John 20:1


1. The morning of our Lord's resurrection. The first day of the week on which the events recorded in this section of the chapter took place was an eventful one. On the morning of that day we are placed side by side with some weeping women. They are Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome the wife of Zebedee. They had loved their Lord in life; they had stood by him in death; they had cleaved to him on the cross; and now his lifeless corpse is to them an object of affectionate concern. In the grey dawn of the morning twilight they quit their couch, they leave their cottage, and, setting out, come to the tomb (ἔρχονται, present, come, so St. Mark, graphically) with the spices and perfumes they had carefully prepared, the sun by this time having begun to rise. But lo! in their confusion and haste and sorrow they have overlooked an important fact; they have not known, or forgotten, the efforts of his enemies to make sure the sepulcher, already secured with a great stone, sealing it with the imperial signet and setting a guard. In their hurry they have forgotten all this - the stone, the seal, the sentry. Soon as the thought occurs to them they look anxiously at each other and sorrowfully inquire," Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?" Of the stone, at least, they were well aware.

2. The rolling away of the stone. Not pausing for an answer, they press forward to the sepulcher. On reaching the spot their fears are disappointed and their expectations exceeded. An earthquake had shaken the place, an angel had descended; and when they looked up (ἀναβλέψασαι, another graphic trait) they see that the stone is rolled away. So is it with many another stone of huge dimensions - with many a stone of difficulty and doubt and danger. So with the stone that barred the entrance of the heavenly world against the sinner; so with the stone that closes the grave's mouth where the dear dead dust of loved ones lies; so with the stone that may be laid on the spot where our own ashes shall one day repose. The rolling away of this stone from the sepulcher of the Savior involves the rolling away of all these stones.

3. The evening of the same day. In the evening of the same day two lone pilgrims are traversing the pathway between the vineyards. They are journeying to a little village embosomed in vine-clad hills, and seven miles distant from Jerusalem. They are glad to escape from town; for a heavy heart seeks solitude. Their Master had been crucified, their hopes had been dashed, and their fond anticipations disappointed. They were returning home in sadness, for what was there in the capital to interest them now? All that had been dear to them there was now gone, and to all appearance gone for ever, for their Lord and Master was no more. The lovely scene around, the bright sky above, the cheerfulness of the season, but little harmonized with their sadness of heart and sorrow of spirit.

"The spring in its beauty on Carmel was seen,
And Hermon was dress'd in its mantle of green;
While the pathway which led to Emmaus was made
All fragrant and cool by the olive trees' shade;
The dove in Jehoshaphat's valley was wailing,
The eagle round Olivet proudly was sailing:
But all was unheeded, for doubt and dismay
Were distracting those two lonely men on their way." They walked and talked, and talked and walked, beguiling the difficulties of the way, and forgetting the lapse of time. They commune and reason together; they balance probabilities. They comment on the early visit of the women to the sepulcher, on the stone being rolled away, and the vision of the angels, and so for a moment they entertain a faint hope that their Master might have risen, and would now restore the kingdom to Israel. But that hope is like a brief glimpse of sunshine which the dark clouds soon blot again from the sky. Immediately it occurs to them that the words of the women had been treated as an idle tale. Their wish might have been father to the thought, while hope and love are proverbially quick-sighted. Why had Peter not seen the vision? Why had John not been privileged with the sight? A third traveler overtakes them. He joins their company. He asks the cause of the sadness pictured on their countenance; he inquires the subject of their communings; he converses with them cordially and confidentially; their heart was burning within them while he spake to them by the way and while he opened to them the Scriptures. These two scenes - one in the morning, the other in the evening of the same day; the former described by St. Mark and St. Matthew, the latter by St. Mark, but more fully by St. Luke (Luke 24:13-35) - occurred on the day of our Lord's resurrection from the dead.


1. The place where they laid him. "The place where they laid him," as St. Mark terms it, or the place where the Lord lay, was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. We visit the tomb of an earthly friend; we venerate the place of our fathers' sepulchres; we gaze pensively on the green hillock that overlays the mortal remains of one we love; with willing hand we plant the shrub - the myrtle or the cypress ? which marks the place where the heart's treasure is enshrined; we snatch the early flowers of the spring and strew them on the grave of some dear one gone; carefully we wreathe the garland and place it on the spot or hang it on the shrub that points it out. Many a time have we stood in cemeteries more like a flower-garden than a garden of the dead, and admired the care, the tenderness, and the affection of surviving relatives, as evinced in the plants and wreaths and flowers which ornamented the last resting-place of the departed. "Come, see the place where the Lord lay," was the invitation of the angel to the women in the parallel record of St. Matthew. The passage of the Gospel before us is thus a visit to a tomb - to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea, the tomb where Jesus lay, the tomb of the dearest Friend we ever had, the tomb of the most loving One that ever lived, the tomb of him who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," of the good Shepherd that laid down his life for the sheep, of him in regard to whom the believer can say, "He loved me, and gave himself for me."

2. Object of our visit to the Savior's sepulcher. The followers of the false prophet Mahomet make their weary pilgrimages from year to year to that impostor's tomb. We pity their delusion, we pray for their deliverance; but we admire their devotedness. The mighty military enterprises that roused the martial spirit of European peoples during the Middle Ages, and employed the hands and hearts of bravest warriors, had for their object the rescue of the holy sepulcher from the possession of the infidel, and the protection from injury and insult of all Christian pilgrims who might please to visit that shrine. The conception was a grand one, but somewhat gross - gigantic in one sense, and yet grovelling in another. The subject of our section leads us in the same direction; but our visit is spiritual, not literal; it is not to the mere geographical position, but to the glorious Person who made a brief repose there, and accomplished a triumphant resurrection therefrom.

3. The lessons to be learnt from this visit. When we visit in this sense the place where they laid him, the first lesson we are taught by it is

(1) the lowliness of our Lord. It was wondrous condescension on his part to visit earth at all. For the Holy One to come into this sin-blighted world, for the eternal Word to be made flesh and dwell among us, for the Son of God to be made of a woman, made under the Law, for the King of saints to endure the contradiction of sinners, for the King of glory to make himself of no reputation, - in a word, for him who was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, to take upon him the form of a servant, was surely most astonishing humiliation. But for that high and holy One, not only to empty himself and become obedient to death, and a death so painful and so shameful as that of the cross, but to enter the region of the dead, to be laid in the tomb, and to lie as a corpse in the cold grave where they laid him, - this may well challenge the surprise of man, as it commands the study of angels. We admire that patriot king who quitted for a time his throne and left his kingdom and traveled through the nations of Europe, visiting their dockyards, their workshops, and their manufactories, and actually working as a mechanic, in order that when he returned home and resumed the reins of government he might benefit his kingdom and improve his subjects. Still more are we astonished at Charles V., who had done daring deeds of chivalry, gained brilliant victories, achieved great successes, exhibited strokes of skillful diplomacy, and wielded a mighty power among the potentates of Europe, at length, as though wearied with royalty and fatigued with dominion and surfeited with splendor, giving up and resigning all, retiring into private life, and spending the remainder of his days in a cloister. But what was the temporary resignation of the Czar of all the Russias, or the final abdication of him who wore the imperial crown of Germany and swayed the proud scepter of Spain, compared with the King of kings and Lord of lords resigning the sovereignty of the universe for the stable of Bethlehem, the crown of glory for the cross of Calvary, the scepter of heaven for the garden sepulcher? "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich."

(2) "Come, see the place where the Lord lay," and consider the lesson of his love, for it was his love that laid him there. It was love that made him submit to the indignities which, as we have seen, were heaped upon him - the scoffing, and scourging, and spitting, and smiting. It was love that subjected him to the insults of priests and people, to the sentence of an unjust judge, the torture of most cruel death, and the disgrace of an ignominious execution. It was love that thus nailed him to the cross and suspended him on that cursed tree, as the gazing-stock of earth and heaven. So was it love that bound him in the habiliments of death, wrapped him in the cerements, and laid him in the coldness of the tomb. Was it strange, then, that the sun suffered an obscuration when the Savior expired, that the sky put on mourning when the Lord of glory gave up the ghost, or that the frame of nature shook when the Divine Upholder of its system died? Was it strange that rocks rent as if in commiseration of what might rend even a heart of stone? Was it strange that graves opened and their ghastly occupants came forth, and with bloodless face and skeleton form entered the holy city, and moved through the streets in grand and solemn silence, or flitted as strange and fearful apparitions among the living population that passed along the thoroughfares, when he who was the living One, having all life in himself, entered the abode of death and was laid in the grave? Long before, a dead man had started into life, when he was laid in a prophet's grave and touched a prophet's bones. Was it strange if the dove cooed plaintively in the valley of the Kidron, if the vine drooped mournfully on the hillside, if the brook murmured dolefully as it rolled over its pebble bed that night? Was it strange that the disciples hung their heads in sorrow, in sadness, and in silence, when their Master was entombed? "Come, see the place where they laid him," and "where the Lord lay;" and will not love beget love? Will you not love him who thus loved you, or rather can you forbear loving him who thus loved you first of all and best of all? Who ever heard of love like this before? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;" but while we were yet sinners, and therefore enemies, "Christ died for us."

