[24] Resurrection (20:1-31)

Section F. Resurrection (20:1-31)

o        All four Gospels come to the climax in the resurrection story, although each records different events. They all agree that when the women came to the tomb early on Sunday it was empty. Different biblical scholars have shown that there is no contradictions and all Gospel accounts can be reconciled.




[F1]    20:1-10........... The empty tomb


Because of the burial on Friday was late in the day, it was hurried so the women came to tomb to complete the burial. After the vision of the angels mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels, the women went to tell the disciples.


20:1     Based on the Synoptic Gospels, the women came to the tomb with spices to anoint the body as Nicodemus was unable to use all the spices he had brought to complete the process of burial.

20:2     Mary saw that the tomb was empty and concluded that the body had been stolen. “They” probably refers to the enemies of Jesus.

20:4     “The other disciple” is most likely John who, being the younger man, ran faster than Peter.

20:5     John hesitated to go inside the tomb so he stood outside and looked in. From his position, he could see strips of linen but not the headcloth.

20:7     The cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not with the strips of linen but was wrapped up in a place of its own. This probably means that the grave clothes were just as they had been placed around the body. It was an orderly scene, not one of confusion. This means that the body had not been taken by grave robbers or Jesus’ enemies. It appears that Jesus’ body passed through the grave clothes without disturbing them.

20:8     The disciples witnessed an empty tomb. On the evidence before his eyes, John believed that a resurrection had taken place.

20:9     John’s words are similar to Paul’s statement that Jesus was raised “on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Co 15:4). There are a few possible passages: Is 53:10-12 (speaking of the Servant as alive and active subsequent to His death), Hos 6:2 and Jonah 1:17 (for reference to the third day) and Ps 16:10.


 [F2]   20:11-29......... The appearances


It appears that Mary Magdalene was separated from the other women and she alone met Jesus. It is significant that Jesus first appeared to a woman instead of any of the apostles.

The second appearance in John was to the disciples on the evening of the first Easter Day (Lk 24:36ff), after the disciples on the way to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem.

·         The appearance to Mary (20:11-18)
·         The appearance to the Ten (20:19-23)
·         The appearance to Thomas (20:24-29)


20:11   “But” indicates a contrast to the two disciples who went home. She stood outside the tomb weeping. The Greek verb indicates a noisy lamentation typical of the people of that day.

20:12   John uses the present tense “sees” for greater vividness.

20:14   Why she did not recognize Jesus is not said. It is possible that the light was still weak because of the early hours. The most likely reason is that the risen Jesus appeared different from before so that he was not always recognized, such as the disciples on their way to Emmaus.

20:15   Mary jumped to the conclusion that the person before her might have carried away the body and she wanted to retrieve the body implying that she wanted give the body decent burial.

20:16   Something in the way her name was spoken caught Mary’s attention. Mary recognized Jesus and called out in Aramaic “Rabboni” which means much the same as “Rabbi”.

20:17   KJV: “Touch me not.” But there seems to be no reason why Mary should not touch Jesus. The phrase possibly means “Stop clinging to me,” as Mary in her joy at seeing the Lord had laid hold on Him, possibly in the same way as the women whom Matthew writes in Mt 28:9.

Other possibilities: (a) “Stop clinging to me. There is no need for this, for I am not yet at the point of permanent ascension. You will have opportunity of seeing me.” (b) “Stop clinging to me. I have not yet ascended to my Father, it is true. But I shall certainly do so. Tell this to my brothers.”

As for Jesus’ brothers, Luke tells us that from the earliest days after the resurrection, the brothers of Jesus were found with the disciples (Ac 1:14). Obviously there was a change in them by that time. But the term “brothers” here most likely refers to the disciples as can be seen from Mary’s action of telling to the disciples in 20:18.

It is significant that these important messages were entrusted to a woman. According to ancient Jewish tradition, women were not permitted to bear witness.


20:19   As the disciples were afraid of the Jews, the doors were “shut” likely meaning “locked”.

