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Bible Commentaries

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books

John 20

Verses 1-10

P A R T E I G H T H.

(Joseph’s Garden. Sunday, very early.)
aMATT. XXVIII. 1-8; bMARK XVI. 1-8; cLUKE XXIV. 1-8, 12; dJOHN XX. 1-10.

c1 But a1 Now late on the sabbath day, b1 And when the sabbath was past, con the first day of the week, {aas it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,} cat early dawn, dwhile it was yet dark, cometh {acame} dMary Magdalene early aand the other Mary bthe mother of James, and Salome, cunto the tomb, bringing {bbrought} cthe spices which they had prepared. [ Luke 23:56.] ato see the sepulchre. bthat they might come and anoint him. a2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. 3 His appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 and for fear of him the watchers [the Roman soldiers on guard] did quake, and became as dead men. [The angel sat upon the stone that the Roman guards might make no attempt to reclose the tomb.] b2 And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen. 3 And they were saying among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb? c2 And they found the stone rolled away from [739] the tomb. b4 and looking up, they see {d [Mary Magdalene] seeth} bthat the stone is rolled back: {dtaken away from the tomb.} for it was exceeding great. c3 And they bentering into the tomb, {centered in,} and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. [John mentions Mary Magdalene alone, though she came with the rest of the women. As she was the one who reported to John and Peter, he describes her actions, and makes no mention of the others.] d2 She runneth therefore, 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 tomb, and we know not where they have laid him. [Though Mary came with the other women, she departed at once, while the others tarried, as the sequel shows. The narrative proceeds to tell what happened to the other women after Mary had departed.] c4 And it came to pass, while they were perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel: bthey saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed. c5 and as they were affrighted and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, {bhe athe angel} answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; cBe not amazed: afor I know that ye seek Jesus, bthe Nazarene, who hath been crucified: cWhy seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but {afor} he is risen, even as he said. cremember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words [For the words referred to, see Matthew 17:22, Matthew 17:23. The angel continues his speech as follows], aCome, bbehold, the place where they laid him! asee the place where the Lord lay. [Here is a double wonder, that men should put the Son of God in a grave, and that he should consent to be put there.] b7 But {a7 And} go quickly, and tell his disciples, [740] band Peter, aHe is risen from the dead; and lo, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: bas he said unto you. alo, I have told you. [The women were told to hasten, for the disciples were not to endure their sorrow a moment longer than was needful. Peter was mentioned by name that he might know that he was not cast off for his denial. The Lord appeared to some chosen few in Judæa, but the large body of his disciples were to see him in Galilee; see Psalms 16:10, Isaiah 53:10, and many other passages set forth the resurrection of our Lord; his own words, too, had plainly foretold it, yet among the disciples it was so much beyond all expectation that the prophecies had no meaning until made clear by the event itself. Yet these are the men whom the Jews accused of inventing the story of a resurrection!]

[FFG 739-742]

Verses 11-18

(Jerusalem. Sunday morning.)
aMATT. XXVIII. 9, 10; bMARK XVI. 9-11; cLUKE XXIV. 9-11; dJOHN XX. 11-18.

