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Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
John 20

Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of JohnHarvey's Notes on John

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Verse 1

John 20:1

Before sunrise Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, Salome (Mark 16:1), and Joanna (Luke 24:10) came to be near their Lord. They expected to be separated from Him by a barrier made of stone (Mark 16:2-3), but the wall dividing them had been taken away (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45, 2 Corinthians 3:14, 2 Corinthians 3:16, Hebrews 6:19, Hebrews 10:20, Ephesians 2:14). They thought she had come before sunrise, but the Son had already risen. The darkness (see notes on John 18:1) had been dispelled by the light of the world (John 8:12, John 9:5, John 11:9).

The women had prepared the spices and anointments on Friday, and they patiently waited until after the Sabbath to come to the tomb (Luke 23:56). When it was allowed, they started on their way. Their love for Jesus had motivated them, and they never stopped to consider things logically. Along the way, it occurred to them (Mark 16:3); they had everything prepared, but how will they be able to apply the mixtures? How could they expect to get to Jesus’ body? There was a large stone in their way. Logic dictated that they ought to stop and rethink their plan, but they were compelled forward anyway. Regardless of the obvious obstacle, they continued moving towards Jesus. Continue on your walk, and trust the Lord (Proverbs 3:5). Nothing, no matter how large it may appear, can separate us from Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

There had been an Earthquake, and it was followed by the appearance of an angel who rolled the stone away from the mouth of the grave (Matthew 28:1-4). The angel informed the women that Jesus had risen (Matthew 28:5-6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6) and instructed them to quickly go and tell His disciples about it (Matthew 28:7-8). What the women would never have been able to do with their abilities alone, was done for them through the power of God working on their behalf. Often times, we can struggle to work out things for ourselves with no hope on our own of success. Let your faith in God move the mountain for you (Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21).

Verse 2

John 20:2

Mary ran, because she was told to do so by an angel of the Lord (see notes on John 20:1). She found Peter and John (see notes on John 13:23), and she told them that the body had been taken away. The angel said Jesus had been resurrected just as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 28:6), and he told her to tell the disciples about it. However, she made it sound as though the body had been carried away instead.

The Lord calls us to tell the story of what Jesus has done for us, but we must ensure that the story is told correctly. The good news of Christ’s resurrection power should be carefully handled as a great treasure. The wealth of the gospel is in the undistorted and undiluted truth of the message, and in distributing the bounty of it we must never end up preaching another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

Mary did what she was told to do, but she didn’t say what she was supposed to say. Doing one half of the mission leaves it half undone. God is a God of completeness (Genesis 2:1, 1 Chronicles 28:20, John 4:34, John 5:36, John 17:4, John 19:30, Romans 9:28, Colossians 2:10, 2 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:2, Revelation 10:7), and those that serve Him must serve Him completely. There can be no short cuts. There can be no alternatives. What God tells us to do, we must do. What God tells us to say is exactly the message that must be delivered (Luke 4:43, 1 Corinthians 9:16, Galatians 1:8).

Verse 3

John 20:3

Peter and John hurried to the sepulcher (see notes on (John 20:4), because Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) had made it sound like Jesus’ body had been stolen during the night (see notes on John 20:2).

Verse 4

John 20:4

John and Peter had raced off together towards the tomb (John 20:3), but eventually John outpaced him and arrived at the tomb first.

Verse 5

John 20:5

John didn’t go in, but Peter did (John 20:6). It was like Peter to plunge in ahead of the others (Matthew 14:22-33). John was stunned, and he stood at the entrance grappling with the situation. Jesus had risen. It looked as though Jesus was no longer there, so He must no longer be dead. He must have thought, “Is it possible? Is this what Jesus meant?” All that remained in the tomb were the grave clothes Jesus had been buried in (John 20:7). Belief in the Lord’s resurrection was swelling within him, but he still wasn’t sure.

When we are uncertain of things, when we aren’t positive as to the voice of God, we need to ensure that we don’t stoop to using sources other than the Holy Spirit. Even Christians will fiddle around with astrology, magic 8-balls, clairvoyants and other things that allow us to peer into the unknown. However, the Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth of a matter (Psalms 25:5, John 16:3), and it is Him upon which we can always rely.

Verse 6

John 20:6

Although Peter didn’t arrive at the tomb first, he was the first disciple to venture into it (see notes on John 20:5). It was a picture of the resurrection day to come (Matthew 22:31-32, Acts 23:6, Acts 24:15, Acts 24:21, 1 Corinthians 15:12, 1 Corinthians 15:13, 1 Corinthians 15:21, Philippians 3:11, Hebrews 6:2). After the resurrection of the dead (Daniel 12:2-3, Matthew 13:40-43, Luke 20:32-36, 1 Corinthians 15:40-44, 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, Philippians 3:19-21, Hebrews 9:27, 1 Peter 1:3-5), those that were first shall be last (Matthew 19:28-30, Matthew 20:16, Mark 9:35, Mark 10:28-31, Luke 13:23-30).

