Chapter 20


The Empty Tomb


20:1-2 Now very early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved away from the entrance. So she went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!


The first day of the week, that is our Sunday, Mary Magdalene makes her way to the tomb before the sun had risen. John only mentions Mary but the other gospels indicate that other women were with her. Her purpose in going was to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. (Mark 16:1). When she arrived she 'saw"  that the stone had been moved from the entrance to the tomb.  Along with the other Mary she had been present when the stone had been placed across the entrance (Matt. 27:60-61). She did not wait but ran until she found Peter and John for she assumed that somebody had taken the body and buried it somewhere else. The last thing she expected was Christ's resurrection !


20:3-7 Then Peter and the other disciple set out to go to the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who had been following him, arrived and went right into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, and the face cloth, which had been around Jesus' head, not lying with the strips of linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself.


On hearing this news they both run to the tomb to see for themselves, John being the younger man arrived there first and on looking in he 'saw' the linen cloths which were used to bind the body of Jesus and which, remember, had been soaked with 5st. 5lbs (34kgs) weight of spices in a position which showed they had not been unwound (see John 11:44 concerning Lazarus). If grave robbers had removed the body they would not have removed the grave clothes and if they had they would have needed to unwind them and leave them in an untidy mess on the floor neither would the handkerchief have been left neatly folded. The resurrected body of the Lord had come through the gravecloths leaving them to collapse under the weight of the spices. The linen clothes were the first evidence that the Lord had risen indeed!   Peter  was more daring than John and he entered right into the tomb and he 'saw"  the same as John.  


20:8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, came in, and he saw and believed.


John then entered 'saw" and believed. What did he believe? That Jesus was risen from the dead or that someone had taken the body? The Amplified N.T. says "he was convinced and believed" which would suggest that he believed Jesus was indeed  risen.  


20:9-10 (For they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.) So the disciples went back to their homes.


At this time they did not understand the meaning of the scriptures (Psalm 16:10) that He must rise from the dead.   They did not wait around but went back to their homes.


The Risen Lord


20:11-12 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she bent down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus' body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet.


Mary must have gone back to the tomb with Peter and John and when they left she lingered behind weeping. Because of this she received a tremendous spiritual experience and blessing. As she wept she looked again into the empty tomb and 'saw'  two angels one sat where the head of Jesus would have been and the other at the feet.


20:13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" Mary replied, "They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!


In reply to their question "why are you crying" her answer shows that she still believed that the body of Jesus had been stolen!  


20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.


As soon as she said this she turned around, perhaps she had heard a rustling sound, and 'saw" Jesus but she did not recognise Him because He now had a resurrected, glorified body.


20:15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?" Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take

him. He asks the same question as the angels but adds "who are you seeking". She still does not believe that Jesus is risen from the dead but thinking that he is the gardener accuses Him of moving the body somewhere else.


20:16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni" (which means Teacher).


On calling her by name Mary immediately knew that it was Jesus because she recognised His voice (see John 10:4 and John 10:14). She acknowledges Him as her Lord (The Aramaic Rabboni means "my lord" but had become commonly used for "teacher").


20:17 Jesus replied, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.


Why did Jesus tell her not to cling on to Him when later He asked Thomas to reach forth his hand and touch Him (John 20:27)?  It is generally thought to mean that whereas prior to His death the relationship had been one of sight, sound and touch that now it would be by faith through the Spirit, a spiritual relationship that did not depend on sight, sound and touch (2 Cor. 5:16). With His ascension back to the Father He would be the Risen, Glorified Lord and Saviour, exalted above all and given a Name above every other name (Phil. 2:9). He includes all His disciples in the relation which He has with  God - because God was His Father he was now theirs - because He was His God, He was also theirs. This is the relationship that was brought about by the cross.  


20:18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them what Jesus had said to her.


Mary dutifully does as her Lord and Saviour bids her, finds the disciples and gives them the message.


Jesus Revealed to the Disciples


20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you.


All that happened up to now took place in the early hours of the first day of the week. The rest of the  day seems to pass without any further sighting's of the Lord. The evening finds the disciples taking refuge behind locked doors for fear of being taken and put to death by the Jews for being followers of Jesus (John 9:22). Locked doors, walls or anything else were no obstacle to the Risen Lord, He just passed through them! He stood in the middle of them so that they could all see that it was Him without any shadow of a doubt, and gives them the normal Jewish greeting "Shalom", "peace be with you".  


20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.


