Celebrate the Resurrection

Explore the Bible Series

March 27, 2005


Background Passage: John: 20:1-31

Lesson Passage: John 20:19-29


Introduction: Johnís account of the resurrection differs significantly from the Synoptics.Some have, of course, concluded that these variances demonstrate that the disciples manufactured these narratives; however, we might suggest an alternative view.Recall that, strictly speaking, the gospel writers did not intend to give an historical account of the events of this first Easter.Instead, they wrote in a kind of sermonic style meant to recount the events of Jesusí life and call men to faith in Christ.The details they included report real historical occurrences, but the writers did not provide a detailed chronology of the events of Easter morning, like we might find in a contemporary historical monograph. Each of the authors presented a unique perspective on the resurrection, and Johnís account manifests several distinctive elements of the story. Rather than erode our confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures, these variances should confirm that these authors did not merely conspire to create a parroted resurrection story; indeed, they penned their stories with faithful adherence to the sources and testimonies available to them (See Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3).


Some New Testament critics relish pointing out the differences in these accounts; however, the honest Bible student must acknowledge one central thought.All of these gospel writers believed that Jesus rose from the dead.The stubborn reality merges clearly from the most cursory reading of the texts.As we study Johnís account of the resurrection, let us keep central the common assertion of all the gospel writers; the tomb of Jesus was found empty on Easter morning.



I.                   Mary and The Disciples at the Empty Tomb (John 20:1-10)

A.     Matthew informs us that an earthquake occurred and an angel rolled the stone from the mouth of the tomb (Matthew 28:2-4).The Jews had posted guards at the sepulcher, and they ďbecame as dead menĒ when the angel appeared.

B.     John recounts the journey of Mary Magdalene to the tomb (v.1).The Synoptics made clear that she did not come alone.Mary the mother of James and Salome accompanied Mary Magdalene (See Mark 16:1). Also, the journey of women must have occurred just at daybreak.John says it was still dark (perhaps he described the conditions when they left their homes), and Markís account specifically states that the sun had risen (maybe the sun had risen by the time the women arrived at the tomb).John included no information about the women seeing the angels or the Lordís instructions for the disciples to meet him in Galilee (See, for instance, Mark 16:2-8).

C.     Mary Magdalene, astonished by the open crypt, ran to tell Peter and an unnamed disciple (most assume this was the Apostle John) that Jesusí body was no longer in the tomb (v. 2).Apparently, the poor, startled woman surmised that someone had taken Lordís corpse.

D.     Peter and the unnamed man ran to the tomb and discovered, just as Mary had told them, that the body was gone.The grave clothes lay in the tomb, and someone had folded the head cloth and placed it apart from the other grave linens (vv. 5-8).The man who accompanied Peter concluded immediately that the Lord had risen from the dead even though he had little understanding of the message of Scripture. It is difficult to determine what passage of Scripture John had in mind.Leon Morris suggests that John thought of Hosea 6:2, Jonah 1:17, Isaiah 53:10-12, and Psalm 16:10.


II.                Maryís Encounter with the Risen Christ (John 20:11-18)

A.     Mary returned to the tomb, presumably, after the two disciples had left for their homes.Apparently, the events of the morning had confused and grieved Mary.Perhaps she still did not know what to make of all of this.As she wept, this dear woman stooped down to peer into the tomb.Perhaps she wanted to confirm, once more, that the Lordís body was really gone.She saw two angels sitting in the sepulcher, and they engaged her in a brief conversation (vv. 12-13).It seems that these may have been the angels who appeared earlier to the women (See Matthew 28:5-8, Mark 16:5-7, and Luke 24:4-8).

B.     After conversing with the angels, Mary turned abruptly and observed a man standing near her.In her confusion, she mistakenly concluded that this must be the gardener, and perhaps he might have removed the body of Jesus (v. 15).The Lord called her name, and she suddenly realized that this man was not the gardener; rather, it was the Lord himself (v.16).Mary embraced the Lord, and he gently rebuked her.The verb tense used by John may well indicate that he meant for her to discontinue an action (clinging) she had already begun.


III.             Jesusí Encounter the Disciples (John 20:19-29)

A.     Jesus appeared to the disciples (vv. 19-23): Leon Morris believes that this appearance of the resurrected Lord corresponds to the story recorded in Luke 24:36ff.John, of course, recalled elements of the story not recorded in Luke, but several similarities seem to corroborate Morrisí assertion. If he is correct, this event occurred on Sunday evening, after Jesus had appeared to the two men on the road to Emmaus. The disciples gathered clandestinely for fear of the Jews, and Jesus miraculously appeared before them.The Lord spoke words of peace to the huddled band of believers, and breathed on them, thus bestowing on them the Holy Spirit (v. 22). A.W. Pink, J.C. Ryle, and John Calvin agree that verse twenty three describes the responsibility of the apostles to proclaim the message of forgiveness to the world; that is, they were commissioned to declare whose sins were forgiven, and whose sins were not pardoned.Pink, in particular, found repugnant any notion that Jesus gave the apostles a special privilege to absolve men of their sins.Moreover, he equally found repulsive the notion that the apostles then passed this prerogative on to succeeding bishops in the early church.

B.     The confrontation with Thomas (vv. 24-29): This episode appears only in Johnís Gospel.Thomas was not present at Christís first appearance to the disciples, but eight days after the resurrection, the disciples enjoyed another miraculous visit with the Savior.Like before, they had locked themselves into a secure room, and the Lord suddenly appeared in the room.After a greeting of peace, Jesus invited Thomas to examine the Saviorís wounds for himself (v. 27).It does not seem evident from the text that Thomas availed himself of the invitation; rather, he immediately acknowledged Christís lordship (v. 28). Note the Lordís gracious disposition and patience with this poor, doubting man.

C.     The purpose of the Gospel of John (vv. 28-29): John makes his purpose unmistakable.He wrote this book in order that men might believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and, attendant to this believing, they might have life in the name of Jesus.