, in addressing the angels, she uses the singular, οἴδα; but this difference rather confirms, than otherwise, the significance of the plural, when she first breaks on the ear of the astonished disciples the wondrous news. But when she is confronted by the angels she is manifestly alone, and speaks for herself. It is probable that Mary Magdalene had preceded the other women, driven by the intensity of her adoring love and abounding grief, and hence some slight divergency appears as to the time at which she started on her pilgrimage. While it was yet dark, early, in the depth of the dawn (Luke 24:1); before the breaking of full day, and λίαν πρωι'´, "exceeding early" of Mark, although, as he adds, after sunrise (ανατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλὶου). This latter expression is difficult to reconcile as a statement of identical time. But many simple suppositions would explain the discrepancy. The Magdalene's home may have been at a greater distance from the sepulcher, down in the shadows of the eastern hills, while the home of the other Marys may have been readily accessible to the sepulcher. After the great earthquake described by Matthew (Matthew 28:2), and the supernatural darkness of the day but one before, there is no incompatibility in the twofold statement that it was yet dark (not night), although the sun had risen. A deep pall may yet be hanging over the world and place which had held in its bosom the body of the murdered Lord of glory. (She) cometh to the sepulcher, obviously with the purpose stated by all the synoptics. She was bringing the spices which she, with others, had bought on the Friday evening. They would not be behind Nicodemus and Joseph in the expression of their boundless love. The critics make merry over the superfluousness of these women purchasing fresh spices when they must have known the lavish expenditure of the two rich men upon the same design. But the combination of the two statements is absolutely true to nature; it is exactly what women would do all the world over, and an evidence of the authenticity of both narratives. And seeth the stone taken away out of the sepulcher. This is all the information that St. John gives us, as antecedent to Mary's flight to Simon Peter and himself. We have to decide between three hypotheses: either

(a) John's narrative entirely differs from the synoptic account of what Mary saw and heard, and what she brought as her contribution to the apostles' ears, and therefore discredits one or the other or both narratives; or

(b) Mary of Magdala, having preceded the other women, found the empty sepulcher, and, without waiting for them, rushed to the home of Peter and John with this preliminary intelligence and nothing else, then, returning with them to the tomb, joined the ether women who had arrived after John and Peter had withdrawn; or

(c) That (Hengstenberg) Mary said more than she is reported by John to have uttered, - that she told them not merely that they (the Jews) had taken away the body, but that she had seen a vision of angels, who affirmed that the Lord had risen, and gave certain commissions. From Luke's account of the first effect of the news from the tomb, the apostles thought them idle tales, but they went to the sepulcher, and found it even as the women had said, but him they saw not. What were the "idle tales"? Not that the tomb was empty, for that was a simple matter of fact, which the two chief apostles verified, but the story of angels who affirmed that Jesus was alive. Still, such a report is very likely to have roused the apostles to the eagerness of their first visit to the tomb, and the effect of it to reappear in the conversation of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. If the third of these hypotheses be followed, then the narrative of John simply records with brevity what the other evangelists had reported at greater length, distinctly omitting the story of the angelic visitors, given in all three synoptists. This seems to me the fairest and best interpretation of the four narratives. On this hypothesis the account which Mary Magdalene brought to Peter and John corresponds with Matthew (Matthew 28:6-8), where the women generally ran with the news, blending fear with great joy, excited beyond all parallel with the strange wonderful assurance which they had received, that they should meet their risen Lord in Galilee. According to Mark (Mark 16:1-8), we hear of angels, the sight of the vacated tomb, and the angelic message to the apostles, specifying Peter as one especially singled out to hear the commission. Trembling, ecstasy, fear, shut their mouths as they hurried to the abode of the eleven; they spake nothing to any man, but the intelligence was conveyed "to the eleven and all the rest" (Luke 24:9). St. Luke afterwards sums up in one statement all the various messages that were brought, and mentions by name, not only the Magdalene but Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and says, "the remaining ones with them" (at λοιπαὶ σὺν αὐταῖς). The effect was so far fruitless; the apostles did not believe the words (Luke 24:10). The fact stands in the synoptics that the first communication which was carried by women to the apostles, and was not confined to them, consisted not only of the fact of the empty tomb, but of the language of angels. The first thing might easily have been set to rest by direct inspection; the other part of the narrative might easily be disregarded as the voice of wild enthusiasm and excited imagination. It should be distinctly perceived that the women must have scattered in diffusing their intelligence, and John positively asserts that the main strain of Mary's report was as to the opening of the tomb and disappearance of the body, and that it was delivered personally to himself and Peter. This solution of the first difficulty was thrown into confusion by the T.R. form of Matthew's account, which says (Matthew 28:9), "As they went to bring his disciples word, behold Jesus met them." If that were the true text of Matthew, it is in irreconcilable antagonism with John's Gospel, i.e. if Mary Magdalene must be regarded as one of the party who were advised to tell the apostles that the tomb was opened and rifled, and that the Lord was risen. It would also be opposed to the statements of both Luke and Mark concerning the first message they brought to the apostles and to the rest, as well as the manner of their departure from the sepulcher. If, however, Matthew is here referring to a second party (called by harmonists the Joanna group), then they must, in their passage to the apostles, have missed Peter and John on their way to and from the sepulcher, and it would contradict the assertion of all four evangelists, that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Lord. This most difficult clause in Matthew's account has, however, been rejected by modern critics, and consequently the narrative of Matthew is delivered from its greatest perplexity. The fact that Jesus met them must be identical with the appearance described with far greater detail in John's own statement (vers. 11-18). Matthew's Gospel throughout is singularly devoid of notices of time, and we find grouped here, as elsewhere, events or teachings without chronological perspective. John 20:1First day of the week (τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάατον)

The Hebrew idiom, day one of the week. See on Luke 4:31; see on Acts 20:7.


Matthew says, as it began to dawn; Mark, when the sun was risen; Luke, very early in the morning, or at deep dawn; see on Luke 24:1.

Taken away (ἠρμένον ἐκ)

Lifted out of. All the Synoptists have rolled.

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