St. John the Evangelist will write in his Gospel a peculiar detail about the Easter tomb. Unlike the other evangelists (i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke), it is only in John’s account that we read about how, on this first day of the week, it was still dark.
And while it might seem like too much of an aside to look closely at the backdrop, John has shown us over and over again, that God is in the details. And so it is here that we must stop and ask the question, what did John see in the darkness of an early morning that the other evangelists missed?
We might begin with the fact that this dark moment outside of the tomb is closing in on the end of a story; the one John began much earlier. This is how he chose to begin that story:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. [My emphasis added] (John 1:1-5)
In the prologue of John, as we call it, John has set the stage for the drama of Jesus’ life, and he has given us the interpretive lenses to view it as well. To understand Jesus, John very clearly points us in the direction of the beginning, but not just the earthly life of his parents or King David or even Adam, but to the very foundation of all that is. And when we go back that far, we find some interesting parallels to the event of the tomb.
It is here, in the first chapter of Genesis, that we find darkness on the first day of the week. But the darkness that covered the face of the abyss did not have the last say. Even before the first day is over, the light which poured out from the Word of God threw back the darkness. The parallel to the tomb is suggested further by the use of the word abyss. This is because in later Hebraic thinking, that same word will also be used to describe the underworld or place of the dead:
Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. – (Luke 8:31)
“…Or who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). – (Romans 10:7)
In his own way John wants us to understand that the tomb, that abyss of death, and the darkness of Easter morning is not the end of the story. It is in fact only the beginning. The Bible means what it says, we can hear John the evangelist exclaim. The Light is coming into the world. Indeed, the darkness cannot overcome it.
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