7 ways the Ark of the Covenant is a prophetic picture of Jesus: John 20:1-12

Last week in our journey through the book of John we looked at how five prophetic pictures were fulfilled by Jesus’ burial. (see previous post 5 Prophetic Pictures Fulfilled by Jesus’ Burial: John 19:38-42) Today we’ll look at the resurrection and what to me is one of the most amazing prophetic pictures fulfilled by Jesus during the scene at the empty tomb.

Mary Magdelene Mourning

Mary Magdelene goes to the tomb. It’s still dark when she goes, so the Jewish Sabbath, which concludes at sunset, would have ended just hours before. Jewish tombs were often sealed by a heavy disk shaped stone that would require several men to roll away, and Mary expects to find such a stone. But to her surprise she finds the stone has been moved and the tomb is open.

This is bad news to Mary, she’s alarmed because she doesn’t know what’s become of the body of her Lord. So she runs to Simon Peter and “the one whom Jesus loved” as John calls himself. And she tells them,

“They took the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve laid him.”

Peter and John Race to the Tomb

So Peter and John start running for the tomb. John, who was probably younger, outruns Peter. John stands outside the tomb, perhaps wanting to avoid making himself unclean by touching a dead body. He stoops down and takes a quick look inside and sees the linen cloths lying there.

Then Peter arrives and he just goes right inside the tomb, and he too sees the linen cloths lying there. The face cloth which had been on Jesus’ head wasn’t lying with the linen cloths but it was rolled up or folded up in a place by itself.

Then John decides to go inside and he saw and he believed.

As an aside, something that interests me about what we’ve seen so far is, in the original Greek, there are three different words used for look or see in verses five, six, and eight. In verse five when John stoops down and looks inside, while he’s standing outside, the word for look is “blepei” and it means a glance or a quick look. In verse six where Peter went inside and saw the linen cloths the word for saw is “theorei” and it means to hypothesize, examine, or scrutinize. In verse eight when John goes inside the word for saw is “eiden” which means to look with understanding and insight. So perhaps John understood that Jesus had risen from the dead. (Or, because of the next verse, it could be they just believed the body was missing.)

Continuing on, verse nine says, they hadn’t yet understood the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

But . . .

What Mary Sees

But, Mary stays there. She’s weeping and grieving outside the tomb. And as she’s weeping and grieving she stoops down to look inside. And what she sees is amazing. She sees two angels in white, one on either end of where Jesus’ body had been.

(John 20:1-12)

What Mary Magdalene sees here astounds me, because it reminds me so much of the Ark of the Covenant. Could it be that the Ark was a prophetic picture of the scene inside Jesus’ empty tomb?

“And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you . . .”

Exodus 25:16-22

I’m not a Bible scholar but this prophetic picture seems so beautiful and also so obvious to me. Here are seven ways I see the Ark of the Covenant as a prophetic picture of the scene in Jesus’ empty tomb.

  1. In Exodus we see two angels, one on either end of the mercy seat above the Ark of the Covenant. In the empty tomb we see two angels, one on either end of where Jesus had lain.
  2. When sacrifices were made, the High Priest would sprinkle blood between the two angels on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of Israel. (Leviticus 16:14) In the empty tomb, there would have been Jesus’ blood there between the two angels, to atone for my sins, and yours.
  3. The manna was found inside the Ark of the Covenant. (Hebrews 9:4) In Jesus we find God’s true bread of life from heaven that gives life to the world. (John 6:32-33)
  4. Aaron the High Priest’s staff that budded was found in the Ark. (Hebrews 9:4) After His resurrection Jesus became our High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-15)
  5. The stone tablets of the law were found in the Ark of the Covenant. (Hebrews 9:4) In Jesus, God’s law was fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-20)
  6. In Exodus God’s mercy seat is covering the testimony. In Jesus’ death and resurrection all believers find God’s mercy.
  7. “There I will meet you,” God says in Exodus, “. . . between the two cherubim . . .” And between the two angels is where Jesus had lain. And Jesus is where God meets us.

Wherever you put the original construction of the Ark of the Covenant historically, hundreds if not thousands of years before the events in today’s passage occurred, in Jesus’ empty tomb we see how God painted yet another prophetic picture of the New Covenant.

Next week we’ll look at what Mary heard.


Image of The Ark of the Covenant via picryl — Public Domain

2 Comments on “7 ways the Ark of the Covenant is a prophetic picture of Jesus: John 20:1-12

  1. Preparing for Holy week this year(2023) I was reading about Mary seeing the two angels at either end of where Jesus’ body had laid. I immediately had a visual image of the ark of the covenant and realized that all those years the Israelites had been worthing the symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I then tried to find if anyone had made this connection, because I had never heard it before. And here it is!

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