We have 2 days left in our study! Today we read about the empty tomb and Jesus, risen from the dead, in John chapter 20.
As always, the chapter and its headings below were taken out of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. Jesus’ words are red and my commentary and insight is in blue.
Let’s jump in!
John Chapter 20
The Empty Tomb
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. 2 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!”
In case you missed chapter 18, we spoke a little about “the disciple who Jesus loved”. It is assumed that this is the title that the author John uses to refer to himself, having experienced the fullness of Jesus’ love and now identifying with that.
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
So Peter and John find the tomb empty, and see nothing but Jesus’ graveclothes set to the side inside it. John, upon seeing the sight, knew and believed in his heart that Jesus was alive, although they were not expecting him to be.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 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.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
Mary knew Jesus well. She was emotionally distraught at the moment, and the last thing she was expecting to see was a resurrected Jesus.
15 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
In these days the Jewish Rabbi’s refused to speak to women publicly, let alone teach them. So for the women to call Jesus “Teacher” meant much more than it would coming from a man. It was more than just a title of position, it was a term of endearment.
17 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 must’ve embraced Jesus excitedly. I can only imagine how she must’ve felt to see him alive beside her! And I’m sure his response was not a rejection in the least. Rather after a moment, he urged her to go and tell his disciples the news.
I love this too: he refers to his disciples for the first time here as his “brothers”. He loved them so much. And we saw his love in action as he laid down his life for them- and for us on the cross.
18 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.
Something big happens here that I find worth noting. This woman Mary Magdalene is the first recorded witness to see Jesus after his resurrection.
The law at the time did not hear or validate the testimony of a woman. The fact that the authors of the Gospel books recorded a woman’s testimony, let alone as the first witness, is remarkable. If the Gospel wasn’t a true story, no man would’ve written it this way. We can see that the authors recorded the events as they happened, despite the suspicion they may receive surrounding Mary’s testimony.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 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!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Jesus miraculously entered the room. Now that he has risen from the grave, he appears still in human form, yet free of the same physical limitations he bore before his death.
He stands before them in perfect health, but bearing the scars from the nails that he was pierced with for the eternal forgiveness of their sins.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
And in this moment, they received the Helper that Jesus had promised to leave them. His Spirit that makes its home within us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior has been made available to all.
Verse 23 was confusing for me. I wondered what Jesus was trying to say here. As I looked further into it, I found Pastor David Guzik’s words to sound the most fitting and biblically sound:
This lays down the duty of the church to proclaim forgiveness to the repentant believer, and the duty of the church to warn the unbeliever that they are in danger of forfeiting the mercy of God. We don’t create the forgiveness or deny it; we announce it according to God’s word and the wisdom of the Spirit.David Guzik, Enduringword.com
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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!” 27 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.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas came to obtain the title “Doubting Thomas”. Several times throughout his time as a disciple he expressed skepticism regarding what he was told. Yet Jesus did not respond with rebuke, instead he showered him in grace.
God knows that it takes faith for us to believe; he doesn’t expect us to have perfect faith. In fact, one of my favorite verses from the book of Hebrews calls Jesus “the perfecter” of our faith:
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)
If you struggle with disbelief and doubt, your honesty is welcome and encouraged by God. Don’t give your doubt the final say. Ask God to reveal himself to you and strengthen your faith. He is always faithful, and would love to carry you into a deeper understanding and belief. He will not shame you for your doubt.
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 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.
I love this last passage. John is letting us know the reason that he writes at all. He knows the importance of the truth of who God is and wants to make it known to all so that we could enjoy the fullness of a relationship with Him as well.
Jesus died in our place. He did exactly what he said he would, and rose three days later. This event has been proven to be true, and because of his rising from the dead, we can believe that everything else he claimed to be and spoke about the Father God was absolutely true.
He rose from the dead and so will we if we believe and accept Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of our hearts.
This leaves us with one chapter left in the book of John! I’ll see you all tomorrow for chapter 21.