Weekly Bible Devotional
“You Were Made for a Miracle: The Greatest Miracle of All”
April 12, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Notes on The Text:
This story is the culmination of the message of Jesus about the way of life and faith he proclaimed. The major themes of the Gospel of John are highlighted and fulfilled in this story. In the beginning of the Gospel when two of the disciples of John the Baptist follow Jesus, he asks them: “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) and in this story Jesus’ echoes that same question by asking Mary, “Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15) In the same way the answer to the question is about “seeing.” The disciples had to “come and see” and so did Mary. In fact, her proclamation at the end of this passage is this, “I have seen the Lord.” The theme of seeing has continued throughout the Gospel and now it has reached its culmination with Mary seeing beyond the limits of violence and death to the new life which Jesus was bringing.
Another important theme that has been carried through the whole Gospel is that of creation. The first words of this Gospel, “In the beginning…” echo the words of Genesis 1 about God creating the world. The claim of the Gospel is that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was part of God’s creation from the beginning and is continuing that act of creation and renewal. With this in mind we can see the importance of the symbolism of the resurrection taking place on the first day of the week and in a garden much like the beginning of creation in the Garden of Eden. The resurrection of Jesus is a new chapter in the continuing work of God of creating and recreating the world.
A third theme to pay attention to in this story is that of darkness and light. Throughout the Gospel we have Jesus being described as the light coming into the darkness of the world. In this story we notice that it is a little different from the other Gospels in terms of time. In the other Gospels, Mary goes at dawn, but in this one she goes to the tomb while it is still dark. This signifies to the readers that Jesus, the light of the world, was still bringing light into the darkness of the world, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).
These themes were reminders to the community of faith of the hope that defies all the odds that were against them. The hope of the resurrection was about the love of God defying the odds of human fear and cruelty. What I love about this story from John is how Mary Magdalene did not leave the tomb to tell the other disciples that she believed in the doctrine of the resurrection. Her witness was that of a personal experience of Christ. She said, “I have seen the Lord.” Love was the focus. It was the relationship that was important. That is what she reported about. That is how the other disciples believed her because they knew and trusted her. They also knew Jesus. The love of the community of the disciples was what transformed the illusions of separation between life and death.
Easter for Mary and the other disciples was not about the details of the resurrection. In fact, there were no witnesses to what happened in the grave or of how Jesus was raised from the dead. Easter was about the love they knew with Jesus continuing beyond the limits of life and death. It was about the mystery and power of love which defied death, fear, and separation. It was about the hope they needed to continue Christ’s work of love.
There has been a lot of unexpected stuff in our world during this time. With the coronavirus, a lot of our expectations have been turned upside down. Easter Sunday of all days will be especially challenging for us not to do our normal Easter things such as decorating the church with flowers, going on Easter egg hunts, eating delicious meals with big gatherings, and making special church music. We certainly used to take the coming of Easter for granted. We expect it to come every year in the same way we have known it to come in years past. Yet, this year with all the restrictions we must endure, we can connect better with how the first followers of Jesus felt. This was not an expected thing for them. Jesus was executed by the Romans on a cross and then buried. His death was final as far as they knew. The hope of the resurrection was exactly what they needed to keep going and to continue the mission of Jesus.
We can rejoice in Easter’s news because while it is still dark, the light of the new life of Christ comes to us through love. Whenever we love or are loved resurrection happens! Wherever people show up to help and to care, love happens. Look at the signs of resurrection all around you. Easter and the experience of God’s love breaking into our life are happening among us today and every day.
Writer and biblical scholar Megan McKenna tells about a time when her belief in the resurrection was challenged. She describes how she was talking to a group of Christians about the story of Jesus raising the Widow of Nain’s son from the dead from Luke’s Gospel when someone in back called out harshly, “Have you ever brought someone back from the dead?” McKenna’s response was, “Yes.” She went on to say, “Every time I bring hope to a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back their dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in community, every time I listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice, yes, I bring people back from the dead.”
Look within you for all the signs of resurrection that are taking place. Even in the worst time in our lifetime, amazing experiences of love are taking place every day and every moment. We just need to open the eyes of hearts to behold this amazing gift.
Prayer by Joyce Rupp:
Risen Christ, your presence abides within and around me. As I continue to make my way through life, may all that I am and all that I do each day demonstrate and reflect your radiant goodness. I rejoice in the renewed kinship I have with you. Amen.