Jesus’ Resurrection: What John Saw at the Tomb

Things100After Mary Magdalene discovered that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was open and empty, she ran to tell Peter and the “other disciple,” John. Believing that someone or a group of people had moved the body, she said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” (John 20:2).

Peter and John went out immediately to investigate the tomb. John outran Peter and was the first to arrive. Leaning over or “stooping down” to look in the entrance, he saw the graveclothes, but he didn’t step inside. Peter then reached the burial site, and he “entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed” (vv. 5-8). This is fascinating! What exactly did John see that caused him to believe on the spot? It’s clear that neither John nor Peter fully understood all that was going on, because verse 9 says, “For they did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead.” Yet it’s equally evident that John was convinced something supernatural had occurred. A tomb without a body that “ought” to be there doesn’t prove a resurrection, as Mary’s response affirms; but John saw something that convinced him that this was more than a case involving just a missing body.

John actually saw the hardened, hollow encasement of graveclothes that previously had held Jesus’ body. The process and materials used to prepare His body for burial had created this encasement (we examine these in “Jesus’ Resurrection: The Graveclothes”), and Jesus’ resurrection had rendered it hollow. Picture in your mind John’s entering the burial cave: “He looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain. There were graveclothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty—like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar’s cocoon. Seeing that would make a believer out of anybody! He never did get over it” (Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, [Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009], 194; emphasis in the original text).


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in materials are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®,  Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

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