Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for March 31

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for March 31, written by Ben Stubblefield, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for March 31

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


John 20:1–17

A removed stone (1–2)

Verse 1 begins by describing “the first day of the week.” The time between Jesus’ death and resurrection was the Sabbath. Mary visits at the first opportunity, Sunday, which becomes the day of celebratory worship for the Church.

It is now known as the Lord’s Day because it was the day He undid death and became the firstborn of the new creation, the firstfruit of many more to come.

Mary runs to Simon Peter and John confused, scared and unbelieving. She questioned, like any good skeptic would, and then the Lord revealed Himself to an honest inquirer. The claims of our faith are not based in mythology or mystery but are grounded in history and hinge upon investigatable, concrete facts.

They are, therefore, open to discovery and inquiry and are verifiable. And though incredible, they are true. Jesus did not hide from Mary. We don’t have to be afraid of doubts, fears or questions. The Lord will meet us, as He did Mary, in the search for truth.

An empty tomb (3–10)

While John, the younger of the two, outran Peter, Peter was the first to peer inside the tomb, and there he found folded burial linens. That little detail indicates two things. First, it means the tomb wasn’t robbed. Thieves wouldn’t need a body, and they would have most certainly taken expensive garments. Second, it’s clear that the One wearing the grave clothes didn’t think He’d be needing them anymore.

For those reasons, John “saw and believed.” Though the disciples were still perplexed about the death of their Messiah, the seeds of belief had started to sprout. Their lingering misconceptions and doubts would dissolve by evening.

What so many Jesus-seeking folks appreciate about the Gospel writers is their honesty and plain presentation. These verses don’t read like myth or fable. These are ordinary, flawed, speculative people (just like us) describing an extraordinary miracle as sincerely as they can.

Perhaps this Easter we could learn from John and invite others to consider his simple testimony and to examine, as though with him in his doubt and uncertainty, the empty tomb.

The living Teacher (11–17)

Mary does not recognize Jesus immediately but when Jesus calls her name, she recognizes and clings to Him.

Jesus’ instructions to her in verse 17 are perplexing. I think it’s best to envision a Mary who is so enraptured with Jesus that she does not want to let Him go. And so He tells her in effect, “I’m not going anywhere yet!”

She leaves Jesus per His instruction and bears witness to the disciples. We don’t know how they reacted to her news, but we do know that she was faithful. The disciples may have been frightened or confused, as described in Luke 24. But Mary’s assignment wasn’t to convince the disciples; it was to report what she had seen to the disciples. And isn’t that our calling as well?

We’re called to be faithful to go and tell and bear witness to a resurrected Christ, regardless of how people respond.

I’ve heard people say that the culture is changing and folks don’t believe, but perhaps fewer believe because fewer bear witness. Let’s be faithful, like Mary, to tell others about the hope of our Lord during this resurrection season.