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John 20:1-30

The Resurrection

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Read verses 1- 10

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

Our last study finished with the crucifixion on Thursday. Two more days have passed since then, Friday, the ‘special’ Sabbath on the first day of ‘Unleavened Bread’, and Saturday, the normal weekly Sabbath. It is now first light on Sunday, the first day of their working week.

We are told in Luke 23:55-56 that ‘The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.’ Probably they had been able to obtain the spices on the Thursday evening before the Sabbath began.

Luke continues: (24:1) ‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.’

John simply concentrates on the experience of Mary Magdalene. And what stunned her first was the fact that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

In 1930 A.H.Ross, under the pseudonym ‘Frank Morrison’ wrote a book entitled ‘Who Moved the stone’

He set out to show that the crucifixion was a fiction, but during his investigation he became convinced the facts were true. It all centred on the stone and who had physically moved it.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he was no longer bound by the strips of linen, or even the rocks that made his tomb – so he didn’t need to move the stone, nothing could contain him now. But for the rest of the world, they needed proof that Jesus had risen, and so the stone had to be moved in order to reveal the empty tomb.

Only Matthew recorded the setting of a military guard specifically to prevent the stone from being moved, and it is Matthew who then records that an angel rolled back the stone and sat on it, scaring the guards to death! (Matthew 28:1-4, 11-15).

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’

Mary’s immediate reaction was that ‘they’ must have taken the body.

Picture her desolation. She had watched the man she loved being crucified and buried. In her desperation she wanted to perform the last rites that would have given him a decent burial, but even that was now denied her. Someone had removed the body. Why? Who could have done such a thing? Where had they put him?

The disciples were still lying low following the capture of Jesus – afraid that they may be next. When they met later that day we read ‘the doors (were) locked for fear of the Jewish leaders’ (v19). But Mary knew where to find Peter and John.

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb, Mary also returned but probably slower now. What were their thoughts? Or feelings?

Confusion, distress, fear – who had removed the body? Why?

John arrived first. Verse 5 suggests that the opening was fairly low – he had to bend down to look inside. It would have been dark and forbidding. Peter, typically, didn’t hesitate and climbed in. As his eyes became adjusted to the dark he saw the linen winding strips but no body. How odd! If someone took Jesus’ body surely they would simply have taken him as he was – no-one would have bothered to unwrap him.

8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

John now entered the tomb and ‘seeing is believing’. Yes Jesus had gone – but at that point that was all they believed. It seems that not only did they ‘not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead’, but also they hadn’t really accepted the words that Jesus had spoken when he tried to prepare them for this. So they returned to where they were staying, very disturbed.

By this time Mary had caught up with the running disciples and simply stood outside the empty tomb, distraught.

Now read verses 11-18

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’

The events of that early morning were totally unexpected and each Gospel record varies quite considerably from the next regarding the exact details. Each of the women, and Peter and John had a different viewpoint; so too did the guards. Also it was a traumatic time: Matthew records that the guards ‘shook and became like dead men’ and the women were ‘afraid’. Mark records that they were ‘alarmed’ and ‘trembling and bewildered . . . because they were afraid’. Luke speaks of the women’s ‘fright’, and we have already seen the distress of Mary recorded by John. So it is not surprising that the memories of the events may well have become confused. We will simply continue with Mary’s memory of the events.

14 At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

Mary had just repeated ‘they have taken my Lord away’ and with eyes full of tears she saw someone (presumably wearing clothes) who she naturally assumed must have been responsible for Jesus’ disappearance.

15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

Not thinking practically (she would not have been able to move a dead body), in her great distress she just wanted Jesus back.

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

(‘Rabboni’, rather than ‘Rabbi’ is only used twice in the Bible, here and in Mark 10:51 and there appears to be no agreement over its variation in meaning, or whether any significance should be attached to it.)

It is obvious that Mary would at this point have been overwhelmed to find that it was Jesus himself standing by her.

