Bible Study March 11 for Worship March 31

Bible Study March 11 for Worship March 31

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 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.
4 They both ran, 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,
7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
9 for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb;
12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.
13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

COMMENTARY

John’s story begins with a lone woman, who was devoted to Jesus going to the tomb. John’s Gospel considered by some scholars to have been written as a foil to the Gospel of Thomas seems to support the contention in the Gospel of Thomas that Mary Magdalene and Jesus shared a “special relationship.” Consider these last verses from the Gospel of Thomas:

114. Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”
Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

We do not need here to speculate over much about the “special relationship,” but clearly in understanding this passage, to know that Jesus and Mary shared an important attachment is helpful in understanding why Mary would venture alone to the tomb, and why the Risen Christ might appear first to Mary.

Alone and afraid, when Mary found the stone rolled away from the tomb, she returned to the Upper Room to inform Peter of her discovery. Peter and “the disciple Jesus loved,” ran to the tomb. Church tradition has claimed that “the disciple Jesus loved” was John. Closer examination of the text suggests that this disciple was not one of the twelve, but instead was a member of a high priestly family, who had access to the home of the High Priest, and he was the author of a tradition of a Judean ministry, since so many of the stories that are unique to the Gospel of John take place in Judea rather than Galilee.

The unnamed disciple was younger and swifter and beat Peter to the tomb. He stooped and looked in and saw the grave clothes lying in the tomb, but he did not go in. When Peter arrived, he went right in to the tomb. The placement of the napkin that had covered the head of the body was different from the rest of the shroud. The unnamed disciple interpreted the placement of the grave clothes as an indication that the body had not been stolen, even though they had not yet made the connection to resurrection. Finding no other evidence at the tomb the two men returned to the Upper Room.

Mary, however, inconsolable in her grief stayed at the tomb. And here the narrative in John parallels the empty tomb account in the synoptic gospels. Looking into the tomb again there were two beings of light, who had not been there, when the men investigated the tomb. Thus, the vision of angels seen by Mary, were there specifically for her, and not just for anyone who happened to drop by the empty tomb that morning. In addition to appearing, the angels spoke to her asking her why she was weeping and whom she was seeking. Of course these question s provide wonderful dramatic effect. The reader or listener already knows the answer, and the only question was how long it would take Mary to figure it out.

Mary answered the angels, and then without waiting for an answer from the angels she turned around and saw Jesus standing there although she mistook him for the gardener. This detail suggests the possibility that however the Risen Christ appeared, he was not as plain as the nose on your face. And so Mary began imploring this “gardener” to tell her where he had transported the body.

The moment of recognition in the story was when Jesus called Mary’s name. Perhaps this is the larger truth of the story. Hearing her name pronounced by the “gardener” Mary recognized the Risen Christ – the Christ who constantly appears in disguise. Verse 17 has an odd sound, when Jesus tells Mary not to “hold” him, for he had not yet ascended to the Father. A couple of explanations have been offered for this statement. One possibility is that this is a message to the early church that they could not “hold onto” an earthly Jesus. Just as Jesus would ultimately have to ascend and leave this world, so the church would have to “move on” from the earthly ministry of Jesus to building a movement based upon the lessons and example of Jesus. Another explanation is that the author of the Johannine tradition was especially concerned with denying the heresy that claimed a spiritual rather than a bodily resurrection. The comment about not holding on to his physical body may have been considered a proof of the physical resurrection.

We do not know the length of Mary’s encounter with the Risen Christ, or how the encounter broke off. Mary subsequently returned to the Upper Room to announce that she had indeed seen the Lord, a claim most of the other disciples dismissed until later that evening.

The larger truth of the story is that we are changed, transformed forever, when we hear God call our name. Have you heard God call your name? What does God want you to do? What does God want you to become? When God calls our name we know God is real and not even death can separate us from God’s love. This heart knowledge is ultimately empowering, for we no longer need to fear and no one can take our joy from us.

Easter empowers us to become the people of faith Jesus beckons us to become. The promise of the resurrection helps to empower the followers of Jesus over against fear. The forces of Empire threaten, cajole, penalize and if necessary will kill those who stand up for love and justice. The celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday reminds us that those who want to
protect the wealth and privileges of the Empire fervently guard and defend the status quo. Over coming our fears of the penalties the Empire can level against the followers of Jesus is the most important factor holding back the community of faith. Embrace the resurrection, believe, have faith and go forth to feed the hungry, care for the poor and advocate for the oppressed.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTION OF THE TEXT

1. What time of day did Mary go to the tomb?

2. What did Mary see, when she arrived at the tomb?

3. What did Mary do next?

4. Who came to the tomb to check out Mary’s report?

5. What did these people find at the tomb?

6. What was their interpretation of what they saw?

7. After these persons left the tomb, what did Mary see?

8. Does the text tell us whether or not the other people saw this?

9. What do the angels ask Mary?

10. Who did Mary subsequently encounter outside of the tomb?

11. How did Mary know who this was?

12. What did Mary do after this encounter?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Have you ever done something special for a friend of loved one’s funeral or burial?

2. Have you ever made a special journey to visit a grave?

3. Have you ever experienced a surprise when attending a funeral or in visiting a cemetery?

4. Have you ever encountered someone who you thought was supposed to be dead?

5. Have you ever asked someone else to examine something, because you couldn’t quite believe what you were seeing?

6. What has been your most startling experience of hearing someone call your name?

7. Why do you suppose the angels appeared to Mary but not to Peter and the beloved disciple?

8. If had been one of the disciples in the Upper Room, when Mary arrived and said, “I have seen the Lord,” what would you have thought?

9. Do you believe there can be life after death?

10. What “proof” would convince you one way or the other?

11. How do you think the story of Easter influences your spiritual life?

Week of March 25 – March 31 Easter – John 20:1-18 – Resurrection Joy – Acts 10:34-43, Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, I Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12.

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