John 20 – 21

The Resurrection and Appearances of Christ
John 20 – 21
Christ's Resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is vital to Christianity because it is the proof that our sins are gone, and that God is satisfied with the work of Calvary. The Lord rose bodily from the dead, not merely in spirit, as some have taught through the ages. When Paul summed up the gospel that he preached, he said that he preached Christ who died, was buried, and had risen from the dead; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 17, Romans 10:9. When comparing Christianity to other religions we should ask ourselves: where is Confucius? Where is Buddha? Where is Muhammad? They are all dead. We have a Savior who was raised from among the dead - His tomb is empty. Christ's suffering and death was the payment of our debt, but His resurrection is the receipt that proves our debt was paid; “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Not only is the resurrection critical to justification, but Paul shows that it is also critical to the resurrection of believers, because Christ is "risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). It is really a cornerstone of the Christian faith; "but if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). What would we have for our faith if the gospels said nothing of Christ's resurrection?

The Lord Appears to Mary Magdalene (20:1-18)

And on the first day of the week Mary of Magdala comes in early morn to the tomb, while it was still dark, and sees the stone taken away from the tomb. 2 She runs therefore and comes to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, to whom Jesus was attached, and says to them, They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him. vv.1-2 The Stone Rolled Away. Mary Magdalene come to the tomb in the early hours (probably between 4 AM and 6 AM) while it was still dark. It was “on the first day of the week”, which began at our 6 PM of the previous day. It shows her devotion to Christ! Mary Magdalene (of of whom the Lord cast seven demons, representing complete bondage) is characterized by affection for and devotion to Christ. Mary of Bethany on the other hand is characterized by intelligence as a result of nearness to Christ. It was she who anointed the Lord’s body for burial in John 12. Mary of Bethany is conspicuously absent from the Lord’s tomb; she had already prepared Jesus’ body for burial! But was see in Mary Magdalene a strong devotion to Christ; an attachment that could not be broken by death! She found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and ran immediately to Simon Peter and John (who styles himself “the other disciple, to whom Jesus was attached”) to tell them the body of Jesus was gone. She jumped to a conclusion that the body was stolen; “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him.” Her mind did not comprehend the possibility of resurrection. Notice that the resurrection of Christ took place in the night time, when man could not see. Like the three dark hours on the cross, this too was a scene not intended for the eyes of man, when “Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6:4).
3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and came to the tomb. 4 And the two ran together, and the other disciple ran forward faster than Peter, and came first to the tomb, 5 and stooping down he sees the linen cloths lying; he did not however go in. 6 Simon Peter therefore comes, following him, and entered into the tomb, and sees the linen cloths lying, 7 and the handkerchief which was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded up in a distinct place by itself. 8 Then entered in therefore the other disciple also who came first to the tomb, and he saw and believed; 9 for they had not yet known the scripture, that he must rise from among the dead. vv.3-9 Peter and John at the Tomb. Peter and John ran together to the tomb. It is noted that John outran Peter, but waited for Peter to enter the tomb first. The key to understanding John’s speed (apart from his natural youth, likely between 17 and 20 years) may be in the way John styles himself; “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” (v.2). Appreciating the Lord’s love for us will produce far more spiritual energy than our own determination to follow Christ. However, John’s timidity held him back from entering the tomb, or perhaps his respect for Peter as an older man, and this meant John had only a partial picture; “he sees the linen cloths lying”. Peter’s boldness led him straight in, and he had the fill picture; “the linen cloths lying, and the handkerchief which was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded up in a distinct place by itself”. These details are given to show that Jesus’ body was not stolen away hurriedly. He rose from the dead in a controlled and orderly fashion!1 John followed Peter inside, and he also saw the empty tomb, the state of the grave-clothes, and he too believed that Jesus was risen. Both Peter and John believed when they saw the signs. It says that both Peter and John “had not yet known the scripture, that he must rise from among the dead”. We might wonder how this could be, seeing that Jesus had told them, or others in their presence, many times (John 2:18-22; Matthew 12:39-40; 16:21; John 10:17, 18). It is one thing to hear the scripture, but another thing to know them. It required these visible proofs to make Peter and John understand what Jesus had said.