17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

Mary’s basic instinct would have been to have flung her arms round Jesus. But she had to learn that physical contact was not possible. Yes he had risen from the dead but now their relationship would have to be through his Spirit, Poured out at Pentecost, and living within her.

Jesus, in his resurrection body, was now able to freely move between the physical world of time and space, to the spiritual world of eternity and infinity (the only way his disciples could understand this was by using the term ‘ascended’).

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:
‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

We can only assume that the people she told were some of the remaining disciples who had gathered in secret, in fear of what would now happen to them. Mary obviously knew where to find them to tell them what had happened. We are not told of their reaction, or what happened next during that day, we can only imagine, but obviously the group that met that evening contained many of the remaining eleven Apostles, although Thomas was absent.

Now read verses 19-30

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’

Peace be with you: ‘Shalom Aleichem’ (Hebrew) or ‘As-salamu alaykum’ (Arabic) has been a standard greeting in Middle Eastern cultures for centuries. But here, spoken by Jesus, does it carry more than just a friendly greeting? Look at John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus spoke these words in the upper room just before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. Now read verses 28 and 29:

‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.’

Not surprisingly, believing that Jesus had really risen from the dead was still a problem for many. So for him to now appear ‘in the flesh’ was truly troubling. They needed peace!

20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

‘Breath’ and ‘spirit’ are the same word in Greek (pneuma) and ‘he breathed on them’ reflects God’s breathing the breath of life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). The Holy Spirit would be given in power on the day of Pentecost, but this was a promise that as he commissioned his Disciples for the tasks ahead, he would also provide the power to perform them.

23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

This is a difficult verse but I have learnt that it’s best to assume the bible is right! Also that if Jesus chose to make this statement then he meant it, but we also have to be consistent with the rest of scripture as we seek to understand what he said.

A person’s sins can only be removed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to a sinner when he personally accepts Christ into his life, thus having the righteousness of Christ in place of his own sins. Our sins and iniquities are remembered no more as we are sanctified by the cleansing blood.

Several passages in the New Testament (1Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6) tell us that all Christians are Priests – we have a responsibility to represent God to people and people to God

Only God can forgive sins so we must look closely at what was happening here. Jesus was commissioning his Apostles, preparing them to ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel’ (Mark 16:15), and promising that his own spirit would now live in them. They were truly to act in his name and with his power but they were not sent to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).

As they preached the good news there would be occasions when it would be appropriate to pronounce ‘Your sins are forgiven’ (Luke 5:23) but only in confirmation of a person turning to Christ for salvation. Often people lack assurance and need to be told this truth. In the same way if someone were to say that they want nothing to do with the salvation that Jesus offers it might be appropriate to warn them that they personally will have to account for their sins – that they will not be forgiven. Further than that I feel I cannot go!

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

It’s easy for us to be hard on poor ‘Doubting’ Thomas. But put yourselves in his position. After the meeting on Sunday, the other disciples had now got over their own feelings of incredulity when Jesus had first appeared to them and were now happy to proudly share what had happened to them. Thomas was naturally sceptical – people don’t just come back to life after crucifixion. Not only did he want to see Jesus for himself, but he wanted to see proof that he had actually been crucified. And actually so had the other disciples – look back at verse 20!

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus, of course, knew all about Thomas and was happy to dispel his doubts. Thomas, on his part, was quick to respond!

29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Many people, as they are drawn to Jesus find it hard to believe that believing is what they have to do first! They ask all sorts of questions, but many of the answers become obvious after they have made their own ‘step of faith’. It is literally like taking one step out of the darkness into the light. Yet everything in our logical mind resists that step.

Once we have believed and accepted Jesus and the ‘new life’ that he offers, we may then wonder why we took so long!

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John had only one purpose in writing his Gospel, and that was so that his readers might come to Jesus for salvation. He recognised that he had left out many things, but he had covered the essentials.

Having said that he then went on and wrote another chapter . . .

John 19a John 21a NIV Copyright