When we leave this world to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8), we shall leave with no Earthly remnants or entanglements (Job 1:21, Psalms 49:17, Ecclesiastes 5:15-16, Luke 12:20-21, 1 Timothy 6:7). The clothes we were in will be left behind, and we shall go before the Lord clothed in righteousness (2 Chronicles 6:41, Psalms 17:15, Psalms 132:9, Isaiah 61:10, Romans 3:22, Romans 14:17, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, Galatians 3:27, Philippians 3:9).

Verse 7

John 20:7

Whether Jesus was released from the grave wrappings by the Holy Spirit, by Himself or by angels is left untold. What really matters are the glaring details that are clear:

· Jesus had risen.

· The last of the wrappings from this Earth had been taken off Him.

· The cloth wrapped around the face (John 11:44) of Christ had been removed and set aside (Psalms 67:1-2, 2 Corinthians 4:3-7), and it possible for us to see the unveiled face of God (Habakkuk 2:14, John 14:9, 1 Corinthians 13:9-12, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, 2 Corinthians 3:13-18). We who were once the enemies of God (Romans 8:7, James 4:4) have been made the friends of God (Exodus 33:11, John 15:15, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Ephesians 2:15-16, Hebrews 4:16, James 2:23).

Verse 8

John 20:8

John had already stooped down and looked into the tomb (John 20:5), and he had seen the abandoned grave clothes Jesus had been wrapped in (John 20:6). Additionally, John noticed the detail of the clothes separated from the napkin (John 20:7), but he hadn’t been able to see the entire sepulcher. Perhaps there was something left behind by raiders as evidence of tampering. Perhaps the body was lying in a dark corner or up against a wall and hidden from view. Finally, John entered the grave, and he saw no sign of Jesus or any tampering. Jesus had simply left the tomb. When John went in and looked around, he remembered what Jesus had said, and he believed (John 2:21-22). The obvious absence of Jesus ushered in the presence of belief, because of His word (Romans 10:17).

Verse 9

John 20:9

The scripture John referred to was Psalms 16:10, as is verified in Acts 2:25-32. Although Peter and John still couldn’t discern the prophetic relevance of what Jesus had done, they would come to realize the significance of His ministry (Luke 24:44-46, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6).

Verse 10

John 20:10

Having nothing left to see at the tomb and no immediate reason to stay where the authorities quite likely would soon take an interest (Matthew 27:62-66, Matthew 28:1-4), they returned to the safety of their homes (John 16:32). Later that night they would assemble together with other disciples behind closed doors (John 20:19).

Verse 11

John 20:11

Jesus was no longer in the tomb. Mary (John 20:1) was told that Jesus had risen (Matthew 28:5-6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6), but she believed the body had been taken away (John 20:2, John 20:13). She had seen Him crucified (John 19:25), and she had seen Him buried (Matthew 27:58-61). Still confused over the events, the only certainty was that she missed her Lord. Struggling over the things she witnessed, her heart ached once again for Jesus, and she cried.

An angel invited her to look into the tomb earlier (Matthew 28:6), and she had went into it with some other women (Luke 24:1-3). Having seen Peter and John both look and then go into the tomb (John 20:5-8), she decided to look in again and see for herself. “Maybe,” she must of thought, “I missed something earlier. Maybe, something has changed.”

Verse 12

John 20:12

Angels were coming and going. Peter and John had both just been in the tomb (John 20:5-8), and there is no record that they had seen any heavenly visitors in the sepulcher.

Verse 13

John 20:13

She had been told the Lord had risen (see notes on John 20:1), but she still seemed to be confused (see notes on John 20:2). In addition to the empty tomb, she had seen angels and heard declarations about Jesus’ resurrection from the heavenly messengers but she couldn’t believe it.

Sometimes, even a revelation sent from Heaven can be distorted by our unwillingness to accept it. Belief (see notes on John 3:15) requires that we move beyond our human soulish reasoning (Proverbs 3:5) and receive with gladness the word of the Lord (Matthew 13:20, Luke 8:13, Mark 4:16).

Verse 14

John 20:14

How many of us have seen Jesus in a situation, but we didn’t realize His hand in it until later? Sometimes the Lord’s presence is standing there, right in front of us, but we carry on unaware and oblivious. I have even begged for Him to reveal himself to me, and He already had. While I spoke with Him and pleaded for the reassurance His face would offer, His arms were already wrapped around me and his spirit comforted me. It is good and profitable that we seek His face, but to see it ... learn to be still and perceive His answer (Psalms 46:10).

Verse 15

John 20:15

Guessing Jesus was the grounds keeper made logical sense, because the tomb was in a garden (John 19:41). However, what often seems cogent to human thinking during ordinary events doesn’t always prove valid reasoning when God is involved (Psalms 92:5, Isaiah 55:8, Ezekiel 18:25-29).

Jesus had died. Mary was an eyewitness to her master’s death (John 19:25). She knew He had been placed in the now empty tomb (John 20:1). Surely the gardener was well aware of the goings on in the garden. She didn’t answer what seemed to her to be a silly question, “Whom seekest thou?” She ignored the query and responded with a request for information as to Jesus’ whereabouts.

She was crying, because she didn’t know where Jesus’ body was. There was no reason for tears. She had been told that Jesus had risen (see notes on John 20:13), but she went on acting as though the body was merely missing (see notes on John 20:2). Jesus’ questions made perfect sense. Why cry when she should be filled with joy? Why seek His dead body when His resurrected body stood before her full of life (Luke 24:5)?

