John 20


‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So, she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So, Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)’ John 20:1-9

The empty tomb

In John 20:1-19 we read about Jesus’ resurrection and once again we see John’s narrative isn’t meant to be complete, again he is very selective. He omits incidents recorded in the other Gospels, and includes incidents they omit.

In John 20:1-2 again, on reading the different accounts of what met the women when they arrived at the tomb on the first day of the week, it can be seen that the different authors put emphasis on different points. Altogether, a good clear picture can be constructed.

1. It was very early on the Sunday morning, as the sun was coming up. Matthew 28:1 / Mark 16:2 / Luke 24:1 / John 20:1.

2. Mary Magdala and the other Mary were going to anoint Jesus with spices. Matthew 28:1 / Mark 16:1 / Luke 24:1 / John 20:1.

3. John records only the experience of Mary of Magdala. She saw that the stone had been ‘taken away’ from the entrance of the tomb, the stone had been moved from the entrance during the night. The other Gospels say that the stone was ‘rolled back’, ‘rolled away’, clearly it was out of the groove in which it had to be to cover the entrance. Matthew 28:2 / Mark 16:4 / Luke 24:2 / John 20:1.

4. The guards had seen this occur and were much afraid, it was done by an angel and accompanied by an earthquake. Matthew 28:2-4.

5. The same angel spoke to the women telling them the Christ had risen. Matthew 28:5+6 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:4-6.

6. Jesus had gone on the Galilee and they will meet him there. Matthew 28:7 / Mark 16:7.

7. This was in accordance with Jesus earlier statements. Luke 24:7-8.

8. The women went to tell the disciples as the angel had told them. Matthew 28:8 / Mark 16:7 / Luke 24:9 / John 20:2.

9. As they were afraid, they told no one else. Mark 16:8.

10. On meeting the disciples, Mary was distressed and didn’t seem to believe what she had heard from the angel as she says ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him’. As we know they hadn’t removed Jesus, Jesus had removed Himself.

11. Only Peter and John believed initially, both ran to the tomb, and found only the cloth Jesus had been wrapped in. Luke 24:11-12 / John 20:3 / John 20:7.

In John 20:3-9 we see, these two were most excited, Peter was the oldest of the disciples and John the youngest. John ‘outran Peter’ and so, arrived at the tomb first, stooping to look in, it was a low entrance.

He saw the linen cloths, bandages, lying on the ground, but was afraid to enter the tomb. Peter then arrived and true to his natural impulsive character, he went into the tomb.

What met him was indeed amazing, all the linen bandages were there, the sheet like cloth was there even the cloth ‘soudarion’, handkerchief or napkin, used to wrap up the Lord’s head was there, folded neatly apart from the rest of the lined.

Everything was there, but Jesus wasn’t, no one would steal the body and take the time to remove the linen, even folding some of it up, no this was not done by the hands of man, but by the power of God.

The lined bandages would be wrapped around Jesus’ limbs and body. Some commentators insist that the language demands that the grave cloths that had been would around the body were lying undisturbed ‘except that those wound around the body had fallen flat’.

The napkin was ‘still in the folds as it had been about the head of Jesus’.

John next entered, ‘and he saw and believed’, that Jesus had risen, ‘chrysostum’. For neither, if any persons had removed the body, would they before doing so have stripped it, nor if anyone had stolen it, would they have taken the trouble to remove the napkin, and roll it up, and lay it in place by itself, but how? They would have taken the body as it was.

On this account, John tells us by anticipation that it was buried with much myrrh, which glues lined to the body not less firmly than lead. Now finally all the pieces fitted together, all the teaching Jesus had given fell into place, the two believed with a clear understanding of all the relevant facts.

‘They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.’ The ‘scripture’ could refer to His own predictions that He would rise John 16:16-17 / Matthew 16:21, and, or to Old Testament predictions, Psalm 16:10-11 / Psalm 110:1 / Psalm 110:4 / Psalm 118:22-24 / Isaiah 53:11-12.

They believed from experience then later saw it in the scriptures, they hadn’t been aware of all that the Old Testament said about Jesus’s death burial and resurrection. Notice also ‘had to rise’ the resurrection is essential to prove His claims, Luke 24:44-47.

‘Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.’ John 20:10-18

Jesus appears to Mary of Magdala. Joyfully, the disciples returned home, no doubt to tell the other disciples of the good news.

‘The beloved disciple’ was the first one to believe that Jesus had risen, this without seeing Him, John 20:8, Mary of Magdala was the first to see Him after His resurrection.

Mary however stayed at the tomb, even though she had seen the angel earlier on, Matthew 28:5+6, she still didn’t understand or believe. Mary stood outside the tomb ‘crying’, sobbing, weeping aloud.

As she sobbed, she glanced inside the tomb, she saw two angels sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the corpse had laid, the angels looked like young men. Mark 16:5 / Luke 24:4.

They asked why she was in such obvious distress, it’s important to note that she makes reference to Jesus as ‘My Lord’, indicating continued faith in Him even though He is no longer about.

