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Bible Commentaries
John 20

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-10

John 20. The “ Coming” of the Risen Lord.

John 20:1-10 . The Empty Tomb.— The gospel, as contrasted with the Appendix ( John 20:21), follows what is now generally known as the Jerusalem tradition, which makes Jerusalem and not Galilee the scene of the appearance to the disciples. It is often assumed that the Marcan Gospel recognised originally no appearance in Jerusalem. If the lost ending was used by Mt., it would seem that it contained an account of the appearance to the women on Easter Day. The present ending of Mk. is based certainly on Lk. and perhaps on Jn. But in any case the evidence for appearances in Jerusalem is too strong to be summarily set aside as later modification of stories originally confined to Galilee ( 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 *). Instead of the Synoptic account of two or more women, Jn. records the experiences of Mary Magdalene alone, a phenomenon of which this gospel presents several other instances. The narrative, however, shows traces of the presence of others (“ we know not,” John 20:2). Mary comes early to the tomb to finish the work of Friday which the Sabbath had interrupted. Finding the stone removed she naturally assumes that the body, temporarily laid in Joseph’ s garden, has been removed, and returns to tell the disciples. The details of the visit of Peter and the Beloved Disciple show the former first in action, the latter in interpreting what is seen. The presence of the grave-clothes indicates that the body has not been stolen or removed. Their orderly arrangement suggests much more to the Beloved Disciple. The author reminds us that the Scripture proof of resurrection was a later growth. It was the experiences of Easter Day that first brought conviction, not the happening of what prophecy had taught them to expect.

Verses 10-18

John 20:10-18 . Jesus and Mary.— Mary has apparently followed the two disciples back to the tomb. After their departure she looks in, and sees a vision of angels ( cf. Luke 24:4 ff.). Her thoughts are still full of the “ removal” of the body, as her answer to the supposed “ gardener” also shows. As usual, there is no expectation of the event that follows. It is only the pronunciation of her own name that reveals Jesus’ identity. Her attempt to offer worship is forbidden on the ground that He has not yet entered into His glory ( cf. Matthew 28:9). Perhaps John 20:17 means that the old relations are no longer possible, and the time for the newer and more spiritual communion is not yet. The message to the “ brethren” is so worded as to emphasize the difference between His and their relationship to the Father.

Verses 19-29

John 20:19-29 . The Coming to the Disciples.— The first Christian “ Sunday” is spent in Jerusalem, where the disciples are in hiding. The interpretation of Mark 14:50 as implying an immediate flight of the apostles to Galilee is purely conjectural. The account of the first appearance to the disciples is told so as to emphasize the fulfilment of the promises, and the teaching, of chs. 14– 17 . Jesus “ comes” ( cf. John 14:18), He gives them His peace ( John 14:27), they were glad (ὲ?χάρησαν ) when they saw ( John 16:22), He sends them, as He was sent ( John 17:18), He gives them the Spirit, and power to deal with sin ( John 16:7 ff.). The showing of the hands and side has its parallel in Luke 24:39, which is original, though Luke 24:40 is probably a later addition to the Lucan text. The word used for “ forgive” is the normal LXX translation of the Heb. nasa’ and salah. The corresponding noun is used for the Jubilee, or remission. There is no exact parallel for “ retain” in the sense it has here. It is the natural opposite (“ grasp,” “ hold fast,” cf. Luke 24:16) of “ sending away,” “ letting go.”

John 20:24-29 . Doubt and Faith.— All the accounts of Resurrection appearances record the fact of doubt ( Matthew 28:17, Mark 16:11; Mark 16:13 f., Luke 24:11; Luke 24:25; Luke 24:38; Luke 24:49). John follows his usual custom of giving one typical and named instance. The bearing of this fact on the historical value of the incidents concerned must be determined by the consideration of the whole series, and their intrinsic “ probability.” The attitude of Thomas is true to his character as depicted elsewhere in the gospel ( John 11:16, John 14:5). The incident is recorded to teach the superiority of faith which interprets evidence by spiritual intuition rather than by the senses. A parallel to John 20:27 is found by some in the story of Apollonius of Tyana ( cf. Philost. John 7:41, John 8:12). Jewish thought offers a more interesting parallel; Tanchuma John 20:8 a, “ The Israelites without the great sights on Sinai would not have believed, the Proselyte who has not seen all is therefore more loved by God” (quoted by Bauer, HNT, p. 184 ). The words of the confession are significant in the light of the claim, first put forward by Domitian, to be addressed as “ Dominus et Deus noster” (Suetonius, Domit. 13 ).

Verse 30

John 20:30 f. The Conclusion of the Gospel.— In these words, which are clearly meant to form the conclusion of the whole gospel and not merely of the last chapter, the writer explains his purpose and method. Of the many significant deeds and words of Jesus which His disciples saw and heard he has chosen typical instances which may suffice to call out and strengthen faith in Him as the fulfiller of the Messianic hopes of His nation, as He rightly interpreted them, which could be fulfilled only by one who held the unique relationship to God, best described as “ The Son,” which those who followed Him on earth had learned to be His true nature. Such faith alone can bring to men the higher “ life” which God intended for them, and which the Christ has made it possible for them to obtain. The study of the gospel shows that its teaching is set out on these lines rather than on the ideas of the Prologue, so far as there is any difference between the two.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/john-20.html. 1919.
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