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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 20

 

 

Verses 1-17

He is risen

John 20:1-17

John 20:1. Our Lord was laid in the tomb toward the close of the sixth day of the week (Friday), a stone was rolled to the door, and guards were placed outside the tomb (Matthew 27:59-66). He lay in the tomb all the Sabbath day and arose on the first day of the week. His resurrection confirms all his claims (Romans 1:4), denotes the Father's acceptance of his work (Acts 17:31), and assures every believer of his own resurrection (John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The women were prevented from coming to the tomb to anoint the body (Luke 23:55-56) because of the Jewish Sabbath laws. But a few hours after the Sabbath was over, while it was still dark, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1) came to the grave and found the stone rolled away (Matthew 28:2-4).

John 20:2. After looking into the sepulchre and seeing that the body of Jesus was gone, Mary ran to tell the disciples. John says nothing about the other women nor about the angels which appeared to them and said, ‘The Lord is risen,’ as reported by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mary found the disciples and addressed Peter and John, telling them that someone had taken away the body of the Lord; and she added, ‘We know not where they have taken him.’

John 20:3-4. Peter and John immediately left the house to go to the tomb to investigate the report brought by the women. Being the younger of the two, John outran Peter and came first to the tomb.

John 20:5-8. John came first to the sepulchre but did not enter. He stooped down, looked in, and saw the linen grave clothes in which the body of the Lord had been wrapped; yet he went not in but waited for Peter. When Peter arrived at the tomb, he rushed in and John followed him. The linen clothes were lying in one place, and the napkin which was about his head was folded and placed separately from the wrappings. This was not the work of thieves nor officials, for the body would not have been unwrapped nor such care taken with the linen and napkin. What they observed was the work of one in no hurry, but with thought, care, and composure laid aside these emblems of death and came forth. John reports what he saw and declared that he believed. What did John believe? That the Lord had actually risen from the dead or the report of the women that someone had removed the body?

John 20:9-10. It is difficult to say what these disciples believed; for John writes here that even though the Lord had told them that he would arise from the grave and they found not his body, they did not fully understand the scriptures and the types of the Old Testament by which his resurrection was foretold and pictured (Psalms 16:10; Jonah 2:10; Matthew 12:39-40; Matthew 16:21-22; Luke 24:11; Luke 24:22-25). John and Peter returned to their own homes.

John 20:11-12. Mary returned to the sepulchre; and after Peter and John had departed, she remained there weeping, not knowing that the Lord had risen but thinking that the body had been removed by someone. She stooped down and looked again into the tomb and saw two angels. One was sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body had been laid (Luke 24:3-6).

John 20:13. The angel asked her, ‘Why do you weep?’ There is no cause to weep but to rejoice, for the Lord is risen! What a commentary on our carnality and unbelief! With no remembrance of the Lord's promise to rise, ignoring the presence of these heavenly beings, and making no inquiry as to why they were there, she continued to weep and say, ‘They have taken away my Lord's body, and I don't know where they have taken him.’

John 20:14. Perhaps she heard someone behind her, or perhaps one of the angels pointed behind her; but as soon as these words were out of her mouth, she turned around and the Lord Jesus was standing before her. She knew not that it was Christ. Why? I do not know. Perhaps her eyes were swollen and filled with tears, perhaps through modesty she kept her head lowered, perhaps the light was dim, perhaps she did not expect him and he was clothed differently, or perhaps her eyes were holden as the disciples' eyes in Luke 24:16.

John 20:15. The Lord asked her, ‘Why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?’ Mary, supposing him to be the gardener or caretaker, replied, ‘Sir, if you have removed the body of my Lord, tell me where you have taken him and I will care for the body.’

John 20:16-17. Then the Lord Jesus called her by name in such a way as she had heard many times before; and she knew Him, crying, ‘Rabboni – my Master.’ Mary evidently fell at his feet as she had done so often and would cling to him in joy, with reverence, and possessively. He replied, ‘There is not reason to cling to me and try to hold me to you and with you. I am not yet ascended to the right hand in glory but will be with you for awhile. You will have opportunity enough to see me, hear me, and touch me before my ascension.’ At this time the Lord would have her go and tell his disciples all that she had seen and that he would soon ascend to his Father and their Father – to his God and their God. Because of his mercy and grace, all that is his is ours who believe. Because of our identification with him as our representative and Redeemer, his Father is our Father – fully reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 8:34).


