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Bible Commentaries

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

John 20

Verse 1

John 20:1

1) The open tomb, a fact. Note the different words of the Gospels.

2) The empty tomb - what happened to the body?

3) The discovered grave clothes

In each of the following [resurrection appearances] we will discover a pattern with the following features: (1) The beneficiaries of the appearance are engulfed in a human emotion (Mary, grief; the disciples, fear; and Thomas, doubt). (2) The risen Christ appears to them in the midst of their condition. (3) As a result, their condition is transformed (Mary, mission; the disciples, gladness; Thomas, faith).”619 619. R. Kysar, John, p. 299.

John omitted the earthquake, the angel rolling away the stone that covered the tomb entrance, and his sitting on the stone (Matthew 28:2-3). He also did not include the appearance of two angels to the women who visited the tomb early Easter morning, before Peter and John did, and the women’s reactions (Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:5-8; Luke 24:4–8).

Constable, T. (2003), Constable’s Notes

20:1 “The first day of the week” was Sunday. It is interesting that all the Gospel writers referred to the day of Jesus’ resurrection this way rather than as the third day after His death. The latter description would have connected the Resurrection with Jesus’ predictions of it more directly. Perhaps they did this to associate Easter more clearly with a new beginning.621 John may have mentioned the darkness of the night to associate darkness with Mary’s limited understanding then (cf. John 13:30).622 Alternatively this may simply have been a detail that adds credibility to the narrative.

The other evangelists noted that several women came to the tomb.623

Women Who Visited the Tomb Easter Morning
Matthew 28:1 Mark 16:1 Luke 24:10 John 20:1
Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene
The other Mary = Mary the mother of James Mary the mother of James
Salome
Joanna
others

Mary Magdalene evidently came first with the other women (cf. v. 2). Another possibility is that she came first and the other women followed shortly, but this seems less likely in view of the other evangelists’ descriptions. John wrote that she saw (Gr. blepei) the open tomb of Jesus. He implied that she did not enter it. Perhaps John mentioned Mary Magdalene and none of the other women because of the testimony that she gave after she had seen Jesus (v. 18).

621 621. Carson, The Gospel -- ., p. 635.

622 622. Ibid.

623 623. See Zane C. Hodges, “The Women and the Empty Tomb,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123:492 (October-December 1966):301-9.

Constable, T. (2003). Constable’s Notes,

Mary Magdalene left before dawn to go to Jesus’ tomb to complete the burial preparations (Luke 24:1), which had to be left undone due to the beginning of the Sabbath (see note on John 19:42). The Synoptic parallels indicate that other women were with her, as is also implied by the “we” in 20:2. while it was still dark. Cf. the slightly different points in time of the process depicted in Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; and Luke 24:1. Matthew’s Gospel explains that the stone had been “rolled back” by “an angel of the Lord” (Matt. 28:2)

Crossway Bibles. (2008), ESVSB

Verse 2

John 20:2

It would have been natural for Mary, and perhaps others of these women, to report the incident to the leading male disciples. The “other disciple” was probably John himself (cf. John 13:23; et al.). Mary first assumed that grave robbers had stolen Jesus’ body. Evidently robbing graves was not uncommon around Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 28:13-15). Obviously Mary meant that some of Jesus’ enemies had stolen His body, but exactly who she thought they may have been remains a mystery. Mary’s reference to “the Lord” could not have been as full of meaning as it was after His resurrection appearances. Here Mary probably used the title only in great respect. - Constable, T. (2003) Constable’s Notes

Ancient Jewish men did not accept women as reliable witnesses for most legal purposes (their witness was limited, but less so, in Roman courts), and this cultural tendency may further move John and Peter to look for themselves.

Keener, C. S. (1993), IVPNT

whom Jesus loved -- Perhaps the expression is meant to apply to Simon Peter also; ‘the other disciple whom Jesus loved.’ This becomes probable when we notice that the word for ‘loved’ is not that used of S. John in 19:26, 21:7, 20 (agapân), but the more general word (philein). See

Plummer, A. (1902)

Verse 3

John 20:3

and that … sepulcher -- Better, and the other disciple, and they were coming towards the sepulcher. - Plummer, A. (1902)

20:3–4 The detail of John outrunning Peter to the tomb was probably just confirmation of an eyewitness report. - Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible

Verse 4

John 20:4

ran -- This is only one of two New Testament instances of people literally running (cf. Matt. 28:8). Both references show them strongly motivated.

outrun -- John (the other disciples) seems to have been the younger of the two.

