1 John 1:1-4
Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
John 20:1a, 2-8
In the celebration of today's feast of St. John the Evangelist we read John's own account of the visit that he and St. Peter made to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. These words of St. John are appropriate for his feast day because they tell us a lot about him. St. John is presented as a very perceptive person who had listened carefully to the words and teaching of Jesus and had become a faithful follower of the Lord. This whole section of his gospel reveals St. John in a very favorable light. I find him an attractive person whom I would like to imitate in his faithfulness and devotion to Jesus.
Whenever I read this scripture story my attention is drawn to the last words of the story: "and he saw and believed." In these simple words St. John tells us a lot. He tells us that the arrangement of the burial cloths and the head covering that had covered the body of Jesus led him to understand that grave robbers had not been at work here. It also led him to conclude that the Roman authorities had not moved the body of Jesus. If either grave robbers or the Romans had moved the body they would not have removed the burial cloths and the head covering. And they would not have undone the work of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to embalm the body. All of this John realized as soon as he entered the empty tomb. This demonstrates St. John's perceptiveness. Neither St. Peter nor Mary Magdalene was able to draw such a conclusion. Indeed, Mary speaks as though convinced that someone had moved the body.
St. John listened very carefully to the words and teaching of Jesus. On this occasion he must have recalled the words of Jesus when he predicted his Resurrection. He was also a faithful disciple of Jesus who was absolutely convinced that following Jesus was the most important thing in his life. And so because of what he saw and what he believed, St. John came to the conclusion that Jesus himself had somehow arranged for the empty tomb, and that he had indeed risen.
The others believed when they saw the risen body of Jesus on that first Easter day. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in the garden after Peter and John had left. The disciples on the road to Emmaus saw Jesus that evening. St. Peter and the other apostles (except Thomas) saw Jesus that night in Jerusalem. But St. John came to believe when he entered the empty tomb on Easter morning, hours before his first sight of the Risen Lord that night. For me, there is deep meaning in the words of St. John when he says very simply: "he saw and believed." During his life St. John gave us a very attractive example of how to follow Jesus. Today on his feast we ask St. John to help us to follow his example and to have the kind of faith and devotion to Jesus that he did.
By Tom Bannantine