The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 20:1-4, 10-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 18, 2013

This post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of John 20, followed by hit notes on verses 1-4 and 10-18.


In this chapter, we have an account of Magdalen’s arrival at our Lord’s sepulchre, at twilight, on the first day of the week; finding the stone removed, she hastens to inform Peter and John (1, 2). They coming in haste, saw from the linen cloths and bandages that were scattered about, that the Resurrection had taken place. John, in consequence, believed in the Resurrection. After that, they retired to their respective homes (3–11).

Magdalen returning to the sepulchre had a vision of angels. She had, moreover, the ineffable happiness of being met by our Lord Himself, who making Himself known to her, addressed her in consoling language, and instructed her to inform His brethren of it, which she faithfully did (11–18).

Late, on the evening of the same day, after the disciples had returned from Emmaus, our Lord entering the chamber, where the disciples were gathered together, the doors being shut, communicates His peace, imparts the Holy Ghost, and gives power to remit and retain sins. Thomas was absent, this time (19, 23).

The incredulity of Thomas, which our Lord, at His apparition on the eighth day after the Resurrection, mercifully removes, by condescendingly giving Thomas the proofs he desired of our Lord’s real Resurrection (24–28). Thomas’s ardent faith, and profession in our Lord’s Divinity and Humanity (28).

Our Lord’s commendation of the faith of the simple believers (29).

The Evangelist declares his reason for writing this Gospel (30, 31).

COMMENTARY ON JOHN 20:1-4, 10-18

Joh 20:1  And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre: and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

“And on the first day of the week” (see Matthew 28:1), “Mary Magdalen,” accompanied by others, whose names are given by the other Evangelists. Magdalen was the principal among them.

“Cometh early, when it was yet dark”—in the early twilight—“to see the sepulchre,” and anoint the body of Jesus, as we are informed by the other Evangelists (Luke 24:1; Mark 16:1).

“And she saw the stone taken away.” This was done by the angels (Matthew 28), who announced our Lord’s Resurrection (see the other Evangelists). This, however, Magdalen understood not, as appears from the following.

Joh 20:2  She ran therefore and cometh to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre: and we know not where they have laid him.

“She ran, therefore,” etc. She and her companions ran to inform Simon Peter, whom they knew to be constituted by our Lord the head of the Apostolic College.
“And to the other disciple,” etc., whom they naturally supposed to be most solicitous about His Divine Master.

Joh 20:3  Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple: and they came to the sepulchre.
Joh 20:4  And they both ran together: and that other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulchre.

The other disciple, being younger and more active, outran Peter and arrived first.

Joh 20:10  The disciples therefore departed again to their home.Joh 20:11  But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre.

“They retired to their homes;” Peter, in a state of admiration; John, believing (see 8-9); Magdalen remaining alone at the sepulchre, lovingly anxious to inquire further about what was done with the body of her Lord, whom she so ardently loved—“weeping” over His death, and the loss of His sacred body.

Joh 20:12  And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.

Although she had already looked into the sepulchre, she did not fail to do so again, out of anxiety, and was favoured with a vision of angels, in reward for her faith and anxiety. Her companions were similarly favoured (Luke 24:4).

Joh 20:13  They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord: and I know not where they have laid him.

“Why weepest thou?” This is no time for weeping, but a time for joy. The reply of Magdalen, “because, they have taken away,” etc., would argue weak and confused ideas regarding our Lord’s Resurrection.

Joh 20:14  When she had thus said, she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing: and she knew not that it was Jesus.

“She turned back and saw Jesus standing.” It may be, as many suppose, that the angels who were before her, showed signs of reverence to our blessed Lord. This made Magdalen look back to see what it meant; or, some noise may have been made, which would cause her to look back.

Joh 20:15  Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, thinking that it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him: and I will take him away.

Our Lord in His glorified body, presented a different appearance from what He had in His mortal state. Here, He had the appearance of one whom she took for the gardener, in charge of the garden in which the holy sepulchre was placed, from His appearing there at such an early hour. At another time, He had the appearance of a stranger; as when He appeared to the Apostles on their way to Emmaus.

“And I will take Him away.” Possibly, Magdalen’s eyes were held, like the disciples at Emmaus, so that she could not know Him (Luke 24:16). The excess of her love makes all things possible. On any other principle, it is hard to see how a feeble, weak woman could speak in such a way. It was the excess of holy love.

“If thou hast taken Him hence.” She is so taken up with the idea of our Lord, that she can think of nothing else. She fancies nobody could think of any one else; that all are entirely engrossed, like herself, with the one great object of love.

Joh 20:16  Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master).

“Mary,” addressing her in His natural, well-known tone of voice.

“Rabboni,” which is understood by some to mean, “my master;” by others, “master, like Rabbi.” It would seem to be a more august and respectful term than Rabbi, applied to our Lord, only after His Resurrection. “She turning.” Likely, as our Lord, whom she took for the gardener, gave her no reply, she turned to the angels to inquire who He was; and, then, on hearing His familiar, well-known tone of voice, she turned to Him. Others understand, “turned,” recovered from the stupor she was in, like Peter (Acts 22:5).

Joh 20:17  Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me: for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.

Possibly, Magdalen on discovering it to be her loving Lord, in an ecstasy of love, made signs (as St. Gregory infers, Hom. 25), of Her desire to embrace His knees and kiss His feet, and reverently adore Him, as was permitted afterwards (Matthew 28:9). Seeing this, or knowing it, our Lord prohibits her from remaining there. He, therefore, tells her to go at once, and announce to the brethren all she saw.

“I am not yet ascended,” etc., as if to say, a sufficiently long interval will elapse before I ascend to My Father; so that you will have time enough to exhibit due reverence to Me in person. Therefore, delay not in enjoying the spiritual delights and pleasures now communicated to you. But go at once, and inform My brethren, that I am, soon after My Resurrection, to “ascend to My Father,” who is your Father also, “to My God,” who is your God also.

This is the common interpretation and connexion of the words, “Do not touch Me.”

Joh 20:18  Mary Magdalen cometh and telleth the disciples: I have seen the Lord; and these things he said to me.

This was Magdalen’s second journey. In the former, she announced the taking away of the Sacred Body; in this, the glorious tidings of the Resurrection communicated to her by our Lord Himself. The other Evangelists record the two journeys as one. The disciples did not believe Magdalen (Mark 16:1), nor the other women (Luke 24:11).

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