For audio version: https://youtu.be/PgtOtfGNiYg
Prepare to Listen. Let this prayer from Psalm 118 be your joyful cry this Easter as you prepare to read and hear God’s Word: The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation (v14).
Prayerfully Read John 20:1, 11-18
1Early 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…. 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.
Overcome with hopeless sorrow, fixated on the missing body of Jesus, Mary Magdalene failed to register that two angels had addressed her. She responded to them, but then immediately turned around and stood face to face with Jesus. She saw him but didn’t know him, and neither did she recognize his familiar voice, as he asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” She repeated her request for the missing body. And then Jesus uttered one word, “Mary.” And that’s when she recognized him, when he called her by name.
For a second time the writer says, “she turned.” This wasn’t a physical turning. She was already facing Jesus. It was a spiritual turning, a conversion to the truth about Jesus. This was the true Shepherd who “calls his own sheep by name” (Jn 10:3). She heard him and deep within she knew before whom she stood. “Teacher,” is all she said. Teacher with a capital ‘T’; teacher as in the Teacher above all teachers, including the old teacher, Moses whom Jews still honored.
Mary turned and was converted to Jesus as the ‘new’ Moses. Then Jesus sent her to be the apostle to the disciples, to be the first apostle of the resurrection. Her message was simple, “I have seen the Lord!” Her eye-witness account made her an authentic witness.
This episode begins with Mary in the dark, both literally (v1) and spiritually. She turned, and the rest is history.
What spiritual turning are you being called to today?
Our Lenten journey began with Jesus' invitation, "Come and see." It ends with Mary Magdalene's joyous testimony, "I have seen the Lord." What have you seen during these weeks in John's Gospel?
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus, keep calling me by name until I too turn to the truth of who you are and how I should therefore live. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world, turning again and again to Jesus.
For audio version: https://youtu.be/80yet6tHjhY
Prepare to Listen. Let these words from Lamentations (3:24) prepare you to listen: ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’
Prayerfully Read John 19:38-42
38After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
The story of Jesus’ burial isn’t one I’ve meditated on. Who wants to meditate on death? Certainly not me. Then I randomly chose these verses long before Lent began and was forced to meditate on death. All four Gospels record Jesus’ burial and the only commonality between them is Joseph of Arimathea. The differences in John are deliberate, shaping the story so that readers reflect, not on history but on theology. The abrupt ending to John’s account of Jesus' death, “they laid Jesus there,” suggests that death is the topic for theological meditation. There’s no mention of the stone sealing the body in the tomb , or soldiers guarding it. It gives the impression that the tomb remained ‘open,’ and we’re supposed to enter and meditate on a subject we usually avoid, sentimentalize, or even deny--death.
And I don’t just mean Jesus’ death. We’re invited to meditate on our own death. Jesus’ death overcame death, but he didn’t die instead of us. We’ll die one day. Meditating on death, our own death, isn’t a task in morbidity. We don’t do it to feel sorry for ourselves and beg God to keep us living. Tish Warren maintains that “reminding ourselves, day by day, that we will die teaches us to live” and she adds, “Meditating on our mortality teaches us to live in light of the larger story of which we are a part, to locate our small joys or tragedies in the scope of eternity” . We learn to live well and in confident hope of the resurrection when we learn to live with the acceptance of our own mortality.
Jesus was “laid there.” We can enter and meditate on death—his and our own.
We learn to live by accepting our death. Remind yourself today of your mortality and inevitable death so that you live more fully.
Respond to Jesus
Recognizing that I will die one day, Lord, let me live, I mean really live until I die, fully, abundantly in the life your death made possible. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world. Live. LIVE.
 While the stone isn’t mentioned here, it is mentioned in the opening verse of the resurrection account (20:1). I’ve chosen to view its omission in the burial story as a hint to reflect theologically and spiritually.
 Warren, Tish Harrison. Praying in the Dark. 2021, p. 121.
For audio version: https://youtu.be/G39OZYqPmi0
Prepare to Listen. Use these words from Psalm 22, used by Jesus, to prepare your heart to listen: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Prayerfully Read John 19:30b-37
30bThen [Jesus] bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
Nobody noticed that Jesus was dead. He “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” and nobody noticed! Not the Jews anxious to be rid of him, and not the soldiers guarding the cross. We don’t even know whether the few disciples, the three women and the beloved disciple, who all stood at the foot of the cross, noticed. However, we know what the beloved disciple thought when he saw the soldiers pierce Jesus’ side rather than break his legs. He finally got it. Jesus’ death was in accordance with Scripture.
The Jews were anxious to remove the bodies from the cross before the Passover sabbath. It was the most solemn and important day in the Jewish calendar. Not a day to be reminded of their heinous action against Jesus. They wanted him and his two companions in crucifixion, removed. Did they hope out of sight, out of mind would alleviate their guilt? They asked Pilate to break the crucified men’s legs to hasten their deaths. And that’s when the soldiers noticed Jesus was already dead.
Watching this, the beloved disciple made the connection to the Hebrew scriptures (Ex 12:46; Ps 34:20) about the Passover lamb being sacrificed for the redemption of Israel. He knew and believed Jesus was the Lamb sacrificed for the redemption, not of one nation, but the whole world, redeeming it from slavery to sin. He saw and testified, so that “you also may believe” that Jesus’ death fulfilled what God had spoken.
What did you see in this account of Jesus’ dead body and the beloved disciple’s testimony?
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus thank you for the testimony of that one disciple who saw, really saw what your death was about. May his testimony continue to bring others to belief in you and what you did for the world that scripture might be fulfilled. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world so that others may believe too.
Reflection on Scripture has been a constant in my life ever since I can remember. Reflecting on Jesus in the Gospels has become a necessity to get Jesus right. Join me in reading John to see Jesus more clearly this Lent.