Verse 5

John 20:5

Stooping down ... John saw, but gave way to Peter.

vs 5 John saw βλέπω

vs 6 Peter saw θεωρέω (examine, to look with a purpose)

vs 8 John saw εἶδος understood

John observed the way the grave clothes were lying v. 5, Peter observed them in vs 6-7, and John also observed the cloth that was placed about the head folded together in a place to itself, and believed. Notice the way Jesus was buried does not fit the description of the "Shroud of Turin."

stooping to look in, he saw ... Apparently by now there is enough daylight to see inside the burial chamber through the small, low opening in the cave tomb. He (the “other disciple,” vv. 2–4) did not go in, presumably in deference to the status of Simon Peter among the Twelve (e.g., 6:67–69). - The ESV Study Bible (p. 2069).

John saw -- (Gr. blepei, cf. v. 1) the linen strips (ta othonia, cf. John 19:40) that had formerly covered Jesus’ body lying in the tomb. If grave robbers had removed the body, they would have undoubtedly taken the expensive cloth with which Joseph and Nicodemus had prepared it for burial. John may have assumed that Jesus’ body was still there since the light was bad at that hour. Perhaps John did not enter the tomb because he did not want to violate its sanctity or incur ritual defilement. - Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible

Verse 6

John and Peter both observed the burial clothes, v. 5 & v.6

vs 5 John saw βλέπω

vs 6 Peter saw θεωρέω (examine, to look with a purpose)

vs 8 John saw εἶδος understood

When Peter arrived at the tomb, he barged right in, probably because he wanted to know exactly how things stood regardless of the consequences. He also beheld (Gr. theopei, beheld intently) the linen burial clothes (Gr. ta othonia) but also the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face (Gr. soudarion, cf. John 11:44). Evidently John could not see this from his vantage point. It’s distance from the other clothes and the care with which someone had positioned it were unusual. Jesus was obviously not there, but someone had been there. That person had apparently been the resurrected Jesus. A grave robber would not have taken the time to fold the head covering neatly but would have left it lying in a heap. It is not clear whether the head covering lay where Jesus’ head had lain. What is clear is that someone had folded it up carefully. - Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible

Verse 7

John was an eye-witness to this. See John 19:40 also.

This description doesn’t fit the "Shroud of Turin" tradition. [See folder 56-A L for article.]

John 20:5-6; John 19:39-40; John 11:44; Luke 23:53; Luke 24:12; Mark 15:46; Matthew 27:59.

The burial clothes looked neat, not hastily discarded. Perhaps looked as though He had just passed through them.

Why was the stone rolled away? Not for Jesus to pass out, but for the disciples to look in! [see note in Preachers outline and Sermon Bible.]

What Peter and John found in the tomb was remarkable. The linen wrappings (John 19:40) were on the burial bench. Jews also used a facial cloth for burials (cp. John 11:44), which was rolled, wrapped under the chin, and tied on the top of the head. The apostles found this face cloth folded up on the bench. John’s inclusion of these details counters any suggestion that grave robbers had taken Jesus’ body; such costly garments would have been stolen in a robbery. - New Living Translation Study Bible.

Verse 8

John 20:8

vs 5 John saw βλέπω

vs 6 Peter saw θεωρέω (examine, to look with a purpose)

vs 8 John saw εἶδος understood (and believed)

saw and believed ... Believed what? The women’s report? It seems that many still doubted, was John the only believer?

John’s faith rested on the evidence that he had seen.

he saw and believed -- Despite not fully understanding, John knew that God had been at work, and he realized that Jesus was alive. - New Living Translation Study Bible.

Verse 10

John 20:10

Then -- This is a transitional verse. The NASB joins it to verses 1–9 whereas the NIV connects it with verses 11–18. Since verse 11 begins with “but,” it seems natural to view verse 10 as beginning a new paragraph.

