The apostle John's belief
in the resurrection was not a "blind leap of faith"
when he saw the empty tomb. Jesus had been teaching
the disciples that he must be rejected by the
religious leaders, be crucified and buried for three
days, and then rise from the dead. John was led into
a fuller light of understanding and deeper
experience with his Master as he listened and obeyed
the teaching of Jesus. However, in spite of the
teachings, the resurrection of Jesus caught him and
all of the disciples by surprise. Psychologically
they were not prepared for it.
John's spiritual growth
is an example and encouragement to us. With each new
experience we see John growing in faith and
conviction about who Christ is. Every response to
light brought enlarged capacity for further
revelation. Whenever John received a new vision of
the Lord in his glory, he was called upon to trust
his Master and grow spiritually and personally.
John's comprehension of
spiritual things grew along with his faith in the
Lord Jesus as the Son of God. The miracles in Cana
of Galilee, the raising of Jarius' daughter and
Lazarus from the dead, the Transfiguration of Jesus
and the mysteries surrounding His death were part of
the spiritual influences that led up to the events
in the empty tomb and Thomas’ climatic declaration,
"My Lord and my God!"
What did John "see" in
the empty tomb that caused him to believe that Jesus
One of the witnesses who
saw Jesus alive for 40 days after his death by
crucifixion tells us that he and Peter ran to the
tomb after Mary Magdalene reported very early in the
morning that the two thousand pound stone door to
the tomb of Jesus had been rolled back leaving the
tomb open. "So she went running to Simon Peter and
the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them,
‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we
don’t know where they have put him!’" (John 20:2
NET). Peter and John headed to the tomb.
John, one of the two
eyewitnesses, tells us what happened. He describes
himself as "the other disciple whom Jesus loved." I
am convinced that "the other disciple" and "the
disciple whom Jesus loved" is the one and same
person we know as the apostle John, one of the
twelve disciples of Jesus.
John wrote: "The two were
running together, but the other disciple ran faster
than Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down
and saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, but
he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who had been
following him, arrived and went right into the tomb.
He saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, and
the face cloth, which had been around Jesus’ head,
not lying with the strips of linen cloth but rolled
up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple,
who had reached the tomb first, came in, and he saw
and believed" (John 20:4-8 NET).
The body of Jesus was
gone, but the grave cloths remained in the tomb in
the exact location as they had been wrapped around
the dead body of Jesus when he was buried on Friday
The Burial of
The events leading up to
the words we have just read in John chapter twenty
occurred three days earlier at the crucifixion.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea got permission
from Pilate, after he had certified that Jesus was
dead, to take the body down from the cross and give
it a proper Jewish burial (John 19:31-42). They
followed the traditional Jewish custom of wrapping
the body in strips of linen cloths filled with
spices. They wound the linen bandages around his
body, sprinkling the powdered spies and gooey-gummed
fragrances into the folds as they continued to wrap
his body. They used a separate cloth for his head
and rolled it up around His head filling the
wrappings with the same spices. The word for face
cloth is used for a large "handkerchief," a cloth
used to wipe off perspiration, probably the size of
a small towel or large face cloth. The head of Jesus
was covered by a cloth that had been twirled about
his head in a crisscross like turban. Then they laid
the body on the stone slab that had been hewn out of
the side of the cave-tomb. Lazarus was buried in a
similar manner (John 11:44).
What is the evidence John
saw in the empty tomb that caused him to "believe"
that Jesus was alive?
John especially calls our
attention to the head "face cloth," or turban that
had been rolled up around the head of Christ. Why is
it singled out for our attention? It is the
convincing proof that launches John's faith in
Christ's resurrection, even before he has had a
chance to see that Jesus was alive with his own
I think the face cloth or
turban was rolled up around the head of Jesus like
the bandages wrapped around a person who has
sustained a severe crushing head injury. His whole
head was rolled up with linen as well as the rest of
his body. The reference to "a place by itself"
simply means separate from the rest of the linen
cloths which were used for the body wrapping. The
head was rolled up with its own separate wrappings.
