20:1 Early on the first day of the week [day after Sabbath; Sunday], while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene [devoted follower of Jesus] went to the tomb and saw that the stone [heavy/circular; placed over mouth of tomb; sealed as per Matt. 27:66] had been removed [Gr. airo: pick up and carry away] from the entrance [Matt. 28:2].
Note: Someone noted that the stone was not removed to let Jesus out but to let the world in. Note the words that describe the position of the stone.
• Matt. 27:60 — kulio: “to roll”
• Mark 16:3,4 — anakulio: “to roll up / upward”
• Luke 24:2 — apokulio: “separation in sense of distance, thus rolled away”
About Mary Magdalene
Jesus had dramatically changed the course of Mary Magdalene’s life. Mary had faithfully followed and served Jesus (see Luke 8:2-3). She had listened to His teachings and witnessed His compassionate ministry. Mary saw Jesus crucified (19:25) and buried (Luke 23:55). When Mary went to the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint His body (see Mark 16:1), her grief intensified when she found the tomb opened and His body missing. As Mary wept, she bent over and looked into the tomb (20:11) and saw two angels (20:12), who asked the reason she was crying (20:13). Mary responded that someone had removed Jesus’ body and she did not know where to find it.
20:2 So she [Mary] came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple [staying in the vicinity of Jerusalem], the one Jesus loved [see John 21:20-24], and said, “They [perhaps reference to Jesus’ enemies] have taken the Lord out of the tomb [women suspected grave robbery], and we do not know where they have put Him.”
20:3 So Peter and the other disciple started [indication they had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Jesus’ body] for the tomb.
20:4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
20:5 He bent over and looked [Greek blepo: “to glance at something”] in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.
20:6 The Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw [Greek theoreo: “to take careful notice; to contemplate”] the strips of linen lying there [like an empty cocoon retaining the shape or contour of Jesus’ body],
20:7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded [rolled up; implies the cloth had been wound around the head into the shape of a sphere and not folded flat like a table napkin; again arguing against grave robbery] up by itself, separate from the linen [also retaining the contour Jesus’ head had given it].
20:8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He [John] saw [Greek oida — “to get a mental picture, to realize what has taken place”; John understood the meaning of what he saw (that Jesus was alive)] and believed [the first to believe that Jesus was risen even before he saw him; perhaps recalling Jesus’ previous words — John 2:22; 11:25; 16:22].
20:9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead [see John 2:21-22].)
20:10 Then the disciples went back to their homes [in the vicinity of Jerusalem; perhaps the upper room],
20:11 but Mary [returned and] stood outside the tomb crying [mourning the loss of Jesus; loud and uncontrollable wailing as in John 11:31,33 and Luke 8:52]. As she wept, she bent over to look [Greek theoreo — “to take careful notice”] into the tomb
20:12 and saw two angels in white [she likely did not recognize them as angels; perhaps she saw (through her tear-filled eyes) two forms that she mistook for men], seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
20:13 They [two angels] 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.”
20:14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize [perhaps because tears clouded her eyes or because of hazy early morning light or because of her preoccupation with the loss of Jesus’ body] that it was Jesus.
After answering the question asked by the angels (20:13), Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there. However, Mary did not realize that it was Jesus. Perhaps Mary did not recognize Jesus because she was crying (20:15) and tears clouded her eyes. Perhaps Mary was kept from recognizing Him, as in the case of the Emmaus disciples (see Luke 24:16). Whatever the reason, Mary did not realize that the One who had given her a new lease on life was standing only a few feet away. While we cannot know with certainty why Mary could not recognize Jesus any sooner than she did, we should keep in mind that like Mary, we too often fail to recognize the presence of Jesus in difficult or stressful times.
20:15 “Woman [same word Jesus used at the cross for his mother],” He said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she [assumed the gardener would know the location of the body] said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
At that point, Jesus addressed Mary as Woman—the same word He used at the cross for His mother (19:26). Jesus asked Mary the same question the angels had asked; why are you crying? However, Jesus went a step further and asked: Who is it you are looking for? Thinking the gardener had addressed her, Mary assumed he would know where the body of Jesus had been taken. Tell me where you have put him, she respectfully asked, and I will get him. Perhaps Mary was thinking in terms of giving Jesus a decent burial.
