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Bible Commentaries
John 20

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-18

  1. INTRO:
    1. Intro: In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn’t profess to be a born-again Christian, but it seems he must have been influenced by Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here’s what he wrote:
      1. The Body of B. Franklin, Printer - Like the Cover of an old Book Its contents torn out, - And stript of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, - But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, - Appear once more In a new & more perfect Edition, - Corrected and amended by the Author.
    2. The crowning joy of the resurrection. The culmination of belief.
      1. Why does each gospel writer report on the res? Why does John? (20:31) To elicit faith!
    3. Certain features are common to all 4 gospels, including the omission of any description of the actual resurrection. (ever think of that?)
      1. Passion of the Christ - remember how Mel Gibson depicted it; Res sequel?
    4. It was in a garden ages ago that paradise was lost, & now it is in a garden now that it would be regained.
      1. But at this moment Mary Mag didn’t know that.
      2. Her hope was dashed, her Master missing, her friend gone!
      3. Her hope was Jesus. He changed her life. He had cast out 7 demons. He freed her from untold torment. He had given her life, a reason to live, a place in His kingdom, worth, dignity, understanding, compassion, love, & hope
      4. Now that hope lies at the bottom of her heart. (Ken Gire; Intimate Moments w/the Savior)
      5. But as love brought her to the cross, now love draws her to the grave.
    1. ​​​​​​​WHAT MARY SAW & SAID! (1-2)
    2. (1) Still dark, at a tomb, all alone, & now the tomb had been violated.
      1. Whenever I’ve seen a tomb opened...it’s usually wrong!
      2. It’s like getting something from the store & getting it home & realizing it had been opened...eeww!
      3. Story: Russia, rt when communism fell. Passed through a town where there was a white mausoleum, a former communist leader. Door was torn open. They had drug body out into the street & burnt it. Then torched the mausoleum
        1. Haiti graveyard. Some not sealed yet. Some broken open.
        2. Here Jesus’ tomb had been breeched, violated.
    3. (2) Mary, jumping to conclusions, has Peter & John on the run.
    4. WHAT PETER & JOHN SAW & DID! (3-10)
    5. (7) 2 miracles here: [1] Jesus had risen from the dead [2] A single man folded his clothes.
    6. (5,7) The position of the cloths showed they had not been unwound from Jesus’ body.
      1. He had gone out, just as He came in, where the doors were shut, w/o the doors being opened(19,26).
    7. Peter must have been thinking, “Why would a grave robber have left the clothes in this order? Why take the body of Jesus?”
    8. But John perceived that the missing body and the position of the grave clothes was not due to a robbery.
      1. His eyes adjusted & notices the burial wrappings made rigid by the resin from the spices. The linen cocoon lays intact on the stone slab. Intact, but hallow.
      2. He realized that Jesus had risen from the dead and had gone through the grave clothes. The butterfly was free!
      3. “The tomb was open, not to let Jesus’ body out, but to let the disciples and the world see that He rose.”
    9. There is 3 main Greek words for “saw”.
      1. John saw (Βλεπο-blepo) A mere glance.
      2. Peter saw (θεωρεω - theoreo) To take careful notice.
      3. John saw (εἰδεν A-don)(root=oida) To get a mental picture, see w/understanding.
    10. Peter had more sight, John more insight.
      1. John was the first to believe that Jesus was risen from the tomb even before he saw him. John was evidently proud to be able to record this great moment when he believed without seeing in contrast to Thomas (vs.29)
    11. (10) Interesting they could see the evidence of the resurrection, but it did not change their lives. They needed a meeting with the living Christ. (same today!)
    12. HOW JESUS APPEARED! (11-18)
    13. (12) The woman who was once possessed with demon finds herself in the presence of & conversing with angels!
      1. One stands at the head of the stone slab; the other at the foot.
      2. Like the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle - cherubim on either end. For this, too, is a most holy place!
    14. (14) Unbelief blinds our eyes to the Lord’s presence.
    15. (15a) The gardner? - Well, maybe not far off. He is the keeper of the church.
      1. At this moment, He had come into the garden to lift up one drooping flower.
    16. (15b) Mary what a stud! - Stone roller, body lifter, whatever it took.
    17. (16) When He calls her by name, He immediately comes into focus.
      1. Like when I depress my shutter release ½ way down on my camera in auto-focus mode. Focus is immediate!
    18. What a tender moment when Jesus said, Mary! and her recognition of Him & cry of Rabbi! Is one of the emotional highlights of the entire Gospel. (Shepherds Notes; pg.89)
    19. What did Jesus convey when He said, “Mary”?
      1. And He calls His sheep by name…(Jn.10:3)
      2. Think about it: Jesus could have paraded through the streets of Jerusalem; He could have knocked on Pilate’s door; He could have confronted the high priest (“I’m back!”);But the 1st person our resurrected Lord appears to is a woman w/o hope. And His 1st words, “why are you crying?”