What Peter and John saw as they continued to gaze
were the linen cloths in the actual shape of the
body of Jesus. The wrappings around the head of
Jesus naturally were where the head had lain. The
other cloths were still remaining in the exact place
and shape of the body of Jesus.
It is obvious that Jesus
unmistakably had been raised from the dead by the
power of God during the night, and had left the
linen cloths exactly as Joseph and Nicodemus had
placed the body in the new tomb.
Evidence for John
John saw the position and
condition of the burial wrappings in the form of the
body in the grave where Jesus had been laid. The
grave wrappings were in the actual shape in which
they had been about his body. The head–cloth was not
unwrapped and folded up nicely and laid aside. It
was exactly in the place where it had been about his
head. Every fold of his grave clothes was unmoved,
as it had been around his body. John saw the grave
clothes wrapped as they had been about the body,
still there in place, but the body was gone. The
grave cloths had collapsed once the body was gone
because of the weight of the spices. Otherwise the
cloths were undisturbed. The only thing that had
changed was there was no body in them. That was all
the evidence John saw of the resurrection as he
gazed into the tomb, but it led him to be the first
disciple to believe that our Lord had been raised
from the dead. The tomb was empty. There was no dead
body there. His quick mind processed that Jesus was
John saw the burial
wrappings and his sharp intuitive mind drew an
inference that no one had stolen the body of Jesus.
It was impossible because the wrappings were still
intact just as they were before the body left it. A
grave robber would have had to unwind all those
strips of sticky spice–filled bandages. It was
obvious no one had done that. The undisturbed
grave–clothes demonstrated that Jesus had risen
through and out of them. The face–cloth was just as
it had been around the head of Jesus. It was also
clear to John that enemies had not stolen the body
of Jesus. Even the space between the head wrappings
and the body wrappings was unaffected. The body just
disappeared out of the wrappings.
John "saw" the mummy–like
windings without a body. The wrappings were in the
shape of a head, but there was no head inside them.
The wrappings from the shoulders down to the feet
were intact, but there was no body inside.
Jesus is Risen from
Peter and John had never
seen anything like that before. It was fully beyond
human comprehension. God moved in enormous power and
raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26;
4:10; 5:30; 10:39-40; 13:28-34, 37; 17:30-31, etc.).
There were no trumpets, no fanfares, and no angels
singing. It was unwitnessed, unheralded, except by
God the Father and the angels. Jesus was
instantaneously alive in a radiant new dimension of
supernatural life. Jesus did not need a man to
unwrap those thick, heavy sticky spice filled
bandages from His body. No one removed the bindings
from around his face, or loosened it and let him go
as with Lazarus (John 11:43-33). Jesus was not
resuscitated, as was the case of Lazarus. Jesus rose
from the dead. God did it! Life returned to Jesus.
It is true no human being was in the tomb to see it.
But it is still true. Later in the day
eyewitnesses saw him alive and continued to do for
another 40 days (1 Cor. 15:3-8). He passed through
the grave–cloth wrappings and through the stone
cave. He was alive!
No one even had to roll
the round stone door back to let Him out. Angels
later rolled the door back to let men and women look
in and see that the grave was empty.
"He bent down and saw the
strips of linen cloth lying there, but he did not go
in" (John 20:5 NET). The linen wrappings for the
face were just as they had been around the head of
Jesus in the proper place right where the head would
have been. Jesus passed right through them.
John looked in, saw it,
and all of a sudden it all clicked. Everything Jesus
had taught John about his death and resurrection
came together in a flash of a moment. If you are an
intuitive thinker like John, you understand how that
Later that night John
would see with his very own eyes the resurrected
body of Jesus (vv. 19-21). In the weeks ahead the
disciples never knew when they might see him next
(vv. 26-28). Imagine his appearing in their midst,
no door opened, no bolt shot, and no preparation
made, but he was there with them. They were made
aware of his presence and nearness. With equal
suddenness, he disappeared. Jesus was still training
John to "see" his constant presence. At any moment
Jesus might appear. Lord Jesus, will I see you
Jesus took his body out
of the tomb, leaving the grave clothes absolutely
undisturbed, and the two thousand-pound stone door
to the tomb in its proper place. His resurrection
body was no longer subject to the laws of this
material physical nature. Jesus conquered death even
on the physical plane with his own resurrection.