(3) "Come, see the place where the Lord lay," and reflect on a third lesson which is taught us there. This lesson respects the light that is thus shed into the gloom of the grave, and into the dreariness of that dark and narrow, house. Darkness had reigned in all deathland before, but then life and immortality were brought to light. In some places, where railways run beneath high hills, all at once you pass out of the light of day into a dark subterranean passage. In a moment or two you find that tunnel so dark as at first you thought it; the lamps on either side relieve the gloom and interrupt the darkness. By-and-by you quit the tunnel and emerge into the light of day, brighter and more beautiful, you think, than before because of the very contrast. The grave was a dark subterranean passage once; no light entered it, no ray brightened it; but now lamp after lamp is hung up in it, and on the other side the Christian finds himself in the everlasting light and unclouded brightness of heaven.


1. Honor shown Christ in death. "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him;" and mark the honor paid him there. Even in death he was not unhonored. A few faithful females, a few devoted though dejected disciples, refused to believe that the past was only a delusion, the present merely a dream, and the future altogether darkness. They entertained an undefined expectation, and that expectation now glimmered before their mind's eye like the meteor of a moment, anon disappeared, leaving the gloom still denser. It was a dark hour with the disciples of our Lord, but it was the hour before the daybreak. These few faithful followers, however, ceased not in their attention to the body and attendance at the grave. They watched and waited, and visited the spot. The Jewish ruler Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich and honorable counsellor, as we saw in the preceding chapter, failed not in tender devotedness and affectionate dutifulness to the lifeless corpse.

2. Honor of a higher king. Greater glory awaits that body. The resurrection work of wonder takes place. Scarce had the morning of the third day arrived, scarce had the morning-star announced its early dawn, when the mediatorial reward began to be bestowed, and the faithfulness of the eternal covenant became manifest. Come once more, and see the place where the Lord lay, and as it can never be seen again. There - O wondrous sight! - lies the Prince of life; he is sleeping the sleep of death - silent and still as the grave where they laid him. Satan exults, the hosts of darkness hold jubilee, all pandemonium triumphs, hell cannot contain its satisfaction, if aught like satisfaction ever enters there. But hark! a voice from heaven echoes through that sealed sepulcher; it is the voice of God. The words "Awake, arise!" resound. In an instant the grave-clothes drop from off the body; without the help of human hand they are wrapped together and carefully laid aside; the napkin falls from the face; the stream of vital fluid circulates through the veins; the limbs that a moment before had been stiff and stark in death are in motion. The form of sinful flesh - of a servant and a sufferer - is laid aside for ever. The Savior rises; he rises in glory indescribable; he rises by his own and his Father's power; rises triumphant over death, and the Conqueror of the grave. The angels of God come down to do him honor; one of them rolls away the stone and opens the sepulcher; the keepers shake and become as dead men; earth becomes tremulous for joy under the feet of its risen King; all nature puts on its fairest spring attire and joins in celebrating the Redeemer's triumph. Thus on all sides are re-echoed the words, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay?

3. Positive proof of his resurrection. If you have any doubt of this, you need not go further for proof, and proof to demonstration, than the lie of the adversaries. "His disciples," say they, "came by night, and stole him away while we slept." What! eleven disciples overpower a company of Roman soldiers armed to the teeth, or roll away the huge stone in silence, or enter the tomb in secrecy, or range things so securely there? Or, granting this, how could they carry the body unnoticed through the streets of Jerusalem, while thousands bivouacked in or patrolled those streets and thoroughfares at that Passover season, and while the full-orbed moon shone down upon the scene? Or, allowing this, is it likely that Roman soldiers would sleep on guard while death was the penalty, or that a whole detachment of them should all fall asleep at the same time? Or, conceding even this, suppose they slept, how could they see the purloiners of the body, or how could they say whether disciples did it or not? We need not stay to answer these questions; they sufficiently show the truth of the statement, "He is not here: for he is risen."


1. It was necessary for justification. We have visited the empty tomb, and now we may inquire why he lay there and rose thence. It was in the first place for our justification. "He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification." "By his death," says one, "he paid our debt, in his resurrection he received our acquittance." Another says, "Had no man been a sinner Jesus had not died, had he been a sinner he had never risen again." In other words, his death shows his sufferings for sin, his resurrection proves full satisfaction made by those sufferings. The meaning of his death is summed up in the words, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh;" the meaning of his resurrection runs thus: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." His resurrection was thus his acquittal from the obligations he had come under, and our absolution through him from the debt we owed, so that, once united to him by faith, our persons are justified, our sins remitted, and our services accepted. Thus we see the meaning of that empty tomb. It is as though the voice of the Eternal proclaimed in thunder-tones through all the universe, "This is my beloved Son," in whose person and work, in whose life and death, "I am well pleased." His resurrection is the full recognition of the Redeemer's work. It is the protest of Heaven against the accusations with which he was loaded. It is the vindication of him whom Jew and Gentile condemned as deserving of death. It is the authoritative announcement that the work was finished, the debt paid, justice satisfied, the Law fulfilled, obedience rendered, punishment endured, wrath exhausted, sin put away, righteousness brought in, Satan vanquished, and God glorified. It is the consent of Heaven to the cancelling of the handwriting that testified against us. Therefore "all power is given unto him heaven and in earth." And had he not all power, as Jehovah's Fellow, from everlasting? Yes, but now he has it as our Mediator; he holds it on our behalf, and exercises it our benefit. Therefore "he received gifts." And why needed he gifts in whom all fullness dwelt, and who shared the Father's glory? As Head over all things he received them for his people's use, "even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them." "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." And did not God love him when he was in his bosom, before all worlds? Yes, but now he loves him as our Representative, and us in him; and consequently the apostle prays so earnestly to "be found in Christ." He is "crowned with glory and honor." And why? That he might communicate to us that glory which, as God, he had laid aside, and as Mediator resumed, and thus make his own peculiar privilege the common property of all believers.

2. It was necessary also for our sanctification. "Planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection;" "As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so should we also walk in newness of life." To live habitually in any known sin is to deny practically that sin is death; to indulge presumptuously in sin is to ignore the fact that Christ has risen from the dead; to persevere in sin is to resist the influence of Christ's resurrection, and shut our ears to the loud call that comes from the empty tomb, saying, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." We turn to some practical illustrations of the subject of sanctification. What is a saint? He is one that is risen with Christ, and acts accordingly, seeking the things that are above. Though in this world, he is not of it; he is above it. His conversation, treasure, heart, hope, home, - all are in heaven, whence he looks for the Savior. Among the currents in the Atlantic Ocean is the great Gulf Stream; it has been called a river in the ocean. The water of this stream is on the average twenty degrees higher than the surrounding ocean; it preserves its waters distinct from those of the sea on either side, so that the eye can trace the line of contact. It retains its physical identity for thousands of miles, casting branches and fruits of tropical trees on the coast of the Hebrides and Norway. It greatly influences the Atlantic, keeping one-fourth of its waters in constant motion. The sanctified person - that is, the saint - is like that Gulf Stream; he is in the ocean of this world, but he has no affinity with it; he is not conformed to it; he has a higher temperature, for "the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him." Nevertheless, his influence is great and always for good; he keeps the dead waters from stagnation and in healthy movement.

"With Christ the Lord we died to sin,
With him to life we rise;
To life which, now begun on earth,
Is perfect in the skies."