The translation “to their homes” implies that Peter and John had permanent residences in Jerusalem. That seems unlikely. The Greek phrase eis ta idia literally means “to their own” (cf. John 1:11). Since the gender is neuter, John may have meant that these disciples returned to their own friends or temporary lodgings. - Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible

Verse 11

John 20:11

Don’t foncus on the "grave" but on Jesus. Mary couldn’t see Jesus because of the tears.

This is the first of four of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances that John included in his Gospel.

Jesus’ Post-resurrection Appearances627
Easter morning
to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18)
to other women (Matthew 28:9-10)
to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
Easter afternoon
to two disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-32)
Easter evening
to about 12 disciples excluding Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23)
The following Sunday
to 11 disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)
The following 32 days
to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)
to 500 people including the Eleven at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
to His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:7)
to His disciples on Mount Olivet (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)

627 627. It is very difficult to place these appearances in exact chronological order. The New Testament simply does not give enough detailed information for us to do so. Consequently the major value of this chart is that it places the post-resurrection appearances that the New Testament writers mentioned in general chronological order.

Constable, T. (2003) Constable’s Notes

20:11 Apparently Mary Magdalene had returned to the empty tomb after she had informed Peter and John about it. Perhaps she returned with them. The other women had evidently departed by then. John presented her as lingering there after Peter and John had departed. She was still grieving over the death and now the missing body of Jesus. She had not yet realized what John did. She now peered into the tomb for the second time (cf. Mark 16:5).

“I recall Proverbs 8:17 — ’I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me. -- . Another verse comes to mind— Psalms 30:5, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’”628

- Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible

Verse 12

John 20:12

two angels ... See Exodus 25 and Leviticus 16 about the two angels hovering over the mercy seat. John wants people to see that here in the death of Jesus they meet God.

An angel at the head and feet. (How did Mary know what was the "head" and "feet"? She had been there earlier and observed when the body was placed there.

Verse 13

John 20:13

Woman -- the Greek might more fairly be rendered ‘Lady’.

weepest -- crying -- "wailing) cf. John 11:31; Imperfect Tense, which speaks of continuous actions in past time. Eastern funeral practices are characteristically very emotional.

Verse 14

John 20:14

not realize -- There are several possibilities why she didn’t recognize Jesus. She may have had tears in her eyes and didn’t fully look up to his face. Some say he may have appeared first to her in another form, or that her eyes were held back from recognizing him, cf. Luke 24:16; Mark 16:12 when Jesus appeared to two on the road to Emmaus.

Verse 15

John 20:15

the gardener ...or caretaker. (And Jesus IS the caretaker, but not of the shrubs and flowers, but the "caretaker" of our souls.)

I will take Him away ... Will you too take Him away with you today? Or will you leave Him here at the church building?

Verse 16

John 20:16

Jesus said -- She seems to have recognized His voice.

Aramaic -- The everyday spoken language in Israel at the time. Mary remember her exact address to the Lord.

Rabboni -- John gives the interpretation for the sake of foreign readers. The “i” on the end of “Rabboni” may reflect “my Rabbi,” “my Master” or “my teacher.”

[Only the Apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, John 1:42; John 4:25; John 6:1; John 9:7; John 11:16; John 19:13, John 19:17, John 19:20; John 20:16; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12:9).]

Verse 17

John 20:17

hold -- grasp -- cling -- stop, to stop an act in progress. Jesus had a mission for her so she needed to let go of him and do what he was ready to indicate to her.

not ye ascended -- or returned; Jesus still had more things, or instructions, to give before he returned to the father. His return did not happen til 40 days later, Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:2-3.

brothers -- cf. Matthew 12:50

My Father -- My God -- To my Father and your Father maintains a distinction as to the sense in which God is Christ’s God and Father and the sense in which this is true for the disciples (see note on John 1:14). But he also calls believers his brothers, implying a personal relationship (see note on 15:13–14; also Heb. 2:12, 17). ESVSB

In addition to the many instances in the Bible where sonship is entirely natural and biological (e.g., Genesis 22:2; Ruth 4:13, 17; 1 Samuel 16:18; Ezekiel 18:14; Matthew 10:37; Luke 15:11), sonship is often metaphoric.

