John Chapter 20:1-18

Page 1

The Gospel Of John Chapter 20:1-18

I. Outline: I. The Empty Tomb: 20:1-10 II. Jesus Appears To Mary Magdalene: 20:11-17 III. Jesus Appears To The Disciples: 20:18-23 IV. Jesus And Thomas: 20:24-31

II. Introductory Comments: Tenney notes, ‘The twentieth chapter of John is the climax of the book. The tragedy of unbelief which culminated in the cross would remain forever unresolved were there no resurrection, for evil would have triumphed over good and the heroic and vicarious death of Jesus would be at best a magnificent but futile gesture. In that event, faith in a good God would be irrational, the concept of a moral universe would be impossible, and stark pessimism would be the necessary philosophy of all humanity.’ (p. 272)

III. Commentary: John 20:1 1 ‘Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.’ ‘Now on the first day of the week’-Prior to this, the Jewish rulers had petitioned Pilate to have the tomb guarded (Matthew 27:62-66). These rulers who were so concerned about the body of Jesus remaining on the cross during the Sabbath, didn’t mind going to Pilate on the Sabbath to have the tomb guarded. ‘In spite of all the miracles Jesus had performed, including raising the dead Lazarus from the tomb, of which these Pharisees and priests had knowledge still they thought they had at last defeated the Nazarene.’ (Butler p. 419) Mark makes it clear that the Sabbath was over when these women started out on their journey to the tomb (16:1).


‘Mary Magdalene’-The other accounts reveal that other women accompanied Mary (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:54-24:1).

‘came early to the tomb’-It seems clear that the burial had been rushed, and these women were returning to finish what had been a hasty half completed job(Luke 23:5424:1). We must reject the idea that the women arrived at the wrong tomb, for they had clearly seen where the body of Jesus had been placed. As they were coming to the tomb the women were wondering who would be present to remove the stone (Mark 16:3).

‘early’-By the time the women arrived at the tomb the sun had risen (Mark 16:2). This may have been around 5-6 a.m. But John states that the women had started out towards the tomb while it was still dark.

‘saw the stone already taken away from the tomb’-The Greek word rendered “taken away”, means to lift up or take out. ‘John may imply violence..This seems to imply that the stone was lifted out of the groove which it ran.’ (Morris p. 831) Hendriksen notes, ‘Nowhere is it stated that this stone had to be removed in order that Jesus might arise from the grave. That the resurrection-body of the Lord was such that he was able to leave the tomb even though the stone was not removed seems to be clearly implied in 20:26. Nevertheless, the stone had to be removed. This was necessary for two reasons: 1. In order to indicate that the grave had been conquered, that the victory had been achieved. 2. In order that Peter and John might be able to enter…and that everyone might be able to see that the tomb was empty!’ (p. 448) Matthew records that an angel from heaven had descended and rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2). Lenski notes, ‘In the next instant an earthquake shook the ground, an angel flashed from the sky, perhaps touched the stone, making it fly from its place, the soldiers lay like dead, recovered, and fled. The stone, lying flat on the ground, revealed that the tomb was empty’ (p. 1335)

John 20:2 ‘And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”’ ‘And so she ran’-The other accounts mention that the women actually entered the tomb (Luke 24:3; Mark 16:5-8; Matthew 28:5-8), and that two angels appeared to them and announced that Jesus had been resurrected (Luke 24:4-10). It would appear that Mary Magdalene had immediately left, concluding that the body of Jesus had been stolen and hadn’t heard the message from the angels. She may have said something to the others like, ‘I’ll go and get help’.

‘came to Simon Peter’-Even though Peter had denied Christ, he had returned to be with the other disciples. What a contrast! What a difference and what can happen to a person in a few days time! Peter will see the resurrected Christ, Judas is dead and


suffering the fate of the unfaithful. Jesus had told Peter to strengthen his brethren after he had repented (Luke 22:32).