‘Woman’ they said to her, ‘why are you crying?’ She said, ‘because they have taken away my Master, and I do not know where they have put him!’ With these words, she turned around and notices Jesus standing, though she didn’t know it was Jesus.

‘Woman’, said Jesus, ‘why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’

Two things should be kept in mind here

1. She was crying bitterly, blinded by grief.

2. It was only when He spoke her name that ‘she turned’ towards him, John 20:16.

Until this moment she wasn’t looking at the speaker. These two facts alone would account for her not knowing it was Jesus. Perhaps Christ’s body is so changed as not to be recognised at once even by those who had known Him well, it has new powers and a new majesty. John 21:4 / Luke 24:16 / Luke 24:37 / Matthew 28:17.

Notice here words, ‘Sir….tell me. and I will take Him away.’ How was she to carry a corpse, and where would she take it? Her loving devotion does not measure her strength.

This is a beautiful example of the self-forgetfulness of love. Why she even turned around at that point is open to speculation, but she is now facing an unknown man. He asks why she is crying, the same question the angels had just asked.

In her upset state, Mary gives the man a brief answer, asking if he had anything to do with Jesus’ disappearance. The whole conversation with this man is running along very similar lines to the one held moments before with the two angels.

Jesus now reveals Himself with one word, ‘Mary’. It must have been in the tenderness of His tone, or the gentleness of His voice that sparks a memory in the mind of Mary and she realises who she is addressing.

‘Rabboni!’ is the Aramaic form of ‘Rabbi’, it means ‘my great Master’. In John 20:17, Jesus tells her, ‘Do not hold me,’ ‘do not touch me’ but He allowed women to touch Him, Matthew 28:9, He told Thomas to touch Him, John 20:27.

He isn’t talking here about mere touching, but holding, ‘cease clinging to me’. Her instinctive desire would be to hold on the Jesus, to keep him and not to let Him go, that wasn’t possible. She couldn’t keep Him physically with His disciples, a completely new period was to begin, involving His ‘going to his Father’.

After that, His ascension, a new kind of fellowship, spiritual, would be available to all His followers. This couldn’t be interrupted by any event. Conditions had changed, and the relationship between the disciples and their ‘Didaskalos’ and ‘Kurios’ must also change.

She must of ran to Him and embraced Him, as He gently tells her not to hold to Him, not to cling to Him, referring also to the fact that His current reappearance was just a short and temporary stay. He charges Mary with the responsibility of telling the disciples that vital news, He is returning to God the Father, a reference to His victory.

Gladly Mary must have run the road to the disciples to tell them the news and the message. Jesus first appeared to the women, and He treated them as always, beautifully, notice the first person to tell about the risen Christ was a woman.

‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ John 20:19-23

Jesus appears to the disciples. John tells us that Jesus appeared to Hid disciples on ‘the first day of the week’ Matthew 28:1 / Mark 16:2 / Luke 24:1 / John 20:19 / John 20:26 / Acts 20:7 / 1 Corinthians 16:2.

The disciples ‘gathered behind closed doors, with the doors locked.’ This was ‘for fear of the Jews’, the Sanhedrin had killed the Master, they might decide to kill His disciples. As rumours of His resurrection began to spread, the apostles, close companions of Jesus, would be special targets.

Jesus says, ‘peace by with you’ which was a common Jewish salutation. The apostles must have heard Jesus say this many times but surely it now took on new meaning. Peace had been his last message to them in their sorrow, John 16:33.

It was His first word to them on His reappearance. They were in a secured room but Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, He had been crucified, His corpse had been buried, yet here He was, before their eyes speaking words they had heard Him utter many times.

They were ‘startled and frightened, and supposed that they had seen a spirit,’ Luke 24:36. At first, they simply couldn’t believe their own eyes. So, ‘He showed them His hands and His side’, Luke 24:39.

‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit, has not flesh and bones as you see me have.’ John wrote his Gospel at a time when the church faced the Docetic heresy, the claim that Jesus had no real, human body, John 4:1-3. Some ‘modernists’ today say that Jesus ‘spirit’ arose, not His body.

John presents conclusive evidence that the body that was crucified was the body that was raised. Then, after being convinced of Jesus identity, the disciples were glad, they were overjoyed, John 16:22.

The greeting, ‘peace be with you’ is repeated in connection with word of commission, ‘As the Father has sent, ‘apostello’ me, even so I send ‘pempo’ you,’ John 17:18. He shows His wounds and emphasises that He isn’t a ghost.

John 20:22, se see that Jesus ‘breathed’ on them, Genesis 2:7 / Exodus 37:9. There are three views of ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.

1. It was a symbolic act, indicating what would happen at Pentecost.

2. That He actually imparted the Spirit to them then.

3. That He gave them a specific ‘gift’ of the Spirit, with the fullness coming at Pentecost.

The forgiving and retaining of sins, ‘If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ This is wrongly used to support the claim that a human ‘priest’ has divine power to absolve man from sin.

