John 20:1-31 - Outline of John (MENU page)
20:1. The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark,
unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter,
and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved,
{ie., John}
and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre,
and we know not where they have laid him.
Compare the other gospel accounts: Mat 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-14; Luk 24:1-49.
"The order of events, combining the four narratives, is as follows:
  1. Three women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, start for the sepulchre, followed by other women bearing spices. The three find the stone rolled away, and Mary Magdalene goes to tell the disciples (Luk 23:55-24:9; Joh 20:1,2 "we").
  2. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, draws nearer the tomb and sees the angel of the Lord (Mat 28:2). She goes back to meet the other women following with the spices.
  3. Meanwhile, Peter and John, warned by Mary Magdalene, arrive, look in, and go away (Joh 20:3-10).
  4. Mary Magdalene returns weeping, sees the two angels and then Jesus (Joh 20:11-18), and goes as He bade her to tell the disciples.
  5. Mary (mother of James and Joses), meanwhile has met the women with the spices and, returning with them, they see the two angels (Luk 24:4,5; Mark 16:5). They also receive the angelic message, and going to seek the disciples, are met by Jesus (Mat 28:8-10)." [ScofRB note at Mat 28:1]
the first day of the week- cp. v.19; v.26; Acts 20:7
Therefore, Christians meet on Sunday in comemoration of Christ's resurrection.
they have taken away the Lord...- Mary was not expecting the resurrection.
Her first thought was that the body had been stolen by the religious leaders ('they').
Later, the religious leaders accused the disciples of stealing the body. Mat 27:62-66; 28:11-15
20:3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
20:4 So they ran both together:
and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
20:5 And he stooping down, [and looking in], saw the linen clothes lying;
yet went he not in.
John 'saw'- GK= blepo, to observe, to see 'at a glance.' [Wuest]
He saw the basic facts: grave clothes, but no body.
20:6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre,
and seeth the linen clothes lie,
20:7 And the napkin, that was about his head,
{cp. 11:43,44}
not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Peter 'saw'- GK= theoreo, to see as a spectator follows a theatrical play,
to 'intently gaze upon' [Wuest]. He was trying to make sense of what he saw. cp. Luk 24:12
20:8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre,
and he saw, and believed.
John 'saw'- GK= eiden, to see with perception, to know {cp. word use in v.9}.
John saw the grave clothes and head cloth lying as though they were still wrapped around the body, but sunk in on themselves, as though the body had been a balloon that deflated. The clothes were not in a heap as they would have been if the body had been unwrapped (cp. 11:43,44).
Suddenly, John realized that Jesus' body had vanished through the wrappings leaving them undisturbed.
20:9 For as yet they knew {GK= eiden} not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
they knew not...- Jesus had taught about His death and resurrection (eg., Mat 16:21).
His teaching was based on OT scripture (eg. Psa 16:10-11; 22:15,22; 110:1,4; Isa 53:10-12).
But as yet they had not understood. cp. Luk 18:33,34; 24:44-46
The gospel accounts of the resurrection reverberate with discoveries unexpected by the eyewitnesses.
The record is frequently not favorable to the disciples, revealing their unbelief and hardness of heart. The text is quite different from what would be expected if the story had been a fictitious fabrication.
20:11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: {cp. 16:20-22}
and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre,
20:12 And seeth
{GK= theoreo} two angels in white sitting,
the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
20:13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?
She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord,
and I know not where they have laid him.
20:14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back,
and saw
{GK= theoreo} Jesus standing, and knew {GK= eido} not that it was Jesus.
20:15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?
She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him,
Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him,
and I will take him away.
20:16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary.
She turned herself,
and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say,
{my} Master.
Mary saw (v.12, v.14; cp. v.6) but she did not 'see' (v.14; cp. v.8).
What made her blind?
  • Her tears blurred her physical vision.
  • The Lord temporarily withheld her understanding. cp. Luk 24:16
  • Her sorrow had but one object: the body of Jesus.
    Even the angels could not break her sorrow, because they could not produce what she sought.
    From their viewpoint, there was reason to rejoice.
    1. Jesus lives. cp. Luk 24:4,5
    2. Sin and death are defeated.
      "These angels are positioned like the cherubim at the Mercy Seat, except the cherubim stood, these are seated. The blood of the Lamb has brought the work of redemption to completion. cp. Ex 25:19" [GWms]
  • Unbelief- She did not expect Him to rise from the dead.
    She saw Jesus "standing" - but a dead man cannot stand.
    The GK word 'stand' (histemi) is the root of the words 'arise' (anistemi) and 'resurrection' (anastasis).
"Mary..."- Jesus called her by name. She recognized His voice. cp. 10:3,4
Why did He choose to appear first to Mary Magdalene?
  • love... - - she loved much. cp. Luk 7:47; 8:2; Mark 16:9
    - - she earnestly sought Him- at the cross (19:25), 'early' at the tomb (20:1), cp. Prov 8:17
  • a mark of historicity -
    "No Jewish author, in the ancient world, would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this important event." [TBKC]
20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:
but go to my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.
20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord,
and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.
{cp. Mark 16:9-11; Luk 24:9-11,22-23}
touch me not...- There is no conflict with Mat 28:9.
