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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 86 – John 20:8
Strange believing
 

This is a strange verse. “He saw and believed”. What did he see and believe? Surely not just an empty tomb and a few clothes lying there. We must think a bit more deeply of what must have been involved – reading between the lines as we call it.

Perhaps first and most certain is that not all that was said was recorded in these few words that we have here. Mary Magdalene was not alone when she saw the stone had been rolled back. John concentrates on her because he wants to tell us about her encounter with the ‘gardener’, but the other Gospel-writers tell us there were others there as well.

(It is at first sight strange that there seems to be so much variation in the four accounts of the events at the tomb. These are eyewitness reports and each eyewitness remembered and related the things that struck them most forcibly when they were asked what happened – as eyewitnesses do. The basic stories are in agreement about all the main events. Only the details are different. There is no point in trying to make one story out of all the accounts. They wrote with a different emphasis from what ours would be. They were more interested in the theology of what happened than in exact correspondence with all that actually happened. Let us concentrate on their theology and smile at their differences.)

What was i saying? Oh, yes, about what must have happened which was not recorded. There must have been much talk between the three main characters: Mary, Peter and the other disciple. It will not have been just a quick glance and then a turn and return to base. Look, they will have said, ‘the clothes are all in a neat heap, and there is his turban lying separately. It wasn’t like that with Lazarus – he came out of the tomb all swaddled up so that he had difficulty walking and had to have help to unwind himself. This is different. Anyone taking the body away would never bother to do that. This must be part of what Jesus said so many times – he was going to rise again.’ Wow! I wonder how it actually happened.

It is recorded that it was the other disciple who believed. That is because he was writing this account so, of course, he knew exactly what happened in his thinking in a way he did not know about the other two. He knew that at that point he put together all that he had heard Jesus say, all that had happened and all that he could see in front to him and, in a flash, he knew that it had all come true. Jesus had been, and still was, the Son of God, the Messiah, the one he was going to follow the rest of his days.

We too can now put together all that we have learned from the account of John, and the others, and say YES, this is the Son of God, the Messiah, the one I am going to follow the rest of my days.

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