In fact, absolution is the prerogative of Deity, Mark 2:5-10. No human being can make terms or conditions on which another human being may be forgiven or not forgiven God.

God has already made those conditions, and they are unalterable, Matthew 28:18-20 / Mark 16:15-16 / John 3:3-5 / Acts 2:37-38 / Acts 22:16 / 1 John 1:7-9.

The apostles, as the inspired representatives of the Lord Jesus, had the responsibility to make known those terms and conditions, Matthew 16:18-19 / Matthew 18:18 / John 14:26 / John 15:26-27 / John 16:7-11.

This doesn’t mean that the power to forgive sins was even entrusted to any man or to any men; it means that the power to proclaim the forgiveness was so entrusted and it means that the power to warn that forgiveness isn’t open to the impenitent heart was also entrusted to them.

Others were present with the ten apostles, Luke 24:33-36, but note that in Acts 1:2-8, Luke includes only ‘the apostles whom he had chosen’ as the ones to whom Holy Spirit baptism was promised.

They, the apostles, would ‘receive power’ and be Jesus’ witnesses. Also, the ‘they’ of Acts 2:1 most naturally connects with Acts 1:26, indicating that on the Day of Pentecost only the apostles were so baptised, Acts 2:7 / Acts 2:14 / Acts 2:37, see also the use of power in Acts 4:33 and Acts 5:12.

So, we see that it is through the Gospel the apostles had the ability to forgive peoples sins, by their acceptance of the Christ.

‘Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ John 20:24-31

Jesus appears to Thomas. Thomas ‘one of the twelve’, the term still used, even though Judas has gone to his own place, Acts 1:18. Didymus means twin. He ‘wasn’t with them when Jesus came in the locked room’ and no reason is given.

He is now nervous and restless, unsure of what is happening, the others ‘told him’, kept saying to him, all his dear friends and the women tell him of the returned Jesus, ‘we have seen the Lord’.

He isn’t convinced, but demands the same evidence that they have had, he will not believe until he receives physical proof. The similarities between this verse and that which now occur are very similar to the arrival of Jesus on the first day of the week.

‘Eight days later’ was the inclusive method of counting, as with ‘after three days’ and ‘on the third day’. On the following first day, at evening the same condition obtained, ‘the doors were shut…Jesus came and stood among them…Peace by with you’.

It all is as before for the sake of Thomas, the room is locked, the Lord appears and the same greeting is offered. This again probably because of the joyful commotion His reappearance caused, ‘peace be with you’.

We see in John 20:27 that Jesus knew exactly what Thomas’s difficulty in accepting His resurrection was. He immediately turned His attention to the doubter and gives him the physical proof required. ‘put your finger here’ etc.

Though He hadn’t been present when Thomas said what he did, He knew exactly what the twin had said, and offered His wounds for examination, precisely what Thomas had requested.

Notice the play on words, ‘do not be apistos but pistos’, John doesn’t say he actually touches Jesus, but does record that he believed because he had ‘seen’ Jesus, John 20:29, but compare with Luke 24:39 and 1 John 1:1.

The demands of Thomas                    The commands of Jesus

1. ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands’       ‘Put your finger here,                                                                                               see my hands’

2. ‘And put my hands into his side’                    ‘Reach your hand and                                                                                          put it into my side’.

3. I will not believe it.’                                           ‘Stop doubting and                                                                                            believe’.

Thomas is now entirely convinced, the word Thomas uses, for Lord is the Greek ‘Kurios’ which can be used for a variety of titles starting at the bottom with the equivalent of Sir right up to the term for God, or anything in between.

Thomas’ declaration is exactly what John states in his prologue, ‘the Logos was Theos’, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14 / Colossians 1:19 / Colossians 2:9 / Hebrews 1:8. The normal word for God is ‘Theos’, and this is used for the second descriptive word. Thomas basically says, ‘without doubt you are my risen Lord, and I acknowledge you as Deity!’

Jesus leaves with a great blessing on all modern Christians who have seen no miracles, no resurrected Jesus or even an apostle. We are blessed as we haven’t seen and yet believe.

‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe’ refers to some disciples then, Luke 24:33-34; it includes all who subsequently believed through the apostles’ word, John 20:30-31 / John 17:20 / 1 Peter 1:8. This however was a terrible rebuke of the one who needed to see.

In John 20:30-31 we see the purpose of the Gospel, John’s purpose in writing this book is that readers might believe, be convinced by adequate evidence, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that as a result they might have, ‘eternal’ life in His Name.

John says, that Jesus did ‘many other signs.’ John 2:23 / John 4:45 / John 12:37 / John 21:25.

‘In the presence of His disciples,’ all the signs ‘semeia’ of Jesus were authenticated by honest witnesses.

‘That you may believe,’ present tense, that you may keep on believing. John’s inspired record has produced ‘continuous and successive confirmation of faith in Jesus Christ through the ages.’

It’s encouraging to see that so much more occurred that hasn’t been mentioned in this book. John’s writings have given us sufficient knowledge about Jesus to accept Him and put our trust in Him.

Go To John 21



"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."