20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary [see John 10:3,14].” She [recognized his voice] turned [whirled about] toward him [Mary was first to see the risen Lord] and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni! [my dear Lord]” (which means Teacher).
Mary’s profound grief was suddenly swept away by the sound of a single word—Mary (v. 16). She recognized the voice that had uttered her name, just like a sheep recognizes the voice of its shepherd (see John 10:3,14). At the sound of her name Mary whirled about and saw Jesus standing there (v. 16). Jesus was alive! Mary affectionately cried out Rabboni (which means my Teacher) and fell at His feet (see Matt. 28:9) and held tightly to Jesus (20:17). Mary was the first to see the risen Lord!
20:17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me [perhaps clinging to His feet as the other women did as per Matt. 28:9], for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers [i.e., apostles/disciples more than earthly family] and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
20:18 Mary Magdalene [the first to carry the good news about resurrection] went to the disciples [see also Mark 16:9-11] with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her.
Jesus told Mary to stop holding on to Him (20:17). He had a job for her to do. Jesus instructed Mary to report the news of His resurrection and approaching ascension to His brothers, or disciples. Mary became the first to deliver the good news about the resurrection. She went to the disciples and found them “mourning and weeping” (see Mark 16:10).
Mary faithfully and factually reported everything that had happened and all that Jesus had instructed her to say. Mary’s announcement continues to echo down the corridors of time to our present day. We too can proclaim the good news that Jesus lives today! We should live with an awareness of His presence and a determination to tell others this good news.
20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week [Sunday evening of the resurrection], when the disciples [with exception of Thomas] were together, with the doors locked [securely] for fear of the Jews, Jesus came [not impeded by locked doors; glorified body; cf. Phil. 3:20-21] and stood among them [cf. Luke 24:37 — “thinking they saw a ghost”] and said [broke the silence], “Peace be with you!”
On the evening of the resurrection, the disciples were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. The Jews, who had orchestrated the death of Jesus, could be expected to cause trouble for any of Jesus’ known followers. They had already falsely reported that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15). Obviously, the air was still tense in and around Jerusalem.
Those assembled behind locked doors certainly had much to talk about. Jesus had already appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), the other women (Matt. 28:9-10), Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5), and to the two Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-32). As the disciples, with the exception of Thomas (see John 20:24), hid from the Jews behind locked doors, Jesus came and stood among them. Luke recorded the initial startled reaction of the group (see Luke 24:37). Jesus broke the silence with a reassuring and timely greeting of peace.
20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side [to reassure them that he was no ghost]. The disciples were overjoyed [to see Jesus again and because his claims were now validated] when they saw the Lord.
Jesus showed the disciples the wounds in his hands and side—evidence that the price of salvation had been paid. He did this in order to reassure them that He was not a ghost, as some of them supposed (see Luke 24:37-39). Jesus invited the disciples to touch Him. John later wrote of this experience (see 1 John 1:1-3). His testimony affirms that the disciples were not dreaming or hallucinating. The disciples were overjoyed to see Jesus again, thus fulfilling what He had said to them prior to the crucifixion; “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20b).
20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you [the first of four commissions; the only commission recorded in John; see also Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:8].”
Note: In addition to reaching out to the Jews, Jesus reached out to…
• Samaritans John 4:1-42
• Greeks (who populated the region of the Gerasenes) Mark 5:1-20
• Romans Luke 7:1-10
20:22 And with that he breathed [cf. Gen. 2:7] on them and said, “Receive [begin to receive; the Spirit would come in fullness at Pentecost] the Holy Spirit [enabled the disciples to fulfill the commission of Jn. 20:21].
