Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue our study as we move along to part nineteen of this series and discuss John Chapter Twenty!
John 20:1-2: "Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Joseph and Nicodemus were probably coming later in the day to prepare the body, but the women (Mary Magdalene was with them) came at dawn. There were several women but John focuses on the experience of only one, Mary Magdalene. By this time, Jesus has risen, the earth has rumbled, the angel has rolled the stone away, and soldiers guarding the place have run away in fear. So the women note the empty tomb and Mary Magdalene goes to tell the Apostles that someone has taken away Jesus’ body. Note that she doesn’t say He is risen, as far as she knows, His body has been taken away.
John 20:3-10: "Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.Then they went home."
Peter and John rush to the tomb to verify what Mary has said. Peter gets there last but he enters first and what he sees are two signs of the resurrection. First, the wrappings are lying there just as they were placed around the body. If the body would have been stolen, the wrapping would have been kept or simply striped off and displaced from their original spot. However, as John describes it, the linens form an empty shell just as if someone passed THROUGH them. The outline of the body is still there. Also, the handkerchief that was set upon the face was not taken and thrown down, it was moved, folded and placed purposefully in another part of the corner. Notice what John is describing here is His and Peter’s coming to faith but an after-the-fact way. He says “and they believed” which means they were not believe before they showed up here. They both knew but did not grasp (understand) the Scriptures that said the Messiah would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10). They had both acknowledged their faith in His as the Messiah, but with the crucifixion their faith had waned, even though the scriptures and Jesus Himself said He had to die. They had been in denial. However, with the proof of the resurrection in front of them, they believed and realized their faith had been SO small. They are saying to themselves, “I should have believed more.” John explicitly says that he saw and he believed, placing himself in the company of Thomas. That John and Peter part company without joy or enthusiasm and they return to their own homes, shows that they are stunned into silence by the even and their own personal failure to remain believing through the entire ordeal. Perhaps they felt ashamed and unworthy of being used by god because of their waning faith. Its not that they were COMPLETELY unbelieving, but that their faith that they thought was so strong was found to be lacking when tested. So, the evidence of the truth at the tomb brought this fact to the forefront and humbled them to silence as the moment sank in.
John 20:11-13: "Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Mary is still under the impression that someone has stolen the Body. Peter and John have looked in, looked at each other, and slipped quietly away back to their homes. She now looks into the tomb and sees the angels who she questions as they address her. She thinks they’re going to help her find the corpse.
John 20:14-15: "She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
Jesus Himself appears to her, asking the same question as the angels, and she answers in the same way. In her sorrow, she recognizes neither the nature of the angels or Jesus Himself and she asks maybe He might know.
John 20:16-18: “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
We see Jesus break through her grief by simply calling her name and this personal address, opens her eyes to who he really is. Her response “Rabboni” (this is a Galileean form of the word “Rabbi”. Mary was from the North) shows that she recognized Him. “Rabboni” means “my master” or “my lord” and was used as a title of respect for Jewish teachers. Her joyful response is to cling to Jesus. This has been portrayed as a hugging around the neck or to His body, but she called him Lord, this was respectful, she wouldn’t have done that; she would have hugged Him around the feet, on her knees. She clings to Him in relief because she sees He is alive! She is scared to lose Him again. Contrary to some belief, Jesus is not being harsh or impatient, His response is in fact encouraging and one of revelation. Jesus is reassuring her that she will not lose Him, so there is no need to cling to Him. As a matter of fact, in the future and through the Holy Spirit, He will be closer to her than ever before since the Holy Spirit will indwell her. He tells her He has not yet ascended to the Father. He will NOT leave her right away, she WILL see Him again, she can let go. She needs to compose herself and go tell His BRETHREN (brethren being a word of encouragement to the Apostles who must be feeling bad about their small and failing faith). Can you just see their faces when they find out he called them brethren and not good for nothings or something like that? She is to tell them that they may have missed the resurrection but if they come to Him, they will witness the last step of His earthly ministry and that will be His visible bodily ascension up to Heaven. John recounts that Mary followed Jesus’ instructions and sought out the Apostles to announce to them the Good News of the resurrection and in this we see two interesting points: 1) God gives the privilege of seeing and announcing the resurrection to a WOMAN! This is a high honor and indication of His love for women. 2) We see another example of miracle and belief.
