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John 20:1-31 (web)

Jesus' Resurrection: Part I

The Empty Tomb

1  Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early,
while it was still dark, to the tomb, and saw the stone taken away from the tomb.
2  Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter,
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them,
"They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb,
and we donít know where they have laid him!"
3  Therefore Peter and the other disciple went out, and they went toward the tomb.
4  They both ran together. The other disciple outran Peter, and came to the tomb first.
5  Stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying, yet he didnít enter in.
6  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered into the tomb.
He saw the linen cloths lying,
7  and the cloth that had been on his head,
not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.
8  So then the other disciple who came first to the tomb also entered in,
and he saw and believed.
9  For as yet they didnít know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Mary Encounters the Resurrected Christ

10  So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11  But Mary was standing outside at the tomb weeping.
So, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb,
12  and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head,
and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13  They told her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord,
and I donít know where they have laid him."
14  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing,
and didnít know that it was Jesus.
15  Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?"
She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him,
"Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
16  Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned and said to him, "Rhabbouni!" which is to say, "Teacher!"
17  Jesus said to her, "Donít touch me, for I havenít yet ascended to my Father;
but go to my brothers, and tell them,
ĎI am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.í"
18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord,
and that he had said these things to her.

The Disciples First Encounter

19  When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week,
and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be to you."
20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord.
21  Jesus therefore said to them again,
"Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
22  When he had said this, he breathed on them,
and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit!
23  Whoeverís sins you forgive, they are forgiven them.
Whoeverís sins you retain, they have been retained."

Doubting Thomas

24  But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasnít 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 print of the nails,
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
26  After eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace be to you."
27  Then he said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see my hands.
Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Donít be unbelieving, but believing."
28  Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
29  Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed.
Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."


30  Therefore Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book;
31  but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

Discussion Questions

How do you resolve the paradoxes between the different resurrection accounts?
What was their understanding of Jesus' resurrection prior to this?
vs 8 What was it that John had previously not believed?
And how is belief related to understanding?
vs 17 What did Jesus mean by "Don't touch me"?
What is the significance of Jesus' resurrection from the dead?
vs 21 What was he sending them to do? And how is our mission similar to that of the Lord's?
vs 22 Had they received the Holy Spirit prior to this? (John 7:39)
vs 23 What is significant of forgiving and retaining sins?
What kind of sins do you suppose he is referring to?
Under what conditions does God retain sins?
vs 24 Was Thomas being unreasonably skeptical? Why or why not?
vs 29 In what way are we more blessed than the apostles according to this verse?
Why is believing without see a more blessed condition?
vs 30-31 Why wasn't John comprehensive in speaking of the events surrounding Christ's ministry and resurrection? And how might this fact be related to verse 29?
What particular facts according to John constitute sufficient evidence to believe is the Christ, the Son of God?
What happens when you come to believe in Jesus? And how have you experienced that yourself?


The first day of the week is Sunday as established in Genesis 1 whereby the 7th day is the Sabbath, Saturday. Sunday is referred to by some as the Christian Sabbath, but there is little Biblical basis for such a concept. Nonetheless it is because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday that Christians generally celebrate it as a holy day.

Many have noted discrepencies between the resurrection accounts of the 4 gospels. See the web page on the Resolution to Resurrection Paradoxes. But generally speaking there were many things going on during and after the resurrection of which each gospel writers only notes a few events, which John also notes in verse 30. Given also the figures of speech being used it is unnecessary to infer any contradictions between the accounts.

Mary's reaction to the empty tomb was distress, and yet it should have been hope. Mary thought that the situation had gotten worse, but it had gotten much better. So also in life when we concern ourselves only with earthly matters like dead corpses situations may appear to get worse, but actually God is doing a work to make things much better. This principle is reflect in Jesus' saying, "Most assuredly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24 John's reaction however was one of faith. We had saw the empty tomb he believed. Many difficulties we will face in life, many empty tombs, or perhaps many empty wombs, but know that "all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28

Though Mary did not have the insight to understand what was going on, yet because she was so distressed the Lord visited her first. For "the LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."Psalm 34:18, which is also the same Psalm which says, "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." which was quoted concerning Jesus death in the previous chapter. Another Psalm also says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Ps 43:5

vs 17 Why is it that Jesus prohibs her to touch him and yet according to Matt 28:9 the other women took hold of his feet to worship him? Normally in speaking in an historic context "Touch" is in the aorist tense indicated a point in time event. But here it is in the present tense speaking of a lifestyle behavior. For Mary was in a sense holding on to the Lord in his earthly form and had not yet "grasped" the significance of his resurrection. For he had not been raised from the dead in the sense that Lazarus and others had been raised in which they were back in their form to die again some time in the future. Rather he was raised in a glorified manner as we will be in the final resurrection, and was on his way to the Father. So he was just saying, "Good to see you, but realize I'm not going to hang around here for very long. I'm just passing by on my way to heaven." In fact each Christian today can echo these words.

vs 19-23 Jesus Commissions his Disciples
Just as Jesus had comforted Mary, so in the midst of their fear of the Jews Jesus brings peace to his disciples. The peace that he will impart to them through the Holy Spirit will give them great boldness. Their fears will give way to confidence which will itself affirm the message of the gospel.

