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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
John 20

 

 

Verse 2

RETURN OF THE WOMEN

Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:2. Then she runs, and comes to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and says to them, They have taken away the Lord from the sepulcher, and we know not where they have placed Him.” This is spoken of Mary Magdalene, the most prominent of our Lord’s female disciples, and the only woman John mentions in this early visit to the sepulcher. This is not out of harmony with the other three, from the simple fact that she was the leader of the heroic sisterhood who lingered last at the cross, and hastened first to greet the risen Lord and look into the empty sepulcher.

I must here observe, in reference to Mark’s Gospel, that this eighth verse, which you see in the above reference, winds it up, the following twelve verses having been added by an unknown hand after Mark had laid down his pen. This fact of these last twelve verses not appearing in the old and authoritative manuscripts, does not necessarily invalidate their claims to inspiration, the author might have been inspired for ought we know, though we can have no idea as to his name. As it is believed that Peter dictated this Gospel to Mark, his faithful amanuensis and gospel helper, while in Rome, about A. D. 63, some suppose his martyrdom stopped the work, and consequently some one took it on himself to finish it out somewhat after the order of Matthew’s, which had been written A. D. 48. From the simple fact that in all of this writing I have used the Greek Testament by Tischendorf, on the basis of the Sinaitic manuscript which he discovered in the Convent of St. Catherine, on Mt. Sinai, A. D. 1859, and has thrown a flood of light on the New Testament, being the oldest manuscript and the only one entire, and as it closes Mark’s Gospel with this eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, I shall neither quote nor expound the ensuing twelve verses; for, like John 8:1-11, and not a few other isolated passages, they are not in my book.

Matthew: Having quickly come out from the sepulcher, with fear and great joy, they were running to tell His disciples.” You see how these women take the report of the angels, and run with all expedition to render obedience. And while they were going to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Hail! And they having come, embraced His feet, and worshipped Him. Then Jesus says to them, Fear not; go, tell My brethren, that they may depart into Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” Luke: And returning from the sepulcher, they proclaimed these things to the eleven, and all the rest, And they were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women along with them, who continued to tell these things to the apostles. And their words appeared unto them like a dream, and they believed them not.” Though Jesus had three different times distinctly prophesied to them His crucifixion and resurrection, they had never understood it; but were all settled in the common conviction that the Christ would never die, but abide and reign forever. Luke says that these prophecies were withheld from them, so they understood them not. That was all right. It was absolutely necessary that these most salient facts of redeeming mercy should be prominent in the prophetical curriculum, which, along with miracles, constitutes the basis of all faith in the Christhood.

Then why withhold it from their understanding until after it was all over? Good reason! If the disciples had understood it, they would have fought, bled, and died in His defense. Thousands would have helped them, and a bloody civil war broken out at the time of His arrest. Through fear of the people, His enemies were often restrained from laying hands on Him, finally attacking Him at midnight, doing their best to kill Him before day; and despite the tardiness of Pilate and Herod, actually had Him nailed to the cross at the early hour of 9 A.M., Pilate finally signing His death-warrant as a sheer peace measure, as he saw the crowd gathering rapidly, and knew they were going to fight for Him, and thus involve the whole country in a terrible civil war. In the good providence of God, the prophecies revealing His crucifixion and resurrection were withheld from the understanding of His disciples till after the momentous tragedy of the world’s redemption was consummated. When they saw Him expire on the cross, they gave up all hope of His Messiahship, settling down in the conclusion that He was the greatest prophet the world ever saw and no more, so that when those women came and told them that He was absent from the sepulcher, and the angels had said He was risen, and that they had actually seen Him, their words seemed like a dream — the news was too good to be believed.