10 The disciples therefore went away again to their own home. 11 But Mary stood at the tomb weeping without. As therefore she wept, she stooped down into the tomb, 12 and beholds two angels sitting in white garments, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. vv.10-12 Two Angels. The Spirit of God brings out a helpful contrast between the two disciples (Peter and John) and Mary. The disciples believed that Jesus was risen, but this knowledge was not enough to hold them at the tomb; they “went away again to their own home”. Mary on the other hand was ignorant of the resurrection. All she knew was that the body was gone, but her affection for Christ was superior to the disciples. She stood outside the tomb, weeping. Her heart was so attached to Christ that nothing could distract her attention. Christ Himself was her home; she had no other place to go, and she entered the tomb. The sight that greeted her was “two angels sitting in white garments, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain”. This reminds us of the very construction of the ark (Ex. 25:19-20), two angels, one at the head and the other at the foot of the mercy seat, looking down at the mercy seat, looking for the sprinkled blood. These two angels were looking down at the place where the body of Jesus had lain; the work had been finished, and as proof of it, the dead Christ was raised from among the dead!
How many angels were there? By comparing all four gospels we see that there were two angels. The soldiers saw only one angel in the night. Mary Magdalene saw two angels "while it was yet dark" (John 20:1). After sunrise, the other Mary and Salome saw one angel outside the tomb saying "Come, see the place..." (Matt. 28:6) and another inside saying "Behold the place" (Mark 16:6). The other women saw two angels after they arrived (Luke 24:4). How many angels were there? Two. However, the two are not always mentioned together.
13 And they say to her, Woman, why dost thou weep? She says to them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 Having said these things she turned backward and beholds Jesus standing there, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus says to her, Woman, why dost thou weep? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing that it was the gardener, says to him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus says to her, Mary. She, turning round, says to him in Hebrew, Rabboni, which means Teacher. vv.13-16 Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene. The angels asked Mary why she was weeping. Her simple reply revealed both her ignorance, and her deep affection for Christ. The cause of her weeping was that she could no longer have the Jesus she had come to love. She was ignorant of His resurrection. She was weeping because she did not understand what had taken place. So Jesus approached Mary, and asked “Woman, why dost thou weep? Whom seekest thou?” Mary thought thought He was “the gardener”, and apparently turned back toward the tomb (v.16). Her ignorance blinded her as to this One’s true identity. She was looking for one who had died, not One who had risen!2 One word was all that Jesus needed to turn her around again; “Mary”. His sheep knew His voice, when He called her by name. She turned, and saw the Lord. We need to be reoriented as well. We need to realize that Jesus is risen, and that He is not just the gardener. He would then explain (vv.17-18) what wonderful changes had taken place. But the beautiful lesson with Mary is this: affection for Christ is met by gracious revelation.
Are You Seeking a Risen Jesus? Often in the experience of a young convert, especially a person who was saved from a legal background, there is something similar to Mary’s experience. In her sorrow, she failed to grasp the reality of Christ’s resurrection. She was grasping after a dead Christ, because that was all she had known. When a soul first realizes that all their rules and regulations are wiped away in the cross of Christ, there is a sense of loss. They feel that, in a sense, their life is over; “They have taken away my Lord”. How am I going to get along without those things? The solution is to realize that Jesus is risen! Our association with Him is on resurrection ground, not on the ground of nature or man’s religion. Are you looking for a Jesus “after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16)? In the new creation, we don’t know Christ in that way. 