When the Spirit asks you questions that are meant to steer you in the right direction, are you answering the questions posed to you, or are you stubbornly requesting information that will assist you in going your own way?

Verse 16

John 20:16

Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) didn’t recognize Jesus’ presence, or His voice when He addressed her as He would any woman (John 20:14-15), but she immediately perceived it was the Lord when He called her by name. Before she heard Jesus say her name, it was still Jesus. She had kept from looking Him in the face although He was with her and he spoke to her. She was unwilling to reckon what she heard as the voice of God until He said her name.

Perhaps we too have missed what God had to say to us, because we were unwilling to accept that it had been the voice of God? Not realizing that God is indeed with us doesn’t change the reality that He is. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, 1 Timothy 3:16, 2 John 1:2), and He challenges us (see notes on John 20:15) to move past our feelings and look beyond our situations. Although He will call us by name (John 10:3), we need not hear Him call our name to believe it was He that spoke to us (John 10:27, John 18:37). Learn to perceive the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Psalms 25:5, Psalms 43:3, Jeremiah 31:33-34, John 14:17, John 14:26, John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, Ephesians 4:21, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 8:10-11, 1 John 2:20-27).

On another note, some try to pervert the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus into a sexually charged one of lovers. A careful analysis of this verse debunks those theories. If Mary had a physically intimate relationship with Jesus, or even a flirtatious courtship with Him, why would she address Him as “Master?” If they were more intimately involved than teacher and disciple, one would think she would have called out something like ... “oh darling,” “my love,” or at least “honey.” She called Him “Rabboni,” because that’s what he was to her. She did not miss her lover. She had missed her Master.

Mary was simply one of Jesus’ disciples. Many of His disciples would follow Him and be with Him as much as they could. However, Mary wasn’t “the disciple whom Jesus loved. (John 19:26, John 20:2, John 21:7, John 21:20)” John was given that distinction (see notes on John 2:14, John 13:23-24).

Verse 17

John 20:17

When Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) realized it was Jesus she had been speaking with (see notes on John 20:16), she must have reached out towards Him in some way, because Jesus forbade her to touch Him. Jesus didn’t want to be touched, because He had not yet went into Heaven and met with God, the Father. Apparently upon returning to Heaven, Jesus would meet with the Father in a resurrected body unsoiled by corruptible hands.

Jesus told Mary to go and tell the apostles that He was going to Heaven and meet with God. Jesus met with His apostles later that evening (John 20:19), and He didn’t forbid them to touch Him, and He actually seemed to invite them to inspect His body (John 20:20). So sometime between the encounter with Mary in the garden and the meeting with the apostles (see notes on John 20:20), Jesus had ascended into Heaven as the conquering hero and met with God, the Father. What an event that must of been!

Also note that Jesus said He had not yet ascended into Heaven. He had died on the night before the annual Sabbath of the Passover Festival (Leviticus 23:26-32) or the High Sabbath (John 19:31). Jesus had risen early the day after the regular Sabbath (John 20:1), so He had been dead, as He had prophesied (Matthew 12:40, Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:23, Matthew 20:19, Matthew 26:61, Matthew 27:39-40, Matthew 27:63-64, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:34, Mark 14:58, Mark 15:29, Luke 9:22, Luke 18:33, Luke 24:6-7, John 2:19-22), three days and three nights (Luke 24:19-21, Luke 24:46, Acts 10:39-40, 1 Corinthians 15:4). After all, it is clear that our Lord defined a day as a twelve hour period (John 11:9) and the night following the day (Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:14-18, Genesis 8:22). There were two Sabbaths that week, as Matthew 28:1 bears out in Greek plural of the word.

Time Line:

Wednesday (first night) - Jesus had been crucified on Wednesday, not “Good Friday” as tradition suggests. He died during the ninth hour or about 3:00 PM (Matthew 27:46-50, Mark 15:34-37, Luke 23:44-46), and He was buried that same day (Matthew 27:57-62, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:52-54, John 19:42).

Thursday (first day & second night) - The annual High Sabbath.

Friday (second day & third night) - The day after the annual High Sabbath, when people could work, women bought spices so they could anoint Jesus (Mark 16:1).

Saturday (third day) - The weekly regular Sabbath, when the women rested after buying the spices on Friday (Luke 23:56). Jesus arose from the dead at the end of the Sabbath or after sunset on Saturday (Matthew 28:1, John 20:1).

