John 20. Jesus Was Raised From the Dead.

Key Notes: The Resurrection was cemented by personal interactions. The preliminary commission and its long-term implications. Seven equations of our relationship to Jesus.

John’s account of the Resurrection focuses on two people, Mary Magdalene, and Thomas Didymus, the Twin. He is fleshing out personal interactions between the risen Christ and two of His followers,  not noted by the other Gospel writers. We should think Jesus would appear  triumphant,  glorious and other-worldly after His resurrection,  as He is portrayed in our Easter hymns, but He appears human, soft-spoken and relational, surprisingly so.

20:1–10  Mary Magdalene was one whom Jesus had liberated from  demon-possession. (Lk.8:2). She was the advance party of women (“we” 20:2) coming to the tomb of Jesus. She saw the stone moved from the entrance and ran to fetch Peter and John. Jesus’ body was gone and there was no explanation. Grave robbery was always a possibility.

Evidently Peter and John had stayed together after the episode at the High Priest’s house. (18:15–16). John looked into the tomb, but Peter running up behind him, barged in and made a critical observation. The linen wraps were still lying with the head-cloth rolled up by itself. The body was gone, leaving the grave-clothes in place. If they were in the wrong tomb, or if someone had stolen the body,  they would not have found the grave-clothes  as they did. John believed; we don’t know what Peter thought.

20:11–18 Mary came back to the tomb. She had no concept of resurrection; she was weeping for her Lord’s stolen body. She saw angels at the head and foot of the grave-clothes. Peter and John had not seen angels. The angels asked her why she was crying. She heard someone behind her and turned to Jesus, thinking He was the gardener. Jesus also asked why she was crying. (She should be rejoicing.)  She asked Him for the body of Jesus so that she could take care of it. Jesus said only a word: “Mary”. He asked her not to cling to Him but to tell His “brothers” of the coming ascension. She went back to the disciples and reported that she had seen the Lord. They did not believe her. Mk.16:11

20:19–25  Sunday evening, the same day, Jesus appeared to ten disciples behind locked doors. They were afraid that the Jewish establishment would try to arrest them. (Thomas was away.) After Pentecost, they would  be remarkably bold and not at all intimidated by the threat of arrest. Now they were afraid. Jesus frightened them with His sudden appearance, and then filled them with joy and laughter. He had to say “Peace” twice. It happened as He had promised, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Jn.16:22

Jesus said three things on this first visit with the disciples, giving them a preliminary commission.
He said “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.”
He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
He gave them authority to forgive sins.
The word for “Spirit” is the same as breath or wind. Breathing on the disciples conveyed the coming of the Holy Spirit  which would be completed in the next six weeks.

20:26 –29 Thomas’ unbelief was another matter. Thomas was told about the disciples’ encounter. (20:24). Eight days later, when Thomas was with the others, Jesus appeared again and invited Thomas to do the examination as he had intended. He recited Thomas' words back to him, suggesting that He had heard them, although not physically present. Thomas worshiped Him as “My Lord and my God”. Thomas’ testimony is one of our arguments for the deity of Christ. Jesus did not rebuke  him. [John was appropriately rebuked for worshiping an angel during his vision of the Revelation. Rev.19:10]

20:30–31  By the time of his concluding statement, John was a committed believer with a mission to convince the readers. John had learned that Jesus was not in the tomb and he believed the evidence. He did not know that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures until later. (20:9). So he moved from factual knowledge  to belief, to understanding and  then to commitment and outreach.


Mary Magdalene is the first person who was permitted to witness the Risen Lord. It has been pointed out that women of the Greco-Roman world were not allowed to be witnesses in legal proceedings. Mary was doubly vulnerable because she had been demon-possessed. By God’s grace, she was the one who carried the news to Peter and John.

Jesus gave a preliminary  commissioning to the disciples on His first resurrection visit. The Great Commission was given later. (Matt.28:18).

  1. They were sent on a mission as He had been sent.
  2. Spirit-filling  was a prophecy for them and anticipated Pentecost.
  3. Forgiving sin was their new business.

Three times Jesus laid the burden of authority on the disciples.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jn.20:23
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matt.16:19
“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt.18:18

In order to understand Jesus’ instructions, we look to the NT context,  rather than the traditions of the Catholic Church. How are sins forgiven and by whom?

“Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk.2:7)

*Matt. 23:8–10 assures us that Peter was not to be the monarch of the Church.
“You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. “

*The keys of the kingdom are the keys of knowledge  that open the door to the kingdom of heaven.

“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves and you hindered those who were entering.” Lk.11:52
“…woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” Matt.23:13

*The kingdom of heaven is God ruling over His people, in the Church, in Israel, and in Christ’s kingdom  during  His second advent.
*The knowledge  is the Gospel message through which God forgives sins so that people may enter the Kingdom.
*"Loosing" is loosing the chains of sin; binding (and loosing) is disciplining the believers.

The Gospel releases people from their bondage to sin and gives them the key to heaven. Every believer can contribute by sharing the Good News that heaven is open to us; the keys belong to all believers.

“As the Father has sent Me, even so send I you” (20:21) is the last equation in the set of seven that compare Jesus’ relationship to the Father to our relationship to Christ. These equations are unique to John and awesome to contemplate.

  1. Living because of Him as He lives because of the Father. 6:57
  2. Knowing Him as He knows the Father. 10:15
  3. Indwelling us as He indwells the Father. 14:20
  4. Loving us as the Father loves Him. 15:9
  5. Abiding in Him as He abides in the Father. 15:10
  6. Consecrated to Him as He is to the Father. 17:19
  7. Sent by Him as He is sent by the Father. 20:21

Abiding in Him is our union with Christ. After our justification and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it is a most important aspect of our salvation. It is our hope that it will one day be brought to completion.