        1. ​​​​​​​He doesn’t shout His res from a housetop, instead quietly to a woman who grieves. Who desperately needs to hear His voice, see His face, feel His embrace.
        2. What a Savior we serve, or rather, who serves us! (Ken Gire)
    20. (17) Do not cling to Me - KJV not good trans Touch Me not (why not?) [He asked Thomas to]
      1. Is it possible for us to miss the best in the Lord while holding on to the good?
      2. What Jesus are you clinging to? Some cling to the cute lil baby Jesus in the manger; some cling to the passive well groomed surfer S.S. Jesus; some, fearful of him as Terminator Temple Destroyer; others, cling to the dead Savior on a cross; & some, cling to the living/ruling/reigning/victorious/King of Kings & Lord of Lords Jesus.
      3. Mary was not to continue clinging to Him, but was to bear His message to the apostles.
        1. This is suggestive to us...We are not simply to linger about the shrine of the resurrection, but are to go declaring the fact of it!
    21. (18) Mary was changed from a mourner to a missionary when she met the living Lord.
      1. Jesus interrupts this precious moment by giving her a pressing errand to run. And run she does with the 1st Easter Sermon, She had seen the Lord.
    22. The Necessity of the Resurrection?
      1. A Testimony to the truths of the OT (which had foretold it many times).
      2. A Testimony to the truths of Jesus’ words (for He had foretold it many times).
      3. A Vindication of Christ’ character (for a perfect life could not close in a cruel & shameful death).
      4. A Vindication of God (for all through His life Christ had appealed to God, and, as Paul said afterwards, it would have proved God to be false if Christ had not been raised 1 Cor.15:15).
    23. The Proofs of the Resurrection?
      1. Empty grave - and the disappearance of the body.
      2. Disciples radically transformed - the remarkable transformation in the disciples from gloom to gladness; despair to hope; sorrow to joy.
        1. And this change took place only 3 days from the event.
      3. The Church was built on the Res - the church of Christ came into existence as a result of accepting the resurrection of the Master.
        1. Usually a sect/cult dies after the death of its leader.
      4. Our own personal Transformations - the influence of Christ upon men & communities from the time of Paul onwards.
    24. (end) Have you had a post-resurrection encounter with Jesus? How would I know if I did? Well, it would have had a dramatic life changing effect on your life?
      1. Are you clinging to an innocent safe baby Jesus? Are you clinging to a S.S. Jesus; a cool Jesus; a flowery “why can’t all religions just get along” Jesus.
      2. Remember, 10 out of 11 of the original 12 apostles, went to their death because of seeing the post-res Jesus!
    25. Prayer: Lord, how hard it is to see clearly when devastating circumstances fill our eyes w/tears. Everything gets blurry. Lord, even You get blurry, & Your voice becomes strangely unfamiliar. Help me to blink away my tears & unbelief.

Verses 19-31

  1. INTRO:
    1. C.S. Lewis in, A Grief Observed - You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death! It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?
      1. Do you believe? Do you have faith in Jesus? Do you really trust in Him?
    2. Outline: In ch.20 we have 4 reactions to the resurrection:
      1. Hearing is Believing! (Mary Mag hearing Jesus say, “Mary”) - Seeing is Believing! (10 apostles) - Proving is Believing!(Thomas) - Trusting is Believing!(us)
    1. SEEING IS BELIEVING! (19-23)
    2. The room is dark. Only a flickering oil lamp dancing shadows upon the walls. The windows shuttered & door barred, the disciples cower in the shadows. Nails bitten to the nub. Jaws clenched in anxiety. Heads aching. Throats parched. Tongues clinging to their mouth. (Chuck Swindoll John; pg.95)
    3. But locked doors will not give you peace...nor keep your Savior out!
      1. Matter of fact He shows up & gives these frightened disciples what they need most...Himself!
    4. Peace be with you –
      1. This peace is based on His sacrifice on the cross.
      2. Rom.5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
    5. (20) With the words Peace be with you, a calm settles over their heart, so they gather around for a closer look. {They were glad when they saw the Lord}
    6. Look at the wounds of Jesus!” cried Staupitz to Martin Luther (Staupitz supervised Martin Luther during a critical period in his spiritual life).
      1. There is indeed no other sign which can give rest/peace to the penitent.
        1. Have you “Look at the wounds of Jesus”?
    7. Peace to you! - The 1st message of peace was accompanied by Him showing his wounds. Now the 2nd time the message of peace was accompanied by an injunction to go forth into the world. (On the great errand of world evangelism)
      1. See My hands...It’s Me! - See My hands...and Go!
      2. The 1st “peace” is peace with God, based on His sacrifice on the cross. That is why He showed them His hands and side.
      3. The 2nd “peace” is the peace of God that comes from His presence with us.
        1. He commissioned them to take His place as the Father’s ambassadors in the world.
    8. (21-23) Jesus Commissions his apostles: By what authority? (21) Father; With what power?(22) H.S.; For what purpose?(23) Sin (to forgive or retain)
    9. (21) He breathed on them - For their new commission they needed spiritual power.