Verses 11-18

MARY MAGDALENE AGAIN AT THE SEPULCHER

John 20:11-18. And Mary stood at the sepulcher without, weeping, and while she continued to weep, she looked into the sepulcher, and saw two angels in white sitting down, the one at the head, and the one at the feet, where the body of Jesus lay. And they say to her, Woman, why do you weep? She says to them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have placed Him. And saying these words, she turned back, and saw Jesus standing, and did not know that it is Jesus. And Jesus said to her, Woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek? She, thinking that He is the gardener, says to Him, Sir, if Thou hast taken Him away, tell me where Thou hast placed Him, and I will take Him. Jesus says to her, Mary! Turning, she says to Him, Rabboni, which is called, Teacher. And Jesus says to her, Touch Me not: for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, I go up to My Father, and your Father; My God, and your God. Mary Magdalene comes, reporting to the disciples that she hath seen the Lord, and He hath spoken these things to her.” As John mentions no woman going to the sepulcher at any time except Mary Magdalene, and the other three mention Mary, the mother of James the Less, and Salome, the mother of James the Greater and John, we conclude that John simply mentions Mary Magdalene as the most prominent of the sisterly band.

Why did Jesus not want her to touch Him — “because He had not ascended to His Father?” Haptou, “touch,” also means “tarry with,” “cling to,” etc. The solution of the matter is about this: She thought that He had been up in heaven, and dropping down, like an angel, in a moment would suddenly be gone again. Consequently, anxious to enjoy the privilege of worshipping Him while present, she is in the act of falling at His feet, or, as Matthew says, when they first met Him in the garden, they actually embraced His feet. Hence He says: “Tarry not with Me; but go, tell My disciples that I am risen.”

Where had Jesus been since He died on the cross, Friday, at 3 P.M.? You see He had not been up to heaven. This corroborates quite a group of Scriptures in both Testaments, revealing His descension into Hades, and proclamation of His victory and triumph over hell; His entrance into the intermediate paradise and its abolishment; and the escort of the Old Testament saints with Him up to this world, when He received His body on the third morn.

We observe here some notable facts:

(a) The women were last at the cross and first at the sepulcher, and first to go and preach the risen Savior even to the apostles.

(b) The angels unscrupulously appeared to the women twice at the sepulcher, as we see they made two visits in quick succession — the one at the dawn, hastening back to tell the disciples; and the other so quickly after delivering their message that some think they actually arrived at the sepulcher the second time before Peter and John got there.

John describes two visits by Mary Magdalene, the angels being seen in both. Hence you see that while the angels appeared twice to the women, they always retreated away before the arrival of the men; thus illustrating, at least, the hypothetical conclusion of the ethical superiority of womanhood, which is certainly corroborated by the Word of God. God made man out of the earth and woman out of man, the second blessing in creation, man symbolizing justification and woman sanctification. Her ethical superiority is abundantly vindicated in all the transactions of life, where we find her, in every age and nation, pleading for truth, righteousness, mercy, and philanthropy amid the atrocities, brutality, and diabolism of the rougher sex.


Verses 19-23

JESUS APPEARS TO THE APOSTLES SUNDAY NIGHT

Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23. Then, it being evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors being shut where the disciples were assembled on account of the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be unto you!” Soon after the arrival of the two disciples from Emmaus, who at once joined Peter and the sisters in their testimony to the resurrection, Jesus climaxes all and puts every doubt to flight by standing in their midst, ringing out His familiar salutation, “Peace be unto you.”

Luke: And being affrighted and terrified, they were thinking that they see a spirit.” Such is the heterogeneity between mortality and immortality that the sight of an angel or a disembodied spirit always fills mortals with trepidation. And He said to them, Why are you disturbed? and why do reasonings arise in your heart? Behold My hands and My feet, that I am He; handle Me, and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see Me having.” When Omnipotence comes to the solution of all difficulties, faith should have complete swing. Christ appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in the fiery furnace with the Hebrew children nearly six hundred years before His incarnation, and actually visited Abraham at Mamre and ate with him, 1900 B. C., in both cases exhibiting a physical body so far as human senses could apprehend. Hence e need not conclude from this Scripture that His glorification was postponed till His ascension, as the facts are rather preponderant in favor of the conclusion that He was glorified when He arose from the dead. During the forty days, we read of His appearing to them but eleven times:

1. To the women.

2. To Mary Magdalene, and doubtless other women.

3. To Peter.

4. To Cleopas and his comrade at Emmaus.

5. To the twelve apostles.

6. On Sunday night, to the apostles and saints in their meeting.

7. On the Monday night a week following.

8. At the Sea of Galilee.

9. To the apostles and five hundred brethren in a Galilean mountain.

10. To James.

11. To all the apostles.

We are assured that He never lodged with them, and did not habitually eat with them after the resurrection; doubtless spending the nights and, so far as the record extends, at least nine-tenths of the day-time, in heaven.