3. The resurrection of Christ is necessary for our resurrection. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept;" "He has destroyed the last enemy, and that is death." During the reign of Augustus Caesar a reverse befell the Roman army in the densely wooded valley of the Lippe. It was led by Varus to quell an insurrection of the Germans. The legions got embarrassed amid the entanglements of the forest; they fell into disorder; a violent tempest coming on at the same time aggravated their difficulties; four and twenty thousand of them were cut to pieces, and the general fell upon his sword. Six years after succeeding legions reached the plain, where lay the bleaching bones of former comrades, strewn in disorder or piled in heaps as they had fought and fallen. Fragments of weapons, limbs of horses, heads of men stuck on trunks of trees, were to be seen on every hand. In groves hard by were the savage altars where tribunes and centurions had been victimized; while those who survived that fatal field pointed out the place where lieutenants were butchered, standards taken, Varus wounded, crosses erected for the captives, and the eagles trampled underfoot. In addition to all, in a night-vision the ill-fated Varus, smeared with blood and emerging from the fens, seemed present to the imagination of his successor, and beckoning him to a like defeat. The description of the whole scene by Tacitus, the Roman historian, is vivid and terrible in the extreme. Ever after throughout his reign the Emperor Augustus was heard at times to exclaim, "Varus, Yarns, give me back my legions!" So, when we reflect on the ruins of frail humanity - the wreck of generation after generation - we may well imagine Mother Earth appealing to Death in pitiful accents, and exclaiming, "Death, Death, give me back my sons and daughters; restore to me my children thou hast slain." That appeal shall be heeded one day, not by Death, but by him who was swallowed of Death - swallowed as a poison, and so destroyed the destroyer. Christ, by his resurrection, says to Earth, widowed and weeping over the graves of her children, "Weep not! I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death." To Death he says at the same time, "O Death, I will be thy plagues! O Grave, I will be thy destruction!" Further, he will not only raise us up, he will fashion the body of our humiliation and make it like his own glorious body, Plants and animals have their proper habitats; different species demand different situations; different vegetable tribes are allotted to different latitudes and different elevations. The palms of the torrid zone will dwindle and die in the temperate; the trees of the temperate, again, shrink into shrubs in the frigid. Such is the difference of latitude. That of elevation has a similar effect. A French traveler tells us that, in ascending Mount Ararat, he found at the foot the plants of Asia, further up those of Italy, at a higher elevation those of France, then those of Sweden, and at the top those of Lapland and the northern regions. Just so we shall be adapted to our future dwelling-place. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God;" therefore the living shall be changed, the dead quickened, and all God's people, quick and dead, glorified together; "for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."


1. Come, "behold the place where they laid him," and there see the fruits of Christ's death and the benefits of his resurrection; come, seek the pardon and peace which the justified possess; come, secure the holiness and happiness of the sanctified; come, entertain the "sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life."

2. We have considered the lowliness of Christ, and dwelt on his love, and now we may rejoice in the light he has shed on the tomb. We are hastening to that "bourn whence no traveler returns." As we advance, desire fails; a little longer, and the grasshopper will be a burden. Once we reach the summit we soon go down the hill, and it is well and wisely so arranged.

"Heaven gives our years of failing strength
Indemnifying fleetness,
And those of youth a seeming length
Proportion'd to their sweetness."

3. "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified." So, too, we seek Jesus, though condemned as a Nazarene in the spirit of the contemptuous question, "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" We seek Christ crucified, though to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. We are not ashamed of the offense of the cross. Nay, like Paul, we glory in that cross. The day was when Paul gloried in his pedigree, for he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews; in his sect, for he belonged to the straitest sect of the Jews' religion, being a Pharisee; in his morality, as touching the Law blameless; in his learning, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; in the seal of the Abrahamic covenant, being circumcised on the eighth day; in his Roman franchise, born free; in his citizenship, a citizen of no mean city - his native Tarsus, beautifully situated in the plain and on the banks of the Cydnus; in his persecuting zeal, haling men and women to prison. But once his eyes were opened, once his heart was renewed, once he obtained mercy, then his ground of glorying was altogether changed. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

4. We shall not see his face until either we stand on the sea of glass, or his feet stand again on Olivet; we cannot hold him as those who "met him by the way... and held him by the feet, and worshipped him;" we cannot minister to him as certain women in the days of his flesh; we cannot serve him at food like Martha, nor pour oil on his head like Mary. What, then, remains forus to do? How are we to express our love to him? We are to think of him, believe on him, pray to him, accept him for our King and submit to his laws, call on his name, take the cup of salvation and keep his memory green in our souls, show forth his death, glory in his resurrection, partake of the sacrament of the Supper - it is the memorial of his death; and delight in the sabbath - it is the monument of his resurrection.

5. "Come, see the place where the Lord lay," and let the sight encourage you. Dread not death; you believe in him that conquered it. Dread not the grave; you love him who lay in it. Dread not hell; you believe in him who rescued you from it. But dread sin and depart from it;. "go and sin no more." - J.J.G.

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene... unto the sepulchre.
There were more common and more noble sepulchres. The common were in public burying places without the city. And through that place no current of water was to be made, cattle were not to feed there, nor wood to be gathered from thence. The more noble sepulchres were hewn out in some rock, in their own ground, with no little charge and art. You have the form of them described in these words: "He that selleth his neighbour a place of burial, and he that takes of his neighbour a place of burial, let him make the inner parts of the cave four cubits, and six cubits: and let him open within it eight sepulchres." They were not wont, say the Glosses, to bury men of the same family here and there, scatteringly, and by themselves, but altogether in one cave: where if any one sells his neighbour a place of burial, he sells him room for two caves, or hollows on both sides, and a floor in the middle. The tradition goes on. "Three sepulchres are on this side, and three on that, and two near them. And those sepulchres are four cubits long, seven high, and six broad." To those that entered into the sepulchral cave, and carried the bier, there was first a floor where they stood and set down the bier, in order to their letting it down into the sepulchre: on this and the other side there was a cave or a hollowed place, deeper than the floor by four cubits, into which they let down the corpse, divers coffins being there prepared for divers corpses. From these things may more plainly understand many matters, which are related of the sepulchre of our Saviour. The women entering into the sepulchre saw a young man sitting on the right "side": in the very floor immediately after the entrance into the sepulchre (Mark 16:5). "Going in they found not His body," &c. (Luke 24:3). "While they bowed down their faces to the earth" (ver. 12), "Peter ran to the sepulchre, and when he had stooped down, he saw the linen clothes." That is, the women and Peter after them, standing in the floor bow down their faces, and look downward into the place, where the sepulchres themselves were, which, as we said before, was four cubits deeper than the floor. "The disciple whom Jesus loved, came first to the sepulchre; and when he had stooped down [standing on the floor, that he might look into the burying place] saw the linen clothes lie: yet went he not in. But Peter went in," &c. (John 20:5); that is, from the floor he went down into the cave itself, where the rows of the graves were (in which nevertheless no corpses had been as yet laid, besides the body of Jesus:) thither also after Peter, John goes down. "But Mary weeping stood at the sepulchre without: and while she wept she stooped down to the sepulchre, and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and another at the feet, where the body of Christ had lain" (ver. 2). She stood at the sepulchre without: that is, within the cave on the floor, but without that deeper cave, where the very graves were, or the very places for the bodies: bowing herself to look down thither, she saw two angels at the head and foot of that coffin, wherein the body of Christ had been laid.

(J. Lightfoot, D. D.)

I. Let us note for a little the life of this woman as a TYPE OF DEVOTION. Devotion is an old and much used word. It carries the suggestion of an altar and a gift, where with spoken vow and a solemn covenant, a thing of sacrifice, a life of service, is devoted to God's use. The thought had been familiar for centuries in the smoking altars of Israel, but Jesus takes it and makes it the supreme fact of power in the world's life by personalizing it on Golgotha, until, under the outstretched arms of the cross, devotion means sacrifice. This woman, delivered from the bondage of a sinful life, is henceforth devoted by the grace and property-right of redemption to Him who saved her, vowed to God in body, soul, and spirit as an offering, and therefore not her own. Her devotion makes her —

II. COURAGEOUS, BECAUSE SELF-FORGETFUL. It was a brave thing to acknowledge fealty to this crucified Man and adherence to this hatred cause, to stand before soldier and Pharisee and hostile Jerusalem as a follower of Jesus. Nicodemus was not equal to it, Peter could not face the examination of a maid-servant in the palace yard; she never strikes her colours or forgets her Master, but by the spices she brings, the tears she sheds, the watch she keeps, and the appeals she makes, she publishes her fidelity and her creed. Such courage is possibly only in sacrifice or in service to self-abandoned souls. The soul of this woman was flooded, as Paul's was, with the love of Christ, and therefore she forgot, as he did, the danger and the risk.

III. PERSISTENT. The others came and looked and went away, but she is held to the spot by a love that knows no release in vow or vigil. We can imagine John as urging her to go with them as they leave the emptied sepulchre. The same power that makes the courage also makes the perseverance of the saints. So Robert Morrison waited in China, so Neesima laboured in Japan, both under the power of a great love. Here we have marshalled in the character of Mary Magdalene the three factors of power, all set like the giant boughs of an oak in one common trunk: a great devotion, a great courage, and a great patience, born each and all of a great deliverance and a great love; the triple need of the Church of God in this century, and in all centuries.