17 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 ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. 18 Mary of Magdala comes bringing word to the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her. vv.17-18 The Message from the Risen Christ. The message that Jesus gave to Mary, part of which she was to bring to the disciples (a picture of the assembly) has several parts:
  1. “Touch me not”. Mary was not touch the Lord because although He was the same Person she had come to love, He was not what she was grasping after. Before the cross, Christ was presented to Israel as their Messiah, the One who could make good Israel’s hopes. But as Christians, we are not to persist in thinking of the Lord as only an earthly Messiah (see 2 Cor. 5:16).
  2. “Not yet ascended”. The glorification of Christ (and the consequent sending of the Holy Ghost) is in view. It is as a glorified man in heaven that Christ is the head of the Church.
  3. “Go to my brethren”. The disciples are associated with Christ in resurrection as His “brethren”. In Christianity we are brought into the new creation race of which Christ is the head.
  4. “My Father and your Father, my God and your God”. The disciples are given to share Christ’s own relationship with God as Father. This truth is of paramount importance; that we know God as our Father. This is not a relationship that Old Testament saints enjoyed. Abraham and Isaac knew God as El-Shaddai. Israel knew God as Jehovah. But we can call God our Father; “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3). This is true because we have eternal life, and the Holy Spirit as the power of that life. It is this truth that gathers the disciples together (v.19; see John 11:52).
A Synopsis of Events. By comparing all four gospels, we get a comprehensive outline of the events that unfolded surrounding the resurrection of Christ, the angelic appearances, and the appearances of Christ. Often these passages are picked at by infidel scoffers to undermine faith in the Divine record. When we study it, all the details fit together perfectly, and yet each gospel maintains its own slant. Following is a brief synopsis. On what was our Saturday evening, at "the dusk of the next day after sabbath", the two Marys came to the sepulchre, and then went home (Matt. 28:1). Apparently, they brought spices with them (Mark 16:1), and left them there. Early the next morning "when it was still dark" (John 20:1), Mary Magdalene came and saw the stone removed and the body gone. She ran to tell Peter and John. Peter and John came to the tomb to investigate, but did not know the scripture, and therefore remained dumbfounded. They returned home. However, Mary remained by the tomb weeping. She stooped down to look in and saw two angels, one at the head and the other at the foot of where the Lord had lain (John 20:12). This was a special vision, which only Mary Magdalene saw. The two angels asked her why she was weeping. Then the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden (although she didn't recognize Him at first), and told her to go to the disciples and declare that He was about to ascend to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Mark 16:10 makes it clear that Jesus "appeared first to Mary of Magdala". Then, after "the rising of the sun", the other Mary and Salome arrived (the three are grouped together in the synoptic gospels). One angel was outside the tomb, which Matthew notes as saying "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Mark speaks of the other angel (called a man) sitting at the right side of the place, who says "Behold the place where they laid him". Both angels are accounted for. Mary the wife of Cleopas and Salome (Joanna) get a different message from Mary Magdalene; "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said to you" (Mark 16:7). Then other women arrived who had travelled from Galilee, grouped with the former three, but called "the others with them" (Luke 24:10). These women apparently brought more spices in addition to those brought by the women on the previous evening (Luke 24:1). These ones also stood dumbfounded for a moment, and then "two men suddenly stood by them in shining raiment" (Luke 24:4). It would be the same two angels, now together again. These other women receive still yet a different message; more of a rebuke for their not believing the Lord's words. All the women went together to the eleven apostles (Luke 24:10). At first, they ran with the mixed emotions of fear and joy. But then Jesus met them on the way, saying "Hail" (rejoice), and "fear not" (Matt. 28:8-10). The women delivered their respective messages, but the eleven refused to believe them (Mark 16:11). Peter rose up, and perhaps a few others with him (Luke 24:24), and went to the tomb again, but was still bewildered; i.e. he "wondered at these things" (Luke 24:12). When Peter returned from his second visit, the Lord met him and had a private interview (Luke 24:34). After that, the Lord appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-35), and then "that same day at evening" to the apostles gathered behind closed doors (John 20:19).

