· Vatican City ·

Easter Sunday: 31 March

He saw and believed

 He saw and believed  ING-013
28 March 2024

John saw and believed. Belief in the resurrection is both deeply human and an act of faith; it does not contradict logic, but goes beyond logic. It is at once personal and communal.

John’s faith did not come from blind trust but was based on a personal experience of Jesus. The moment of the call left such an impression on John that he even recalled that it was about four in the afternoon (cf. Jn 1:39). Along with Peter and James, he was invited into the inner circle of Jesus and witnessed the transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter and praying in Gethsemane (Mk 9:2; 5:37; 14:33). John’s connection was at the level of the heart and it was he who leaned on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper (Jn 13:23). John was the lone apostle at the foot of the cross to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his mother (Jn 19:26-27). Later on, John would summarize his act of faith based upon a profoundly human experience of Jesus: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life… we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 1:1,3).

John was accompanied by others because Jesus willed that the disciples would not journey alone (cf. Lk 10:1). In this passage, we also encounter Mary and Peter. All three had similarly penetrating connections with Jesus, not to exclude others, but to serve as a model. Others eventually came to the same faith, but these were chosen so that they could return and strengthen others (cf. Lk 22:32).

Personal connection is profound, but by itself can lead to relativism and away from logic and truth. For this reason, we see much confusion within this short passage. Mary first witnessed the tombstone removed and immediately concluded, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb” (Jn 20:2). In other words, she thought that the tomb had been vandalized and robbers had taken the body. She was so convinced of this that when Jesus appeared to her, she said, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him” (Jn 20:15). When Peter and John arrived, they did not fare better. John looked inside and only saw the burial cloths. Peter entered and noticed “the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place” (Jn 20:6-7). These are strange details that do not add up. If the body of Jesus had been stolen, the robbers would certainly have taken it with the cloths intact; they would not have left them in various places nor taken time to roll one of the cloths up. John summed up the whole incident saying, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9). What he wanted to make clear is that faith in the resurrection cannot be explained by facts and logic nor from previous knowledge of scripture, but to the contrary, that the resurrection itself would illuminate scripture and life. “And they remembered his words” and they believed (Lk 24:8). We remember His words; may we come to believe.

*  Abbot of St. Martin Abbey
Lacey, Washington

By Fr Marion Nguyen, osb *