As we pick up John’s Gospel in 20:19, we will see how John describes Jesus’ actual appearance and interaction with the Apostles after the resurrection. The Bible records at least 11 appearances by Jesus after His resurrection.
Appearances After Resurrection:
Women with Mary
1 Corinthians 15:5
Two Disciples (on the road to Amaias)
Apostles without Thomas
Apostles with Thomas
Apostles by the sea
Apostle – Great Commission
James and 500
1 Corinthians 15:17
Apostles – Ascension
Paul the Apostle
1 Corinthians 15:8
These may not be the only ones but these are the only ones recorded. In John’s final chapters, he only chooses to describe four of the eleven appearances then he makes a few summary statements to end his gospel. Where John’s account picks up, Jesus had just appeared to Mary, but in between these events, Jesus has also appeared to the other women and Peter in private.
John 20:19-20: "That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!"
Note that even if the Apostles know about the resurrection from the reports of the women, Peter, and the disciples from Amaias, THEY ARE STILL AFRAID. They are still in hiding. They feared being killed by the Jews the same way that their leader was. Notice Peter is not able to calm their fears even with the news and the proof of the Lord’s resurrection. Jesus at this point sort of just appears among them, no longer limited by human weakness; He demonstrates the power of His glorified state and He greets them with a common greeting but coming from Him, its a greeting that means so much more. His appearance will truly bring peace to their troubled minds. They are concerned with whether it is actually Him and not just a ghost or hallucination or dream and then He shows them His hands and His sides. This is the FIRST time they have rejoiced throughout all this.
John 20:21-23: "Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
In these verses Jesus does three important things. Jesus Gives the Apostles:
The Commission (on behalf of the Father to continue HIS work)
The Holy Spirit (fulfills His promise to them)
The Authority (to carry out the Great Commission)
Now we move on to the next appear, about a week later, to the Apostles again but THIS TIME with Thomas.
John 20:24-25: " One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
So John explains Thomas’s reluctance to believe. His disbelief has not driven him to sin or abandon the other Apostles, he has just set conditions before God before he accepts the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas says “I’ll believe it when I see it.” So God takes Him at his word.
John 20:26-29: "Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Jesus appears again and provides the proof that Thomas requires, He admonishes Thomas and encourages him to believe and Thomas shows his belief by declaring his faith and worshiping Jesus. Of course, this is another way to exercise our faith, by worshiping the Lord. But in His response, the Lord admonishes Thomas because he refused to believe based on the sight and the witness of others. He had plenty of witness of others. He wanted to see for himself and while the Lord was with them, He graciously granted Thomas’ demand, and doesn’t throw him out as an Apostle. This shows the kindness of the Lord. However, in the future, Jesus reminds them that faith will be based on the witness of other people, as how we have all come to faith. Jesus pronounces a blessing on people who would believe in this way (that’s us!). So Thomas was there, he saw, but the blessing that Jesus pronounces does not include him. Only the people like us who have not seen but have believed. John after this summarizes and makes a conclusion here.
John 20:30-31: "The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name."
John ends his gospel, for all intensive purposes, here. It ends right here. He ends it with a proclamation of faith from one who has seen the evidence before him. Final example of the cycle of faith. This is his first closing so its a summary statement of the purpose of his gospel. He has written all of this down so we can believe. Although it is only a part of the miracles and life of Jesus, it is for us to have a witness to believe. He closes with asking the reading themselves if he or she will believe and be counted as believers.