IV. It remains to note THE REWARDS OF SUCH DEVOTION. To Mary it was the historic and physical revelation of the risen Saviour and the spiritual establishment of all her hopes here and hereafter. With reverent surmise we may believe that Jesus, as He tarried unseen in the garden, was gladdened in soul as He witnessed the sorrowful fidelity of this humble follower; aye, that her devotion wrought a kind of compulsion upon Him to speak the familiar name and reveal His triumph over death. Such was the reward of her devotion, and although the forms of revelation may have changed, still the law of such manifestations is for ever the same. They wait upon devoted souls. Devotion compels revelation as love compels love. As to Mary then, so to us now, revelations are possible; aye, and resurrection of spiritual hopes and loves, as we watch and pray beside the cross. Revelations of His character, of our opportunity and of human needs; also, revelations of unused and unsuspected powers, are waiting upon single eyes and surrendered souls, and the tears are shed beside open graves, and the sorrows which burden our hearts shall all be forgotten in the joy of His presence and the sound of His voice.

(William H. Davis.)

We are here taught —


1. The first to come is Mary Magdalene. Her history is obscure. Needless obloquy has been heaped upon her memory, as if she was once an habitual sinner against the seventh commandment. Yet there is no evidence of this. But she was one out of whom the Lord had cast "seven devils" (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), and her gratitude knew no bounds. None seem to have loved Him so much as Mary. None felt that they owed so much.

2. How is it that many do so little for the Saviour? Because of a low sense of obligation. Where sin is not felt at all, nothing is done; and where sin is little felt, little is done. The man who is deeply conscious of his own guilt, and convinced that without Christ he would sink into hell, is the man who will spend and be spent for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).


1. Both Peter and John ran to the sepulchre; but John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, outran Peter; but being more reserved, retiring, deep-feeling, stooped down and looked in, but went no further. Peter, more impulsive, fervent, and forward, cannot be content without going in. Both were deeply attached to our Lord, yet each behaves in his own characteristic fashion.

2. Let us learn, then, to make allowances for wide varieties in believers. Let us not judge harshly, because they do not see or feel things exactly as we do. The flowers in the Lord's garden are not all of one colour and one scent, though they are all planted by one Spirit. The Church has a place for all, and a work for all.


1. Even John and Peter "as yet knew not the Scripture," &c. How wonderful this seems! For three long years Christ had staked the truth of His Messiahship on His rising from the dead, and yet they had never taken in His meaning. We little realize the power over the mind which is exercised by wrong teaching in childhood, and by early prejudices. Surely the minister has little right to complain of ignorance among his hearers, when he marks that of Peter and John, under the teaching of Christ Himself.

2. We must remember that true grace, and not head knowledge, is the one thing needful. Some things indeed we must know — our sinfulness, Christ as a Saviour, the necessity of repentance and faith, &c. But he that knows these things may in other respects be a very ignorant man. Let us always seek knowledge; but let us not despair because our knowledge is imperfect, and, above all, let us make sure that, like Peter and John, we have grace and right hearts.

(Bp. Ryle.)

I. THE DIFFICULTIES WE ANTICIPATE ARE OFTEN REMOVED THE MOMENT WE APPROACH THEM IN A SPIRIT OF AFFECTIONATE FAITH (ver. 1). Mark gives the names of others, and tells us that these women came with the purpose of paying Jesus the last honours they could bring. But on the way they had wondered with some degree of apprehension how they were going to roll away the stone. And now, laden in body and worried in mind, the first thing they saw was that some one had taken away the obstacle. It is not a mere figure of speech which has made this the common form of expression for the intervention of God's care in the exigencies of His children. No matter what is our fear, Divine wisdom always goes before us as we are trying to walk in the path of difficult duty. The whole world has learned to talk, as Paul, about "a door opened." And he is the best Christian who lives in the expectation that Omnipotence will honour faith.

II. HOW EASY IT IS FOR BEREAVED BELIEVERS TO MISINTERPRET PROVIDENCES WHICH GIVE US MOURNFUL SURPRISES (ver. 2). Mary was full of the tenderest, but the lowest, sort of zeal for Jesus. She wanted to have His presence again. How apt we are, when our dear ones are dead, to dwell upon the fact of our loneliness. We lose much that is comforting when we suffer ourselves to think, not about our dead friend, but about ourselves so wounded and sore at his death.

III. INQUIRY INTO THE REAL FACTS IN THE CASE IS ALWAYS THE SWIFT CORRECTIVE OF OUR FOOLISH MISTAKES, WHEN WE GROW PETULANT OVER OUR TRIALS (ver. 8). We often magnify our afflictions, and so fall to reproaching God for His harsh dealing. It would be better to count up our mercies, and prayerfully seek to be just in our estimate of pain, and of the teaching the pain brings.

IV. THE SADNESS OF A MERE MEMORY OF SIN (ver. 4). For surely we do not imagine that this was a physical trial of fleetness between those two alert and active men. The hours which Peter had spent since the denial must have been frightfully borne down the usually exuberant spirits of this man. The remembrance of his ill-desert may have imperceptibly weighed upon him, and rendered his steps reluctant. Perhaps he even felt some fear. It is just this which is the most serious result of every wicked act. It hurts your after strength for good.

V. THERE IS A PROPER LIMIT IN ALL INVESTIGATION WHEN MEN APPROACH DIVINE MYSTERIES (ver. 5). It is not likely that any artist has ever dared to attempt the delineation of this scene. Only a chastened imagination can seem to see it; no pencil could transfer a spectacle like this to canvas. If there had been more of this restraint, it would have enabled Christian hearts to rest in a deeper peace of believing. It has always been the reckless speculations of a reinless intellect which have confused devout minds that meant to be humble. I think the picture of John impresses us as one of the best incidents of his life.

VI. DIFFERENT MANIFESTATIONS OF PIETY AND PERSONALITY (vers. 6, 7). These two disciples, running for the quickest sight of the sepulchre, seems almost like a footrace of mere spiritual attributes. It is faith and love trying to distance each other in attaining a nearness to Jesus. Faith may be more moderate, and love more agile; but love proves sometimes a hesitating grace, and often faith is over-bold. Love may be more delightful in its exercises, more enthusiastic, and more fervid; but faith has more penetrating power, and more courageous confidence and force. The contrast in the case is instructive as showing how believers can differ and still agree.

VII. THE POWER OF AN UNINTENDED AND EVEN UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE (ver. 8). Peter leads John along in all this history. All the world over Simons are rushing ahead, and Johns are following; and neither seems to detect the force which moves the one after the other. Minute circumstances, trivial swayings and swervings of personal history, fix a whole career. And character is moulded, souls are lost or saved, hearts are broken or changed, nobody knows just how.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Note —

I. THE ORIGIN AND OBLIGATION OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH. The first day of Creation week was marked by the command, "Let there be light" — the first day of the Resurrection week, by the lifting up out of the darkness of death of the true Light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world. It is indeed Sun-day! What reasons justify the change from the Jewish Sabbath?

1. The first day marks the central fact upon which all our hopes hinge. For if Christ rose not, then is our faith vain.

2. On the first day the risen Lord appeared on five distinct occasions. On the next first day, there being no appearance in the interval, as though to give special prominence to the time, Jesus appeared to the eleven.

3. On the first day occurred the Pentecostal effusion, the inauguration of the Christian dispensation.

4. In Acts 20:7, the first day was the day for preaching and the observance of the Lord's Supper.

5. In 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, Paul directs the collections for the Saints to be raised upon the first day of the week, that evidently being the day of public assembling for worship.

6. So also the language of John (Revelation 1:10), in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, indicates both the fact of that day being generally recognized throughout the Church, and that it was one for special spiritual devotions and exercises upon the apostles' part.

7. The universal and unanimous consent and practice of the primitive Church and of the Church catholic show that the hallowed observance of the first day was an undisputed duty.


1. The fact that the grave-clothes were removed from the body of Christ must have seemed exceedingly strange. Would thieves have paused to do such a thing? And why should they have done so? If these were the first reflections of the disciples, they soon had occasion to reason differently.(1) "Order is nature's first law," and the God of nature in this act of triumph over the mightiest force in nature showed His regard for that law. The facts show the God-like repose of the Divine Victor.(2) This perfect order of life gathers around the souls who by faith enter into Christ. The peacefulness of the vacant sepulchre echoes the living voice of Jesus, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." Men of science tell us that the progress of a hurricane is in circles or spirals. The great storm that swings over its terrible circumference of destruction moves around a centre of perfect calm; the sailor caught in the fury of the tornado might reach a place where the air hangs still and the sea lies placid by pushing the prow of his ship straight toward the very centre of the storm. So in the tempests of life there is a centre of calm — the heart of Christ! The same truth came to the apostles on the Sea of Tiberias.

