“[She] sees that the stone had been taken away from the tomb”

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early, while it is still dark, and sees that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she runs and goes to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and says to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he sees the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter comes , following him, and went into the tomb. He sees the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;” (John 20:1–8, ESV)

The first thing that strikes the student of Scripture in John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus is his use of the present tense.  Most translations don’t reflect this because it doesn’t make sense grammatically in English to use the present tense when talking about an event that already took place.  However, John doesn’t want us to miss the immediacy and wonder of the resurrection and so he writes in the present tense.  I have changed the words in Greek that are written in the present tense but translated in past tense, back to the present and bolded the words so that you can see what John did here.  The reader is pulled into the narrative in a more striking way by the use of the present tense.  The events seem vivid and immediate.

The use of the present tense in an important narrative is a characteristic of John’s gospel and it is never more important than in his account of the resurrection.  One of the ways that John communicates to us the fact of the resurrection is his use of the present tense here.  He has other ways to convince us as well.

The second way that John convinces us of the truth of what he is writing is that the first witness to the empty tomb [not to mention the first one to see our risen Lord] is a woman!  In the culture of the time women were regarded as unreliable witnesses and their testimony was not allowed in a court of law.  If John were trying to mislead us into believing there was a resurrection when there was not, he would have had the witness be a man.  John, however, is writing the facts as he himself [we suspect] observed them and the first witness to the empty tomb and our risen Lord was, in point of fact, Mary Magdalene.

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