Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection - how did St John believe before the others?

Happy Easter!
This morning as we were in Mass listening to the day’s Gospel reading, I had an interesting theory, which I thought that I’d share. The Gospel reading was taken from Jn 20:1-9:
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

After hearing that the Lord’s Body was no longer in the tomb, Sts. Peter and John ran to the site. We are told that St. John outran St. Peter, but when he arrived at the tomb, he didn’t venture in. Instead, he remained outside only peering in to see whether the words of the women were true. It was only after St. Peter had arrived, entered the tomb, and affirmed that the Lord’s Body was gone, that St. John entered the tomb.

In a previous blog , I mentioned that one allegorical interpretation of this pericope is that St. Peter (naturally) symbolises the teaching authority of the Church; whereas, St. John symbolises the spirit of the Church. Whilst the spirit of the Church is eager to believe, it always waits for the wisdom of the Church’s teaching authority before it does so.
This morning, I had an additional I said, just a theory, but food for thought nonetheless...

We are told that after St. Peter had examined the tomb, St. John entered and when he saw, he believed. Whilst we are told in verse 9 that they didn’t yet understand the Scripture that Jesus “had to rise from the dead”, St. John had some sort of faith in the Resurrected Jesus. Now, it may be that St. John was more prone to belief than St. Peter – some people just have a gift of more childlike faith than others. But, I wonder if there wasn’t something more to it – something beneath the surface that St. John wants his readers to dig deeper to find. After all, that wouldn’t be out of key with the way that St. John has written his Gospel. Leon Morris, an Anglican New Testament scholar, said that the Gospel of St. John was a pool in which a child could wade and an elephant could swim. He was right – the Gospel of John is simple to understand, and yet extremely deep in its complexity at the same time.  
Just a few verses prior to this statement of St. John’s belief (Jn 20:9), we are told that he had taken the Blessed Virgin Mary into his own home (Jn 19:27). Think about it...

Jesus died on the Cross on the Friday at 3pm; after which St. John took Mary home with him as his own mother. We are told nothing about what happened on Holy Saturday; and then on Sunday we are told that St. John “saw and believed”. What made his reaction different to St. Peter’s? I would hazard to guess that it was spending time with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Allow me to expand...
Mary stood at the foot of the Cross for the entire ordeal of the Crucifixion; but after His Body was laid in the tomb we hear no more of her – not even when it came to something as important as anointing the Body of her Son. The Blessed Virgin Mary was not in the company of the women who went on Easter Sunday morning to anoint the Body of Jesus. One would think that as His mother, she would be the first to be present for such an important event, especially given that Jesus was her only Child.

Why didn’t Our Lady attend the tomb with the other women? I think that it is because she knew that His Death was not the end. Remember, she had already lost Him once the Temple when He was but a boy of twelve years old (see Lk 2:41-51). And when she found Him...after three days...He asked her why she was looking for Him, as He was simply doing the work of His Father.
St. Luke tells us that Mary treasured these things in her heart (Lk 2:51)...and I believe that she recollected this when she lost Him again at the Crucifixion. She remembered that He was about His Father’s business...and so she didn’t go looking for Him in the tomb. In this way, Our Blessed Mother was the first disciple to believe in the Resurrection.
Now, let’s go back to Holy Saturday. It is probable that St. John and Mary spoke about the events that had transpired on Good Friday. And if Mary knew that Jesus’ death was not the end, she would have shared this with St. John. Imagine that! Not only was Mary the first disciple to believe the Resurrection...but she was also the first disciple to share its glorious message.

Now, I may be wrong...and maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t there...but I don’t so if you consider the significance that Our Lord continually bestows upon His Blessed Mother.
In fact, as the Catholic Church seeks to be more faithful in its witness and evangelisation, I think that this sort of message is timely. If the Church wishes to be successful in her evangelisation endeavours, she must seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.

Despite what modern-day marketing tells us, the success of the Church will not be determined by attractive programmes, or fancy-fangled ideas which seek to capture peoples’ attention in an attempt “entice” them into the Church. No! The surest way to lead people to the Lord Jesus Christ is through Mary.
Because Mary always...ALWAYS...points us to Jesus.

[On a parting note, I thought that I’d also share a favourite song of mine that ties in beautifully with the Gospel passage above.]


  1. That's one of my most favourite songs too, Justin. Good blog!

  2. I love the 3 days linkage. It never occurred to me...