20:23 [a commission to proclaim the forgiveness of sins on the basis of the message of the Gospel] If you forgive [to release] anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not [to hold, to retain] forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
20:24 Now Thomas [two other references to Thomas (Jn. 11:16 and 14:5; had earlier displayed commitment in the face of danger (Jn. 11:16)] (called Didymus [Greek term meaning “twin”]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
20:25 So the other disciples told [repeatedly; they kept saying] him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail [this reference indicates Jesus was nailed, and not bound with cords, to the cross] marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus had first appeared to them on the evening of the resurrection (20:19-20). Later, the other disciples kept telling Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord. However, Thomas wanted the same evidence (bodily proof) that the other disciples possessed.
Thomas wanted to see the nail marks. The mention of nail marks indicates that Jesus actually was nailed to the cross and not bound with cords. Thomas also wanted to see the wound created by the spear thrust into Jesus’ side. Because Thomas set conditions upon which he would make a decision concerning the risen Christ, he is known as “Doubting Thomas.”
20:26 A week later [literally, “after eight days;” after Thomas had declared his skepticism (Jn. 20:24-25)] 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!”
A week after Thomas had declared his doubt, he was in the same house with the other disciples. As before, the doors were locked—indicating that security was still a concern. Once again, Jesus appeared to the disciples without announcement. He stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Jesus’ greeting was especially significant because He is the One who made possible “peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).
20:27 Then he said [indicates Jesus supernaturally knew what Thomas had said to the others when they told him of Jesus’ first appearance] to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side [Christian truth is not afraid to submit itself to examination. (Hobbs)]. Stop doubting [cf. Matt. 28:17 re: the doubts of others] and believe.”
Jesus spoke directly to Thomas. He supernaturally knew what Thomas had said to the other disciples when they told him of Jesus’ first appearance. When Jesus appeared in the room, He did not scold Thomas. Instead, He addressed Thomas’ concerns. Jesus invited Thomas to see and to freely examine the wounds in His hands and side.
Apparently the wounds that Jesus had sustained on the cross remained open and unhealed in His resurrection body. Thomas had an opportunity to see and to examine those wounds and to learn what he wanted to know by firsthand experience. Jesus told Thomas to stop doubting and believe.
20:28 Thomas said [no indication that Thomas actually touched Jesus or His wounds] to him, “My Lord and my God!” [a clear affirmation of Jesus’ deity; John’s Gospel continually affirms Jesus’ deity (see 1:1,18; 8:58; 10:30); Thomas would now be able to confidently proclaim Jesus as the risen Christ and say, “I know from personal experience.”; Thomas is the only person in the Gospels who called Jesus “God!” (Hobbs)]
There is no indication that Thomas actually touched Jesus or His wounds. Instead, Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”—a clear affirmation of Jesus’ deity. Thomas is the only person in the Gospels who addressed Jesus as “my God.” Doubting Thomas became believing Thomas. He would now be able to confidently tell others that Jesus is alive. Many doubters through the ages have echoed Thomas’ confession after finally seeing the truth.
20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed.” Thomas had now seen the risen Lord, like his fellow disciples, and believed as a result. As noted earlier, there is nothing to indicate that Thomas actually touched Jesus’ resurrected body. Jesus spoke of future believers who would believe without the benefit of seeing or touching Jesus. Jesus used the term blessed to refer to those who would believe on the basis of the spoken or written Word.
20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs [an act or miracle with a meaning designed to lead to belief in Jesus as the Messiah; cf. Jn. 4:54; 6:14; 12:18] in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
20:31 But these are written that [strategy and purpose of John’s writing] you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John recorded only a few of many miraculous signs from the life of Jesus. A sign is an act or miracle with a meaning designed to lead to belief in Jesus as the Messiah. John certainly had an abundance of material from which to choose. He and the other disciples had witnessed many other miracles that Jesus had done—so many that John supposed that it would be impossible to assemble a complete record of everything Jesus had done (see John 21:25). The other Gospels record other miracles performed by Jesus.
John had a greater purpose in mind than writing a biography of Jesus’ life. John wanted his readers to make a decision about Jesus Christ. He wrote to the end that his readers would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in his name. John’s Gospel has strengthened the faith of many believers and is a powerful tool for evangelism to bring people to faith in Christ. Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? If not, do so today. If so, thank God for giving you the precious gift of eternal life through His Son.