Doubtless we have in the life of our Lord during these forty days a beautiful photograph of His millennial reign, when He will doubtless appear and disappear, ever and anon, in different parts of the world, and, I trow, much of the time will be absent in heaven. In a similar manner, the transfigured saints, who shall rule the world as the subordinates of Christ, since they will no longer need mortal food nor sleep, will ever and anon appear at their posts of duty during the day, disappearing ad libitum, and spending the night in heaven.

And they, still disbelieving and wondering from joy, He said to them, Have you here any food? And they gave Him a piece of baked fish; and taking it, He ate in their presence.” You see here the terrible struggle of their faith to apprehend and appropriate clearly and unequivocally the grand and paradoxical fact of His resurrection from the dead, and at the same time the conflict of overwhelming joy, inundating them with transporting rapture, thus the excitement antagonizing the necessary deliberation for faith to appropriate the glorious reality. This appeal to their senses by eating in their presence, we are to regard as a miracle for their conviction and the establishment of their faith, as we have no account of His eating except in this instance.

John 20:20. Saying this, He showed them His hands and His side, and His disciples rejoiced, seeing the Lord.” These appeals to their physical senses do not prove anything physical on His part, as you see He did the same to Abraham and Nebuchadnezzar, and even on a grander scale, long before His incarnation. We must not get so critical as to lay embargoes on Omnipotence.

Luke 24:44-45 : And He said to them, These are My words which I spoke to you, being yet with you, That it behooveth all things which have been written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me, to be fulfilled. Then He opened their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures.” Lord, help us to learn the indisputable fact that if Thou dost not open our minds, we will never understand the Scriptures. Preachers study till their heads are gray, and know so little about the Scriptures that an illiterate, sanctified Ethiopian would be an exceedingly profitable teacher. We must learn how to sit meek and lowly, like little children, at the feet of Jesus, trusting Him to open our minds, so we can understand His precious Word. The carnal wisdom of colleges will never reach the emergency.

And He said to them, that it has been thus written that Christ is to suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day; and that repentance unto the remission of sins is to be preached among all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” We here have the commission of our Lord, as given by Luke, in which repentance is the salient grace conducive to the remission of sins. The E. V. here omits eis, “unto,” much to the weakening of this wonderful passage, which Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles 2:38, parallels, Repent, and be baptized unto the remission of your sins;” the baptism being ceremonial and symbolic of the spiritual realities revealed in these two passages, in both of which Luke formulates repentance the condition and antecedent of remission, — in the one, Peter, on the day of Pentecost, using the verb; while here, in the commission, our Lord uses the noun, and commands His apostles and their successors to preach it to all nations; i. e., “repentance unto remission of sins.” This is in perfect harmony with Paul’s commission (Acts 18:26), in which he offers remission of sins and sanctification through faith alone. These two commissions are in perfect harmony, as repentance breaks off the yoke of Satan, and faith receives that of Christ, these two fundamental graces constituting the positive and negative poles of the salvation battery, the one always including the other.

You are witnesses of these things. And I send upon you the promise of the Father; and you abide in the city until you may be endued with dynamite from on high.” There are two Greek words prominently used and translated “power.” Here rite word is dunamis, Anglicized “dynamite.” This is certainly very significant of the wonderful blessing they received at Pentecost; i. e., the dynamite of heaven, which blows all inbred sin out of us. How dares any Church to send out a preacher before he has complied with this great commandment of the Infallible! You see plainly that our Lord provides for the sanctification of all his preachers before they go out to battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The only reason why we have not conquered the world long ago, and brought back the Lord in his millennial victory and glory to transform the world into a paradise, is because of the departure from the Divine order, preachers and elders having the audacity to take the management of the Church into their own hands and run it to suit themselves, actually treating with contempt the positive and unequivocal commandment of our Savior requiring every preacher, in prayer and humiliation, to await the heavenly enduement of Pentecostal dynamite; i. e., the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.