2. But it is the Saviour in the midst of the grave that we see, a Divine repose upon Himself, and by His own touch composing the disorder of death.(1) To the mere natural eye the grave is the apothosis of confusion and disorganization. The living human frame is the most perfect of organisms; but death is its grim disorganizer. At his touch the mysterious principle that gives vitality and harmony to the structure vanishes, and the delicate machinery falls into incoherent particles.(2) But the eye of faith penetrates the surface. There is One who "giveth beauty for ashes;" and Him we see standing within the open tomb fulfilling His word. The dead are in the realm of Him who has wrought order out of confusion, life and loveliness out of chaos. We have observed the deep interest that children take — and older people, too — in the ending of any work or story. How will it turn out? The interest deepens toward the close, which solves all that. It should be so, with this brief life, so like a tale that is told. The interest may not drop off as it nears its end. To the believing soul rather it deepens. What shall the ending be? Not that — the covered-up coffin, the green mound, the white marble. Not night, confusion, and eternal sleep. Beyond all that is the land of endless day, of order, law, life, beauty, and love. The door of the sepulchre has been opened, the stone rolled away, and we are given to see what glory and beauty lie beyond.

3. Moreover, the lesson touches the very outer wrapping of our immortal part — the body. It may indeed be that the very dust shall not be gathered together again. But in some wise a body of our identity shall rise again. The grip of dissolution cannot hold for ever the dust that God has redeemed for Himself.


1. The folded cerements tell us of the minuteness with which the Lord of providence looks after the spiritual wants of His children. The very hairs of the head are all numbered. The life of the world uncovered by the microscope shows the same regard by the Creator for the minutest details.

2. But as the context shows, the Master considered how He might convince the disciples; and He so disposed those cast-off cerements as to bear witness to them of the Resurrection. And this John "believed." But it was not of that one disciple alone that Jesus then thought. We too, we all, were in His Divine mind. We shared with Him the dying shame — "crucified together with Christ." We share with Him the rising glory — "ye are risen with Christ."

3. Those linen bands had been gently wrapped around the sacred body by tender hands. Were not that love and office of love recognized and honoured by the decent, almost reverent, treatment of the instruments with which love had wrought her duty? Those cerements were holy things — not simply because they had touched the body of Jesus, but because they were the symbols of a love that was faithful to Him in death.

(H. C. McCook, D. D.)

History, Prophecy, and Gospel.
I. THE EARLY VISIT. During the seventh day Love obeyed the sabbath law. The graves of loved ones are stumbling-blocks if they call from worship of the living God at the appointed time. But at last love was free to act. Early on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene, probably with other women, hastened to the sepulchre. Her surprise that the stone was rolled away was preliminary to a dreadful fear. "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him." She had no thought of His resurrection. And does not the feverish anxiety of this age lest some hostile hand should sweep Christianity from the world reveal Mary's dim conception of the power and majesty of Jesus?

II. THE EXAMINATION AND TESTIMONY OF THE TOMB. Brushing the dew from the garden shrubs and anticipating the early sunbeams, these intensely earnest men approach the sepulchre. Contrary to what we should expect, the contemplative John outruns the fiery Peter. But as John arrives before the door of the silent chamber; he does not enter. With all his physical energy, reason rules his feet. His zeal, his youthful strength, are crowned with reverence for what is Divine. Reverence too seldom accompanies activity. The opposite is seen in Peter, who is bold, ardent, impatient of delay. He makes no pause, but immediately enters the holy place. His lack of awe in entering is pardonable, because of the service he did while there for all mankind. Careful inspection could not be more emphatically indicated. They mentally photographed the interior. John marked the linen cloths lying, with no body enwrapped. The order is, first, data; second, a theory which shall include all the given facts.

III. THE NEW FAITH. The men saw that the body had not been removed by stealth or in haste, — that, in fact, it had not been removed at all. For why should a lifeless body be stripped of its grave-clothes if either foe or friend were removing it? It was a critical moment. The Holy Spirit was showing them the things of Christ. John says he saw and believed, speaking only of himself, because belief is a personal matter. Peter may have believed as strongly as he, but to say "I believe" as John practically does, is more convincing than to tell what others believe. "I saw and believed," is the goal to which John's entire Gospel is intended to lead. In it he tells how men saw Jesus and believed in Him. In this conclusion Peter was probably behind John, though he entered the sepulchre first, and was most active in inspecting its interior. Cautious, reflecting minds like John's are the spiritual leaders of the Church. Activity and push are not all that Christ's cause needs. As Peter unconsciously influenced John to enter the tomb, so when there Peter needed John's penetration as an aid to faith. At this point John adds: "For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead." This confutes for ever the theory that Peter and John saw what their minds, full of vagaries and fancies, were prepared to see. They would await His own procedure; and so they "went away again unto their own home." How fortunate that the first place to which the news was carried was "home"! Where does the Resurrection mean so much as there? Where else do so many flowers of hope and trust blossom about the thought of the Resurrection? Only the doctrine of the Resurrection will satisfy the yearnings of husband and wife, of father, mother, children, for light concerning the dead.

IV. THE APPARITION OF THE ANGELS. Yet, looking into the sepulchre, Mary saw in her dire need what Peter and John did not see — two angels, at appointed places, where Jesus had lain. The dispensation of Divine light is different to different minds. The two apostles did not need the angelic appearance; they gained their comfort by an act of direct faith. Mary received hers piecemeal, through a more striking and mysterious but less direct ministry. The Lord adapts Himself to the strength of one and to the weakness of another, yet leaves heavenly influences behind Him everywhere. Hark, the angels speak! "Why weepest thou?" Angels are sympathetic, but sympathy alone is not sufficient for such an hour. How little angelic sympathy seemed to do now! Men need not wonder if their words do not avail for comfort in bereavement. "Why weepest thou?" this time spoken by the Lord Himself. Oh fellow-man, gazing at the sepulchre of buried friends, with no spiritual hunger and with no insight into the facts which Jesus' tomb presents, you cannot but weep! But if faith leads you to look within Christ's sepulchre and to view the subject of death according to God's thought of it, "Why weepest thou?"

V. THE MANIFESTATION OF JESUS TO MARY. Deep feeling of bereavement excludes from Mary's mind for the time every other thought and perception. Her nature, so large and deep that once seven demons could use it, which just now felt a sevenfold sorrow, overflows with joy sevenfold great. In her ignorance and stony grief she had turned her back upon the Lord; now, in the light of His glorious life, she throws herself at His feet.

VI. THE NEW INSTRUCTION. In refusing this, Jesus assumes a new relation. "Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father." As if He had said: Do not rest your new faith upon My corporeal life, but upon that life which will soon be consummated with My Father. There I shall receive your love and we will resume our fellowship. Here is a lesson for all. When faith has won victory on its own high ground, why should we crave the lower testimony of the senses and a smaller promise? Mary had already made a good beginning in faith, and therefore Christ would not allow her to touch Him physically. He says by His prohibition: Having taken a few steps by faith, walk no more by sight. One touch through the Holy Ghost is worth far more than any bodily presence. Christ's new way of meeting His disciples only makes them nearer and dearer to Him than before. He calls them "My brethren" — a term of higher honour than He had used hitherto. It promises the same sonship to God as His, and the same fatherhood in God that He enjoyed. Henceforth they are brethren of Death's Conqueror and sons of Christ's Father and Christ's God. Life and revelation can rise no higher. A new command secures the publication of this message: Go to My brethren and tell them I am risen, An empty mind will doubt; aimless feet will wander. What the Lord has spoken to us is reassurance that we have seen Him.

(History, Prophecy, and Gospel.)

I. THE FIRST WITNESS — Mary of Magdala (ver. 1-3).

1. Her qualifications. A Galilean woman who had —(1) Enjoyed a rich experience of Christ's healing power (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:2).(2) Spent many months in His society (Matthew 27:55).(3) Witnessed His crucifixion, taken part in His burial, and passed some part of the night sitting over against the sepulchre (Matthew 27:56-61; Mark 15:40-47).(4) And thus was not likely to be mistaken.

2. Her deposition.(1) That she went to the sepulchre on the morning of the first day of the week — not alone (ver. 2), but accompanied by Mary, &c. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1: Luke 24:10). On the way they talked about the difficulty of removing the stone; their intention being to complete the work of embalming.(2) That on approaching the tomb she observed the stone rolled away, but did not proceed further, so she saw neither the angel without (Matthew 38:2), nor the young man within (Mark 16:5), the two in shining garments (Luke 24:4) whom her companions beheld.(3) That the instant she saw the stone rolled away she believed the tomb to be empty, thinking probably that the body had been removed by friends or foes; it is not evident that she believed as yet that Christ was risen.(4) That having arrived at this conclusion she fled to Simon and John.


1. His recommendations.(1) A man, and therefore less likely than Mary to be the sport of feelings or imagination.(2) Of mature judgment — the mercurial temperament of youth being sobered in the man of forty.(3) A disciple who had enjoyed Christ's friendship for at least two years.

