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John 19

The Burial of Jesus

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Empty Tomb

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.


John describes Jesus’ burial in some detail, with two prominent men preparing his body and laying it in the tomb. There could be no doubt that Jesus was dead, and his followers were in despair.

However, we then read of the dawning hope, when his disciples find evidence of his resurrection. Mary saw the empty tomb and just ran for the others. Peter raced into the tomb and looked around. He saw the burial cloth neatly folded – not something a grave robber would have done. The ‘other disciple’, also looked and we are told that he believed. However John tells us that they didn’t understand at that point what all this meant.

Anselm speaks of ‘Faith seeking understanding’ and perhaps that resonates with you today: believing, but with many questions to be answered. It is a whole journey to go from an intellectual grasp of theology to a heart conviction – a journey through prayer, reading the Gospels, listening and getting to know Jesus. At some point one is convicted of the enormity of sin, and the fact that thanks to the Cross, it can be overcome. The resurrection confirms that conviction, demonstrating God’s power.

Jesus’ resurrection has the power to transform. The disciples’ despair would turn to joy, and their weakness disappeared as they stepped out in the power of God’s Spirit to share the news with others.

For us, that transforming power means that we can break free of things that bind us: we can step into freedom. It is as if we are sharing in Jesus’ story of death into life, as our pride is put to death and we find new life with him – a new life which is eternal but which we also live out day by day.

We are all invited to step out on this journey, but we don’t all start from the same place, and our personalities are as different as Mary’s, Peter’s and John’s.

Where are you now? Have you just heard that the tomb is empty and you don’t know what to think? Are you peeping in, trying to grasp its significance? Do you have a sense of something profoundly mysterious? Do you wonder what it means for today?

Asking oneself questions like this, putting oneself out there on the journey from brokenness to wholeness, can be disturbing. It might feel safer to stay put, with whatever neat and perfect picture one has of God and faith. But Jesus calls us onward, for there is always more in our lives to be transformed. Does that perfect picture need smashing and building again, so that you can continue to move forward?

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