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John Twenty

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

John 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.

cometh Mary Magdalene. The verb actually is “went.” She apparently met some of the other women who also had gone to the tomb (Mark 16:1). When they saw the stone rolled away, Mary Magdalene ran back to tell John and Peter (who, by this time, had gone back to be with John and Jesus' mother).

John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

out of the sepulchre. As the Magdalene woman rushed back to the disciples, the other women had encountered the angels, who also told them to go back to tell the other disciples (Matthew 28:5-8). In the meantime, Mary reached Peter and John with the disturbing news that either the Jews or Romans had moved the body.

John 20:3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

John 20:4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

John 20:5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

John 20:6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

seeth. When Peter “seeth” the clothes, the sense of the Greek is “looked quizzically.”

John 20:7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

wrapped together. This word is used elsewhere only in Matthew 27:59 and Luke 23:53, all in connection only with the “in-wrapping” of Jesus body in the graveclothes. The scene was of the graveclothes (and the napkin by itself) still wrapped together just as they had been, but collapsed inward. The resurrected body of Jesus had simply passed through the wrappings—as He later did through the doors (John 20:19, 26)—leaving them still intact on the shelf where the body had been placed.

John 20:8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

he saw, and believed. When John “saw”—unlike the word used referring to Peter—the Greek indicates “looked with understanding.” He quickly understood that no other explanation than resurrection could account for the empty, yet intact, graveclothes. Therefore, he believed! This evidence of the empty tomb, which first convinced the beloved disciple, has later convinced multitudes of others, for it can never be explained in any other way. If Jesus had only swooned, or if the Romans or Jews had taken the body, it would soon have become known, and the spread of Christianity halted forthwith. But the body was gone, and would soon ascend to heaven, to remain forever inaccessible to Jesus' enemies who would have liked desperately to prove that Jesus was dead.

John 20:9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

he must rise again. Despite the Old Testament prophecies (e.g., Psalm 16:9-10) and Christ's many explicit promises (e.g., Matthew 16:21), the disciples never really believed He would rise until they saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord.

John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

their own home. John probably wanted to hurry home to tell Mary, the mother of Jesus, the marvelous news, for she was staying with him (John 19:27).

John 20:11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

John 20:12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

John 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.

John 20:14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

saw Jesus standing. It is significant that Mary of Magdala, out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils (Mark 16:9) was the first to see Him after His resurrection. By the time she got back to the tomb, the others had all left, so she was alone. This was the first of at least ten appearances to His followers after His resurrection. Mary, her eyes blurred with tears in the dim light of dawn and having no thought that He might be alive, did not recognize Him until He spoke her name (John 20:16). She knew His voice (John 10:4, 27).

John 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.

John 20:16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

John 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.

Touch me not. Here “touch” could mean, “cling to.” His relation to His followers now is not merely as a human friend or teacher. He is now immortalized and glorified and “though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

ascended to my Father. He must yet take the inhabitants of the “Abraham's bosom” compartment of Hades (Luke 16:22) with Him to “paradise” in heaven (Luke 23:43). He had gone in the Spirit to proclaim His victory to the wicked spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:18-20) and “the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). Already many of the resurrected Old Testament saints had appeared in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53), but now He must take these with Him to the Father in heaven (note Ephesians 4:8-10).

your Father. Note He does not say “Our Father” or “Our God.” The relation of the born-again children of God to the heavenly Father will always be different from that of the only begotten Son of God to the Father.

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

John 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.

John 20:20 And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

his side. The wounds of the crucifixion will always remain in His body, even though it is now not subject to pain or death. Likewise, our own resurrection bodies will still be recognizable (note Philippians 3:21).

saw the Lord. Some others had already seen Him by now, in addition to Mary Magdalene. These included the women (Matthew 28:9), Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5), and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

John 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

so send I you. This is the first outline of Christ's great commission to evangelize the world. It was later amplified further, probably in the following order: Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-49; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:4-8.

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

the Holy Ghost. Breathing on them was a symbolic act. As in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit could already have come on the disciples for specific ministries, but Christ had promised He would soon indwell them permanently (John 14:16-17). The command now to “receive ye the Holy Spirit” is imperative and must be carried out at the proper time. However, Christ also told them to tarry in Jerusalem until then (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8). The promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

John 20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

remitted unto them. Only Christ can remit sins, and He does so on the basis of saving faith in Himself. The disciples, however, were given authority to recognize such faith, and then to give assurance to new believers. The authorization, as evident from the tenses in the Greek, should actually read: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall have been remitted unto them.”

John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. 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.

John 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.

the doors being shut. Even though Christ's resurrection body was a physical body (He could be touched, still had the wounds, and could eat with them), it was no longer subject to the physical constraints on our present bodies (e.g., gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces). For example, He could pass through locked doors, and travel swiftly from earth to heaven and back. Our future resurrection bodies will be like His in such characteristics (Philippians 3:20-21; xTerm 3:2).

John 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.

into my side. Jesus allowed Thomas to do much more than “touch” Him, a privilege He had denied Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). However, in the eight-day interim, He had not only led the Old Testament saints up into paradise (see note on John 20:17) but also had presented His shed blood to the Father (Hebrews 9:23-28), received the Father's promise (Psalm 2:7-9), and presented the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10; 1 Corinthians 15:23). However, Thomas did not need to touch Him, for to him, seeing was believing.

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

my God. Thomas was an honest skeptic (unlike many today), willing to be convinced by sound evidence. Furthermore, he comprehended the full significance of the evidence, for it proved to him that Jesus was both the God of creation and redemption, and also the rightful Lord of his life.

John 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.

have not seen. Nevertheless, Thomas should have been willing to believe (as should we) on the basis of the eye-witness evidence of careful observers, such as John. Peter commends those of later times who trust Christ, “whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

signs. The “signs” are “miracles” (same Greek word). These seven miracles chosen by John for exposition in his gospel as evidence of Christ's deity are all miracles of creation (as distinct from miracles of providence which simply control rates or timing of natural processes), requiring suspension of one or both of the basic laws of science, also known as the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, namely: the law of conservation of matter or available energy, and the law of decreasing organization and/or energy. The signs are as follows: (1) turning water into wine (John 2:3-11); (2) healing of the terminal illness of a nobleman's son by a word spoken six miles away (John 4:46-54); (3) new limbs for a lifelong hopelessly crippled man (John 5:2-9); (4) the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves and fishes (John 6:5-14); (5) walking on the water (John 6:15-21); (6) new eyes for a man born blind (John 9:1-7); and (7) the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:3-44).

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

that ye might believe. Here John states that his specific purpose in writing was to win people to Christ. It is very significant that the divinely inspired method of doing this (as well as serving as an authoritative guide for methods of evangelism today) began with a strong affirmation of the special creation of all things by Christ, followed by a strong presentation of the program of redemption. In addition to the evidences provided by the miracles performed by Christ, John stresses the evidences of His resurrection and victory over death—especially the evidence of the empty tomb (John 20:8) and the post-resurrection appearances (John 20:20, etc.). Finally, the written Word itself gives abundant evidence of inspiration, and thus itself is a strong evidence (John 20:31).