John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So 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.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The point of saying the linen cloths were there, and even mentioning the cloth that was bound around his face, is probably to show how this resurrection was different from Lazarus’ resurrection. Recall from chapter 11 that Jesus raised Lazarus after he had been dead four days. And John 11:44 it says, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Different from Lazarus
People had to help Lazarus out of the linen strips and face covering. That’s because he had a mortal body. He would die again. After the resurrection, Jesus did not have mortal body. He would never die again. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again” (Romans 6:9). Jesus’ body is different. He simply passed through those grave cloths the way he passed through doors in John 20:19 and 26. “Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them” (John 20:26). But at that very moment of entering the room like no ordinary body can, he says to doubting Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). This was a physical body that you could recognize, and touch. And Luke tells us he ate fish after he had risen (Luke 24:43).
Why It Matters
If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.
If you belong to him by faith in him, you will receive a body like his, which will be suited to see him and enjoy him and enter finally into the new heavens and the new earth where you will spend eternity admiring God in all that he has made. And this world that we love so much, compared to that one, will be like a candle compared to the sun.
Do You See?
Here’s the issue: Do you see? In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.
Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see?
The Witness Has Become a Window
Let me close with an analogy. Your doorbell rings this afternoon and one of your friends asks to talk to you. He comes and says, “I have some really bad news. Your brother Jim is dead.”
And you say, shaking your head, “I don’t believe it. I just saw him this morning. He was fine. I don’t believe it. It can’t be.”
And your friend says, “We went to the game together, and as we were leaving, this car went out of control and jumped the curb, and hit Jim. I knelt over him. I waited for the medical examiner. I saw it. He’s gone.”
And you say, softly, “I see.”
What do you mean, “I see”? You mean that the witness of your friend has become a window. And the reality in the window has become plain. You were not there. You did not see (the way Mary saw), but still you say—and it is right to say—with all your heart, “I see.”
“I Have Seen the Lord”
God has brought you here for this message and for this Scripture and for this story of the resurrection of Jesus and this witness. And my prayer for you, as we close is that you will now or very soon, by God’s grace, say, “I see.”
There is one main difference between Jesus and my illustration: He’s alive. It is as though another messenger crashes through the door while you are crying and says, “Jim’s alive. I talked to him.” That’s what Mary said, “I have seen the Lord.”