‘to the other disciple whom Jesus loved’-that is, John the writer of this Gospel. ‘”They have taken away the Lord”-‘They’ must refer to the Jewish authorities or other enemies of Jesus. The thought of a resurrection didn’t immediately enter the mind of Mary, rather she immediately assumed that the body of Jesus had been stolen. ‘Considering the hateful viciousness of the enemies of Jesus she may have surmised that these enemies had stolen the body in order to desecrate it even more or to use it to capture His followers.’ (Butler p. 420)

John 20:3 ‘Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb.’ Carefully note that Peter isn’t gun-shy. His attitude isn’t, ‘I’m going to stay out of this one, in view of what happened last time. I learned my lesson, I am never again going to get involved.’ Rather, Peter must investigate, he must continue to take risks in trying to find out what is going on.

John 20:4 ‘And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first;’ ‘running together’-Peter and John would hardly have been running to the tomb, if they had been in on a plot to secretly remove and hide the body of Jesus. Carefully note the following details: A. The empty tomb took the women by surprise. It is hard to believe that the disciples of Jesus could have removed the body without the knowledge of these women. B. Peter and John wouldn’t have wasted the energy in running to the tomb, if they knew the body had been previously removed. C. The enemies of Jesus had not removed for the body, for they wanted the body to remain in the tomb (Matthew 27:6266).

‘ran ahead’-Some think that this means that John was younger than Peter, and yet youth and speed don’t always go hand in hand.

John 20:5 ‘and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.’ ‘stooping’-apparently the entrance into the tomb was low, so John had to stoop. From the entrance John could see the garments which had surrounded the body of Jesus. ‘”Stooping and looking in” is the translation of one word…The verb conveys the idea of bending over (i.e. to see something better).’ (Morris p. 832) John appears to be


somewhat hesitant. Peter had started the race to the tomb, and now that John had outrun Peter, he hesitated at the entrance.

John 20:6 ‘Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there.’ ‘linen wrappings’-the material which had been used to wrap the body of Jesus. John 20:7 ‘and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.’ ‘face-cloth’-Therefore, we must reject the idea that a single sheet of fabric was used to enclose the body of Jesus

‘rolled up in a place by itself’-‘John is plainly describing an orderly scene, not one of wild confusion. This means that the body had not been taken by grave-robbers. They would never have left the cloths wrapped neatly. They would have taken the body, cloths and all, or would have torn the cloths off and scattered them.’ (Morris p. 833) The scene in the tomb is not at all what one would expect if the body had been stolen. Apparently, none of the wrappings had been cut or torn. They weren’t lying on the floor in a heap or scattered all around. ‘They lay just as they had been wound about the limbs and the body, only the body was no longer in them, and thus the wrappings lay flat. All the aromatic spices were exactly as they had been strewn between the layers of linen.’ (Lenski p. 1342)

John 20:8 ‘So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.’ ‘and he saw and believed’-in view of the next verse, it appears that the ‘faith’ in this passage refers to faith in what Mary had said, i.e. that the body was gone. Even after this verse, Jesus will rebuke the disciples, including John for their failure to believe that He had been resurrected (Luke 24:34-46; Mark 16:10-14).

John 20:9 ‘For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.’ ‘For as yet they’-‘they’ includes both Peter and John. ‘did not understand the Scripture’-Such passages as Isaiah 53:10 and Psalm 16:10 taught the fact of a resurrection. In addition, Jesus had clearly and often alluded to it (John 2:18-19; 9:17; Matthew 16:21). On the one hand it is strange that the disciples did not comprehend or remember what Jesus had said about His impending death and resurrection. On the other hand, ‘perhaps the disciples were too busy with seeking places 4

in the kingdom when Jesus made His prophecies to remember them or their Jewish prejudices as to the nature of the Messiah caused them to misunderstand…’ (Butler p. 421)

John 20:10 ‘So the disciples went away again to their own homes.’ Luke tells us that Peter and John told the other disciples that the tomb was empty, just as the women had said (Luke 24:24).

