Skip to main content

What we gain when we include John 20: 10 – 18 on Easter Sunday

What do we gain by including John 20:10-18 with the Easter Reading of John 20:1-9? 

“John 20 is not a collection of disconnected or interchangeable episodes, but a single narrative, composed of a number of ‘scenes’ or ‘acts’, which together present a coherent and integrated interpretation of the resurrection.” (S. Schneiders)  John’s full Resurrection narrative starts with Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb (v.1) and ends with this blessing: “These [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (v. 31).

Yet, our Catholic Lectionary limits the Easter Sunday gospel reading to John 20:1-9 – only ¼ of John’s full Resurrection narrative.  It omits John 20:10-18 on Easter Sunday, then skips to 20:19-31 for the 2nd Sunday of Easter.  This is misleading – it gives the impression that the Risen Jesus’s first appearance was to a group a disciples when it is absolutely clear that the first Resurrection appearance in John’s gospel was to Mary Magdalene and to her alone.

A Summary of what we gain by hearing all of John 20:1-18 on Easter Sunday followed by John 20:19-31 the following Sunday.

This list is in sequence of the verses, not the order of importance. 

  • 10 – Peter and the Beloved leave, saying nothing.  
  • 11 – It is clear that only Mary Magdalene is present. She is alone at the tomb, weeping. She has come to mourn, not to bring spices. She “peers in” or some ancient copies say “bent over into” the tomb.
  • 12– Mary Magdalene sees two angels, one on each end “where the body of Jesus had been.” This image is like the cherubim in the Ark of the Covenant with “mercy seat” in between, the place for the priest. (Schneiders)
  • 13 – Angels ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary Magdalene replies, “They have taken my Lord …”
  • 14 – Turned and saw Jesus but thought he was the gardener.  Some criticize this misperception as a “lack of faith”. But others see this as not a mistake – they are in a garden and Jesus is sowing. (John is only evangelist who places the tomb in a garden)
    • New Creation – Garden associated with Eden and a new creation – Mary Magdalene is not mistaken – Jesus is the gardener (Schneiders & Coloe)
    • Persistent Seeking in vv. 13-15.  This seeking can/should define our lives as Christians.
  • 15 –  Jesus’ first post-Resurrection Words
    • Words of compassion, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”
    • see Gregory of Antioch (593) for significance to Jesus that women stayed when others did not
  •  16 –  The Exchange of Names
    • Jesus and Mary Magdalene call each other’s name. See formation of Covenants in OT. (20:16) (Schneiders and Coloe)
    • When Jesus calls Mary by name he reveals his Risen Presence, as the shepherd “calls his own by name” (Jn 10:3); the Risen Jesus has come back to “his own” represented by Mary Magdalene.
  • 17 – Jesus Commissions MM to bring his startling Resurrection invitation to his brothers and sisters (including her):
    • I am going to my Father and your Father, My God and your God” (20:17b) the Covenant of Divine Filiation (Schneiders)
    • Disciples (us) now have direct relationship with Father – fulfills promise in Jn 1:11-12.
    • John 20:17b – most important verse. As Jesus’ mission is almost complete we receive an electrifying message through the witness of Mary Magdalene – “Those who believe in Jesus (and potentially all humanity) can experience the same relationship with God as Jesus does” (14:18-24; 16:16-24: 17:6-19). (Scott M. Lewis, SJ)
    • Jesus fulfills his promise – answers the question, “Where are you going Master?” Where are you staying?” His answer is his invitation into a life-long relationship directly to the Father and with him as brothers and sisters. (20:17)
    • Why did Mary Magdalene receive this message and not Peter or the Beloved Disciple? She stayed? Did her persistent seeking prepare her to see?