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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

John 20

Verse 1

1 It is unnecessary to quibble over the particular hour in which Jesus arose from the grave. Neither should any of the indefinite statements about "darkness" be an occasion for confusion. Mar 16:9 plainly says "Jesus was risen early the first day of the week." No one of the other accounts disagrees with this, hence the conclusion is that the first day of the week was the day on which Jesus arose from the dead. Mat 28:1 and Mar 16:1 shows that Mary Magdalene was not alone in coming to the sepulchre. These women were coming with the' intention of anointing the body of Jesus (Mar 16:1; Luk 24:1). But when they got to the tomb they saw that the stone was taken away. Mat 28:1-6 and Mar 16:5-6 adds the information that they found the grave empty, and that Jesus was alive although they did not realize it at first.

Verse 2

2 Luk 24:3 tells why the woman ran to meet Peter. She had looked in and seen the empty tomb and thought the body had been removed and laid elsewhere.

Verse 3

3 The other disciple was the one whom Jesus loved (chapter 21:20, 24), who was John. The two disciples started running toward the sepulchre.

Verse 4

4 John outran Peter and arrived first at the sepulchre.

Verse 5

5 John went near enough only to see the empty clothes.

Verse 6

6 Peter reached the sepulchre, and when he did, he did not pause on the outside as did John. Went into the sepulchre. This phrase will be better understood by reading the notes at Mat 27:60 on the description of tombs.

Verse 7

7 The order in which the clothes and napkin were neatly folded and laid back, indicates that no confusion or violence was present when Jesus was ready to depart from the tomb. The linen clothes was all the clothing the body of Jesus wore as he was laid away in this tomb, as all of his own raiment was taken from him before he was crucified. (See the notes at Mat 27:35.) We are not told how he obtained clothing suitable for public appearances, but we know he was wearing some ordinary kind, for Mary thought he was the gardner when she saw him (verse 15).

Verse 8

8 By this time John was ready to enter the cave or tomb. The statement is that he saw and believed. This may be the origin of an old saying, "seeing is believing." The phrase is not strictly true, for what one sees, he knows, which is not the same as belief. However, the present passage is true, for the thing that John saw was not what he believed. He saw the empty tomb and the unoccupied grave clothes. This caused him to believe that Jesus was alive, though at that moment he could not see him.

Verse 9

9 Knew not means they did not realize the meaning of the scripture that predicted the rising from the dead. The writer makes this statement as an explanation of why it took these plain evidences to convince them that Jesus was really alive. The scripture prediction referred to is in Psa 16:8-10.

Verse 10

0 The disciples means Peter and John who had run to the sepulchre.

Verse 11

1 In the meantime, Mary had returned to the tomb, and was weeping in grief for her Lord. Her interest would not let her be inactive, so she stooped down and looked into the tomb.

Verse 12

2 This gave her a view of the place where the body of Jesus had lain, which was in the same condition it was when she was first at the sepulchre (Luk 24:3). But this time she saw something she did not see the first time. That was two angels tin white sitting at the head and foot of the place where Jesus had lain.

Verse 13

3 Mary still thought that someone had removed the body of her Lord; she told the angels this in answer to their question why she was weeping.

Verse 14

4 While this conversation was going on, Jesus had returned to the tomb and was standing near Mary. She knew not that it was Jesus. One meaning of the Greek word for knew is "to perceive." The circumstance here was perfectly natural because of the unexpectedness of the appearance of Jesus. Mary was so positive that the body of her Lord had been stolen, that it caused her eyes to be restrained from their usual functioning. (See the notes on Luk 24:15-16.)

Verse 15

5 The salutation of woman was so formal and distant, that it helped to keep her in the dark as to his identity. She could think of no one who would be addressing her in this unfamiliar way but the man who had care of the garden. In that case he would likely be the one who had removed the body to some spot more convenient to his work. That is why she offered to take charge of it if he would tell her of it.

Verse 16

6 Jesus pronounced the one word Mary, which was so personal and direct that it roused her from her far-away state of mind. She turned herself does not mean that her back had been toward him before, for she had looked at him closely enough that she took him to be the gardener. The idea is that she assumed a more direct and deliberate attitude toward Jesus, for she then recognized him. In her surprised Joy she saluted him with one of the most reverent title she knew, which was the Greek word RHABBOUNI, which John interprets to mean Master.

