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Bible Commentaries
John 20

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The first day of the week — Now the Christian sabbath, in honour of Christ’s resurrection, and therefore called "the Lord’s day,"Revelation 1:10; Revelation 1:10 ; as the holy supper is called "the Lord’s supper," 1 Corinthians 11:20 ; as the saints are called κυριακη , kirk, church. The title of the 24th Psalm is, "A Psalm of David." To this the Greek addeth, "Of the first day of the week," meaning that this psalm was wont to be sung in the temple every first day of the week, which now is the Christian’s sabbath; and of Christ, his Church and kingdom, and the entertaining of his gospel, doth this psalm intreat. Let every one of us keep sabbath, saith Ignatius, in a spiritual manner, rejoicing in the meditation of the law, not in the rest of the body. εκαστος ημων σαββατιζετω πνευματικως . (Ignat. ep. iii. ad Magnes.) And in those primitive times when the question was asked, Servasti Dominicum? Hast thou kept the Lord’s day? the answer was returned, Christianus sum, intermittere non possum: I am a Christian, and may not do otherwise. The Jews gave that honour to their sabbath, that they named from it all the other days of the week, as the first, second, third day, …, of the sabbath, which we from the heathens (a worse pattern) name Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, … Ex iustituto Mercurii Trismegisti.

Verse 2

Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Then she runnethAmor addidit alas, love is impatient of delays. Christ cometh leaping over the "mountains of Bether," Song of Solomon 2:17 ; all manner lets and impediments. And the Church, as impatient as he, bids him "Make haste, my beloved, and be like to a roe,"Song of Solomon 8:4; Song of Solomon 8:4 , or to a fawn of the harts, which when it fleeth, looketh behind it, saith the Chaldee paraphrast there. She affects not only a union, but a unity with him.

Verse 3

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

Peter therefore went forth — He despaired not though he had grievously fallen. The saints cannot fall so far, but that God’s supporting hand is ever under them. They may be doused over head and ears in the waters of iniquity, yea, sink twice to the bottom, yet shall rise again and recover; for the Lord puts under his hand; yea, as he that stumbleth, and yet falleth not, gets ground by his stumbling, so it is here.

Verse 4

So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together — But the swifter of foot they were, the slower in faith; for "he that believeth maketh not haste," Isaiah 28:16 . They believed not fully the resurrection; when they heard the news of it, and from the angels too, they stirred not, but rejected it as a fable. Now that they hear (though but by a woman only) that the Lord’s body was removed to another sepulchre (though that were but a rash report, and nothing so) they run amain. Oh the dullness that is found in the best!

Verse 5

And he stooping down, and looking in , saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

Yet went he not in — He dared not; so some fearful are afraid of every step, saying, as Caesar at Rubicon, Yet we may go back; and as the king of Navarre told Beza, that he would launch no further into the sea, than he might be sure to return safe to the haven. Petago se non ira commissurus esset quin, quando liberet, pedem referre posset.

Verse 6

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

Following him and went in — John came first; Peter entered first: "soft and fair goes far:" soft fire makes sweet malt: leap Christians are not much to be liked; such as quickly step out of profaneness into profession. Hot at hand seldom holds out. The stony ground immediately received the seed with joy, and started up suddenly, ευθεως ; but the good ground brings forth fruit with patience or tarriance, εν υπομονη , Luke 8:15 . Walk deliberately, and ponder the paths of thy feet, as Solomon bids,Proverbs 4:26; Proverbs 4:26 . A Christian’s progress is as the sun, which shines more and more to the perfect day, Proverbs 4:18 ; and as the trumpet in Mount Sion, Exodus 20:18 , which sounded louder and louder till it was heard all the country over.

Verse 7

And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

And the napkin that was about his head — These grave clothes were evidences of our Saviour’s resurrection, and are therefore mentioned by the evangelist. But what shift made Paleottus, Archbishop of Bonony, for matter, who wrote a great book of the shadow of Christ’s dead body in the sindon or linen cloth, wherein it was wrapped! This book was also commented upon by the professor of divinity there. Had not these men little to do? Did they not, as one saith,

" Magno conatu magnas nugas agere?

