Bible study on John 20.1-18
This study can be used by a small family/ household group, or by an online group, or – sometimes with a little adaptation - by an individual.
See our Guidelines for a weekly Bible study
Begin with an opening prayer
God of resurrection, ever renewing, ever reviving,
we adore you for your life-giving presence.
Son of Man, newly risen, sorrow made joy,
we adore you for your sacrificial living and dying.
Holy Spirit, breezing among us this Eastertide,
we adore you for breathing new life into us.
Read the passage
Consider different ways to read the text. For example, hearing it in more than one version of the Bible.
In an online group, you could share parts between those present, or use/adapt this week’s Share the Word suggestion: Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to Share the Word and scroll down to find the Gospel reading.
Explore and respond to the text
Start by reading the Bible notes below. You may want to read them more than once, or pause after each paragraph to reflect on what you have read.
Riding a horse into Jerusalem and entering its Temple is a very bold prophetic sign, indicating that the The centrality of a woman in this account is not something that anyone would invent in a world that undervalued the role of women as witnesses. John locates his narrative in real time, during the early hours of ‘the first day of the week’. Mary’s grief is strong enough to draw her to the place where she can be as close as possible to Jesus’ body. She is shocked by what she finds: an obviously disturbed tomb, the body missing, presumed stolen. Two of Jesus’ disciples – both men – believe her anxious report and confirm her story by visiting the tomb for themselves. As yet, its emptiness can only mean that the body has been ‘taken away’.
Mary’s double loss – the companionship of her beloved rabbi, and now his body – is made visible in her inconsolable weeping. Unlike Peter and the other disciple, she stays by the tomb long enough to experience something she hardly expects. She only recognises the figure behind her when he calls her by name, like the good shepherd calling one of his flock (10.14). Jesus is within touching distance, but he resists. ‘Do not hold on to me’ suggests a new kind of relationship. ‘Ascending to the Father’ through his passion (14.1ff) is the counterpart of the descent of the heavenly ‘Word’ (1.1-18). This movement of grace will open up Jesus’ relationship with the God he calls ‘Father’. John’s readers know what this means: the coming of the Spirit to friends who live by the ‘new commandment’ that makes the love of Jesus visible (13.34ff; 14.15ff; 15.12ff; 20.19ff). The foundation of this transforming vision is the astonishing witness of a woman.
Arnold Browne discusses
Lent storytelling with
Spend a few moments thinking about what stands out for you from the Bible reading. This idea may help.
Many things offer a ‘touching point’ with something mysterious that seems beyond the normal parameters of life: e.g. art, music, poetry, science and nature. However, we don’t all ‘get’ these things. Perhaps you have had the experience of trying to explain your enthusiasms to someone and being met with a blank look. Or being the one who gave the blank look! Sometimes you can get past this by helping someone else to experience what enthuses you. Experience can do what words can’t. It was the experience of the empty tomb, and then the risen Jesus, that provided a touching place with mystery – the possibility that existence is far bigger than Mary had thought. What achieves that for us today?
Questions for reflection
You may wish to use these questions and the picture to help you think about or discuss issues of sharing.
- How does this painting of a cave convey a sense of mystery’?
- How would you describe the mystery of Easter?
- What does entering into the mystery of Easter mean to you?
A simple worship activity
Reflection on a mystery.
Place a large, gift-wrapped package where everyone can see it. Point out that its contents are a mystery, and mystery presents can be exciting! Place a pile of small Easter cards (bought or homemade) next to the box – enough for one each.
Ask people to imagine that the box contains all the things about life and faith that they find mysterious – a special present, just for them. Invite everyone to give thanks for this gift while coming to collect an Easter card.
Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to go to more activities in Explore and respond
Adapt to your local context.
A prayer for all ages
thank you for promising to be with us always.
Help us to remember that promise
when we don’t feel brave enough to be your disciples.
Help us to remember that the first people to know
that you rose from the tomb
were ordinary people like us,
women and men who didn’t feel very brave.
Give us courage to believe and to tell others –
as Mary did – this Easter and always.
Use the Jump to this week's menu on the right to find more prayers, including up-to-date intercessions in The week in focus.
A prayer to end the Bible study
Conclude with an Easter prayer of thanksgiving. You could use the one below.
God of new life and new beginnings,
we have been drawn here today
to encounter again the mysterious story of life everlasting.
Help us, like Mary, to stay close to this mystery,
to embrace our emotions,
to hear you when you call us by name,
and to experience new wonders.
Go with God 24/7
Encourage everyone to put their faith into action.
Mary goes to tell others what she has experienced. Think of someone with whom you could share what you have experienced in today’s worship in some way. If you can’t think of something to say, why not give them your Easter card?
Encourage everyone to explore their faith this week with the ROOTS at home resource.