The meaning of these words may be understood as follows -
  1. Jesus spoke of an aspect of His redemptive work which He had not yet accomplished.
    When Jesus spoke to Mary, He had not yet ascended to heaven to present His blood (following the pattern of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, Lev 16). By the time He spoke to the other women, He had done so (cp. Heb 4:14). [Note that this view, although true to the OT types, is not directly supported by the NT text.]
  2. Jesus spoke of a new relationship, which previously had been impossible.
    • Literally, He says: "Stop clinging to me...", or "Grasp Me not, for I am not yet ascended."
      "Like the other women... who held Him by the feet, she seized Him so as not again to lose Him. But He revealed the amazing fact to her that now, as the result of expiation [of sin] and resurrection, she was brought into an intimacy and a unity of life and affection which were Divine and eternal." [GWms]
    • Former relationships would be broken by His ascension to the Father. (Acts 1:9-11; 2Cor 5:15-17)
      But soon He would come for His own (Joh 14:2,3; 1Thes 4:16,17; Rev 21:3).
New Relationships (v.17):
  • My brethren-
    Up until this time, He referred to His followers as disciples (15:8), friends (15:14), and servants (18:36).
    But through His work on the cross, believers have become God's children by being born of God's Spirit (Joh 1:12,13; 3:3,14,15).
    Therefore, as the Son of God, He calls us brothers (cp. Rom 8:29; Heb 2:11,12).
    However, we call Him Lord. cp. Heb 2:3
  • My Father... and your Father-
    Up until this time, Jesus referred to God only as 'My Father' (14:2).
    But now, He has prepared a place for believers in the Father's house. cp. 14:3,6
    Yet, as God the Son, the Lord Jesus remains in a unique relationship with the Father.
  • My God... and your God- cp. Rom 5:1-2, 10-11
New Responsibility (v.17,18):
  • Go... and say...- The Lord comissioned her as a messenger. cp. Mat 28:19,20; 2Cor 5:20
    Mary... told... that she had seen the Lord...- 'seen' is GK=horao, to see with discernment.
    "I have with discernment seen the Lord, and He is vivid in my mind's eye still." [Wuest]
20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week,
when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews,
came Jesus and stood in the midst,
and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you.
20:20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them [his] hands and his side.
Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you:
as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on [them],
and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
[and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained.
the doors were shut- Christ's glorified body is not subject to the limitations of flesh.
He walked through the walls as easily as He rose up through the grave clothes. cp. 1Cor 15:42-44
peace be unto you.- (cp. Luk 24:36-44) Note that this phrase is repeated.
  1. v.19, peace with God -
    The Peace of Redemption, which enables rest in God's presence (Mat 11:28)...
  2. v.21, the peace of God -
    The Peace of Fellowship enables rest in His Service (Mat 11:29,30).
    - - 'as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.' cp. 17:18; Joh 14:27; 16:33; Php 4:7
he breathed on them... 'Receive ye the Holy Spirit'-
  • As Adam was given life, believers in Christ are new creations.
    cp. Gen 2:7; Eph 2:1,8-10; 2Cor 5:17
  • The Holy Spirit would not fully come until Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), when He would empower the disciples for the mission the Lord had given them. Meanwhile, by Christ's action, they were truly born of God's Spirit (3:5,6), but they were to await the Holy Spirit's enabling for service (Luk 24:49; Acts 1:8). Since Pentecost, each new believer is immediately joined to the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Whosoever's sins ye remit 'are remitted'- GK perfect tense, lit., 'have been previously forgiven.'
20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus {ie., a twin},
was not with them when Jesus came.
20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.
seen- GK=horao, (as used in v.18)
"We have with discernment seen the Lord, and He is still vivid to us in our mind's eye." [Wuest]
But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails,
and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side,
I will not believe.
see- GK= ido (related to 'eiden', see v.8 note), often translated 'behold.'
Thomas wanted to physically and mentally examine the evidence.
cp. the temporary national blindness of Israel, Mat 13:14,15; Joh 4:48; Zech 12:10
20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them:
[then] came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst,
and said, Peace [be] unto you.
20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands;
and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side:
and be not faithless, but believing.
20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:
blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.
after eight days- ie., one week later, on the next 'first day of the week.' cp. v.1, 19
reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands...-
Thomas had expressed honest doubts. Jesus dealt directly with his doubts.
cp. Psa 103:13,14; 1Joh 1:1,2; 1Tim 1:14,15
my Lord and my God.- cp. 1:1,14,18; 1:49-51; 5:23; 9:35-38; Php 2:10,11
"Thomas confessed Him as both Jehovah and Elohim.
Christ accepted these titles and his worship." [GWms]
blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe.-
Thomas' confession is to be the confession of every true believer. 1Tim 3:16; 1Pet 1:8,9
Believers are 'blessed' (ie., happy) in that, by faith, they have entered into eternal life (v.31), in the family of God (v.17).
20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book:
{cp. 21:25}
The four Gospels record a total of 35 miracles.
John chose 7 specific signs to show the identity of Jesus.
20:31 But these are written,
that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ
{1:41}, the Son of God;
and that believing ye might have life through his name.
3:14-18,36; 5:24,39,40; 6:40; Rom 1:1-4,16; 1Joh 5:1,10-12


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