See Time Line below:


6 days before Passover Feast

Jesus went to Bethany (John 12:1)


5 days before Passover Feast

Triumphant entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12)


2 days before Passover Feast

Jesus at Simon the Leper’s House (Matthew 26:2-6, Mark 14:6)


1 days before Passover Feast

Last Supper (John 13:1-2)

Jesus arrested (John 18:12)

Jesus before Annas (John 18:13)

Jesus before Caiaphas (John 18:24)

Night ended with cock crow (John 18:27)


1 day before Annual Sabbath

Jesus before Pontious Pilate(John 18:28)

Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:4-11)

Day of Jesus’ Crucifixion (John 19:16-18)

Jesus Died (John 19:30)

Passover Feast (19:14)

Jesus buried (John 19:38-42)

1st Night in the tomb


Annual Sabbath (John 19:31, Leviticus 23:26-32)

1st day 2nd night in the tomb


Women bought spices (Mark 16:1 Luke 23:56)

2nd day 3rd night in the tumb


Sabbath Day

Jesus arose at the end of the Sabbath day or early Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1)

3rd day in the tomb

Fulfillment of Jesus’ Prophesy (Matthew 12:40)


Resurrection Day (John 20:1)

Women brought spices to the tomb (Luke 24:1)

Tomb Empty (Luke 24:2-3, Luke 24:12, John 20:5-7)

Resurrection day was three days after Jesus’ death

If Jesus had been crucified on “Good Friday” and arose Sunday morning, then He is a false prophet and a liar. God forbid that we affix such a judgment to the Holy Lamb of God. No, He spoke the truth. He said three days and three nights, he meant three days and three nights, and He indeed was dead three days and three nights. He didn’t mean partial days and nights. He meant what He said, as in the case of Jonah (Jonah 1:17, Matthew 12:40).

While Jesus was on the cross, He said to one of the thieves crucified with him, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Obviously “today” is not the same as three days and three nights later, and Paradise and Heaven are not the same place. Jesus said to the thief “today,” but he said to Mary three days and three nights later that He hadn’t yet ascended to His Father. God, the Father abides in Heaven (Matthew 5:16, Matthew 5:45, Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:9, Matthew 7:11, Matthew 7:21, Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 12:50, Matthew 16:17, Matthew 18:10, Matthew 18:14, Matthew 18:19, Matthew 23:9, Mark 11:25-26, Luke 11:2). Jesus had been in paradise, but He had not yet gone to Heaven.

Death is not a sleep until the resurrection, as some take the scriptures to mean. While Jesus’ body lie dead in the tomb, He was still alert and moving as a spirit and preached to the other spirits in prison (Ephesians 4:7-11, 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6). What good would it have done to preach to those that are blissfully unaware and overcome by their “dirt nap?” He is Lord overall (Acts 10:36, Acts 10:42, Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:9-11). What good would it be to be the Lord of the dead, if the dead need not be Lorded over (Revelation 6:9-10, Revelation 20:12)? He is not the Lord over souls suspended in a death coma. He is the Lord of both the living and the dead (Romans 14:9).

One other note; Mary was sent to go and tell a message to the apostles or special messengers. This call to service was a mission placed upon a woman directly by the Lord Himself. Obviously, women can be used by God to witness of Jesus and preach the good news.

Verse 18

John 20:18

Unlike how she handled the first commission given to her by an angel (see notes on John 20:2), Mary Magdalene relayed the message that Jesus told her she was suppose to tell. Notice how God will give second chances and still ask us to serve Him after we make mistakes.

Verse 19

John 20:19

Later Sunday evening the disciples gathered together. They probably wanted to discuss the reports regarding angelic visitations (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4-7, Luke 24:23, John 20:11-13), the open (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:2) and empty tomb (Luke 24:3, Luke 24:12, John 20:5-7), and Mary Magdalene’s (John 20:14-17) and Cleopas’ (Luke 24:18) and another disciples’ encounters with Jesus Himself (Luke 24:13-31). However, the Jews had just insisted on (Matthew 27:22, Mark 15:12-15, Luke 23:2-5, John 19:6, John 19:12, John 19:15) and secured the execution of Jesus, the disciples’ Master. Logic suggested that, if they were seen together, they too may be targeted by the Jews and quite possibly arrested next. To shield them from immediate view, they had met behind closed doors.

They had legitimate cause for concern. They were justified in their assessment of the political and religious opposition’s zeal to squash any movement that endangered the status quo (John 12:19). Jesus had warned them that they too would be hated (John 15:18) and persecuted (John 15:20). He had prophesied that they would be arrested (Matthew 10:18, Matthew 24:9) and excommunicated (John 16:2). The only question that remained was, “When?”

In the midst of their dread filled sense of impending doom, Jesus joined them. There He was! Alive! He had risen, and He was standing there in the room with them. It is as though He didn’t even use the door. They were all gathered around, and He simply appeared in the middle of them. They were terrified of the Jews and anxious about the future, but Jesus said, “Peace be unto you.” “Relax,” He was saying. “I am here.”

Verse 20

John 20:20

Hearing Jesus’ voice likely had the same affect on the disciples that it had had on Mary Magdalene (John 20:16-17), but they were not forbidden to touch Him as she had been. Instead He showed them his hands and side as if to say, “Go ahead and touch me. See for yourselves that it is I. Are not these hands ones that have been nailed? Remember that your Lord’s side was pierced by the Roman soldier (John 19:34). See that I still carry the evidence that it is indeed I.”

Mary had been told that she couldn’t touch Jesus, because He had not yet been to the Father (John 20:17). Later His disciples were not forbidden, we can infer that Jesus had been to the Father since His encounter with Mary in the garden and was ready to revisit the Earth as the resurrected Lord. Actually, Jesus had been to the Father in the short time between telling Mary she couldn’t touch Him in the garden and meeting her with some other women when they were on their way from the tomb to the disciples (Matthew 28:9). See our God and how He is not limited by the restrictions of time.

