Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for April 9

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for April 9

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of biblical and religious studies, Samford University

Jesus Rose Again to Give Me Life

John 20:1–2, 11–18

He is risen! Today’s story of an encounter with Jesus is the most formative of all. Before day dawns on the first Easter, Mary Magdalene meets her risen Lord.

In the synoptic Gospels, she is among the women who come to the tomb, but John focuses on Mary alone before the two men arrive.

The encounter leads to the issue of Jesus’ identity and the response of faith.

The tomb in which Jesus was buried was found empty. (1–2)

The first day of the week is Sunday. John says the Resurrection happened while it was still dark, echoing the proclamation with which he began his Gospel (John 1:4–5).

Although he was associated with John early in Christian tradition, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is not named in the Gospel. This anonymity invites John’s readers to consider Jesus’ love for them.

For Mary, the sight of the empty tomb is not yet evidence of the Resurrection. The beloved disciple, however, understands what has happened (v. 8).

Jesus revealed Himself as alive. (11–16)

Following the practice of the day, the tomb was carved into a limestone hillside and had a low opening. Anyone wishing to see inside had to stoop (v. 5).

In John, the messengers (“angels” in Greek) don’t announce the resurrection. Mary sees Jesus, but like the disciples walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), she doesn’t recognize Him.

Like others who encounter Jesus but don’t yet know His identity, Mary inadvertently calls Him “Lord” (“sir”) before coming to full belief (4:11; 8:11; 9:36). Perhaps because of her grief and alarm, Mary thinks a gardener would remove a corpse and that she can take him away on her own. This could also explain why she doesn’t recognize Jesus’ appearance or His voice.

She does, however, know Him when He speaks her name. This might be the most powerful moment among all Resurrection appearances, for Jesus calls her even in her fear, confusion and anguish.

The message of the resurrected Christ is to be shared with others. (17–18)

Having moved from the darkness of loss to the light of joy at the Resurrection, Mary does the job of the angels. She proclaims her own experience: “I have seen the Lord!” The men take up the message in verse 25.

We can’t preach this message the same way for we have not seen our Lord as they did.

But He is risen. This is the truth we celebrate every Easter and proclaim every day. We are the ones Jesus spoke of when He said to Thomas, “‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe’” (v. 29).

Without seeing, our strongest testimony is still our own experience of the living Lord — Jesus gave me peace. He turned my heart from judgment to mercy. He brought me out of darkness into light. He healed me. He taught me to love. He called me by my name. What can you add that the Lord has done for you and those you love?

Jesus did these things even as we languished in situations like Mary’s, some better and some worse. Jesus came to us as we were and called us to Himself. Thus we who have not seen may confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).