English is a tremendous language with rich shades of meaning in its words. However, there are a few occasions in Scripture where we miss out because we’re reading in English. One of those passages is John 20 where the discovery of the empty tomb is described. The word “see” or one of its form is repeated several times. However, there is much more going on in the Greek.
If you have your handy-dandy Strong’s or some other Greek reference, and read verse 1 you find out that Mary Magdalene “saw” the stone removed. The word is blep? and it means to look at (literally or figuratively), behold, look (on, to), perceive, regard, see, take heed. Strong calls it a voluntary observation.
In verse 5, John does the same thing. He looked in and “saw” the linen clothes lying there. Same Greek word.
In verse 6, Peter arrives and he checks things out. His word is the?re?. It means to be a spectator, look at, behold, to view attentively, take a view of, survey, to view mentally, consider. Peter examines things, inspects them and begins to process the information he’s taking in.
Then in verse 9, John has another turn. John followed Peter’s example, examined things, especially everything neatly folded and in order and he “saw” and believed. His word is eido. He perceived with his eyes and understood the implications of what he saw. John had a light bulb moment. He’s not quite there yet, though, because he and Peter go home.
Mary is still hanging around, however, and in verse 12, she sees an angel at the tomb. This is the?re?. In verse 14, she sees Jesus Himself. Same the?re? kind of seeing. The risen Christ speaks to her and she recognizes Him. Jesus sends her to tell His disciples.
In verse 18, she runs to tell them she saw the Lord. She gets a whole new Greek word- horao which means to become acquainted with by experience, to experience. Strong goes on to say this word implies that it’s something remarkable. It has an idea of wide-eyed wonder. So the boys “saw” it, maybe even comprehended it, but Mary “got” it.
May God grant us all a new grasp on the wonder and miracle that is Easter.