The disciples had been saddened by His arrest, torture and death (Luke 24:17), but having seen living physical proof of his resurrection, they were happy. Such a statement seems obvious. Of course they were sad before, and of course they were glad to see Him alive and well. Why would John make a point of telling us so?

Jesus had said, “Peace be unto you,” but they were not yet filled with peace. They were not being led by the Spirit. They were being led by their emotions. Sadness is an emotion. Happiness is an emotion. Emotions come and go like winds blowing across prairie grass. We are not to be like reeds shaken in the winds of our emotions (Matthew 11:7, Luke 7:24, Ephesians 4:14, James 1:6-8). We are not to allow ourselves to be ruled by our feelings (Psalms 37:8, Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 19:11, Ecclesiastes 7:9, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:14, Romans 12:21, Galatians 5:18, Ephesians 4:26-32, Titus 2:11-14, James 1:19, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 5:8). Peace is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They were emotionally happy to see Him, but He wanted them to be led by the Spirit into peace. So, He told them again, “peace be unto you” (John 20:21). Next, He breathed on them and told them to, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

His impartation of the Spirit upon them would comfort them and give them peace enough until they were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

Verse 21

John 20:21

They were not at peace (see notes on John 20:20). They were behind closed doors (John 20:19) and locked into an emotional soup of fear, sadness, anger, guilt, and dread. Anxiety was the main course, and they were starved for peace (Proverbs 15:15). Jesus had told them not to worry about things (Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 10:41-42, Luke 12:22-29, Revelation 2:10) but things didn’t seem to have fared to well for Him. Jesus’ peace hadn’t saved Him from arrest, torture and death (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22, Luke 17:25, Luke 24:46, Acts 3:18, Acts 26:22-23). What good would peace do them then?

However, they hadn’t yet understood the power of peace. Jesus had willingly accepted His cup (Matthew 26:39-42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42) in peace (Psalms 38:13, Psalms 94:19, Isaiah 53:7, Luke 23:34, Acts 8:32, Hebrews 12:2), and His disciples would eventually, through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, be able to accept theirs as well. Even if they were to suffer (Acts 5:41, Acts 9:16, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 11:20-21, Galatians 5:11, Galatians 6:12, Philippians 1:29, Philippians 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 3:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 2:12, 2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 2:20, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 4:16-19), they became prisoners of hope (Zechariah 9:12) rather than their negative emotions (1 Peter 3:4).

They and we were and are to be at peace knowing that we have a job to do. Jesus was sent into the world, and so are His disciples (see notes on John 6:57).

Verse 22

John 20:22

Jesus breathed (Genesis 2:7, 2 Samuel 22:16, Job 4:9, Job 33:4, Job 34:12-15, Job 37:10, Psalms 18:15, Isaiah 2:22, Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 30:33) on them to impart an Holy Ghost anointing, as though the Spirit was within Him and He could dispense portions of the Spirit as naturally as breathing (Job 27:3, Isaiah 40:7, Isaiah 42:5). Incredible are the lungs of God that move the breath of God and from which are expelled suns and stars and the entire universe (Psalms 33:6, Psalms 148:1-5, John 1:1-3, Hebrews 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5). Our breath can snuff out a candle, but the breath of the Lord both creates and stirs up the galaxies.

When Jesus breathed on the disciples, they were anointed or covered (Isaiah 30:1) with the Holy Ghost, as were many people before the Day of Pentecost (Judges 3:10, Judges 6:34, Judges 11:29, Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19, Judges 15:14, 1 Samuel 10:6, 1 Samuel 16:13-14, 2 Samuel 23:2, 1 Kings 18:12, 2 Chronicles 20:14, Psalms 51:11, Isaiah 61:1, Ezekiel 11:5, Micah 3:8, Mark 12:36, Luke 2:25-26, Acts 1:16, Acts 28:25, 2 Peter 1:21), but they were not filled (Acts 6:3, Acts 6:5, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24, Acts 13:9). “On” or “upon” or “covered” or even “in” are not the same things as “filled.” Only Jesus (Isaiah 63:11, Luke 4:1) John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), and John’s father (Luke 1:67) and mother (Luke 1:41) were full of the Spirit before the special Day of Pentecost.

Why would the disciples later be told by Jesus to go and wait for the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:2-5), if they already “received” Him when Jesus breathed on them? The answer is that; Jesus was covering them with the Holy Ghost, but later they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. They had only had a drink in John 20:22, but they would later get their fill (Zechariah 9:15).

When one receives salvation, one receives a Holy Ghost portion (Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-17, Acts 19:2, Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Ghost helps the new believer begin the Christian walk, and He helped the disciples until the day of Pentecost when they were “filled” with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Ghost had come upon them (Acts 2:3) and baptized them with a new anointing. This second baptism (Acts 2:3-4) was different than the first (John 20:22), because the Holy Ghost didn’t stop at covering them. The Spirit filled them (Acts 2:4). The first anointing was but a drink (see notes on John 4:10), but the second was an infilling.