Tenet insanabile multos-Seribendi Cacoethes. "

Verse 8

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

And he saw and believedi.e. He believed his own eyes, that the Lord’s body was not in the sepulchre; but, as Mary Magdalene had told them, so they misbelieved, that it was taken away to some other place, further from Calvary, for honour’s sake, that he might not lie buried with the wicked. Hence it is that in the next verse it is added, that "as yet they knew not the Scripture."

Verse 9

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

For as yet they knew not the Scripture — Which yet was clear enough in this point, Psalms 16:10 ; Psalms 110:1 ; Isaiah 53:10-11 . The resurrection of our Saviour was not obscurely shadowed out in Adam waking out of sleep, Isaac received after a sort from the dead, Joseph drawn out of prison to be Lord of Egypt, Samson bearing away the gates of Gaza, David advanced to the kingdom, where there was but a step between him and death; Jonah preserved in the whale’s belly, …

Verse 10

Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

Went again to their own home — Waiting till God should further enlighten both organ and object, as Mary also did,Luke 2:19; Luke 2:19 ; Luke 2:51 .

Verse 11

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

Mary stood at the sepulchre, weeping — Some think it was because she conceived that the Jews had gotten away our Saviour’s dead body to dishonour it; as the Popish persecutors digged up Bucer’s and many other good men’s bones to burn them. She wept where she had no such cause; so do too many, women especially, who should do well to keep their tears for better uses, and not wash foul rooms with sweet waters. Needless tears must be unwept again.

Verse 12

And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And seeth two angels — Sent for her sake, and the rest, to certify them of the resurrection. It is their office (and they are glad of it) to comfort and counsel the saints still, as it were by speaking and doing after a spiritual manner, though we see them not, as she here did. The philosopher told his friends when they came into his little and low cottage, "The gods are here with me," εντευθεν ουκ απεισι θεοι : sure it is that God and his angels are ever with his people, when they are weeping especially.

Verse 13

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

Woman, why weepest thou? — Angels pity human frailty still, and secretly suggest comfort. But Mary had no such cause to cry, if she had known all, but to rejoice rather; so hath a Christian, in what condition soever, all things reckoned. Had Elizabeth known she should have been queen, she would not have wished herself a milkmaid. Saints are "heirs of the kingdom," saith James, James 2:5 , heads destinated to the diadem, saith Tertullian; what mean they then to be at any time in their dumps?

Verse 14

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

She turned herself back — As not able to abide the brightness of those glorious angels any longer. To the gardener therefore she addresseth herself for further direction. See what a happiness it is to be taught by the ministry of men, like ourselves, and to have angels about us, but invisible.

Verse 15

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? — Where the angels left, the Lord begins. God hath for our sakes taken the preaching of the gospel from the angels, and given it to ministers, who have thenceforth also changed names; for ministers are called angels,Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:1 , and angels ministers,Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 1:14 .

Verse 16

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary — Christ is nearest to such as, with Mary, cannot see him for their tears, if with her in humility they seek after him. He calls her but by her name, and she acknowledgeth him. The ear, we say, is first up in a morning; and nothing so soon awakes us as to be called by our names. How easily can Christ call up our drowsy hearts, when he pleaseth; and (when we are even turned away from him, as Mary here was) make us reciprocate and cry Rabboni? Mary! saith Christ; Master! saith Mary; and presently she clasps about his feet having her heart as near to his heart, as her hands were to his feet. What a meeting of love (saith a divine hereupon) will there be between the new glorified saint and the glorious Redeemer?

Verse 17

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Touch me not, … — She had caught him by the feet (as the Shunammite did Elisha, as the Shulamite did her spouse), and there she would have held him longer, out of inconsiderate zeal, Matthew 28:9 ; Song of Solomon 3:4 ; but that he takes her off this corporal conceit, that she may learn to live by faith, and not by sense; to be drawn after him to heaven, whither he was now ascending, and to go tell his brethren what she had seen and heard, Ne morere, sed ad perturbatos discipulos accurre et quod vidisti renuncia. (Pet. Martyr.)