He must have seen the disbelief on their faces so to prove that He was indeed that same Jesus who they had seen crucified He shows them His nail scared hands and pierced side. Then they 'saw' that it was the Lord and rejoiced.  


20:21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.


He repeats the greeting to them "Shalom" as if to show that He had forgiven their unbelief, their deserting and denying Him,  that He was still their friend (John 15:14-15). He then passes on to them the responsibility of going into all the world to preach the gospel. As the Father had sent Him into the world as "the gospel" so He sends them to proclaim that He is the Saviour of the World.  


20:22 And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.


Some interpret Jesus breathing on the disciples and the statement 'Receive the Holy Spirit" as symbolic and a prediction of Pentecost. This was not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that would be come on the day of Pentecost but rather a token of that gift. The old creation began with the breath of God (Gen. 2:7); the new creation begins with the breath of God the Son.  


20:23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained.


It is made clear to us through scripture that no one can forgive sin except God, for we sin against God and no one else.   So what do these words mean? Jesus did not give the apostles His own authority to forgive sins. The apostles received from the Lord the doctrine of reconciliation, and the doctrine of condemnation. Adam Clark says "They who believed on the Son of God, in consequence of their preaching, had their sins remitted; and they who would not believe were declared to lie under condemnation".  John Wesley understood this commission to mean "the power of declaring with authority the Christian terms of pardon" Christ's followers have the privilege of assuring any sinner that he shall be freely and fully forgiven on the basis of God's promise "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (from 1 John 1:9 -Wesley Bible).


Where is Thomas?


20:24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.


When Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time Thomas was absent from the gathering. Because of this he missed an opportunity to see Jesus alive. Perhaps that fact that he was absent indicates that unbelief had already begun to take hold of his heart. Believers are warned not to miss  opportunities of gathering with God's people (Heb. 10:25). We are warned against letting unbelief harden our hearts (Heb 3:12-13).


20:25 The other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he replied, "Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!


When the other disciples told him that they had seen the risen Lord, Thomas refused to believe unless he too saw and touched the nail marks in His hands and the spear mark in His side. Thomas was only asking to be given the same physical evidence as the others were given in v20. He had yet to learn that faith believes without seeing (2 Cor. 5:7).


20:26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!


It was another week before Thomas had another opportunity to see the Lord. I wonder how he felt during that time. The other disciples would not have stopped talking about the risen Lord and poor Thomas would have felt left out. This is what unbelief does. Have you ever felt left out of God's blessing the church? Have you been tempted to be elsewhere instead of in God's house? This is how unbelief begins, and it will rob you of all God's blessings until you confess it and call on the Lord for his help. The second time that Christ appeared Thomas was there and did not miss it. Jesus again stood among them in the room even though the door was locked, with his familiar greeting of "Shalom".


20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.


The Lord Jesus Christ hates unbelief wherever he sees it. I can imagine his eyes flashing with fire in his anger against it. So Christ looks directly at Thomas to rebuke his unbelief. By using the very words Thomas had used to the disciples, Christ showed Thomas that he heard every word, for there is nothing He does not see, hear or know about us (Heb. 4:13).


20:28 Thomas replied to him, "My Lord and my God!


Thomas never touched Christ's wounds, for as soon as he saw and heard that it was Jesus he confessed Him as his Lord and God, acknowledging both Christ's sovereignty and His Deity.


20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.


Another rebuke for Thomas! He had believed when he saw but Jesus commend's those who believe that He is risen from the dead though they have not seen Him. "Faith based on acceptance without seeing is required of all Christians since Christ's ascension to His Father"  (Wesley Bible).


The Purpose of John's Gospel


20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.


John accepts that the Gospel he wrote is limited and does not contain all that the Lord Jesus Christ did while He was on earth.


20:31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


But what he had recorded was sufficient for the reader to believe that Jesus is the Anointed Son of God, sent by God to be the Saviour of the world so that whoever believes in Him shall be saved (Acts 16:31). Jesus Christ is the Life and when we trust in Him we receive and share that eternal life with Him.

New Testament Bible study - Gospel of John Chapter 20 Johanine Studies


The Pentecostal Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians

Buy Paperback Buy for Kindle



Our latest book!

Books For You

The Blessings of God's Grace cover Amos Mark Book Revelation Les Benedictions de la Grace de Dieu 1 Corinthians book

Recommended for You

Living Word Magazine

A Free Online Commentary of the Bible.

John 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

                                To view commentary for each chapter, click desired chapter number.

Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642

Bible studies