May 2, 2007

FIRST CHAPTER - Jesus Himself: The Story of the Resurrection

I don't know when Banner of Truth has previously published a hardback book with the look and feel of this one. I remember discussions about it, certainly with a desire to display its uniqueness among the other titles. And unique it is. With its recent arrival and me just returning to the office yesterday, I haven't completed it yet, but let me share the first chapter of "Jesus Himself: The Story of the Resurrection - from the Garden Tomb to the Mount of Olives" by Marcus Loane. I think, upon reading these first seven pages, you may want to continue through all 126. Grace & peace. Steve

Chapter One
Reflections on John 20:1-10
"St. John the Divine"
"Mary Magdalene, with two or three other women, had stood near the cross to the very end: they had seen how the body had been lowered to the ground and wrapped in a long linen shroud. They had followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the new rock-hewn tomb where the body was laid. Then very early on the morning of the third day they had made their way back to the tomb. Their hope was that they would be able to anoint and embalm those sacred limbs. They were taken aback to discover that the stone had been rolled away and that the guard had fled. No doubt they came and looked inside the tomb, only to be staggered when they found it empty. What had become of the body? How were they to account for the fact that it had vanished? While the others lingered near the tomb, Mary at once thought of Peter and John in the city: she ran as fast as she could to find them in the house where they had taken His mother. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him' (John 20:2). She was gravely disturbed, full of alarm, and in a state of the utmost anxiety.

"Peter and John felt at once that they had to go and see for themselves what had happened: 'So Peter went out with the other disciple,and they were going toward the tomb' (20:3). It was Peter who took the lead, and at first they ran side by side: but Peter was the older man, a man with a troubled conscience, and he began to flag. So John was the first to arrive: the other women had gone: the angels were out of sight: he lost all sense of haste in the unhurried atmosphere as he stood at the door. His whole being was charged with a growing sense of awe and wonder as he stooped down so as to look into the vault where the body had lain. His next step might well have been the normal impulse to go inside: but he did not: he was restrained at the very threshold by sheer surprise. What he saw was the grave-clothes: and not only that: he saw the way they were 'lying'. That word lying was used three times (20:5, 6, 7), and is the key to this very human drama.

"It was not as though John had come on purpose to look for the grave-clothes. It had never occurred to him that he would find them there at all. It would be as hard to account for what was there as to explain what was not there. But that was not all: there was something unusual, totally different, from what one would expect. That was the way in which the long shroud lay: its position and arrangement were so unusual. The long loose folds were still lying at full length on the ledge where the body had been. They were lying in the shape which they had assumed when wrapped round the body. The myrrh and aloes, which had been sprinkled between its folds, were still in place. Their weight might have depressed the shroud, but only a little. There was no sign of disorder. The grave-clothes had not been folded up, nor dropped on the floor, nor flung aside: they lay just as they had been when they were wrapped round his body: they were simply lying on the slab with fold on fold in perfect order: no human hand nor angel touch had been at work: yet the body itself had gone.

"Peter must have been close on John's heels and would arrive a few moments later: 'Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb' (20:6). This was the man who at other times was in so much haste to reach the Lord on sea or land: no one was less likely to stand and muse when there was a call for action. While John was still absorbed in a mood of thoughtful wonder, Peter went straight into the tomb: he saw the grave-clothes as they lay, fixed his eyes on them, trying to read the riddle. Like John, he saw at once that the shroud was empty: the body had vanished. But just as John had sensed, Peter saw that there was something strange in that scene. It was more than the fact that the shroud was empty: it was the way its folds were lying. There was indeed something special that caught and held the eye. But there was more than that because he saw something else that John could not see.

"What he saw was how the head-cloth lay rolled up apart from the grave-clothes in its own place. There was the shroud, still in the shape of his body, stretched out full length along the ledge of rock. But the cloth for his head lay just apart on a slightly raised shelf like a kind of pillow. That cloth had been rolled round his head just as the shroud had been wrapped round his body. But the strangest feature of that head-cloth required a rare word to describe how it appeared. The grave-clothes were lying by themselves on the lower level: the head-cloth was lying by itself on a slightly higher level. But there were no spices to flatten or depress the head-cloth as in the case of the grave-clothes. The folds had not caved in: it still bore the shape it had taken when wound round his head. That was not an easy thing to describe: what the eye saw would be clearer than what words could convey. There it lay, not with the grave-clothes but by itself, still rolled and round in shape and form. It was just as it had been when Joseph and Nicodemus laid him to rest: no human hand nor angel touch had been at work: yet the body itself had gone.

"John soon followed Peter into the tomb where he saw those unique features with his own eyes. "Then the other disciple ... also went in, and he saw and believed' (20:8). There lay the grave-clothes, a little depressed, but in perfect order, with not a grain of spice displaced. There lay the head-cloth, a little apart, still in perfect order, with not a roll disturbed. John not only saw the shroud and head-cloth, but he suddenly understood their significance. 'And he saw and believed': there was visual perception; there was intelligent understanding.

"There had been no lifeless body for foes to steal or friends to take away: he had emerged from the grave-clothes just as he would pass through the stone. John had not hitherto grasped the Scriptures which had foretold that he would rise again. But now a throng of memories half-subdued and of prophecies half-absorbed would crowd his mind: the body gone, the grave-clothes, the head-cloth were a silent witness to the mighty fact of resurrection. It was enough: 'Then the disciples went back to their homes' (20:10).
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