John 20:21-22. Then Jesus said to them again, Peace be unto you; as the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.” O the transcendent honor and the momentous responsibility of going in the room of Jesus, by Him invested and endued, as He was by His Father when He came on the earth, preaching the everlasting gospel! Saying this, He breathed on them, and says to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” We must not conclude that people do not receive the Holy Ghost in the regenerated experience. They do receive Him in a measure; while in sanctification He comes in His fullness to abide in the heart. You must remember that these apostles had all stumbled during that dark period from the Gethsemane midnight till the resurrection morn. He said to them, “You will all be offended in Me this night.” They were offended — i. e., stumbled — actually giving up their faith in His Christhood, and simply believed on Him as the greatest prophet the world had seen. Hence they needed the enduement of the Holy Ghost to restore and reestablish them in the faith of His Christhood.

Whosesoever sins you may remit, are remitted unto them; whosesoever sins you may retain, have been retained.” This passage has, by the Romanists, been pressed far into ritualism and priestcraft. The apostles and their successors, as He here says, were invested with the gospel commission to preach and work for Jesus till He returns in His glory. The Word is our authority. Hence, in the application of God’s revealed truth, there is a sense in which the called and sent minister, as the substitute and subordinate of Christ, does remit or retain sins. It is the key-power (Matthew 16) which Jesus committed to Peter and all the apostles, and to their successors to the end of time.


Verses 24-29

THOMAS IS CONVINCED

John 20:24-29. And Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. Then the other disciples continued to say to him, We have seen the Lord. And he said to them, Unless I may see the print of the nails in His hands, and thrust my finger into the place of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. Again, after eight days, His disciples were within, and Thomas was with them. Jesus comes, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you! Then He says to Thomas, Bring hither thy finger, and see My hands; and bring thy hand, and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas responded and said to Him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus says to him, Because you hast seest Me, thou hast believed; happy are thou not seeing, and believing.” This is the seventh appearing of our Lord after His resurrection, occurring eight days subsequently to His last manifestation on the night following the resurrection. Thomas was peculiar for looking on the dark side, he and Peter being at opposite poles of the battery. He was slow, but sure; moving cautiously, but holding every inch of ground with the tread of a conqueror. Historians contend that he proved the greatest apostle except Paul, most abundant in labor, traveling through Ethiopia, far up in Central Africa, and preaching extensively in Persia, a great country in Asia, and finally took vast and populous India for his field of labor, where God wonderfully blessed his ministry. At last, like his apostolical comrades in their respective fields of labor throughout the whole world, he sealed his faith with his blood, his body being interpenetrated by a cruel iron-bar thrust through him by the Brahmin priests, who saw that their religion was ruined if he continued to preach the Gospel in their country. Never did the world look down on more stalwart faith than that of Thomas after the fires of Pentecost consumed all his doubts.


Verse 30-31

CONCLUSION

John 20:30-31. “Then, indeed, Jesus truly performed many other miracles in presence of His disciples, which have not been written in this book; but these have been written, in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you may have life through His name.” Matthew wrote for the Jews in Judea, fifteen years after the ascension of our Lord. Mark wrote for the Romans, serving as Peter’s amanuensis, in Rome, thirty years after the ascension of our Lord. Luke wrote for the Greeks, while serving as the amanuensis of Paul, in Greece, twenty-five years after the ascension. John wrote for the Christians, while at Ephesus, near the end of his long and useful life, about sixty-five years after the ascension of our Lord. While the first three give a continuous history, John’s Gospel is much detached, as he aimed at nothing but salient, vital, spiritual truth, as he here says that he wrote just what is necessary to salvation. You all remember, the sum and substance of John’s Gospel is perfect love.

Notice the last verse of John’s Gospel, in E. V., chapter 21, verse 25: “But there are many other things, so many as Jesus did, which if they were written every one, I do not suppose that this world could contain the books written.” Of course, you have always looked upon this as an extravagant statement. While it is safe to conclude that only a tithe of our Savior’s miracles and preaching has come to us in the four Gospels — i. e., the salient and essential truths, the multum in parvo — yet you know that if everything had been written, a table a yard square would very conveniently contain the books. Let me settle all solicitude about this verse by simply stating to you that it is not in the original, but has evidently injudiciously been interpolated by a subsequent hand.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 20:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/john-20.html.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
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