The group might include more than the apostles (possibly 10 apostles not including Thomas), as described in Lk 24:33.

Jesus had not come through the door in the normal fashion but Scripture says nothing of the mode of Jesus’ entry into the room.

After their forsaking Jesus at the time of the arrest, the disciples might well have expected rebuke. Instead Jesus pronounced peace on them.

20:20   Jesus showed His hands and side where He bore marks of the wounds. Jesus immediately took steps to convince them of His identity and to take away their fear as Lk 24:37 describes that “they were started and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”

After this, “therefore” the disciples rejoiced, convinced that it was Jesus that they saw.

20:21   The repetition of “Peace be with you” was an emphasis.

Jesus now passed on His mission and sent His followers into the world. The perfect tense was used for the first sending and the present tense was used for the second sending.

20:22   Jesus bestowed on them the Holy Spirit, the equipment they would need for the discharge of their commission. The word “breathed” is used here only in the NT. It is the verb used in Gen 2:7 when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The thought is that there is now a new creation. It is a gift made to the group as a whole.

There are many speculations as to the relation of this gift to that made on the day of Pentecost but none is definitive. It can possibly be explained as different spiritual gifts to different persons. However, in contrast to the OT, the Holy Spirit will stay permanently.

20:23   The church is given authority to declare that certain sins are forgiven and certain sins are retained. It is the result of the indwelling Holy Spirit and takes place only as the Spirit directs. As only God can forgive sins, it means that the church is entrusted to proclaim forgiveness. The church has the duty to convey forgiveness to the penitent in heart, and to warn the impenitent that they are forfeiting the mercy of God. If the church is really acting under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, it will be found that her pronouncements only reveal what has already been determined in heaven (the phrases “are forgiven” and “are not forgiven” are in perfect tense, meaning something already done).

The gift Christ made was surely made to the church as a whole and not to individuals, not just the apostles as other disciples were present at the same time.

The words for “whose” are plural. It is the sins of whatever people, not the sins of whatever person. The church has the authority to declare which sins are forgiven and which sins are retained. This is similar to the rabbinical teaching that spoke of certain sins as “bound” and others are “loosed” (meaning forbidding and permitting, or sometimes meaning excommunicate and receive into communion). This referred to classes, not to individuals.


20:24   Thomas was a skeptic and only the plainest of evidence could have convinced him. “Didymus” means “twin”.

20:25   The other told (in imperfect tense meaning kept saying) Thomas about Jesus’ appearance. But Thomas demanded visual and tactile (touch) proof before he would believe. The phrase “will not” is the emphatic double negative. The word “hand” could be used of the wrist or forearm.

20:26   The phrase “eight days” is inclusive counting signifying one week, that is, Sunday evening after the first Easter. Again, Jesus appeared even though the doors were locked.

20:28   At the sight of Jesus, the doubts of Thomas vanished and he did not need to apply any of his tests as Jesus said, “Because you have seen me” not “touch me”. Immediately, Thomas pronounced Jesus as God. Nobody had previously addressed Jesus like this. It marks a leap of faith.

20:29   Jesus addressed to Thomas a word of approval, not rebuke. Those who believe without seeing are “blessed”, not “more blessed”. This does not look like a comparison of these people and Thomas. In any case, there is blessing for all those in the future who believe without seeing.


 [F3]   20:30-31......... Conclusion: the purpose of the fourth gospel


20:30   John clearly says that he has written what served his purpose and has omitted much.

20:31   The verb “are written” is in perfect tense indicating what he has written stands permanently.

The purpose of his writing is that people may believe. The verb “may believe” is in aorist tense meaning “may come to believe”, indicating the book has an evangelistic message. However, in a few manuscript, the verb is in present tense meaning “may continue to believe”, indicating the book aims to strengthen the faith of believers. The first meaning is more likely.

For John, faith is not a vague trust but a belief in two things: (a) that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah, and (b) that Jesus is the Son of God. And the ultimate result of faith is eternal life. Again, the name means the whole person.