Lectionary Year A
April 4, 1999
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Step II: Disposition

I. JOHN 20:1-18


(WL) A narrative account written primarily in the historical present tense. It is a post resurrection appearance, at least vs. 11-18.

(FS) Genre is a dramatic narrative (JA - a resurrection appearance story?). Suspense builds: discovery of empty tomb, grave clothes lying neatly folded, address by angels, finally Jesus himself speaking to Mary Magdalena. As appears in other pericopes in John, the narrator and reader are "in on the secret" (Jesus is risen! Just as he "must" according to Scripture! But everyone else is in the dark until Jesus himself enlightens them.


(DH) 1) In v.2, why is the writer using "fileo" for "to love" and not "agapao"? [cf. John 21:15-19 ... Peter do you love me? Here, both "fileo and "agapao" are used!]
2) The choice of verb tenses here is very interesting. The way to the tomb is described almost exclusively in present tense. I get a sense of great urgency and expectation, as if the disciples could not wait to get there and see for themselves (after all, one guy outruns the other). At the tomb, things seem to slow down quite a bit (past tenses, aorists, perfects).
3) v.10 ends almost on a sour note. I can almost see their heads hanging low as they go away from the tomb, their expectations not having been met. This is kind of strange, given the fact that they had seen and believed (v.8).

(WL) vs. 2: Mary, the only one introduced in the story says to Peter and the other disciple "We don't know where they put him." Where does the plural come from? Is this drawing on other gospel accounts?

The verb theorei is used three times in passage. Peter sees (theorei) the face cloth. Mary sees (theorei) the angels. Mary sees (theorei) Jesus. The verb can simply mean to observe, look at, see, perceive physical objects. Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich attribute all uses in John 20 to this kind of usage. However, in other places the word is used to indicate perception by the mind and spirit, or a spiritual perception sent by God. In the latter two usages, this is fodder for speculation. Two other verbs blepo and horao are used in the passage as well. Is this stylistic or does the author use the words technically to denote different ideas.

The other disciple is described as the one loved (ephilei) by Jesus. The author uses philos for love in this place. Does this have any relationship with the philos/agape interchange between Peter and Jesus in the next chapter?

The physical action described on the part of Mary does not make sense to me. She is looking in the tomb at angels. After speaking to them, she turns around. Why is she not transfixed on this appearance? She then sees Jesus but doesn't recognize him. He asks the same question as the angels (Woman, why are you crying?" Then adding "Whom do you seek.?") She answers. Jesus calls her by name. Then she turns again. She should have already been facing him. Was she looking back for the angels? Is she in a state of utter confusion? Is she turning her face from divine manisfestations only to be confronted by others?

Why doesn't she recognize the resurrected Lord? Is his body different? Has she been blinded? Why does he say "Do not touch me!" when later in this same chapter he invites Thomas to put his hand in his side? How does the explanation, "I have not yet ascended to my Father" fit in? Would the writer have expect Mary to touch him? Does that say something about the relaationship between Mary and Jesus? I would have assumed that women did not make a habit out of touching men in that culture.

(FS) 1. Why the focus on Mary Magdalena? Why is it important to the writer that she alone, with no mention here of other company as in Mark, Matthew, and Luke of the company of other women? Whom or what might she represent?

2. Why that brusque "me mou haptou", "Don't cling to me"? Is there something to homiletically unpack here?

II. MATTHEW 28:1-10


1) The watchmen trembled but the heavenly messenger answers to the women? Did anyone ask this messenger anything? Should this "person" not have addressed the watchmen since it was they who trembled?
2) Is it significant that there are two words for "tomb" (tafos [v.1] and mnemeion [v.8] in this pericope?
3) The heavenly messenger addresses the women with "Do not be afraid (v.5)", and Jesus addresses them with the very same words (v.10 - "Do not be afraid!"). Interesting!
4) The "like" language in v.3 is intriguing. Jesus uses this "like" language when he speaks about God's Kingdom, and the writer of the Book of Revelation uses "like" language in order to describe "the living one, the one who was dead and yet is alive." Are we permitted a glimpse of what it will be "like" when the stone in front of our tomb will be rolled away by God?

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