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Br Rd EASTER 2005 PM - Seeing and Believing John 20

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Seeing and Believing

John 20 1-18

This Easter Day evening we come to the last (seventh) great Sign from the Gospel of John and it is worth reminding ourselves of those earlier narratives with which John constructs his document of faith:

¨     John 2       Water into wine

¨     John 4       Official’s son

¨     John 5       Pool at Bethesda

¨     John 6       Feeding five thousand

¨     John 9       Man born blind

¨     John 11     Lazarus:  Love, Death and Life

It is important, when coming to John’s memorable account of Easter Day, to have in mind the earlier story about Lazarus – for the account of Lazarus being raised reminds us of the customs of the time – and informs our study as we approach the tomb along with Mary and Peter and John himself.[1]

Almost certainly John was able to understand the significance of the grave clothes in the empty tomb – because he is the same witness who “had penned the story of Lazarus, and recorded how Lazarus, at the bidding of Jesus, came forth from his tomb, with the wrappings of the dead still binding him hand and foot, and the napkin on his head; he had to be freed to take up life again in this world.”  [2]

In his unique description of Easter Day, John brings us to the empty tomb with Mary and John and Peter.

He records in graphic but immensely simple detail what they saw and how they reacted. It was not straightforward – not a case of just seeing and believing – but it was wonderful – Oh so wonderful!

As we move down the list of their experiences we see:

The stone - it’s been moved – He must have been taken away!

The strips of linen, and       - A mystery - The burial cloth by itself.

John enters and believes – but he doesn’t speak about it

Mary stays weeping at the tomb sees angels and meets Jesus

In the evidence presented by John is incontrovertible proof that


But recognising the Risen Jesus is not just a matter of piecing together the evidence and coming to a settled conclusion


The Evidence

The Scripture           v9

Jesus Himself          vv15 and 16

John does not tell us why he believed whereas Peter only saw – but he wants us to reach the same Easter Reality – to see the record – and BELIEVE.  John desires that we too – so long after the events – will come to the same CONCLUSION OF FAITH

So let’s visit the tomb along with Mary and John and Peter and pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us – as Paul was reminding us this morning – by powerful GRACE that takes the recorded narrative and works in our own hearts and minds so that we too BELIEVE IN THE RISEN CHRIST.


¨     The stone moved away   -       evidence of the empty tomb

John does not need to give us the account of the early morning earthquake – that had been done by Matthew.  But he presents us with the categorical evidence of an EMPTY TOMB.

We know – as Paul reminded us this morning – that others put a different spin on these events – and some always will see an alternative explanation. The evidence must be weighed.

We have to turn to Matthew’s account to read how it happened:

Matt 28:1-6

28:1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.   3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

That is Matthew’s record:

It was supernatural

There was an earthquake

The angel declared “He is not here”

John’s is none the less miraculous – but it is simple and direct:

¨     The strips of linen and the burial cloth by itself

Two remarkable witnesses to an awesome reality

The Lord had risen

The strips of cloth that had been wrapped around the body are undisturbed

The burial cloth that was around the head is by itself

Later they would discuss what they had seen.    Both Peter and John saw the evidence but …

John saw – and believed

He tells us so himself:

8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

PETER’S time will come later – but just now, as John bears witness, he sees – he enters the tomb directly – he can describe exactly how it looked – but he did not believe then.   Perhaps Peter is still reeling from his denial?

JOHN could have told is in many verses of explanation why he came to the conclusion of faith at that point. He does not.  He knows that the same Holy Spirit who enabled him to record those momentous events – is the One who takes the things concerning Christ, and writes them into the heart of a believer.

There is a sense in which we come today to the record of the Easter story – and our own experience – our own response – mirrors that of Peter or of John or of Mary.

Some see – and that is all for the moment.  Others see – and by the Grace of God the living Christ becomes a reality there and then – as it did for John.

I do not want to speculate on why John believed and Peter didn’t – what I do want to do is to challenge you with the record.  I want to know how YOU respond.

The second aspect of John’s narrative – and the second thread in approaching the risen Christ rather than the resurrection story is:


Immediately after recording his own faith, John continues:

9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Why does John put this in here?

So that we who come after – in our case so long after – may see how now we fit into the plan of things.  For what was Scripture on the first Easter Day was Old Testament – we have more.

We need to know that there is more than the witness of those first disciples no matter how crucial is their contribution – there must be support from Scripture.

What is this Scripture?

The first great text for the resurrection was Psalm 16 v 10

Ps 16:10

10For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.


(1)    A Prophesy and                                         

        A Promise proclaimed

It would take time obviously before they felt confident – even though they are well versed in the Old Testament.

Old Testament interpreted by Jesus Himself

Luke 24:25-27

25He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.


Not just one verse or one passage – a whole range of passages.

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning Himself.

Until, in the fullness of time, – it becomes Old Testament and New Testament – together declaring the Risen Christ.


NT Letters

The second strand is that combination of Promise and prophecy together with

Narrative and comment

That combines to provide us with a whole Bible of writing.  SCRIPTURE

But of course it was not only the men – MARY came to the tomb as well:-

Her story underscores for us that third and most crucial strand of the Easter Story – a personal encounter with a Personal Saviour:

JESUS HIMSELF         John 20 11-18

11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

With the story of Mary at the tomb John brings us powerfully to the very feet of Jesus.

Once again what Mary sees is misunderstood.

What prevented her from recognising Him and the reality of the resurrection?

(a)  TEARS

She was emotionally distraught.

She has seen the evidence but drawn the wrong conclusions

“They have taken away my Lord …”   v13

(b)  IGNORANCE    “I don’t know where  ….”  V13

It was a fundamental misunderstanding – Mary was still looking for a body – but He is no longer dead.

For many still the religious observance is to a dead body – that is not enough.

Both these issues were dealt with gently yet firmly with His Question

(c)  HIS QUESTION      v 15

15"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"


What is the real nature of your hurt?

Jesus would invite us to share that with Him this evening.


We so often say “What …” but the real question is Who?

We need to pause there this Easter evening.

As I have prompted you before – I prompt you again;  What do you want?  What is it that your heart needs most?

And I rephrase my question in the light of the CROSS and the EMPTY TOMB


It is no longer MY question – but the Master’s question.



The reality of the resurrection is:




A living Saviour who paid the price of your redemption speaking to you in person.


[1] [It is important too to remember that other sign that John records, and which we have not dealt with this time round – his eye witness account of the soldier piercing the side of Jesus:

34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”  and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”  JOHN 19 34-37 ]

[2]   Beasley-Murray, G. R. 1998. Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary. Word, Incorporated: Dallas

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