2. His declaration.(1) That on learning Mary's news, he started with John for the sepulchre; that John arrived first, but, too timid to enter, he found Him standing by the door; but that he without fear or hesitation stepped in and surveyed the situation.(2) That he perceived the grave clothes had been carefully disposed. As Peter had not seen "a vision of angels" there is no reason to suppose that his faculties were too disturbed to note things exactly.(3) That he reached the conclusion that whatever had become of the body it had been removed in an orderly manner. It is doubtful whether he got beyond this.

III. THE THIRD WITNESS — "The other disciple" (ver. 8).

1. His excellencies.(1) If younger than Peter, less forward, and much calmer in judgment.(2) Of finer sensibilities, therefore better fitted to discern what related to Christ.(3) A disciple who had specially enjoyed Christ's love, and therefore one who had the highest interest in ascertaining the truth.(4) A spectator of the Crucifixion, and so one who could testify to the reality of Christ's death.

2. His testimony.(1) That before Peter's arrival he had stooped down, and looking in saw the linen cloths lying about.(2) That, emboldened by Peter, he had entered in and examined the cave.(3) That in this examination he perceived what refer had, the carefully-folded napkin in a place by itself.(4) That in consequence of what he saw he believed Christ was risen. Lessons:

1. The devotion of woman to Christ — exemplified in Mary.

2. The mourning of a saintly heart over a dead Christ — again exhibited in the Magdalene.

3. The unconscious influence of one soul upon another — illustrated in Peter's over John.

4. The different degrees of evidence that in different souls are required to produce faith — witnessed in John and Peter.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)


1. It affords the most decisive testimony to the Divine character of His person and mission. Our Saviour had wrought many miracles. Did these convince the Jews? Some few of them. But they had no effect on the majority. They ascribed it all to magic. The only means of convincing them was by raising the dead. The Jews thought that beyond the power of sorcery. Accordingly when Christ raised Lazarus, "many of the Jews believed on Him." If then the raising of Lazarus sufficed to convince them, how much more convincing the resurrection of Christ.

2. It is a pledge and assurance that our sins are forgiven. Death was the penalty of our sin; the debt we owed to God; Christ engaged to discharge that debt for us; till He discharged it in full, He was to remain in the prison of the grave. His liberation from that prison was to be the token to us that the anger of God was appeased, that our whole debt was paid to the uttermost farthing. What then? "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."

3. Without it you could neither be justified nor sanctified. Unless then the Saviour had risen, we should have been without the Sanctifier. So likewise without the Resurrection you could not be justified. It was not sufficient for the priest to slay the victim; he must enter the Holy of Holies with its blood. We are too apt to confine our view to a dying Christ.

4. It is the pattern and earnest of our own.


1. As an incentive to heavenly-mindedness (Colossians 3:1, 2).

2. For encouragement.

3. For consolation to the bereaved.

(H. L. Nicholson, M. A.)

: —

1. WHO WAS ? On the western bank of the Lake of Galilee, there stood the village of Magdala; so-called from a "Migdol," or fortified place, round which it clustered, and it means the same as "Castleton." Thence Mary was named the "Magdal-ene." She has often been most unaccountably regarded as the woman which was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). This mistake has been repeated in countless legends, hymns, homilies, ancient and modern; and by countless preachers, from down to John Bunyan; her life has often degraded into a subject for pictorial sentimentalisms; asylums for once dissolute, but now penitent women, are distinguished by her name. All this matters little to her now but it matters more than a little to us, if by adopting this error, we stand convicted of levity or laxity in our treatment of God's Word.

2. Out of whom went seven devils. Whatever may be the psychological import of the terms, it is clear that they set forth the desperateness of Mary's sorrowful plight before she know Christ. It was not a great sin, but a great sorrow. At last, she wandered into the path of Jesus; and then the spirits met their Sovereign Master. Out the loathly horrors had to go like burglars who had broken into a house of life belonging to Christ.

3. After that wonder, this new event is reported: "Jesus went through every city and village, preaching and... Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils... and many others, ministered unto Him of their substance." I can trace the sequence and understand the motive of the action thus chronicled. Ruth said to Naomi, "Intreat me not to leave thee," &c. The inner language of Mary to Jesus would be the same, but with a meaning heightened unspeakably. Of course, this implies that she had substance to minister with; and as she is mentioned in companionship with the wife of Herod's steward, the fair inference is that she probably belonged to an equal social station. But now she counted all things but loss for Christ's sake.

4. At length we see Mary standing at the cross. How did she reach this fearful station? What had she in Jerusalem? The men were bound by law to appear at each great feast; but not the women. In her noiseless, unobtrusive way, she was with Him that she might minister to Him of her substance. It was true that her ministering could do little for Him now; but this she can do, at least she can show her love. When all was over, still she stood there; when the two senators carried away the body into the tomb, she was one of those who could say, "We marked the spot, arid shall know it again." She ministered of her substance in helping to prepare the final honours; and on the morning of the first day she was the first to arrive at the sepulchre.

5. It is remarkable that John says nothing of the other women. Perhaps Mary's spiritual presence was always so imperial, that any person meeting her in company at any exalted moment would have seen, heard, and have been conscious of Mary alone. Mary is always the royal personage. Her life was a glorious romance of love to Christ. On earth she was the type of this love; in heaven she is a leader of those who swell the sanctus, "Unto Him that loved us," &c.

II. WHAT WAS HER ALARM? "They have taken away my Lord," &c. From dull feeling, firm nerve, or superb physical vitality, some of our friends are not easily frightened; but after what Mary had gone through, we can very well understand that her nature was quick to take alarm. When Jesus expelled the deaf and dumb spirit, Thomas Fuller remarks, "He went out like an outgoing tenant, that cares not what mischief he does." It is reasonable to conjecture that when Mary's seven tormentors were mastered, and their reign of terrible tyranny was over, the traces of it were left in a life of nervous vibration and excitability, and just now her strained life had been strained afresh, and when she was setting out for the sepulchre she had reached the point of the intolerable. When your dead is out of sight, your heart feels fit to break; but if you had the sudden fear that foul violators of the grave had snatched away what to you is most fearfully sacred, such a fear would come with a blow on the brain enough to make the reason totter. So thought Mary as to the buried form of her soul's Holy One.

III. HOW HER ALARM ENDED — In a great discovery (ver. 11, &c.).

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

I. MARY GOING TO THE SEPULCHRE. The picture exhibits.

1. Fidelity of love. Last at the cross, first at the tomb.,(1) She clings to Christ while others have left Him.(2) She holds to Him although He was in the lowest stage of His humiliation. She was not with the crowd who shouted Hosannah. Fine weather Christians are more numerous than Magdalenes.(3) She avails herself of the first opportunity to seek Him. Love is an early riser

2. The courage of love. "When it was yet dark." Darkness creates fear; but perfect love casteth out fear.

3. The liberality of love. She brought spices to anoint Christ's body.(1) She gives her quota although others had given before. True love never asks, "To what purpose is this waste?"(2) She gives to Jesus because Jesus had given to her before. "We love Him because He first loved us."

II. MARY AT THE SEPULCHRE. This picture exhibits —

1. The mistake of love (ver. 11) — "Weeping" The sepulchre was empty, for Jesus had conquered, and heaven was full of joy.

2. The reward of love —

(1)She finds Jesus — "They that seek Me early shall find Me."

(2)She finds Him better than she expected; instead of a dead Christ a living Saviour.

3. The appreciation of love (ver. 16) —

(1)She thinks highly of Him — "Rabboni."

(2)She wants to embrace Him more lovingly than ever.

4. The propagandism of love (ver. 18). Christian missions — love eager to let the world know its Saviour.

(T. Morgan.)

Early, when it was yet dark.




(S. S. Times.)



(S. S. Times.)

Seeth the stone taken away.
Many are the hindrances which keep us from Christ, and from approaching His body. We fen r at one time the guard, the men of this world, and at another time are restrained by the stone, by natural hindrances which shut out from our eyes the sight of our Redeemer. But if we are deaf to the prudence of the world, and will go like Mary to Him, we shall find that all hindrances melt away, and that angels have already descended and have taken away the stone from the sepulchre, so that we may know assuredly that He has risen from the dead.


They have taken away the Lord.




(S. S. Times.)

