Hope in the Emptiness?
Gospel reflection for December 27th, 2022: John 20:1-8
John the evangelist tells us some interesting details in the story of finding Jesus’ tomb empty. One strange detail is the disciples’ discovery of the contents of the now-empty tomb: the burial cloths. We hear at the end of the previous chapter that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body in the burial cloths along with myrrh and aloes. St. John Chrysostom informs us that, “the body of Jesus was buried with much myrrh, which glues linen to the body even more firmly than lead.”1
One of the reasons we hear that the linens are in the tomb is so that we, along with the beloved disciple and Peter, can recognise that Jesus’ empty tomb was not accomplished by grave robbers or anyone in haste. People in a rush would not have time to painstakingly remove the cloths, yet the disciples see the cloths carefully placed in the tomb, removed from a body.
This would have caused them to be full of wonder - and hope! For if it was not the action of humans, who would have needed much time to accomplish such a thing, then there was hope that by some miracle, God was doing something wonderful. The evangelist tells us that they did not understand that Jesus would rise yet (v. 9), but they did believe that God was creating something new. They did not have to understand to believe that God was at work.
As we celebrate the feast of St. John the evangelist, may we allow ourselves to look into the darkness, wherever it seems to haunt us, and find this same hope there. That we might allow ourselves to experience both confusion and hope, knowing deep within us that God is creating something new and that it, too, will be wonderful.
As quoted in Word on Fire Bible: The Gospels, ed. Brandon Vogt (Park Ridge, Il: Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, 2020), 575.