John 20 – 21
The Lord Appears to Mary Magdalene (20:1-18)
- “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). Note: it isn’t that the Lord didn’t want human contact (v.27; Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:39), but rather He was making a symbolical point to Mary.
- “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. The spirit of our Lord was with the Father after He died, but ascension implies that He would go to the Father bodily.
- “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; “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).
- “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).
The Lord’s First Appearance to the Disciples: The Assembly Pictured (20:19-23)
- The first day of the week (v.19)
- Separation from Judaism (v.19)
- Gathered with the Lord in the midst, etc. (v.19)
- Peace in the soul and in service (v.19)
- Looking back on the finished work of Christ, the joy resulting (v.20)
- Sent out to this world with the gospel of peace (v.21)
- Resurrection life enjoyed by the power of the Holy Spirit (v.22)
- Power to remit and retain sins (v.23)
The Lord’s Second Appearance to the Disciples: The Jewish Remnant Pictured (20:24-29)
The Lord’s Third Appearance to the Disciples: The Millennium Pictured (21:1-25)
The Third Appearance. There is a marked progression of events in John 20 – 21, as v.14 suggests; “This is already the third time that Jesus had been manifested to the disciples, being risen from among the dead.” We can see first of all a dispensational picture through these chapters. The first appearance when Thomas was absent is a type of the church, and the full revelation of the Father to them. The second appearance to restore Thomas is a type of the Jewish remnant, restored to the Lord after His visible manifestation. But this third appearance “after these things” is a type of the millennial ingathering from the sea of Gentiles, through the work of restored Israel on earth, pictures by the seven disciples in a boat.9 It is very striking that the scene changes to Galilee, rather than Judea. The Spirit of God causes John to write about a scene that was quite different from the scenes that John ordinarily recorded. The scene is connected with Christ’s ministry on earth, which is very similar to the synoptic gospels. This is perhaps because of the dispensational significance of the scene, which presents the work of Christ in the Millennium, gathering a multitude from the sea of the gentiles! “But if their fall be the world’s wealth, and their loss the wealth of the nations, how much rather their fulness?” (Rom. 11:12). But in addition to the dispensational overview, there are many practical lessons that come across.
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. vv,7-8 The Disciples Come to the Shore. When John saw the miracle of the nets, he immediately connected it with the Lord, and concluded that it was indeed the Lord standing on the shore. It is notable that John again styles himself “that disciple whom Jesus loved”. Perhaps we can take a practical less from this: an appreciation of the Lord’s love for us will lead to moral discernment of His ways in our life. John knew by the character of the events (the draught of fishes) that it was the Lord’s hand at work! Peter, who had led the disciples on the fishing expedition and was no doubt excited by the events, may have be slower to realize the Person responsible. But when he heard that it was the Lord, Peter in his characteristic energy and impulsiveness, was the first to act! But in his haste Peter was still careful to be dressed appropriately in the Lord’s presence. Peter “girded his overcoat on him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea”. He would not wait for the boat! Peter was second to the tomb, but first to the shore. The other disciples also came with the small boat, bringing the fish to land.
- The Lord asks Peter if he loved Him more than the other disciples. The Lord used the word ‘agápe’, which is the highest form of love. Peter was reduced to simply replying “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I am attached to thee”. He doesn’t pretend to love Christ more than the others, and he uses the word ‘phileo’, which is more the thought of affection, rather than a settled disposition. Peter was acknowledging that it appeared outwardly than he did not love the Lord, because be had denied the Lord. It required the omniscience of the Lord to know Peter’s heart, but there was affection there. The Lord then encouraged Peter in a pastoral ministry; “Feed my lambs”.
- The Lord asked Peter a second time if he loved the Lord. This time, there was no reference to the other disciples. It was not a question of the superiority of Peter’s love, but if he loved the Lord at all. This was even deeper and more painful for Peter. Again, Peter replied with the same words, now recognizing that only the Lord could see the reality of his affection. Again the Lord encourages Peter, “Shepherd my sheep”.