Verse 18

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Mary Magdalene came and told — She had told them and troubled them before with a conceit that they had (but to what end, or whither, she knew not) removed the Lord’s body; fitly therefore is she sent to assure them of the resurrection. And though loth to depart, yet she bridles her affections, though never so impetuous, and brings them to be wholly at Christ’s beck and check.

Verse 19

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

When the doors, …, for fear of the Jews — The sheep had been scattered, but now were by the great Shepherd recollected (according to the promise, Zechariah 13:7 ; "I will turn my hand upon the little ones"); yet, sensible of their late fright, they show some trepidation. Afterwards, when the Spirit came down upon them, they not only set open the doors, but preached Christ boldly in the temple without dread of danger. So did Basil; when the emperor threatened him with bonds, banishment, …, he wished him to frighten babies with such bugbears; his life might be taken away, but not his faith; his head, but not his crown, Pueris illa terriculamenta preponenda. So Luther, at first so fearful and faint hearted, that in the year 1518, he wrote thus to the Pope Leo X: Vivifica, occide, voca, revoca, approba, reproba, vocem tuam vocem Christi in te praesidentis et loquentis agnoscam: I lay myself prostrate at your holiness’ feet, together with all that I am and have; quicken me, kill me, call me, recall me, approve me, reprove me, I shall acknowledge your voice to be the very voice of Christ, ruling and speaking in you. Yet afterwards he took more courage; witness among many other things, that brave answer of his to one that told him that both the pope and the emperor had threatened his ruin, Contemptus est a me Romanus et favor et furor. I hold in contempt both Roman goodwil and wrath. And when Spalatinus had sent unto him to inquire whether he would go to Worms, and appear in the gospel’s cause, if Caesar summoned him? Go, said he, I am resolved to go, though I were sure to encounter so many devils there as are tiles upon the houses. Omnia de me praesumas praeter fugam et palinodiam. Fugere nolo, multo minus reeantare. (Luth. Epist.)

Verse 20

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

He showed unto them his hands, … — For their further confirmation; so he doth unto us every time we come to his table. But, oh, how should our hearts long to look for ever upon the human nature of Christ, clothed with an exuberance of glory, at the right hand of his heavenly Father! and to consider that every vein in that blessed body bled, to bring us to heaven! Augustine was wont to wish that he might have the happiness to see these three things, Romam in flore, Paulum in ore, et Christum in corpore. Rome in it glory, Paul speaking and Christ in the body. But I should take venerable Bede’s part rather, and say with him, Anima mea desiderat Christum regem meum videre in decore suo: Let me see my King Christ in his heavenly beauty.

Verse 21

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace — The common salutation among the Jews (the Turks at this day salute in like sort, Salaum aleek; the reply is, Aleek salaum, that is, Peace be unto you). This our Saviour purposely redoubleth, to persuade them of pardon for their late shameful defection from him, and their backwardness to believe his resurrection. Sin is soon committed, but not so easily remitted; or, if in heaven, yet not in our own consciences, till which there is little comfort. Christ, to confirm them, is pleased again to employ them, and to count them faithful, putting them again into the ministry, 1 Timothy 1:13 . A calling not more honourable than comfortable; the very trust that God commits to a man therein, seals up love and favour to him.