As the Father sent Me

He commissions them just as he was commission by the Father for a particular work. Commissioning imparts not only a sense of responsibility, but also a sense of authority to carry it out. We read of his commission in Matthew 28:18-20 "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Fulfilling this commission is the responsibility of every individual Christian.  "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

The Holy Spirit

 Having been commission, they still needed the Spirit to carry out their ministry. For when God gives responsibility He also gives ability to carry it out. We remember John 7:39, "Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." Therefore He commands them to receive the Holy Spirit and breathes on them. But that is not to say that he had given them the Holy Spirit at this point.  For he had not yet ascended to his Father, and as he said, "Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7 And we read in Acts 1 which occurred after these events and just before his ascension that he also said, "Donít depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me.  For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4,5 But then why did Jesus breathe on them? The word for "breathe" is used only here in the New Testament and by the LXX (Septuagint - Old Testament in greek) translators in Gen 2:7 where God breathed on Adam and he became a living soul. And in Ezekiel 37:9 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.í"  His breathing on them represents the impartation of new life to be given them on Penetecost where they will be born-again. Indeed the feast of Penetecost, which was established in the Law of Moses, was also called the feast of the first fruits and it is at Pentecost that the church is first established.


As we walk as Christ walked we should forgive as Christ forgave. But when we consider how Christ forgave people we come to realize that his forgiveness was not universal. There are basically two categories whom Christ forgives.  One is that he forgives the repentant and this he also commanded of the believers in Luke 17:4 If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, íI repent,í you shall forgive him."  Secondly on occasion he forgives those who sin out of an ignorance born of a corrupt conscience. "Father, forgive them, for they donít know what they are doing."Luke 23:34 This is in contrast to willful sin of which he requires repentance. But  the facts of the gospel having becomes more wide spread, ignorance is less an excuse."The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent." Acts 17:30 Nonetheless there are still many occasions, particularly dealing with non-Christians, in which we should also say, "Father, forgive them, for they donít know what they are doing." For more elaboration on these concepts see the study guide on Forgiveness.

But what we must also realize about forgiveness as the people of God is that it comes with authority. That is Jesus' point here. Not only are we given authority to preach the gospel, but also when we forgive others, God also forgives them. However having studied the rest of the New Testament I think we should understand the sense of this to be first of all that he is talking about sins committed against us personally. If someone has committed a sin not against you but against someone else you don't have the right to forgive. It was the person who was sinned against, they have the right to exercise forgiveness. On the other hand no man is an island and therefore any sin has some impact on us. That being the case we do have the right to forgive that portion of such sin. But all sins, even the so-called victimless crimes, are sins committed against God.

When we forgive particular sins committed against us, God also forgives such sins. This is not to say that he necessarily forgives all the person's sins just because he forgave some particular sins. But what about this idea of holding back forgiveness. Jesus appears here to affirm that at times holding back forgiveness is appropriate. And this is consistent with God's practice throughout the Bible.

Doubting Thomas

vs 24-29 Jesus is not discouraging a healthy skepticism here, but Thomas was being unreasonable. Biblical faith is not blind faith, for God has always provided evidence affirming his word. However much of the evidence today is simply the testimony of other people - like the apostles as they give their testimony in the Bible of the miracles done. Jesus is saying here that even though Thomas hadn't seen him, yet the testimony of the other apostles should have been sufficient evidence to believe. Why is it more blessed to believe on the testimony of others? Because it exercises the kind of faith acceptable to God. "Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen." Heb 11:1 And "Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him." Heb 11:6 Thus faith involves seeking God. Those who don't seek God are unreasonably skeptical.

Concerning "My Lord and my God" Robertson writes, "Not exclamation, but address, the vocative case though the form of the nominative, a very common thing in the _Koiné_. Thomas was wholly convinced and did not hesitate to address the Risen Christ as Lord and God. And Jesus accepts the words and praises Thomas for so doing."


vs 30-31 And continuing on the issue of believing John testifies of Jesus doing many other signs besides these, and though we have not seen yet we believe because his testimony is sufficient evidence enough. It is by believing that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, that we have life.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020