- The Lord asked Peter a third time if he loved the Lord, but this time He used Peter’s own expression; “Simon, son of Jonas, art thou attached to me?” He used the word ‘phileo’, which is a lower kind of love, more like the love of a friend. The Lord was now questioning, for Peter’s benefit, whether Peter was even confident in his affection for the Lord! The Lord was reducing Peter even further, and it was painful; “Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Art thou attached to me?” Peter’s reply shows a deeper admission of his own failure; “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I am attached to thee”. His heart condemned him (1 John 3:20). The additional word ‘ginosko’ (objective knowledge) is used in this third response, showing that Peter is leaning harder on the sovereignty of God. Jesus then said to Peter, “Feed my sheep”.
- 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.
- Some commentators suggest that Peter and John may have believed after a human order that Jesus had risen, but it was not the same as Divine faith. But Peter seems, though amazed, to have taken in the import of what he observed as well as John. They both went beyond Mary of Magdala and inferred that He must have risen; not that either Joseph and Nicodemus on the one hand, nor that the Jews or Romans on the other, had taken away the Lord’s body. On ground of the apparent facts, they rightly accounted for the disappearance of His body. But in neither was there that character of faith in His resurrection which springs from laying hold of God’s word. The former was human, the latter Divine, because in this alone is God believed, which gives Him His true place and puts us in ours. – Kelly, W. The Gospel of John.
- 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.
- Kelly, William. Exposition of the Gospel of John. p.369
- “’The law of the Spirit of life’ is the phrase of the apostle Paul. This is the very life, as John tells us, that was here given. If in being born again (John 3) one was born of water and Spirit, much more was it here the Holy Ghost received; but it was the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Life. It was not the Spirit of external power… What the Holy Ghost then did was simply communicating life according to its resurrection power and character through Jesus Christ, the Second man risen from the dead.” – Kelly, William. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Lectures on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Lecture 5. Bible Truth Publishers, 1975.
- “The Spirit as the power of life in Christ Jesus (the last Adam breathing upon them, as God once breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, would suggest strongly this connection with life) — of life now theirs (the same life as before, but) in a wholly new position in a risen Christ.” – Trench, J.A. Life and the Spirit. Words of Faith 1884, p.197-221.
- “The truth of risen life in Christ and the coming of the Holy Ghost are distinct; but now that both are fulfilled the divine order is the knowledge of the remission of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost, and thus the two are inseparable. Then I know, or may know, that I am in Christ; whereas the forgiveness known before by the gospel is of past sins – what my conscience needed. The life we receive is in Christ risen, but I am not consciously — much more than knowledge – in John 20:22, now that the Holy Ghost is come, till I receive the Holy Ghost. Rom. 8 puts them inseparably together.” – Darby, J.N. Letters of J.N. Darby: Volume 3, number 321. Philadelphia, 1875.
- “Such then is, we apprehend, the truth of this scene and action. What the disciples received in this way was the Holy Spirit as the power of life, corresponding with what we find in Rom. 8:1-11; to receive the indwelling Spirit as power, as the anointing, as well as the earnest, the seal, and the Spirit of adoption, they had yet to wait until the day of Pentecost. And hence it was not until Pentecost that they were brought into the full Christian position.” – Dennett, Edward. Scripture Notes. The Christian’s Friend, 1888.
- The reader will notice that the connection is immediate and marked with the two previous manifestations of the risen Lord. First, we have seen Him (after making Himself known to Mary of Magdala and sending by her a most characteristic message to His disciples) standing in their midst when gathered together, without seeing Him enter, on the first or resurrection day of the week, in their enjoyment of peace and the mission of peace in the power of the Spirit to remit and retain sins in His name. Secondly, we have seen Him eight days after meeting His disciples again when Thomas was there, representing saved Israel of the latter day who only believe by the sight of Him risen. Now we have the beautiful picture of the millennial ingathering from the sea of Gentiles, which follows the Jews returning as such to the Lord, as all prophecy leads us to expect. The third scene follows in due order the second, on which the future truth conveyed by it hangs as a consequence, as here said to be “after these things.” – Kelly, W. The Gospel of John.
- The fact that it says “Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples” would indicate that the disciple named “Nathanael” of Cana of Galilee is the same person elsewhere called Bartholomew. As we find in John 1, Nathanael is a type of Israel; “under the fig tree”.
- Historical accounts including the apocryphal Acts of Peter indicate that Peter, at the time of his martyrdom, requested to be crucified upside down. However, as v.23 shows, those early historical accounts are often unreliable.