Verses 18-23

Peace be unto you

John 20:18-23

John 20:18. This was the first appearance of our Lord after his resurrection (Mark 16:9). Matthew tells of another appearance to the women as they went to tell his disciples (Matthew 28:9-10). Luke wrote that he appeared to two disciples as they were going to Emmaus, also mentioned by Mark (Mark 16:12-13). These appearances were all on the same day on which he arose. The Apostle Paul reports several appearances of Christ during the time between his resurrection and ascension (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).

John 20:19. On that same Sunday evening the disciples were assembled in a certain place with the doors securely shut and locked. The Jews had taken their Master's life; and they feared that they may be next, especially since it was rumored that they had stolen his body. Our Lord came, stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be unto you.’ There is no indication that he came through the door without opening it. This would deny the very thing he said to them in Luke 24:39-43. He is the man Christ Jesus–glorified, but flesh and bones. The locks, bars, and bolts on the doors simply gave way to him and let him in. The stone was rolled away that he might come forth from the grave. He did not walk through the stone.

John 20:20. When he had greeted them, he showed them the scars on his hands made by the nails when he was crucified and the wound in his side made by the spear of the soldier. Luke adds that he showed them the scars on his feet also (Luke 24:40). The primary reason for showing the disciples his wounds was to convince them that he had indeed risen and that the reports given by the women and the two disciples (which they did not believe–Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:11) were true. But the wounds and scars of our Lord Jesus are and will remain as proof of his great love for those whom he redeemed and evidence of our full salvation in him (Isaiah 53:4-6). The disciples rejoiced and were glad when it finally dawned on them that it was their Lord and that he was alive.

John 20:21. ‘Peace be unto you’ was a usual salutation among the Jews (Genesis 43:23); but our Lord repeated it after he had showed them his hands and feet to show that notwithstanding their forsaking Him, denying Him, and not believing his word, he was indeed reconciled to them, loved them, and they had peace with God (Romans 5:1). It also may have reference to the gospel of peace, which they would preach to all nations; for he continued, ‘As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.’ The Father sent the Son into the world to redeem his covenant people; now the Son sends his disciples into the world to preach the gospel of Christ to those people that they might believe and be saved (2 Timothy 2:9-10). How was their mission like his?

1. Their authority is both divine–God sent them.

2. They are both sent into the same place–the world.

3. They would be treated the same–hated and killed.

4. Their ministry, like his, would be confirmed by miracles and wonders (Hebrews 2:3-4).

5. They were sent to preach the gospel, which gospel heals, delivers, and sets men free (Luke 4:18).

John 20:22-23. When he had set before them this awesome task of which Paul said, ‘Who is sufficient for these things,’ he breathed on them. The word ‘Spirit’ signifies breath. As God breathed into Adam the breath of life, our Lord breathed into his apostles the Holy Spirit of God (John 3:8). The disciples had before received the Spirit of God in regeneration and in sanctification, and even had worked miracles. They had believed Christ and confessed Him, which is impossible apart from the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). As indicated by the words of Christ, ‘Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,’ these disciples had the Holy Spirit, power, discernment of spirits, the gift of tongues, and authority which ordinary ministers and Christians since that day cannot with any truth and modesty pretend to have. Read in the New Testament of their discernment of men's hearts and spirits (Acts 5:3-5). Read of their speaking in languages they never learned, of casting out demons and raising the dead (Acts 16:16-18; Acts 20:9-12), and of their authority expressed in their epistles to the churches, which epistles are verily the word of God without error or contradiction. The Holy Spirit was upon these apostles as upon no other men, and they had revelations and authority as given to no other men. However, Christ did not give them the authority or power to forgive sins; this is not what he is saying. Only God can forgive sin, and that through the blood and righteousness of Christ. And without true repentance toward God and faith in Christ, no man's sins are forgiven. The power here is the power of discernment beyond the ordinary, outward signs. There are no apostles today and really no need for such; for the gospel of Christ has been preached, confirmed by God, and the scriptures are complete. Let those who would hear from God hear his word: and let those who would see God glorified, sinners saved, and believers confirmed, preach the word; for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; Romans 10:13-17).