Theories Which Deny The Resurrection At this point it is profitable to note what are the only alternatives to the resurrection. Or, the various human theories which have been invented to deny the resurrection. The reader should be impressed that the Gospel accounts can stand up under the most intense scrutiny. And that a good answer or alternative to the resurrection doesn’t exist. 1. Jesus Merely Passed Out On The Cross: But the text is clear that He had died (John 19:32-34). In fact, to argue that despite everything Jesus went through (scouring, crucifixion, deep spear thrust to the side, tremendous loss of blood), that He only passed out. Would argue that Jesus was a superhuman. 2. Enemies Of Jesus Stole the Body: Actually, they wanted the body to remain in the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). And in the face of constant preaching from the Apostles concerning the resurrection, the enemies of Jesus never produced the body, which would have stopped Christianity dead in its tracks. 3. Disciples Stole the Body: But the tomb was heavily guarded (Matthew 27:62-66). The disciples weren’t in a frame of mind to attempt such a feat, in fact, they didn’t even understand that He would be raised (John 20:9). Why did the soldiers have to be bribed to claim that the disciples stole of the body, if indeed that is what really happened (Matthew 28:12-13). And how did the disciples get the body of Jesus out of the tomb and pass the soldiers without anyone on either side from getting hurt? 4. The Women Went To The Wrong Tomb: But they saw where Jesus had been buried (Luke 23:53-56). Peter and John doublechecked and also found the tomb empty (John 20:3ff). Did the angels also arrive at the wrong tomb? (Mark 16:5). The enemies of Jesus admitted that the real tomb was empty (Matthew 27:11).


5. Someone Else Stole The Body: But the tomb was heavily guarded (Matthew 27:62-66). And what grave-robbers take the time to carefully unwrap the body without tearing or cutting any of the pieces of cloth and then take the time to fold the head piece? And if someone had stole the body, why didn’t they just take everything. Wouldn’t it be easier to carry a wrapped body, than an unwrapped body? 6. The Hallucination Theory: That is, the disciples wanted to see Jesus so badly that they imagined that they had seen Him. But this is what they thought they saw, then Jesus corrected them (Luke 24:37ff). In addition, such a theory would demand that the body was still in the tomb, for hallucinations don’t move bodies. But even the enemies of Jesus were forced to concede that the tomb was empty. Did over 500 brethren all have the same hallucination at the same time? (1 Corinthians 15:6) 7. The Vision Theory: ‘which explains the resurrection as a supernatural but ephemeral vision given to the apostles and women and others. If the appearances of Christ were not bodily appearances why do the gospel writers make it so plain that Christ showed the nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side---why did He eat with the disciples?’ (Luke 24:37ff) (Butler p. 423)

Jesus Appears To Mary Magdalene John 20:11 ‘But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.’ ‘Mary was standing outside’-Mary had followed Peter and John and had come back to the tomb. Since she is weeping, it appears that she has not met with the other women who had seen and heard what the angels had told them. Mary is still convinced that the enemies of Jesus have removed His body. The word ‘weeping’ here does not mean a quiet, restrained shedding of tears, but a loud lamentation. Mary realizes that Peter and John can do nothing, she breaks down thinking that all is hopeless. The enemies of Jesus have not only taken the life of her beloved Jesus, but they have succeeded in even depriving her of preparing His body for burial.

John 20:12 ‘and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.’


‘she beheld two angels’-Apparently this is the first time that Mary sees the angels. The other women who had stayed longer at the tomb had already seen them and heard their message.

‘in white’-possibly signifying purity. Their position, may indicate the total protection which had surrounded Jesus. Lenski notes, ‘”One at the head, and one at the feet” has well been compared with the position of the cherubim at either end of the mercy seat or lid on the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies.’ (p. 1351)

John 20:13 ‘And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”’ ‘they said to her’-Be impressed that when angels spoke to individuals that those individuals clearly understood what was said. These angels are not shadowy figures or mysterious blends of colors, rather they are clearly seen and clearly heard.