The order of Christ's eleven appearances between His resurrection and ascension, I believe to be as follows:

1. To Mary Magdalene alone (Mark 16:9; John 20:14);

2. To certain women returning from the sepulchre (Matthew 28:9, 10);

3. To Simon Peter alone (Luke 24:34);

4. To two disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24:13);

5. To ten apostles at Jerusalem, and some other disciples, Thomas being absent (John 20:19);

6. To eleven apostles at Jerusalem, Thomas being present (John 20:26-29);

7. To seven disciples fishing at the sea of Tiberias (John 21:1);

8. To eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee, and perhaps some others with them (Matthew 28:16);

9. To above five hundred brethren at once (1 Corinthians 15:6);

10. To James only (1 Corinthians 15:7):

11. To all the apostles, and probably some others, on Mount Olivet, at His ascension.Most of these eleven appearances require little or no explanation. The only appearances about which there is any difficulty are the two first. The knot to be untied is this. St. Mark says that our Lord appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9). St. John also describes this appearance; and it is quite plain from his account that Mary Magdalene was alone (John 20:11-13). Yet St. Matthew says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulchre together, — saw an angel, and heard that our Lord had risen, — ran to bring the tidings to the disciples, and were met on the way by Jesus, and both saw Him at the same time. -Now how can the account of these three witnesses be made to harmonize?

1. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did not go alone to the sepulchre. By comparing Mark 16:1, and Luke 23:55 and Luke 24:1, with Matthew 28:1, it is quite evident that several "other women" accompanied them.

2. On drawing nigh the sepulchre, the company of women saw the stone rolled away from its mouth. At once, on seeing this, it flashed on the mind of Mary Magdalene that the body of Jesus had been removed, and, without waiting a moment, she ran off to Peter and John, and told them, as recorded in John 20:1, 2.

3. While Mary Magdalene ran off to tell Peter and John, the other women went up to the sepulchre, found the body gone, saw a vision of angels, were told that Jesus had risen, and were commanded to go and tell the disciples. They departed to tell the news. Some went in one direction and some in another; Mary and Salome with one party; Joanna with another.

4. While this was going on, Mary Magdalene returned with Peter and John to the sepulchre shortly after the other women went away. Whether Mary got there so soon as Peter and John, perhaps admits of doubt.

5. Peter and John saw the empty sepulchre, and went away, leaving Mary Magdalene weeping there.

6. As soon as Peter and John went away, Mary Magdalene saw the two angels, and immediately after saw our Lord Himself, and was told to carry a message to His brethren (John 20:17).

7. In the meantime the other women had gone in two or three directions, to tell the other disciples who lived in a different part of Jerusalem from that where Peter and John lived. Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Salome, were yet on their way when Jesus met them, very shortly after He had appeared to Mary Magdalene.

8. One party of the women, with Joanna at their head, saw nothing of our Lord, but went to the disciples and told them the message of the angels.

9. Shortly after this, our Lord appeared to Peter, who very likely had gone again to the grave on hearing Mary Magdalene's report.

10. In the course of the same day our Lord appeared to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, who had left Jerusalem after Joanna and the women reported the vision of angels, but before our Lord had appeared to Peter.

11. In the evening of the same day our Lord appeared to the apostles, and others with them, Thomas being absent. Luke means by "the eleven apostles" the apostles generally, as a body. This was our Lord's fifth appearance OH the day that He rose.

(Bp. Ryle.)

Christian Age., S. S. Times., S. S. Times.
I. THE FOLLY OF ALL HUMAN EFFORTS TO PREVENT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSES. The stone had been placed at the mouth of the sepulchre to prevent the fulfilment (Matthew 27:62-66). The Jewish rulers tried to veil their purpose; but it is plain that they looked to the dawning of the third day with anxiety, and that they were determined that, so far as lay in their power, that day should pass away without the event they feared. But their precautions were as vain as all efforts have been to prevent God from carrying out His purpose and fulfilling His promises.

II. THE LOVEABLENESS OF THE MAN CHRIST JESUS. He seemed to have led His friends astray (Luke 24:21), yet, instead of joining with His adversaries in condemning Him as a deceiver, they continued to love Him. Had there not been in His character a rare charm, those whom He seemed to have misled so terribly could not have continued to love Him as they did. If after our death we would have all our apparent mistakes forgotten, and our memory cherished, let us live as Christ lived.

III. THE SLOWNESS OF THE HUMAN MIND TO RECEIVE GREAT TRUTHS. Of this fact the difficulty which the apostles had in attaching any meaning to our Lord's promises that He would rise on the third day, and in believing in the fact of His resurrection even when it had occurred, is an impressive illustration. This fact should make us patient with those who hold false and foolish views.

IV. FULLER LIGHT IS THE REWARD OF FAITH AND LOVE. To the absolutely unbelieving Jews no manifestation of the risen Christ was vouchsafed: and He appeared earliest to those who loved Him most — to Mary and the other women earlier than to any of the apostles. Thus He fulfilled His own word (Luke 8:18).

(Christian Age.)

So they both ran together.





(S. S. Times.)




(S. S. Times.)

(Children's Sermon): — There is always something the matter when grown-up people run. Boys and- girls hardly ever walk; men and women very seldom run. All young creatures love to run-kittens, puppies, calves, lambs. As we get older we grow more sedate, and the sign hat a boy has become a man is that he walks. But if there is an accident, or a fire, or if he has to catch a train then he runs. The text tells us of a race between two disciples who should get first to the Lord's sepulchre. John outran Peter on this occasion, but on that other in the next chapter, although John saw Christ first, Peter was the first ashore. So John did not always outrun Peter.

I. THERE ARE SOME DISCIPLES WHO HAVE COME TO A STANDSTILL. When people take a voyage they never think about the machinery until it stops; then everybody is on deck to know what is the matter. Sometimes the long shaft which turns the propeller has to be screwed or "keyed" up, and the machinery has to be stopped. It is the same when a train stops and no station in sight. The windows go up, and people's heads go out. And when the machinery of the body is affected we begin to wonder what is the matter with us. We never know that we have a head till it aches, nor heart, nor lungs till they want keying up. There are a great many stoppages in life. Some stop being respectable — boys who loaf about street corners and taverns. Some stop being honest; they don't pay their bills, and need keying up in their morals. Many were once running disciples who walk in Christ's ways no longer. And then just as with the steamer, &c., there is something wrong with their souls. It's a dreadful thing to be a disciple who doesn't go at all like a stopped clock. You can't tell the Christian time of day by looking at their faces. Something is the matter inside. This was the case with the disciples when Jesus died; but when the Spirit came at Pentecost they became going Christians once more. It was like fresh steam to an engine, or the keying up of its shaft, or the winding up of a clock. And so when we have come to a standstill by loss of faith, love, zeal, let us pray for that Spirit to come to us with fresh impulses and desires to enable us to go on in His service again. Standing disciples will never reach heaven.

II. THESE ARE WALKING DISCIPLES. The Bible says a good deal about "walk and conversation." You can tell a man's character by his walk. When a man rolls and swings his shoulders from side to side we know him to be a good humoured soul. A drunken man's walk reveals his character. When people go to a funeral they go in slow and solemn procession; but when we see one whom we love, and whom we have not seen for a long time, we hasten our steps. The two disciples walked from Jerusalem to Emmans, but I expect they ran from Emmaus to Jerusalem. It makes a great difference in our walks what motives we are led by. I knew a boy who was so slow that he was always late to everything but dinner, and we called him Sergeant Slowboots. And to this day there he goes sauntering along as if there were twenty-seven days to the week instead of seven. H we are going to the dentists we generally take our time about it; but if we are going out for a holiday we don't waste a moment. If we are trying to walk in the way of God's commandments we ought to pray, "Quicken me in Thy way." Just as we ought not to loiter when sent on errands or when father calls, so we must not be slow in God's work and when He calls.

III. THESE ARE RUNNING DISCIPLES. Some get on faster than others; as John than Peter. He saw things before Peter did. He had a quicker eye and a quicker step. Some people when they enter a room see everything in it at once, while others seem to notice nothing. Some are lithe and active, and can run for a chair or book, while the rest are wondering what to do. It is this quick eye and step which make business men successful. When he was a young lieutenant the Duke of Wellington was asked how soon he could leave for India, "In fifteen minutes, sir." And sure enough in a quarter of an hour he was ready to go — which showed that he was a wide-awake running disciple of his country. God's angels are running disciples. They fly to do His will. When a person runs he must have some object in view which quickens his footsteps. In the boat or horse race those who do the driving are urged on by the desire of winning. "So run that ye may obtain."

(Wilberforce Newton.)

St. John represents the contemplative, Peter the active. The contemplative person is more nimble in his wit; the active quick at his work. St. John ran faster; but St. Peter went surer.


Among the children of God all of them have not a like speed. Some of them get a sight of Christ before others. But whoever they be that have the life of God in them, and so are walking on towards Him, they shall, either first or last, meet with Him without doubt.

(Samuel Rutherford.)