Verse 22

And when he had said this, he breathed on them , and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

He breathed on them, and saith, … — Otherwise, who had been sufficient for these things? The ministry is a burden to be trembled at by the angels themselves, saith Chrysostom. Onus ipsis etiam Angelis tremendum. Father Latimer, when at the coming in of the six articles, he, to keep a good conscience, resigned up his bishopric, putting off his rochet, he suddenly, gave a skip in the floor for joy, feeling his shoulders so light, and being discharged, as he said, of such a heavy burden. Now the Spirit where he is bestowed by Christ, heaves at one end (as St Paul’s word imports) and takes off the brunt of the business from us. He oils our wheels, and makes us drive merrily. He helps our infirmities, (Romans 8:26 ; αντιλαμβανεσθαι , Est manus proprium , So said Galenus) edgeth our spirits, steeleth our laces, filleth us with matter, furnisheth us with words, doth all our work for us. When I first came into this city (said Calvin, upon his death bed, in his speech to his fellow ministers) I found all out of frame, and met with many malicious opposites. But our Lord Christ so settled and strengthened me, who by nature (to speak truth) am easily daunted, ut nullis illorum conatibus cesserim, that I stoutly withstood them.

Verse 23

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Whose soever sins ye remit, … — Remission of sin is the chief benefit of the gospel: and for the creed (which is the sum of the gospel) all the former articles are perfected in that of "remission of sins;" and all the following articles are effects of it. Now none can remit sins, but God; to speak properly. Papists tell us of one that could remove mountains, but to remit sins is peculiar to God alone. Man may remit the trespass, but God only the transgression. Howbeit ministers may, and in some cases must, "declare unto man his righteousness,"Job 33:23; Job 33:23 ; pronounce, in Christ’s name, the truly penitent righteous in God’s sight, by Christ’s righteousness freely imputed and given unto them. They must also retain, by the same authority, and bind upon impenitent sinners (so continuing) their sins to destruction, "Having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience,"2 Corinthians 10:6; 2 Corinthians 10:6 . This we may do, as ministers, and more we claim not.

Verse 24

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

But Thomas, one of the twelve — A man cannot be wilfully absent from the public assemblies but once, without great danger and damage. Thomas was absent perhaps about some weighty cause. It may be he lurked and lay close for fear of the Jews; or it may be he was providing, and settling his own private affairs, now his Master was slain; but whatever the cause was, the effect was grievous; he was woefully hardened.

Verse 25

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

I will not believe — Ah, wilful Thomas (quoth Mr Bradford, martyr); I will not, saith he: so adding to his incredulity, obstinace. But yet Christ appeared unto him, and would not lose him, …

Verse 26

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

The doors being shut — Although it be said, that when Christ came to his disciples the doors were shut, yet have I as much to prove that the doors opened at his coming, as ye to prove that he came through the door, said Robert Smith, martyr, to the doctor that disputed with him.

Verse 27

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

Then saith he to Thomas — Who was not excommunicated by the rest, but gently borne with, till Christ should cure him. Neither did he forsake their meetings, though he believed not their relation. It is good to stand in Christ’s way, to be found at the foddering place,Song of Solomon 1:8; Song of Solomon 1:8 . But some, like spiritual vagabonds, as Cain, excammunicate themselves from God’s presence, in the use of the means; we may write, Lord, have mercy upon such, as utterly deplored.

Verse 28

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

My Lord and my God — This is true faith indeed, that individuates God, and appropriates him to itself. η πιστις ιδιοποιεται τον θεον . Chrysost. Were it not for this possessive "mine," the devil might say the creed to as good purpose as we. He believes there is a God and a Christ; but that which torments him is, he can say "my" to never an article of the faith.

Verse 29

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Blessed are they that have not seen — We see Christ in the flesh by the eyes of the apostles; like as the Israelites saw Canaan by the eyes of the spies; and this is sufficient unto faith, as the evangelist showeth in the next verses.

Verse 30

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

And many other signs, … — If Cicero could say of Socrates (whose words Plato had recorded), and could request the like of his readers, concerning Lucius Crassus, that they would imagine much more good of them than they found written; how much more might St John do the same concerning Christ!

Verse 31

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

These things are written — He speaks this of the writ of the other three evangelists also. Matthew wrote his Gospel eight years after Christ, Mark 10:1-52 , Luke 15:1-32 , and John 42 misprint in original text, in the days of Trajan. He died in the 101st year of his own age.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/john-20.html. 1865-1868.
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