Jesus did not recover
from a swoon. He died, and rose again. His was a
corporal, bodily resurrection. I believe Jesus
passed miraculously through death into an altogether
new sphere of life.
John saw that the body of
Jesus had disappeared. It changed into something new
different and wonderful. This resurrection body
would have passed through grave clothes, as it was
later to pass through closed doors, leaving them
untouched. I think what John saw was that once the
body was removed these body wrappings under the
weight of a hundred pounds of spices would have
caved in from the pressure of the weight. John would
have seen the gap between the body clothes and the
head cloth, where His face and neck had been. And
the head cloth itself would probably retain its
shape because of the way it had been wrapped in all
directions around the head. It too had been filled
with the spices.
From the testimony of the
witnesses in the gospels and Paul in Acts and First
Corinthians the resurrection body has its whole
molecular structure (1 Cor. 15:35-50; 1 John 3:2).
It is the literal physical body that Jesus had, but
is had changed. It could be recognized as the body
of Jesus, but it was somehow different. The
body of the resurrected Jesus passed through space
and matter without friction and without disability
or difficulty. For forty days after His resurrection
and before his ascension, Jesus made himself visible
in his resurrection body and just as quickly made
himself invisible (Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:10-14,
19, 26-28). We would never have known the grave was
empty except that the angel rolled back the stone
door and announced an empty tomb.
We can only conclude the
wrappings were intact, still in mummy–like outward
appearance, but there was no body inside. There was
the head wrapping as it was still around the head,
but no head inside. The face–cloth was still wrapped
together, twirled, round the shape of his head. The
grave clothes had not been touched, or folded, or
manipulated in anyway by anyone. There was simply
nothing in it. It was empty. There was no body in
"Why do you look for the
living among the dead? He is not here, but he has
risen!" were the angel's words to the women.
Principles and Practical Applications
1. When you read
the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus alive and examine the
historical evidence you can only conclude Jesus is
alive. He has risen from the dead.
2. Because Jesus
has risen from the dead you can now with confidence
believe in the great promises he has given to every
believer that he is coming back for us (John
3. Because Jesus
has risen from the dead, we too, shall rise from the
dead and be like him (1 John 3:1-3; John 14:19).
4. Since Jesus has
risen from the dead, he is God. The resurrection of
Jesus Christ proves his deity. It is God’s seal on
Jesus’ claim to divinity (Rom. 1:4).
5. Since Jesus rose
from the dead we can put our trust in him and
believe we are justified from all sin, sanctified to
live the Christian life, and will be glorified when
Christ returns (Rom. 4:24-28; Eph. 1:19-20; 1 Thess.
4:14). The resurrection of Jesus is God's
certification that he has accepted the atoning death
of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus told Thomas,
"Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet
have believed" (John 20:19b NET). The evidence is
clear Jesus is alive and the gospel was "recorded so
that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the
Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you
may have life in his name" (v. 31).
To believe on Jesus
Christ as your savior is to believe in his death for
your sins and his resurrection. You cannot be saved
without believing in the resurrection of Jesus.
"Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus
is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the
heart one believes and thus has righteousness and
with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation"
(Romans 10:9-10 NET).
Have you confessed,
"Jesus is Lord"? "The Lord" here is to be taken as
Yahweh, the LORD God of the Old Testament. The
resurrection of Jesus proves that he is whom he
claimed to be. He is "the Lord," the Son of God, the
Anointed of God and our savior.
"Everyone who believes in
him will not be put to shame" (v. 11). "For
everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be
saved" (v. 13).
The resurrection of Jesus
Christ proves that Jesus will return to judge all
men. "He has set a day on which he is going to judge
the world in righteousness, by a man whom he
designated, having provided proof to everyone by
raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31 NET).
Title: John 20:4-8
What John "Saw" in the Empty Tomb
Series: Life of