At the Tomb

At the Tomb presents the grief and bewilderment of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John at the empty tomb. An important exegetical question surrounds John 20.8. Just what is meant by the statement that the other disciple (John) "believed"? It is strongly argued that, because of consistent usage in the fourth gospel, it means that he came to faith in the resurrection of Jesus. In the light of v.9, this has always seemed to me to be an unnatural interpretation, though the belief in the empty tomb was clearly an important beginning point in his later fully developed resurrection faith. (Quite contrary to the teachings of those who follow Rudolph Bultmann, New Testament believers always knew the empty tomb to be a prime ingredient in "Easter faith".) My assumption in this drama is that, at this point, John simply came to believe Mary's report that the tomb was empty.

Reader:John 20.1­10.
PETER:Nothing at all, John! Not a sign of him at all! The strips of linen are just lying there...
JOHN:... as if he had just evaporated, disappeared out of them!
PETER:I don't know what's happened! How could anyone have taken the body away and left the grave clothes like that?
JOHN:Peter, notice the cloth from his head folded up separately by itself!
PETER:Where would they have put the body, anyway?
JOHN:Mary, I believe you! You were quite right! The body of Jesus is gone!
MARY:They crucified my Lord! They nailed him to the cross! They gambled for his robe! They laughed at his suffering! They thrust the spear into his side!
PETER:Shocking! Absolutely shocking!
MARY:Don't they have any feelings at all? On top of all they've done, do they have to desecrate the body too?
JOHN:Whoever would have done it?
PETER:Hardly the Romans! Actually, I suspect the Sadducees!
JOHN:But why?
PETER:Part of their ongoing battle with the Pharisees over the resurrection!
MARY:Peter, what do you mean?
PETER:I can't say, really! I'm not sure what I mean! Just a hunch, I suppose!
MARY:They're cruel and callous, all of them! That's all I can say!
JOHN:Mary, what was it Jesus said to your sister, Martha?
MARY:You mean when Lazarus was dead?
MARY:He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die!"
PETER:What an incredible person! "Lazarus, come out!" That's what he said!
JOHN:And your brother came out - alive and well!
MARY:But they got him! In the end they got him! They've been plotting for some time, and now they've got him! A wonderful person - gone! - they got him! - his body gone too! - our hope! - no hope left now!
PETER:Mary, please! He was our friend, too! We mourn him too!
JOHN:I was beside him so often - right next to him at that last meal!
PETER:We didn't know it was to be our last meal with him then!
MARY:He delivered me from the evil spirits that bound me. He set me free! But now he's gone! My Lord has gone! Taken away - and I don't know where they've put him! The Light of the world has gone out, and I feel the darkness all around me!
Reader:John 20.11­18.

From Between the Lines. Dialogues for Worship by Peter J. Blackburn published by Testimonium Fellowship 1992, © Peter J. Blackburn.
Permission is given for copying of this document for local use with this copyright notice intact. For any other proposed use the specific permission of Peter J. Blackburn must be sought.

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