After that initial infilling baptism with the Spirit, many were filled (Acts 4:31, Acts 6:3, Acts 6:5, Acts 7:55, Acts 9:17, Acts 11:24, Acts 13:9, Acts 13:52, Acts 15:8). The Holy Spirit is now available to all those that believe (John 7:38-39, Romans 8:9, Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13, 1 John 4:15), obey the Lord (Acts 5:32, 1 John 3:24), love their neighbors (1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:16) and ask the Father for the Spirit (Luke 11:13). The Spirit need not merely be on us or with us; He may now be in us (John 14:17, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21-22, 2 Timothy 1:14) and fill us. It is God’s will that believers be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Some think that every believer is filled with the Spirit at the moment of salvation, and they point to 1 Corinthians 12:13 to support their theology. However, one should note from 1 Corinthians 12:13 that at the point of salvation one only gets a “drink.” Even logic tells us, and as we’ve seen from Zechariah 9:15, there is a difference between a spiritual drink and a spiritual filling. Although both portions are put within the believer, it is better to be full rather than to simply get a drink.

Others point to Mark 16:17-18 and say that one need only believe to qualify for gifts of the Spirit, thus further supporting the notion that the infilling of the Holy Ghost comes at the moment of salvation. Jesus said in Mark 16:17, “These signs shall follow them that believe.” “Follow,” because the believer is on a journey of change. These signs don’t occur all at once upon conversion. They are incrementally implemented along the way after one submits to the Lord. One would see these signs as they follow a believer’s growth. However, one would not necessarily see all the signs, nor would they necessarily be in the order in which Jesus listed them.

There is much theological debate over the role of the Holy Spirit and His influence in the affairs of both the Godhead and mankind. Since He is “in” us, some argue that there should be a consistent sign, shown in all those filled, produced in us and exhibiting out from us that would demonstrate to us and others that we are indeed filled. The sign that is typically accepted, among those seeking a particular sign, is speaking in tongues.

Is the gift of tongues the standard by which we have proof of the infilling of the Holy Spirit? Having the “gift of tongues” is one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10), and it may be given, as all the gifts of the Spirit, with an infilling portion of the Spirit. However, speaking in tongues is not the only gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-31), nor is it the only proof of the infilling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:3-8, Ephesians 4:3-15, 1 Peter 4:10-12). There were people that spoke with boldness about Christ upon being filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:31, Acts 14:3) for example, but there was no mention of tongues. Even Paul, who later made it clear that he had the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Corinthians 14:18), didn’t speak them immediately upon receiving the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:17-18).

It should be noted though that at the special Day of Pentecost “all” those assembled were filled and “all” of them spoke with tongues (Acts 2:4). However, that is not to say in every case “all” are filled each time the Spirit fills someone in a room. Neither should we then expect “all” to speak in tongues when they are filled. We know that the Lord deals with each person separately. Different gifts are given to different people (1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:30), but, regardless which gift is given, when one is filled by the Spirit, the gift bestowed is evidence of the believer’s infilling (1 Corinthians 12:7). Each gift is desirable (1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 14:12).

As with all gifts of the Spirit in the church, the gift of tongues can be mishandled. Be careful to operate in the gifts given to you by the Holy Spirit as we have been directed by the Holy Spirit in the word. Our gifts should be used only as directed in the Bible to edify the body and maintain order in the church (1 Corinthians 14:1-40, Ephesians 4:11-13). However, this is not to say that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. There are other believers that would avoid or disapprove of speaking in tongues today as though the gift died with the apostles, but the Bible is clear that the practice should not be forbidden (1 Corinthians 14:39). The same is said of prophesying in 1 Thessalonians 5:20. The gift of tongues, as all the gifts of the Spirit, are given by God to help the church ... not divide its members (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:25, Ephesians 4:11).

We were created by Christ (John 1:1-3). Our creation is only significant though in that we were given life. The life in us was given by the breath of God, and we became living creatures (Genesis 2:7). When Adam fell, he became spiritually dead, but he remained physically alive. Our spiritual lives ended with Adam’s at the fall, and our physical lives, as Adam’s was, are plagued by a slow descent into death. Fortunately for us, Jesus came to make us spiritually alive (John 10:10, 1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus breathed on his disciples, and, in so doing, He gave them new spiritual life. The breath of God had made man a living creature, and the breath of God made man a new creature. Praise God!

That breath ushered in the New Covenant infused with the power of Christ’s resurrection and was able to lift us out from among the dead even while we are yet alive (Philippians 3:10-11). Every believer since then has been given the Spirit to be in them. We are baptized with the Spirit, and He cleanses us in Christ’s righteousness. His Spirit has regenerated our spirits (John 6:63, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Ephesians 2:1-5, Colossians 2:13, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:18) and made us new creatures (Matthew 9:16-17, Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10). We are born again (see notes on John 3:5, John 3:5) by the breath of God.

The breath Jesus blew out in John 20:22 was not merely for the ten remaining apostles, Thomas not being with them that evening (John 20:24), but it was for all the disciples (Luke 24:33). Even now, His disciples are breathed upon and made new creatures according to the new covenant sealed in the blood of the Lamb. It wasn’t a one-time impartation. It was a perpetual manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those that believe.