And he stooping down and looking in. —
The variety of Oriental tombs is so great that it is impossible to be certain of the shape of this tomb; but these words, when compared with Matthew's account, do not allow us to suppose that it was like a simple grave cut in the rock, as many of them are. The ancient tombs now accessible, of the kind which allow one to stoop down at the door and see the place of the body, are those provided with steps inside, from the door down to a room of moderate size, about, and in the sides of which are cut the loculi, or niches, for the body. The loculi, in such cases, are cut along the side, instead of piercing horizontally like our modern catacomb, and are a mere shelf, with a roof arched lengthwise. This arrangement of an ancient tomb, especially from about the time of Christ indefinitely earlier, is quite common in the East. It not only permits one to stoop down at the door, and look in and see the entire place of the body, but would allow one to sit at the head and another at the foot, as the two angels did. For the lower tier of niches (such tombs seem usually to have one row only, as a general thing, though sometimes they have two), one sitting on a seat no higher than an ordinary chair would have his head higher than the body. Sometimes these niches are so long and so high that there would be room for the body, and for a mourner to sit in Oriental fashion in the niche, one at the head, and the other at the feet. But, since most of the known examples of this kind of tomb were heathen, the larger space was probably for offerings, for provisions for the dead, or for other objects such as the French call "the furniture of the tomb." It is also true, however, that ancient tombs exist consisting of a mere room, on the floor of which the dead were laid, with he "furniture" that usually accompanied them.

(H. G. Trumbull, D. D.)

None but humble and meek men can see these mysteries. He that will not stoop at Christ's grave shall never be partakers of His death and resurrection.


It is remarkable, that whenever these holy coverings of our Lord's body are mentioned, they are never called (John 11:44) "grave clothes," as in the case of Lazarus; but they are spoken of as the linen clothes (2 Corinthians 13:4).

(I. Williams.)

The cerements of Christ and of Lazarus: — When our Lord raised up Lazarus, he came forth of the grave "bound hand and foot with grave clothes." Though he was for the present rescued from death by the power of Christ, yet he must still be a subject to it; he is revived, but yet riseth with the bonds of death about him; he must die again; but when our Lord riseth, He shakes off His grave clothes; the linen, that wrapped His body, in one place, and the linen, that bound His head, in another. Our Lord, being risen, "dieth no more; death hath no dominion over Him" (Acts 13:34-37; Romans 6:9; Hebrews 7:23-25).

(Sir M. Hale.)

Finding one of his children had been greatly shocked and overcome by the first sight of death, Dr. Arnold tenderly endeavoured to remove the feeling, and opening a Bible pointed to these words, saying, "Nothing, to my mind, affords such comfort, when shrinking from the outward accompaniments of death, the grave clothes, the lonelineess, as the thought that all these had been round our Lord Himself, who died and is now alive for ever more."

(Dean Stanley.)

You may wonder what interest or significance there could be in these objects, and how they could possibly affect John so. You see such common-place trifles every day. But —

I. Looked at in its connection, we have in this descriptive note some of those "UNDESIGNED COINCIDENCES," and delicate, obscure hints of information, which marvellously enhance the interest and confirm the truth of the Gospel story. Forgers would never have thought of such a circumstance. Jesus not being in the grave, there could be only one of two explanations of this.

1. The sight of the sepulchral draperies, and the face cloth — the first, carefully folded; the second, put carefully away by itself — effectually set at rest the suspicion that evil hands had "taken away the Lord." Robbers do not set things right before they leave; but scatter confusion, out they go.

2. It being certain that no robber had done this work, it was equally certain that Jesus Himself must have done it, and this was all the more confirmed by the calmness, love of order, methodical attention to little things, displayed, which were all in the style of Jesus, and tokens which the witness recognized as surely as we recognize the handwriting of a friend.

II. Notice the connection between THE DELIBERATE, ORDERLY HABITS OF JESUS, and the conviction wrought in the mind of one who knew those habits well. Such habits, besides being necessary to Him as a perfect Man, belonged to the Jewish characteristics of His human nature.

1. What were they? The race endowment of the Greeks was an instinctive consciousness of beauty and symmetry in thought and form; the national quality of the Romans, methodical force; the Jewish national peculiarity was statical order.(1) The remarkable tribal, ritual, marching order that shows itself in the story of the Exodus, in the settlement in Canaan, in the Temple, in the return from captivity, &c., could only have been possible in a people with whom order was the native instinct and habitude.(2) This habitude made the people such divinely fitted custodians of the Scriptures; and while the text of the Septuagint is so unsettled that it is impossible to place in it more than a general confidence, the Hebrew Scriptures are so correct that they present only a comparatively small variety of lections.(3) This faculty was always the mark of a great leader; we see it in Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel.

2. Mark how it was exemplified in Jesus. You see it in His instructions to the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples; in the plan of His journeys; in the development of His doctrine; in the arrangements for the feeding of four or five thousand men, besides women and children. A plan was wanted all at once for marshalling the people in companies; for making them all sit in line, with clear passages. All was done with infinite ease; and then came a methodical care in the distribution of the food; a methodical plan to prevent waste — and all this by way of methodical attention to little things; the fragments were carefully gathered up, and twelve baskets were filled. Even on the cross the love of order was seen. He could arrange for the comfort of Mary; could remember the last one prophecy about Himself that had to be fulfilled before He died, and know the point when He could utter the triumphant cry, It is finished!

III. Now we come with awe to mark THIS CROWNING INSTANCE OF JEWISH ATTENTION TO FITNESS AND ORDER. Jesus, in the act of conquering death, and in the last moment of the transaction that saves millions of everlasting lives, stops to smooth the shroud, and to put the napkin carefully away into its right place, before He leaves the house of death. A striking instance this of particularity in order, and of attention to "the littles"! Before John noticed how the linen clothes lay, the sight seems to have had no effect upon him; but when, as the result of close observation, he saw how they had been placed, he knew that Jesus had done this; and that, just like Himself, minutely observant, grandly deliberative, divinely serene, He had risen from the grave.

IV. IT WAS, AND IS, FULL OF INTEREST AS A REVELATION OF THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. A symbol, through which He now teaches how carefully He counts, watches, manipulates and rectifies all things with which He has to do as the risen Saviour. He has the care of the Church, and is my own personal Saviour. This act reminds me that such a Saviour exactly meets my wants. Events are often in a tangle, and I cannot set them in order; my life is not made up of sublimities, but of little things. As the result of many things, each small and mean, I find myself bereft of spiritual sensitiveness and vivacity, and I am only half awake to the grandest of all realities; so, through a confusion of trifles I am brought into a mood that lays me open to some great temptation; and the smallest detail in my affairs will not be too small for Him to think of if I forget, nor to put in its right place, if this should be more than I can do.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

(Children's Sermon): — You do not see anything strange at first here. You can fold a napkin neatly yourself! Yes; but this one was found in a grave. The disciples had heard that Christ was risen, and went to see if it was true; and found only some graveclothes and a napkin neatly folded. The soldiers who had been set to watch the grave were very frightened when they found the Lord had risen, and so said that the disciples had come and stolen the Lord away! But the napkin told a different tale. Do you think that anybody would have taken the time or the trouble to fold up the graveclothes? Learn from this —


1. He has a place for everything, and puts everything in its place. If we find out where He has put a star, we know quite well where to find that star again; it never gets mislaid. Were it otherwise we would never be able to get on at all! If the sun rose one morning in the west and went down in the east we would not be sure of what he might do next day, for he might come from the south and go down in the north; or worse still might not shine at all!

2. Or, if the Lord did not always do the same things in the same way, so that we could depend upon Him, we would soon be starved; for when the farmer had sown his seeds in the spring-time, winter might suddenly come and then all at once hot summer might set in, and so nothing could be grown in the fields.

3. Isn't there a lesson here? You do not always fold up the napkin: i.e., do things as neatly as you might, and put things in their proper places. How you left that seam you had been sewing How your school-books were scattered about and made you late for school. Slovenly men and women come from careless boys and slatternly girls. Learn now to do as God does.

II. THAT IS THE WAY TO FIND TIME. By the time you have found the things you have mislaid, you might have got through a great many pages of that book you are so fond of. In a chemist's shop, there are hundreds of bottles, and many of them all the same size, yet every one contains something different !Now suppose they were all laid down anywhere, and mixed together anyhow, and somebody came and asked for a particular medicine. The chemist might be an hour in finding it, and might even then, in the confusion, give the wrong one and kilt somebody. But he has a place for every one, and puts every one in its place. And so dispenses safely and saves time.

III. IT IS THE WAY TO BE HAPPY. You can't be careless about things without injuring them, and you can't mislay things without becoming fretful; and then you say unpleasant things, and other people say unpleasant things to you, and so wherever there is confusion there comes every evil work. Learn then to do things neatly and at the right time, and put them in their proper places. Order is heaven's first rule, and God says He is not the Author of confusion. If you would wish to be God's children, you must try to be like Him in this also.

(J. R. Howat.)

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