[The women, having received the message of the angels, and remembering that the message accorded with the words [742] of Jesus himself, made haste.] c9 and returned from the tomb, b9 Now when he was risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. [Mark here agrees with John that Mary separated from the other women. As to Mary Magdalene, see Luke 24:16), lest the shock of his sudden appearance might be too much for her, as it was for even his male disciples [743] ( Luke 24:37). Conversation with him assured her that he was not a disembodied spirit.] 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 hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. [Christ’s first question expressed kindly sympathy; the second suggested that he knew the cause of her grief, and might be able to help her find what she sought. Thus encouraged, Mary at once assumes that the gardener himself had removed the body, probably under instructions from Joseph, and hope lightens her heart. In her effort to remove the body, she doubtless counts upon the help of her fellow-disciples.] 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. [Her eyes and ears were no longer held; she knew him. It was the same way he used to speak, the same name by which he used to call her. The grave had glorified and exalted him, but had not changed his love.] She turneth herself, and saith unto him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Teacher. [Seasons of greatest joy are marked by little speech. Jesus and Mary each expressed themselves in a single word.] 17 Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. [This passage is one of well-known difficulty, and Meyer or Ryle may be consulted by those wishing to see how various commentators have interpreted it. We would explain it by the following paraphrase: "Do not lay hold on me and detain yourself and me; I have not yet ascended; this is no brief, passing vision; I am yet in the world, and will be for some time, and there will be other opportunities to see me; the duty of the moment is to go and tell my sorrowing disciples that I have risen, and shall ascend to my Father." Jesus does not say "our Father." Our relation to God is not the same as his. While, however, our Lord’s language recognizes the difference between his divine and our human relationship to the Father, his words are intended to [744] show us our exaltation. We have reason to believe that next to our Lord’s title as Son our title as sons of God by adoption is as high in honor as any in the universe.] 18 Mary Magdalene cometh and telleth {bwent and told} dthe disciples, bthem that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. [The poignancy of the disciples’ grief, even after the intervention of the Sabbath day, explains why the Lord and his angels were so eager to bring them word of the resurrection.] dI have seen the Lord; and that he had said these things unto her. b11 And they, when they heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, disbelieved. [It is likely that Mary brought the first word, for we shall see below that Luke places her first in the catalogue of witnesses. The narrative now turns back to take up the account of the other women.] a9 And behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. [This was a customary salutation. But the old formula took on new significance, for it means "rejoice."] And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. [This delay, permitted to them, and denied to Mary, probably explains why she became the first messenger, though the other women were first to leave the tomb.] 10 Then saith Jesus unto them, Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me. [The repetition may be due to the reticence of the women remarked by Mark in the last section by the key words "and they said nothing to any one." The women may have been hesitating whether they should tell the disciples. Thus Jesus reiterates the instruction already given by the angel. This is the first time the word "brethren" is applied by our Lord to his disciples.] cand [they] told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James: and the other women with them told these things unto the apostles. 11 And these words appeared in their sight as idle talk; and they disbelieved them. [Lamar well says that this very incredulity on the part of the apostles "enhances the value of their [745] testimony to the fact of the resurrection. They were not expecting it; they were no visionary enthusiasts, prepared to welcome and credit any story that might be told them; nor would they be satisfied with any proof short of palpable and ocular demonstrations."]

[FFG 742-746]

Verses 19-25

(Jerusalem. Sunday evening)
bMARK XVI. 14; cLUKE XXIV. 36-43; dJOHN XX. 19-25.

b14 And afterward cas they spake these things [while the two from Emmaus were telling their story], bhe was manifested unto the eleven themselves as they sat at [751] meat; d19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus chimself dcame and stood in the midst, cof them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. [His entrance through a bolted door lent weight to their idea that he had no corporeal body. They knew nothing of the possibilities of a resurrected body.] band he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart [here, as in the previous section, Jesus shows that the heart has much to do with the belief], because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen. [They had had the testimony of three men and perhaps a half dozen women; they had not lacked evidence.] c38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your heart? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having. 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. dand his side. [These members not only showed that he was not a disembodied spirit, but they served to identify his body with that which they had seen crucified, and hence the person who now spoke was the Jesus whom they had known and lost.] c41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here anything to eat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish. 43 And he took it, and ate before them. [Thus at last satisfying them that he was not a ghost.] dThe disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: 23 whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. [Now that the apostles [752] knew their Master, he repeats his blessing, and as the New Testament is now sealed in his blood according to the commission under which he came, he, in turn, commissions the twelve to go forth and proclaim its provisions. Symbolic of the baptism which they were to receive at Pentecost, he breathes upon them, and, having thus symbolically qualified them, he commissions them to forgive or retain sin, for this was the subject-matter of the New Testament.] 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus [see p. 244], was not with them when Jesus came. 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 hand into his side, I will not believe. [The apostles had undoubtedly seen and talked with someone, but the question was, Who? They said that it was Jesus, and Thomas, holding this to be impossible, thought that it must have been someone else whom they mistook for Jesus. But he would not be deceived; he would thoroughly examine the wounds, for these would identify Jesus beyond all doubt--if it were Jesus.]

[FFG 751-753]

Verses 26-31

(Sunday, one week after the resurrection.)
dJOHN XX. 26-31; eI. COR. XV. 5.

d26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. fthen he appeared to the twelve; dJesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. [He came in the same manner and with the same salutation as formerly, giving Thomas a like opportunity for believing.] 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. [753] [Thomas had proposed an infallible test, and Jesus now cheerfully submits to it.] 28 Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. [We have here the first confession of Christ as God. It should be said in Thomas’ favor that if his doubts were heaviest, his confession of faith was fullest. He had more doubts as to the resurrection because it meant more to him; it meant that Jesus was none other than God himself.] 29 Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. [Thus, while rejoicing in the belief of Thomas, Jesus pronounces a beatitude upon the countless numbers of believers in his resurrection, who are not witnesses of it.] 30 Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name. [This sounds like an ending to the Gospel, but it is like some of Paul’s apparent but not real endings. Starting it with the proposition that Jesus, as the Word, was God, he comes here to the climax of Thomas’ confession that Jesus is God, and the beatitude of Jesus upon those of a like faith. He then declares that he has written his book that men might have this faith, and the eternal life to which it leads.]

[FFG 753-754]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
First published online at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on John 20". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.