Verse 17

7 Touch is from the Greek word HAPTO, and Thayer's definition is, "To fasten to, make adhere to; to fasten one's self to, adhere to, cling to." As the word is used in this verse, Thayer explains it, "Do not handle me to see whether I am still clothed with a body; there is no need of such an examination." I believe this explanation is correct, and that Jesus did not mean merely that no personal contact with him would be right. We may be sure of such a conclusion, for a little later (verse 27), Jesus told Thomas to make a very decided contact with him, and his body was then in the same condition it was when he was talking to Mary. A similar use of words is in the instruction of Jesus to the apostles not to "salute" anyone in the way (Luk 10:4). The explanation given in that place is as follows: "As a salutation was made not merely by a slight gesture and a few words, but generally by embracing and kissing, a Journey was retarded by saluting frequently." For I am not yet ascended to my Father. This remark is plainly a logical one under the circumstances. Whenever Jesus' went back to Heaven, he would no longer have the fleshly body and other evidences of the eyes as to his identity. But since he had not yet made that change, her own eyes should tell her that it was the same Lord who was crucified. Therefore, instead of spending time with unnecessary handling of his body, she should go to 'his brethren and tell the good news to them. She was to tell them also that their Lord would soon ascend back to their God.

Verse 18

8 Mary obeyed the instructions of the Master.

Verse 19

9 Same day . . . being the first day of the week. This statement is another proof that the first day of the week was the one on which Jesus arose from the dead. The persecuting spirit of the Jews still hovered in the community, causing the disciples to meet "behind closed doors." Luk 24:33-35 tells us the subject they were discussing was the report that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus stood in the midst. This is taken by some to mean that Jesus had already undergone a change in his body, since he was able to appear in their midst in spite of the closed doors. However, that act would not require any greater miracle than did his disappearance from them unnoticed before his death (Luk 4:29-30).

Verse 20

0 Jesus knew the disciples were puzzled by his sudden appearance, and Luk 24:37 says they thought he was a spirit. But he clarified their confusion by showing them his hands and his side, which still had the wounds inflicted on him at the cross. This satisfied the disciples and made them glad to recognize their risen Lord.

Verse 21

1 Whenever Jesus promised peace for his disciples, it was always the kind that was backed up by his Father. The same is true of the sending mentioned in this place. The wording shows that Jesus was sending his apostles out with the same authority by which He had been sent by his Father. The verse is the same in thought as Mat 28:18, where Jesus declared that all power (or authority) in heaven and in earth had been given to him.

Verse 22

2 Receive ye the Holy Ghost was a promise, and not a gift bestowed at that moment. It was the same "promise" that is stated in Luk 24:49, and the same that Luke meant in Act 1:4 when he was preparing to appoint another apostle.

Verse 23

3 This verse is equivalent in thought and application to Mat 16:19. In order for the apostles to be correct in their remitting and retaining of sins, it was necessary for them to be inspired by the Holy Ghost or Spirit, hence the command for them to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit.

Verse 24

4 See the notes at Joh 11:16 on the fact of Thomas' being a twin, also with regard to the popular phrase, "doubting Thomas," applied to him because of the present circumstance. He was not in the group when Jesus showed his hands and side.

Verse 25

5 The disciples told the story to Thomas, but he demanded to have even more positive evidence of the identity of Jesus than merely seeing the wounds. No severe criticism should be made of Thomas, for he seemed only to be more exacting or cautious than the others, and might not have realized how convincing the very sight of the wounds would be in establishing the identity of Jesus.

Verse 26

6 In a little more than a week, Thomas had the opportunity he said he would require before he would believe. The disciples were again assembled behind closed doors, and Thomas was present. Jesus came again as he did in verse 19, but his presence did not excite them this time for they understood the situation.

Verse 27

7 We are not told whether the disciples had reported the statement of Thomas to Jesus, or that it was a part of his general knowledge of all men (2:24, 25). But he quoted the words of Thomas verbatim as to thrusting his hand in the side wound.

Verse 28

8 After all the demand that Thomas had made to the other disciples, there is no indication that he took the advantage that Jesus offered him. Instead, the response he made to the invitation was only to answer Jesus, and make the full confession of faith, My Lord and my God.

Verse 29

9 Here is the plain statement of Jesus that Thomas believed because he had seen the wounds, which proves the comment above that he did not thrust his hand in the side of his Lord. This passage has the two words seen and believed in about the same connection they are used in verse 8. That is, Thomas saw the wounds which Jesus only could have exhibited at that time. This identified Him as the one who had been dead but now was alive, and that caused Thomas to believe that he was his Lord and God. Jesus did not condemn Thomas for arriving at his faith from the things he had seen. The point is that he had enjoyed an advantage that few others could have, for the world in general was to be left to believe on the strength of sound testimony. All such were to be blessed or be considered happy, because mankind could not all have the bodily presence of Christ for an evidence.

Verse 30

0 This verse corresponds with the thought in chapter 21:25, as to the immensity of the things that went to make up the life of Christ.

Verse 31

1 John wrote these last two verses for the information of the readers, the pronoun ye referring to them. The immediate purpose of recording the signs or miracles was to make believers by them, as Jesus stated in verse 29. The ultimate purpose was to give the believers spiritual life and salvation through His name.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on John 20". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.