As delineated above, the Holy Spirit has historically been given to believers in two significant different portions; Drink and Filling. The chart below illustrates the differences in the portions highlighted.

Holy Ghost Baptism


Drink Zechariah 9:15, John 4:10, John 7:37 John 20:22 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 12:13

Filling Zechariah 9:15, Acts 2:4; Acts 4:31; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:52 Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 5:18


Baptized into Spiritual Life Acts 11:12-13, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:26-27, Ephesians 1:13, Titus 3:4-6

Baptized into Power Zechariah 4:6, Acts 1:8; Acts 2:16-19; Acts 8:19; Acts 10:38, Ephesians 3:20 2 Timothy 1:7


To Change Ezekiel 36:27, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:23 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Titus 2:12

To Serve Matthew 25:21, Romans 1:1; Romans 7:6 Galatians 5:13-17, Ephesians 6:7, Hebrews 9:14


Born again John 3:5-6, Acts 2:38, Romans 8:2, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Galatians 4:29 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Joine to the Body of Christ Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 6:17, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:3-4, Colossians 2:19

Implanted with Fruit of the Spirit Hosea 14:8, John 15:5; John 15:16, Romans 6:22, Philippians 1:11

Led by the Spirit Psalms 143:10, John 14:26, Romans 8:1-15, 2 Corinthians 10:3 Galatians 5:16-25, Philippians 3:3

Trample ans Shame the enemy Zechariah 9:15-17; Zechariah 10:5, Malachi 4:2-3, Luke 10:19, Romans 16:20

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Work of the Ministry 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 9:18, Ephesians 3:5-7; Ephesians 4:12, Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:25-29, 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Wonders and Miracles Acts 6:8; Acts 8:6; Acts 19:11-12, Romans 15:19 2 Corinthians 12:12 Revelation 11:3-6

Impartation Acts 8:17-18; Acts 9:9:17; Acts 13:2-419:6 1 Timothy 4:14 2 Timothy 1:6 Hebrews 6:2


Exhibiting Fruit of the Spirit Matthew 7:16-20; Matthew 12:33, Luke 6:43-45; Luke 8:15, Romans 7:4-6 Ephesians 6:9-11, Colossians 1:10, James 3:12

Operating in Gifts of the Spitit Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-46, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 1 Corinthians 14:1-12, Ephesians 4:1-16, Hebrews 2:4

Although there are two different portions, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there is a particular order of the portioning. One may be filled before one gets a drink, or one may receive a filling and not even know what happened until later. Let’s not make a law and say, “This must happen before that happens.” Let us instead agree to let God be God and accept that he deals with each believer as He sees fit.

One part of the body is not given gifts that the other is not and is therefore holier than the other or more saved than the other. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). The left arm can carry the same anointing as the right. It is only that some members feel more comfortable using gifts than do other members. But, cut off the right arm, and the body learns to adapt by using the left arm. Soon the left arm is operating in the same gifts as the right, but something is missing. Why though should we limit the church to only partially reaching her potential? Let us not cut off one entire arm of the body in order that the rest learn to move without it. Each member of the body should be using their full portion of the anointing, thus causing the entire body to excel.

Verse 23

John 20:23

We believers, regardless of office or gifts, cannot forgive sins. The remission of sins comes only through belief (Acts 10:43) in the shed blood (Hebrews 9:22) of Christ (Matthew 26:28). However, through faith in His blood, we stand in His righteousness (Romans 3:22, Romans 8:10, Romans 10:4, 2 Corinthians 11:15, Galatians 2:21, Philippians 1:11, Philippians 3:9, Hebrews 11:7) and have His right to declare the good news of the remission of sins and the grace-filled tolerance of God (see Romans 3:25). In the next verse of Romans (Romans 3:26), Paul exercises Jesus’ right to declare that all whom believe are justified through their belief. Paul said so, through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Peter 3:15-16), and it is so.

Note though that Paul didn’t make the declaration through his own authority. In fact, it wasn’t Paul that made the declaration, but Christ in Paul (John 14:20, 2 Corinthians 13:3-4, Galatians 2:20, Revelation 3:20). Paul spoke boldly through the power of the Holy Spirit in him.

Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave them a drink portion of the Holy Spirit (see notes on John 20:22). Once they were endowed with the Holy Spirit’s power, and covered in the blood of the lamb, He told them that they could act in authority and declare with certainty that the remission of sins had indeed been bestowed (Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18, 1 Timothy 1:20). Jesus was empowering them, and us, to accomplish, in His name, His commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:45-47).

Verse 24

John 20:24

There may have been another disciple named Thomas in the room, but the apostle named Thomas, also called Didymus (see notes on John 1:45), was not present. By using the term, “the twelve,” John identified the apostle Thomas rather than the disciple Thomas.