“Because they have taken away my Lord”-Mary is still under the impression that the body of Jesus has been removed by foul play. Note that Mary isn’t shocked by seeing the angels in the tomb. ‘But so completely has sorrow and grief captured the soul of Mary that she is not frightened, no, not even startled by these angels or by their question.’ (Hendriksen p. 453)

John 20:14 ‘When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.’ ‘did not know that it was Jesus’-as in another case on the same day, Jesus will appear to two disciples and they won’t perceive it is Him until their eyes are opened (Luke 24:31). Some say that Mary didn’t recognize Jesus because there was something different about the outward appearance of Jesus’ physical body. But Luke 24:39 makes it clear that the body was the same identical body. I am so skeptical about the explanation that Mary didn’t recognize Jesus because her eyes were blinded with tears (but she clearly saw the angels, and clearly saw the inward condition of the tomb). It appears that Jesus miraculously kept Mary from recognizing Him until the right moment.

John 20:15 ‘Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”’ “and I will take Him away”-‘Note that she says she would take it (the body of Jesus) away….she meant that she would assume the responsibility of its removal.’ (Woods p. 7

423) What a wonderful attitude! Mary is still under the impression that Jesus is dead, but even then she is wanting to do anything she can for Him, even if it is nothing more than properly taking care of His body. Here is one who is willing to serve Jesus regardless of what that service involves.

John 20:16 ‘Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).’ “Mary!”-Evidently, Mary had turned again in the direction of the tomb, and when Jesus called her by name, she turned to Him. ‘He simply uttered her name. But, this was enough. The sweet and familiar sound of his voice brought instant recognition.’ (Woods p. 424)

“Rabboni!”-apparently a stronger word than ‘Rabbi’, meaning Teacher or Great Teacher. Also a title of endearment, such as ‘my teacher’. ‘It is a title of profound respect among the Hebrews. Only seven great leaders of the Jews have ever been given the title…’ (Butler p. 425) John translates the meaning of the word, for Rabboni was a less common term than the popular term rabbi. It was given only to a few rabbis, and it was often used with reference to God.

John 20:17 ‘Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”’ “Stop clinging to Me”-Clearly, in her joy Mary had immediately grabbed on to Jesus. Jesus would also appear to the other women (Matthew 28:9). And the reaction was the same, they immediately took hold of Him. People haven’t changed and neither have their reactions, Mary immediately grabs Jesus, not wanting to lose Him again.

“for I have not yet ascended to the Father” Points To Note: 1.

It doesn’t appear that there was anything dangerous about the resurrected body, which made holding it something that was forbidden. For Mary and other women clearly held on to Jesus for a while. 2. The ‘ascension’ under consideration is the ascension recorded in Acts 1:11. 3. Morris notes that Jesus might be saying, “Stop clinging to Me”. There is no need for this, as I am not yet at the point of permanent ascension. You will have opportunity or more opportunities to see Me. (p. 841) 4. Another thought might be, ‘Do not think, Mary, that by grasping hold of me so firmly…you can keep me always with you.’ (Hendriksen p. 455) 5. Butler notes, ‘Why did Jesus forbid her to do so? Not because it was indecent; nor because she wanted to test the reality of His resurrection for He did not forbid Thomas such a test; nor because her doing so would in some mystic way disturb


the process of glorification; but because He wanted Mary (and the other disciples later) to understand that this was not His permanent return to visible fellowship with His disciples.’ (pp. 425-426) Jesus was back, but He was leaving again. This was not simply a resurrection back to life upon this earth, as had been true in the case of Lazarus.

‘but go to My brethren’-Mary is to tell the other disciples, which she did (Luke 24:911).

‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’-Words which clearly infer that Jesus has a different relationship with the Father than do the disciples.

John 20:18 ‘Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”, and that He had said these things to her.’ Points To Note: 1. And yet the disciples will initially reject her testimony (Luke 24:8-11), as well as the testimony of the other women. 2. Morris notes, ‘It is perhaps surprising that our Lord’s first appearance after the resurrection was to Mary who, as far as we know, held no official position. Her only claim was that she was one of those who had served Jesus (Luke 8:2f). We should not miss the implication that God’s priorities are not ours. We should have expected one or more of the apostles, or, if a woman, then Jesus’ mother.’ (p. 829) 3. Note also that while Mary is a very emotional woman, her emotions are driven by evidence and not feelings. Her emotions don’t determine what is true, rather her emotions are the result of being faced with the evidence.


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.