Verses 24-31

My Lord and my God

John 20:24-31

John 20:24. Our Lord had appeared to his disciples, convinced them that he had indeed risen from the dead, and given them the Holy Spirit to empower them for their ministry to the world; but Thomas, one of the twelve, was not present with them when the Lord appeared. There is no way of knowing where he was nor why he was not there, but there is a lesson to be learned from his absence. He missed the joy of seeing the risen Lord. He missed hearing our Lord's words of peace. He missed the peace and assurance itself as evidenced by his words in the next verse, ‘I will not believe.’ Paul exhorts believers to ‘forsake not the assembling of ourselves together’ (Hebrews 10:25). Such neglect leads to spiritual leanness, snares and temptations, and missed blessings.

John 20:25. The disciples found Thomas, and with great joy and assurance of faith, told him that they had ‘seen the Lord.’ They not only had the testimony of the women and the angels, but they saw him with their own eyes. But Thomas replied, ‘Except I shall see the print of the nails and touch those scars in his hands and side, I will not believe.’ Thomas was present at the raising of Lazarus and had heard Christ himself say that he would rise from the dead, and now he had the testimony of his ten friends that Christ had risen; but he did not believe. How great is the sin of unbelief and how stubborn is the human heart! Paul calls it an evil heart, which does not believe the Lord (Hebrews 3:12). Thank God, he overrules our unbelief and is faithful to us when we are not faithful to him (2 Timothy 2:13).

John 20:26. The disciples were together on the first day of the week (the day of Christ's resurrection), and the Lord had appeared unto them. We find them together again on this same day, probably in the same place, hoping that he would come to them again. This time Thomas was with them! Evidently the disciples began from that day and experience to meet on Sunday. It appears from Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 that the Christians met the first day of the week for preaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and praise. We do not read in the New Testament of any congregation of Christians meeting on the Jewish Sabbath. We find the apostles preaching to the Jews assembled on that day, but no record is found of Christians meeting on that day for religious exercises. The Lord again stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be unto you.’

John 20:27. Our Lord knew (as he knows all things) the conversation which had taken place with Thomas. He knew the very words which Thomas had spoken concerning the prints of the nails and the wound in his side; and with compassion toward his weakness and infirmities, in a kind and tender way, the Lord addressed Thomas, ‘Reach hither and touch the scars with your own hands and be not faithless, but believing.’ Faith glorifies and pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith in the Lord Jesus justifies the soul (Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1). Faith saves (Luke 7:50). Faith brings the blessings of God upon us (Mark 9:23; Luke 17:5-6). Unbelief is the root of evil, dishonors God, makes the word of no effect, and damns the soul (Mark 16:15-16).

John 20:28. We are not told that Thomas carried out his intentions: but rather, astonished at the Lord's grace, ashamed of his unbelief, and in total faith and confidence he exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God.’ ‘My Lord,’ to whom I yield myself in total submission, and ‘my God,’ whom I worship and believe. We are told that this is the first time the name God is given to Christ by a man. By his resurrection he is declared to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4). Thomas, who doubted so strongly, was the first to acknowledge Christ to be ‘God overall blessed forever.’

John 20:29. There were many who saw the Lord Jesus and the miracles he did who did not believe him nor follow him. Thomas was blessed by God's grace to truly and sincerely believe Christ as a result of seeing the risen Lord. Our Lord acknowledged Thomas' faith, but with a gentle rebuke declares that they are more blessed who believe him though they have not seen him in the flesh. They believe his word, his gospel, and his promises. The less need faith has of evidences that appeal to the senses, the stronger it is (Romans 10:17; Romans 4:20-21; Hebrews 11:1).

John 20:30. Whether John is speaking of the signs and wonders that Christ did in the presence of his disciples during the forty days between his resurrection and his ascension or if he refers to all the wonders, works, and words of our Lord during his time on this earth, we do not know. But it is certain that this book John has written could not contain them, nor all the books in the world (John 21:25).

John 20:31. These words that I have written under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20-21) are written that you might believe in your heart (Romans 10:9-10) that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ – promised, prophesied, and pictured in the Old Testament – and that he is Emmanuel, ‘God with us’ (Acts 8:37). This heart faith in Jesus Christ is of great concern because eternal life depends upon it. By believing on Christ and through his blessed name, we have eternal life, access to the throne, and acceptance before God (Acts 2:36; Acts 4:11-12; Romans 3:19-24; Romans 4:22-25; 1 John 5:10-13).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 20:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-20.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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