Insights on Easter – John 20:1-21 (NIV)
NOTE FOR GROUP LEADER: While allowing the group to view the artwork, Resurrection by Romolo Savani, which represents the Resurrection of Christ, the group leader will read or have the audio recording of the Resurrection passage from John 20:1-21. In preparation for this reading, the group will discuss the terms and historical information provided under “Terms to Understand and Discuss.” After discussing the terms, the group will reflect on the art while the passage is read. The artwork will either be projected on a screen or printed out for easier viewing. The passage is printed below for further review, if desired. Follow the steps below:
Step One: Terms to understand/discuss:
Easter: also called Resurrection Sunday. The most celebrated Christian festival commemorating the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after He was crucified and laid in a tomb. Historically, this event took place around 30 A.D. The date for Easter changes every year. It is celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Burial customs: The Jewish burial customs of the day included washing the body, anointing it with spices and oils including myrrh and aloes, and then wrapping it with linen strips. According to the Gospel of John, Joseph of Arimathea had arranged with the Roman governor to take Jesus’s body, and Nicodemus brought the burial spices. The two were members of the Jewish religious council who were open to Christ’s teachings. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, They prepared Jesus for burial and carried him to Joseph of Arimathea’s own crypt. The Gospel of John says, “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” They buried him on the same day he died. (John 19:40, NIV)
Myrrh: one of the anointing oils used to embalm the body of Christ. It was very expensive oil which was often gifted to Kings. It represented both the acknowledgement of a king, as well as death. We remember that the Magi brought Jesus gold, frankincense AND myrrh.
Sepulchre: also known as a tomb; a small room cut into a rock or a cave where a dead person is buried. At the time of Christ, this room or cave would be covered with a round stone which would be rolled in front of the entrance once the body was laid in the tomb.
Disciple: in Christian terms, we are usually referring to one of the twelve apostles or one of Christ’s followers who was part of his inner circle. In this passage, John refers to the “other disciple…the one Jesus loved.” He is probably referring to John, the Apostle and the Evangelist (the writer of this Gospel), who was the youngest and the one whom He told at the foot of the cross, ““Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19: 26-27, NIV). Here, too, the writer does not identify the disciple by name, but rather with the description, “the disciple whom he loved…”
Mary Magdalene: sometimes called Mary of Magdala, was one of the disciples in Jesus’ inner circle who, according to the four gospels, traveled with Jesus and witnessed his crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus cleansed her of demons and, they say that she helped to financially support Jesus during His public life. She was the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection when she and some other women visited his tomb three days after He had died.
Hallelujah: a call to praise God. “Hallelujah” and “Alleluia” both mean “Praise the Lord.”
”Hallelujah” comes from the Hebrew. It is a compound word. The root word, “Hallelu” means “praise joyously” and the suffix “yah” comes from the shortened form of “Yahweh,” which means “I am,” the “unspoken” name of God.
Step Two: Art for Reflection
Group leader begins by saying: “Relax with the art. While listening to the passage below from John 20: 1-21, reflect on the artwork: Resurrection by Romolo Savani. Let yourself be drawn into the artwork and reflect on how you would react under these circumstances. Take a few minutes just to reflect on the art. Consider where we are, what has happened, why we are there and the impact of that moment. (Group Leader gives the group about three minutes of silence for the group to consider and meditate on the visual impact of the art.) At the end of the silence, go to Step Three.
Step Three: (Items needed: Artwork, Passage from John 20:1-21 which is printed below, questions for discussion and reflection.)
The group leader reads or plays the passage from John 20: 1-21 while the group listens and continues to reflect on the artwork. After the reading, the group can discuss and reflect on any or all of the following questions.
- In the Art: where are we? What has happened? Why are we there? What is the impact of that moment?
- What thoughts did you have as you viewed the art and then listened to the passage?
- Were you drawn into the art as a participant or observer? Where were you? What did you experience? How did you react? What emotions did you experience? What is the artwork saying to you?
- In the artwork, as you stand in the tomb, looking out, what do you see? Why is the presence of the crosses so important to this scene?
- What other thoughts do you have after having heard the passage and reflected on the artwork?
- As Christians, this is the purest sign of hope we have. Can you feel the hope in the empty tomb and the promise that has been made? Discuss. If not, what’s missing for you?
- Compare the passages below on the Resurrection from Matthew 28:1-10 and John 20:1-21. How are the narratives the same? How are they different? What additional information does Matthew give us that John did not include? Why do you think that these details might be significant?
NOTE TO GROUP LEADER: At the end of the session, you may want to allow the group to have a few moments for open commentary and thoughts about the session. And what it may have meant for them.
John 20:1-21 (NIV)
The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”(which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Matthew 28: 1-10 (NIV)
Jesus Has Risen
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The Guards’ Report
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.