Note too how the apostles, as a group were given a name, “The Twelve.” Since there were only eleven apostles remaining (Luke 24:33), Judas having killed himself (Matthew 27:5, Acts 1:18), it is clear that John was referring to the apostolic unit as “The Twelve.” The term, The Twelve, was used by the other gospel writers as well (Matthew 26:14, Matthew 26:20, Matthew 26:47, Mark 4:10, Mark 6:7, Mark 9:35, Mark 10:32, Mark 11:11, Mark 14:10, Mark 14:17, Mark 14:43, Luke 8:1, Luke 9:12, Luke 18:31, Luke 22:3, Luke 22:47, Acts 6:2). Paul used the term too (1 Corinthians 15:5). Even Jesus used the term (Mark 14:20).

Verse 25

John 20:25

What an incredible declaration; “We have seen the Lord.” Millions of Christians would love to see a revelation of the risen Christ. How glorious would it be to look upon Jesus with one’s own eyes? Imagine too Thomas’ disappointment at hearing all these disciples excitedly telling him what he had missed. What he had been doing that prevented him from joining the other disciples is not known. Perhaps he had been catching up on some personal business he had neglected in favor of following Jesus every day. Unfortunately, whatever it was, Thomas had missed God.

Many times our everyday lives distract us from what is truly important. Ten thousand years from now what happens today won’t matter at all. However, it is easy to place our focus on the tasks at hand rather than keep our view on an eternal perspective. It is easy to stay home on a Sunday morning and relax or get some things done around the house, but what did we miss out on by not joining in with other believers? Perhaps you’ve been seeking God’s face on a matter dear to your heart, and, when you stayed home, you too missed God.

Because Thomas responded to their reports about Jesus’ appearance to them the way that he did, he has been despairingly referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas knew these people and their characters. Surely there was at least one of them he could trust to tell the truth no matter what. Surely one of them wouldn’t make up such a story or go along with the crowd. Faced with so many consistent reports, he had plenty of reason to believe them.

However, he chose to rebel against the obvious truth and not accept on faith their sincere reports. He chose instead to rely on physical proof. He wanted a Jesus he could touch, not just a testimony; no matter how reliable the source. Many people yet today miss God, because they refuse to accept the testimonies from sincere and truthful witnesses of the Lord’s presence in their lives.

Verse 26

John 20:26

Eight days after Jesus had appeared to His disciples (John 20:19) on the evening of His resurrection (John 20:1), He came to them again. Like before, the disciples were behind closed doors, and Jesus greeted them with words of peace. This time Thomas was with them, and the first thing the Lord did was address Thomas’ need for physical proof (John 20:27).

Verse 27

John 20:27

Although Jesus was not physically present when Thomas set the benchmark for verifiable proof of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:25), He once again showed His ability to know what’s in the heart of men (Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 9:4, Mark 2:8, Mark 3:5, Luke 5:22, Luke 16:15, Luke 24:38, Hebrews 4:12-13). Jesus didn’t belittle Thomas’ faithless declaration, He simply answered the challenge and gave him the opportunity to handle the risen Christ (1 John 1:1).

Verse 28

John 20:28

What else can one say after a personal encounter with He who framed the universe (John 1:1-3) and conquered even death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)? Jesus is both Lord and God (Psalms 45:11, Isaiah 40:9-11, Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12, Acts 2:36, Acts 7:59, Acts 11:17, Romans 5:11, Romans 8:39). At the mention of just His name, one day all will give him the glory that is due Him (Romans 14:10-12, Philippians 2:10-11). Let us then give Him glory even now. Let us praise His name in faith believing without sight. Let us glorify Him having never touched Him. Let us honor His word and the testimony of His faithful witnesses.

Verse 29

John 20:29

Many unbelievers would quickly turn to believers having seen Jesus. “Seeing is believing” to most people, but Jesus wants us to believe without seeing. He wants us to accept His truth through faith not through sight (Romans 8:24, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Peter 1:8).

Verse 30

John 20:30

It is enough that we know through his witnesses that Jesus lives (see notes on John 20:28). Our faith is not placed in a dead leader. We worship a living God who died for us. It is a glorious paradox that can only be truly appreciated through faith (see notes on John 20:29). We have the word, and we believe through faith resulting from exposure to the word (Romans 10:17). We need not know what other signs Jesus did in front of the disciples that night. We have enough to believe.

Verse 31

John 20:31

Do you believe? Is your study of the Gospel of John just an academic exercise to increase your knowledge of scriptures? If so, you’ve missed the point (see notes on John 20:30). More importantly, you’ve missed God (see notes on John 20:25). Let go of your doubt. Put your unbelief aside in favor of acceptance. Your confidence in Christ will be well placed. Belief (see notes on John 3:15) in Him gains us eternal life. Stop relying on your human understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Look up into the sky. Look out across the ocean to the horizon line. Look down into the grass and see the multitude of textures and bugs. Look at your own body and behold the wonders of its abilities and form. God’s handiwork testifies that there is a God (Deuteronomy 4:19, Job 31:26-28, Psalms 19:1-3, Acts 14:17, Romans 1:20-21).

The scriptures also exhibit God’s hand. Look through these Notes on the Gospel of John and see how rich the Bible is in truth and wisdom. No mortal man could have written even the Gospel of John by himself. The scriptures are scriptures, because they are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). I said “are” and not “were,” because the Holy Spirit still inspires those that read them.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 20". "Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of John". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shj/john-20.html.
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