The Gospel of John – Lesson 51 – John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she left and ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she told them, “and we don’t know where they put him!” So Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Bending over, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was following him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there. The cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not lying with the linen cloths, but was folded up in a separate place by itself. Then the other disciple, who arrived at the tomb first, also entered. He saw and believed. (They still did not yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, weeping. As she wept, she bent over, looking into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white clothes sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She told them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.” 14 After she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you carried him off, tell me where you laid him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and replied in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means, “Teacher”). 17 Jesus told her, “Do not continue to cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father—to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” She also told them the things he said to her.

Awhile back I remember reading about a product called Horse Blinders for Humans. The product is designed to help people focus on their work in a busy office or factory. These blinders can be placed around the head or attached to eye glasses to block vision to either side. Some models also include headphones to help reduce noise distraction. These blinders are supposed to help people keep their eyes and ears focused on the task at hand.

Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John all seemed to have a different kind of blinders on as the events of the first Easter morning unfolded. John records that Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week. From the other Gospels we learn that other women accompanied her on this journey to anoint the body of Jesus. John doesn’t deny that there were other women involved in this early morning trip. John merely focused on the account of Mary. When Mary arrived at the tomb she found the large stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away. The body of Jesus was missing. But Mary focused only on the fact that she saw Jesus die on Good Friday. She ignored the earlier promises Jesus made that he would rise again on the third day after he died. As she went and reported her findings to Peter and John she formed the conclusion that someone must have taken the body of Jesus away. She was blinded to the possibility that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he promised.

After hearing the news of the empty tomb from Mary, Peter and John investigated the situation themselves. Sadly they began their investigation with the same spiritual blinders that limited Mary’s vision. There was no denying that the tomb was empty. The burial cloth wrapped around Jesus’ head and the linen clothes around his body were left in the tomb. But Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. John indicated that he believed what he saw. But he also added that he and Peter still did not understand from the Holy Scriptures that the promised Savior would rise from the dead.

We have an advantage over Mary, Peter, and John. As we read the account of the first Easter, we know how the story will end. The tomb is empty because Jesus fulfilled his promise to rise again from the dead. Death could not hold the Son of God for one moment longer than what God decided. Jesus’ death served God’s purpose. By his death, Jesus washed all our sins away. Now his resurrection was necessary to defeat death for us. But even though we know this, we sometimes live with spiritual blinders on also. We despair over our sins rather than repenting and trusting that Jesus won our forgiveness. We worry about death, rather than trusting that Jesus overcame death for us when he rose from the grave. We worry about the future rather than trusting our future is in heaven through faith in Jesus.

Jesus knew how to open Mary’s eyes to the truth. He appeared to her and spoke her name as she wept at his empty tomb. In our next lesson we’ll see how Jesus removed the spiritual blinders from his disciples. Praise to our Lord that he has also opened our eyes to see the truth of our crucified and risen Savior. What joy fills our hearts whenever we hear the good news that Jesus Christ is risen. Your Lord Jesus invites us to believe that everything he achieved through his resurrection, he achieved for you. He personally speaks your name as he calls you to believe that one day you will also see your risen Savior face to face. You won’t ever have to take your eyes off him. You will behold the joy of his great love for you forever.

Discussion Questions

1 – What assumption did Mary make when she found Jesus’ tomb empty?
Mary saw Jesus’ dead body on Good Friday. She believed he still must be dead. She assumed that someone must have stolen Jesus’ body.

2 – John records that he saw the empty tomb and believed. But he also indicated that he and Peter still didn’t fully understand. What didn’t they understand?
The Holy Scriptures testified that the promised Savior must suffer, die, and rise again. Jesus also testified several times that this must happen to him. The disciples failed to understand that Jesus had to die and rise again because all this was necessary for their salvation.

3 – Mary knew Jesus very well. Why couldn’t she recognize Jesus when she first saw him alive again?
Jesus used his divine power to keep Mary from recognizing him until he was ready to reveal the truth to her. The same thing happened when Jesus appeared to his two followers on the road to Emmaus. (See Luke 24:15-16)

4 – Jesus told Mary, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father—to my God and your God.” What important truths can we learn from these words?
Because Jesus has completed everything for our salvation, God is now our Father. We can approach our God in prayer with full confidence that he is our loving Father, who will always hear and answer us. Because he is our Father, he fully forgives us of all our sins for the sake of his Son Jesus. As Jesus ascended to his Father, we can be sure that one day Jesus will come back to take us to his Father’s house where we will dwell in eternal peace and joy.

If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to