What a marvelous statement! However, it must also be stated that this does not imply that believers’ sonship is equal to Jesus’ sonship. He is the unique Son of the Father, fully God and fully man. Believers become family members only through Him. He is both Lord, Savior, and brother! Utley

Verse 18

John 20:18

Mary Magdalene -- the first eyewitness to the Lord’s resurrection. She not only saw him, she heard him and touched hime (1 John 1:1-4). What a privilege for a woman in that culture.

Verse 19

John 20:19

doors were shut ... Afraid of the Jewish authorities. Afraid they now come after Jesus’ disciples, or they may be accused of grave robbery.

doors locked -- Implies that Jesus miraculously appears among them.

Pease be with you ... John 14:1; Shalom, the usual greeting (and also salutation). 3 John 1:14

A Sunday Evening Service

What did Jesus do for his disciples?

1. Comforted them - v.19

2. Convicted them - v.20

3. Challenged them - v.21

Verse 20

John 20:20

Glad ... Glad when they saw Jesus. How about you? Are you glad to see him on the Lord’s day?

The reality of Jesus’ resurrection was quite clear. Jesus showed them the wounds from the nails and the spear. He did not feign death, but conquered it. He was no phantom, but a real man with a real body. He had been dead, but was now alive. Jesus was fully human both in life (John 1:14) and in his resurrection. FSB

Verse 21

John 20:21

Even so I send you ... John’s record of The Great Commission! Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16.

God had sent Jesus into the world to establish his Kingdom, and now Jesus was sending his disciples to carry on his mission. Christ’s emissaries carry the truth of Jesus’ words to the world (John 17:18). NLTSB

Verse 22

John 20:22

receive ... This gift fulfilled many promises that the Spirit would be sent (John 14:16, John 14:26; john 15:26; John 16:7, John 16:13). It foreshadows the arrival of the Spirit’s empowering presence at Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:1–47).

Was this the fulfillment of his many promises, or was it in anticipation of what was to happen 50 days later on the day of Pentecost?

Was this a fulfillment, with a special power of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost?

Verse 23

John 20:23

are forgiven … are not forgiven. The passive voice implies that God is the one who forgives (or does not forgive) people’s sins. God does not grant or withhold forgiveness because the apostles (or we) do so. But through the Holy Spirit (v. 22) the apostles and all believers participate in Jesus’ saving mission by declaring that God will forgive all those who repent and believe in Jesus and that God will not forgive those who do not repent and believe Cf. Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18-19 and notes. NIVZSB

Hebrews 5:9

Verse 24

John 20:24

Thomas ... Thomas "lost out" when he was not in their assembly. One does today also!

Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his failure, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of His weakness (2 Timothy 2:13). Thomas’ actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believing in resurrection. The point is they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe even with the evidence they could see. MASB

John did not mention when this conversation happened. It could have taken place anytime between Easter evening and the following Sunday. None of the evangelists recorded post-resurrection appearances between these two Sundays.

John gave his readers the Aramaic and Greek names of this member of the Twelve, now the Eleven: “Thomas” and “Didymus” respectively (cf. John 11:16; John 14:5). John’s previous pictures of this disciple present him as a loyal and courageous though somewhat pessimistic follower of Jesus. His more common identification as a doubter comes only from the present event. Constable’s Notes

Verse 26

Eight days ... according to Jewish count, which included the first and last days, meaning one week later.

Verse 30

John 20:30

cf. John 21:25

John 20:30-31

KEY to the purpose of the whole book of John.

The seven signs that John methodically gives as evidence.

1 John 2 the best - quality

2 John 4 mastered - space

3 John 4 mastered - time

4 mastered - quanity

5 v. 16, 21 mastered - gravity

6 mastered - misfortune

7 mastered - death

John 10:37-38

John has an affinity for "sevens", a whole, or completeness.

Seven signs, seven who bore testimony; seven discourses, ... in fact there are seven "sevens" in the book, and note this similarity to his book of Revelation.

Verse 31

John 20:31

see note on John 20:30

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Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on John 20". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/john-20.html. 2021.