Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

A Slow Fade In

John 20:1-31

In broadcasting or film making there are several types of ways of getting from one scene to another. Two of the most common are a cut and a fade. In a cut one scene is suddenly replaced with another. In a fade one scene fades out to black and is then slowly replaced with another that fades back up from black.


For the disciples of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion was a cut. Suddenly and with great force Jesus is taken, tried, and executed. Everything they had put their trust into was yanked away from them. In the emotion and turmoil of the moment they are not thinking about the fact that Jesus predicted all this would happen, and said that he would die and rise.


They are anxious, fearful, grief-stricken, hopeless, and alone. That Sabbath must have been the most difficult they had ever experienced.


Sunday morning dawned, and just as the light of day slowly replaced the dark of night. So too did the light of the fact of Jesus? resurrection slowly fade in on the disciples. It was not all at one that they knew he was alive, but it happened slowly, in fits and starts, until the awesome reality set in and the rejoicing could replace the mourning. Let?s see how that reality dawned on them.


Mary & the Women ? filled with grief



Mary and the other women could not stand up before the Roman governor but they could stand with Jesus at the cross and were so devoted to Him that they were the first to know of the Resurrection.


The stone was rolled away so others could get in, not so that Jesus could get out


Angels questioned the women: ?why search for the living among the dead?? (Mark 16). It was they who instructed the women to go tell the disciples (Matt 28)


The women, some of whom stood by Jesus until the end, had returned to the tomb to anoint his body. It was dark and all they could make out was that something had happened at the tomb. The stone was gone.




They haven?t learned the whole story yet, but they run back and report what they saw to the disciples. Luke says that Peter and the boys thought they were out of their minds with grief and were telling tales. But something in their voice must have sparked something in Peter and John for out they went, running to see what had happened.


Peter & John ? filled with curiosity

3 ? 4


I think there must have been this running rivalry between Peter and John. So I love how John points out that in a foot race to the tomb he won!


5 ? 10


What were they thinking? I?m sure it wasn?t about resurrection. Perhaps someone stole the body to further desecrate it?


Apparently, the way the grave cloths were situated in the tomb is significant to Peter and John?s ?belief? (but belief in what?). There is some suggestion that the layering of the spices and aloes in the strips of linen would form a sort of cast that would have stayed in its same shape if a body resurrected through it. So you would have a Jesus shaped cloth with no body in it!


So now we go from simply realizing that Jesus isn?t there to the realization that this is no ordinary empty tomb. Jesus is not the victim of grave robbers or anyone else moving his dead body. Something special happened in that tomb.


Mary Magdalene ? filled with longing

11 ? 18


Why didn?t Mary recognize them as angels? She was probably crying too much. This is a woman whose sole focus is on finding her Lord. They want to know why she is crying. Normally, people cry at gravesides. In reality, this was to be a time of great joy. Jesus had risen. She doesn?t know this yet. In her eyes, the grief of losing Jesus has been compounded by not being able to say goodbye and mourn over his body.


She probably turned, realizing he really wasn?t there and sees a man whom she confuses as the gardener. Jesus asks her the same question but adds ?whom are you seeking?? He gives her the formal greeting of ?woman? and acts like a stranger. Jesus in his resurrected body was not immediately recognizable until he wanted to be. In this case, it is when he speaks. On the road to Emmaus it is when he breaks bread (He is the bread of life, He is the Word of life).


It dawns on Mary that not only is the tomb empty and that something special happened in there but that the man who they thought dead was not dead any more.


?Don?t cling to me,? he says to her. It could mean several things. Perhaps she is physically holding on to him. Having lost him once she is not going to lose him again. In reality, Jesus would have to leave again to send the promise of the Holy Spirit. Mary could not keep him all to herself.


Mary thus becomes the first person to see the risen Lord.


Joy overcomes grief as this risen man personally recognizes her.


The Disciples ? filled with fear

19 ? 23


How did Jesus get in? Another feature of His resurrected body is the ability to go anywhere at will with no physical limitations. Sort of like instant ?beam me up, Scotty.?


He says ?peace be with you? I?m sure in part because of the great surprise at his sudden appearing (Luke tells us they thought he was a ghost). But I also wonder if some of them were concerned at what Jesus would think of them, having scattered and having not believed Mary. I also think it is significant because of what it means. We now have peace with God through Jesus death, burial and resurrection.


Jesus had appeared to Peter sometime in the afternoon (Luke 24:34) and to the two men on the road to Emmaus, so they must have been expecting something, but what?


Jesus does three things: He tells them they have been sent on a mission, he empowers them for that mission with the Holy Spirit, and then tells them the purpose of the mission: to announce forgiveness and that anyone who receives their word will experience the same new life that they have.


The risen Lord is different. He did not just resuscitated, but resurrected.


There was one person missing from the group: Thomas.


Thomas ? filled with doubt

24 ? 29


Thomas needed hard evidence. Jesus supplied it but it made Thomas realize the foolishness of his demand. Eyewitness testimony is the key to belief in Jesus. He answers: ?my Lord and my God.?


Thomas realizes that not only is Jesus resurrected but that He truly is who He said He was, one with the Father?in other words: God Himself.


30 ? 31


We know that Jesus made other appearances before ascending back to the Father. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that He appeared to 500 people at the same time. John only writes down what is necessary for belief: namely, that Jesus died, was buried, and rose?proving that He is alive and all He said was true.




How does the resurrection find you? Grief stricken, afraid, doubting, curious?


The truth of Jesus? resurrection slowly dawned on these people I think in part because it was such a shock. Never before had such a thing happened. No one came back from the dead except if Jesus had raised them, but He Himself?


That same reality comes to us slowly as well. If Jesus just appeared in all His glory we?d be so completely blown away that our brains would freeze. So it starts slowly?a curiosity, perhaps. Each of these people had a piece of the story: a stone rolled away, grave cloths strangely arrayed, a tall tale by a grieving woman, some strangers, trusted friends with words too good to be true.


But there was a key element missing from their knowledge, an element that Jesus provided: his absence in the tomb meant his presence in the world?alive.


Has the reality of the risen Jesus slowly begun to dawn on you? Be like Peter and John and run to that tomb to discover the truth for yourself. He is not there, He is risen.


What does that mean to us who already believe? Do we only have a part of the Jesus story ourselves? We see the empty tomb and think, ?good, my sins have been paid for,? but there is no personal encounter with Jesus. He is simply our fire insurance salesman. Or perhaps we do have a personal relationship with Him but we want it on our terms so we hold on. We want Jesus to be what we want, not what He wants. Or perhaps we?re afraid that Jesus will see us and be disappointed. We don?t realize the full impact of what peace with God really means. Or maybe we want to stay locked behind the doors of the church but don?t fully realize that Jesus is not just saving us He is sending us. Or maybe we are so locked in our own opinions that we need an angel to stand in front of us or Jesus Himself to appear before us personally to get us to move on with Him into a closer, more powerful relationship.


Let the reality of the power of the risen Jesus begin to fade in to your life. Bow before him like Thomas eventually did and say ?my Lord and my God? ? do with me what you will. I am weak and doubting and a sinner, but I am yours!