      1. The image and wording of breathing on them recalls God’s creative work in making Adam. (both gave life: 1 physical, 1 spiritual)
      2. This reception of the Spirit was in anticipation of the day of Pentecost and should be understood as a partial limited gift of knowledge, understanding, and empowerment until Pentecost, 50 days later. (Knowledge Bible Commentary)
      3. Like an instrument is blown into, to make music. They were to sing & sound the note of the new kingdom.
    10. (23) Forgiving or Retaining sin?
      1. In light of being called to be sent to the world, the church (not just the apostles) is now given authority to declare that certain sins are forgiven & certain sins retained. (Morris; LKGNT; pg.261)
      2. Proclaiming the forgiveness of sins was the prominent feature of the apostolic preaching in the Book of Acts.
        1. Jesus was giving the apostles (and by extension, the church) the privilege of announcing heaven’s terms, on how a person can receive forgiveness.
          1. If one believes in Jesus, then a Christian has the right to announce his forgiveness. :)
          2. If a person rejects Jesus’ sacrifice, then a Christian can announce that that person is not forgiven. :(
      3. Note: There is no instance in the New Testament of any apostle forgiving sins.
    11. Jesus put into the hands of Peter and of all believers the keys of the Kingdom which we should use to open the door for those who wish to enter.
      1. This glorious promise applies to all believers who will tell the story of Christ’s love for men.
    12. PROVING IS BELIEVING! (24-28)
    13. (24) Thomas the bold skeptic, the classic empiricist (the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience; a person who relies solely on observation and experiment)
      1. He had the I will not believe unless...head-wag going!
      2. Maybe you’re at the place where you will not believe unless Christianity passes your battery of scientific tests.
      3. But...you believe in things you can’t see all the time!
        1. Have you ever seen a germ with your naked eye? Yet you don’t walk around licking hand rails.
        2. Have you ever seen electricity? Yet you wont touch a bare copper wire!
    14. How great the anguish of Thomas during that week. Tossing between hope & fear. And seeing on the other 11 faces the light which he cannot share!
    15. Yet, how tenderly Jesus deals with our doubts & unbelief.
      1. Jesus came & complied with the conditions that Thomas’ poor faith laid down.
      2. Jesus was set on winning this 1-poor-starving-soul to Himself & blessedness.
    16. (28) I think its unlikely that Thomas took Jesus up on His invitation to touch.
      1. Thomas hears that Jesus had knowledge of what He said & His willingness to meet it, were sufficient.
      2. My Lord & my God! - all demands for proof forgotten.
    17. So for Thomas seeing/proving was believing...but to his discredit! - The greater blessing is to not see & believe!
      1. W/o faith it is impossible to please God. Heb.11:6
    18. TRUSTING IS BELIEVING! (29-31)
    19. Listen up...this is our category today!
    20. Blessed are those who have not seen - Blessed are those who believe, even in the pitch black when no stars are shining; Blessed are those who believe even when the sun hasn’t shone for days, but stays hidden behind the darkest blanket of clouds; Blessed are those who believe when there is no friendly voice amidst the crowd.
      1. To believe then is to get very near the heart of Him who on the cross clung to the Father in the midnight darkness.
      2. Trusting is believing. Relying on Jesus, blesses Him.
    21. Habakkuk ends his letter with a Hymn of Faith!
      1. His name means “embrace/one who embraces/or clings.”
      2. Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what he sees before his eyes! (see 3:17-19)
      3. Here is one of the greatest confessions of faith!
        1. Though Babylon comes to destroy; Though You send away your people; Though the bottom drops out of everything…yet I will trust in you!!!
      4. Had he looked ahead he would only see the invading Babylonian army; Had he looked within he would only see fear & trembling; Had he looked around he would only see everything falling apart; But by looking up by faith he saw God…& all his fears vanished!
      5. To walk by faith means to focus on the greatness & glory of God!
    22. God became Habakkuk’s Strength, Song, & his Salvation!
      1. “If my legs were shaking, I probably would be looking for a place to sit down not bounding up the side of a mountain, like a deer!”
        1. ​​​​​​​The Lord gives us bounding feet so we can overcome the obstacles of life.
        2. God doesn’t always change the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances!
      2. Faith gives you the ability to stand sure-footed like a deer, & to be able to run-swiftly & go higher then ever before!
      3. Like the eagle & like the deer, God made us for the heights!
        1. ​​​​​​​They both will go down into the valley, but that’s not where they live! (us too!)
    23. (31) That you may believe that Jesus is God; that you might have life!
      1. ​​​​​​​Have you experienced that abundant life?
    24. Prayer: Blessed are those who do not hear...or see...or feel, or prove…& yet believe.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on John 20". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-20.html. 2017.
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