The Lord’s First Appearance to the Disciples (Thomas Absent) (20:19-25)

19 When therefore it was evening on that day, which was the first day of the week, and the doors shut where the disciples were, through fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you. 20 And having said this, he shewed to them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced therefore, having seen the Lord. 21 Jesus said therefore again to them, Peace be to you: as the Father sent me forth, I also send you. 22 And having said this, he breathed into them, and says to them, Receive the Holy Spirit: 23 whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. vv.19-23 You have all the elements of the assembly here, although it was not yet formed because pentecost was not come.
  1. The first day of the week
  2. Separation from Judaism
  3. gathered with The lord in the midst, etc.
  4. Peace with God
  5. Sent out to this world with the message of peace
  6. Resurrection life enjoyed by the power of the holy ghost
  7. Power to remit and retain sins.
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 

The Lord’s Second Appearance to the Disciples (Thomas Present) (20:26-29)

26 And eight days after, his disciples were again within, and Thomas with them. Jesus comes, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be to you. 27 Then he says to Thomas, Bring thy finger here and see my hands; and bring thy hand and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing. 28 Thomas answered and said to him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus says to him, Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed they who have not seen and have believed. 30 Many other signs therefore also Jesus did before his disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name. 

The Lord’s Third Appearance to the Disciples (On the Sea of Galilee) (John 21) 

After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. And he manifested himself thus. 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter says to them, I go to fish. They say to him, We also come with thee. They went forth, and went on board, and that night took nothing. 4 And early morn already breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; the disciples however did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus therefore says to them, Children, have ye anything to eat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said to them, Cast the net at the right side of the ship and ye will find. They cast therefore, and they could no longer draw it, from the multitude of fishes. 7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved says to Peter, It is the Lord. Simon Peter therefore, having heard that it was the Lord, girded his overcoat on him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea; 8 and the other disciples came in the small boat, for they were not far from the land, but somewhere about two hundred cubits, dragging the net of fishes. 9 When therefore they went out on the land, they see a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus says to them, Bring of the fishes which ye have now taken. 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to the land full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty-three; and though there were so many, the net was not rent. 12 Jesus says to them, Come and dine. But none of the disciples dared inquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus comes and takes the bread and gives it to them, and the fish in like manner. 14 This is already the third time that Jesus had been manifested to the disciples, being risen from among the dead. 15 When therefore they had dined, Jesus says to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He says to him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I am attached to thee. He says to him, Feed my lambs. 16 He says to him again a second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He says to him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I am attached to thee. He says to him, Shepherd my sheep. 17 He says to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, art thou attached to me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Art thou attached to me? and said to him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I am attached to thee. Jesus says to him, Feed my sheep. 18 Verily, verily, I say to thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst where thou desiredst; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and bring thee where thou dost not desire. 19 But he said this signifying by what death he should glorify God. And having said this, he says to him, Follow me. 20 Peter, turning round, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned at supper on his breast, and said, Lord, who is it that delivers thee up? 21 Peter, seeing him, says to Jesus, Lord, and what of this man22 Jesus says to him, If I will that he abide until I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. 23 This word therefore went out among the brethren, That disciple does not die. And Jesus did not say to him, He does not die; but, If I will that he abide until I come, what is that to thee? 24 This is the disciple who bears witness concerning these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his witness is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written. v.25 John’s Gospel begins with the infinitude of Christ’s Person and ends with the infinitude of His works.
  1. There may be an application of the napkin and linen clothes as well. The napkin was for the head, and the clothes were for the body. We don’t have the ascension in John’s gospel but perhaps this is a little hint that Christ the Head (napkin) would be separated from the body (linen clothes) for a short time.
  2. A gardener is someone who attends to the things of nature to keep life running smoothly; to maintain a place of pleasantness in a world of pain. Jesus is not merely our gardener.