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David Guzik :: Study Guide for John 20

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An Empty Tomb and A Risen Jesus

A. Discovery of the empty tomb

1. (Jhn 20:1-2) Mary Magdalene comes upon Jesus' tomb, finds it empty and tells the disciples about it.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then 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 do not know where they have laid Him."

a. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early: Other gospels tell she was not the only woman to come to the tomb that morning. At least three other women accompanied her. But Mary was the one who ran back and told the disciples about the empty tomb.

b. They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb: Mary wasn't wishing for a resurrection, and then hopefully imagined it. She had no thought of resurrection yet, and believed the corpse has been stolen.

2. (Jhn 20:3-10) Peter and John investigate the empty tomb.

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

a. The other disciple: As a matter of author's humility, John does not refer to himself directly, but only as the other disciple.

b. Stooping down and looking in: Arriving first at the tomb, John was looking in (the ancient Greek word blepo meaning "to clearly see a material object"), and he saw the grave clothes still in the tomb (saw the linen cloths lying there).

c. He saw the linen cloths lying there: Peter, going in, then saw (the ancient Greek word theoreo meaning "to contemplate, observe, scrutinize") that the cloths were still orderly and neat. I was as if the body "evaporated" out of the grave clothes.

i. The neat, orderly arrangement of the grave clothes showed that this was no grave robbery and that something absolutely unique had happened in that now-empty tomb.

d. The other disciple … he saw and believed: After Peter went into the tomb, John went in. He then saw (the ancient Greek word eido meaning, "to understand, to perceive the significance of") and then John believed.

i. Upon seeing the grave clothes and how they lay on the "bed" of the tomb, John believed that Mary's report was true, and that something awesome and incredibly unique had happened.

e. So far, all we have is an empty tomb. But the apostles never emphasized an empty tomb, but a risen Lord. They knew Jesus had risen because they saw and touched the resurrected Christ.

f. Whatever happened to the grave clothes? Is the Shroud of Turin for real?

i. No one can say for certain. But, "The evidence thus far indicates the probable conclusions that the shroud is ancient (perhaps from the first century), that it does not contradict the NT accounts, and that the image is not a fake. It may well be the actual burial garment of Jesus. " (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

ii. The image on the shroud is of a crucified male, bearded, 5'11" in height, weighing about 175 pounds. His physique was muscular and well built, and he is an estimated age of 30-35 years. His long hair is tied into a pigtail and there is no evidence on decomposition on the cloth.

iii. Results of the Shroud of Turin Research Project in October 1978 determined that the Shroud is not a painting or a forgery. They determined that its blood is real blood and the image seems to be some type of scorch, though they cannot account for how it was made.

iv. It may be genuine but there may also be good reason why God did not preserve Jesus' grave clothes - not wanting to leave behind a relic that inevitably would be worshipped.

B. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus.

1. (Jhn 20:11-13) Mary, stricken with grief, sees two angels in the empty tomb.

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

a. She said to them: This is one of the few places in the Bible where someone encounters angels and they are not stricken with fear. It shows that Mary was so grieved at the loss of Jesus that she was unaffected even by an appearance of angels.

2. (Jhn 20:14-16) Mary meets Jesus.

Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 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. " Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).

a. I will take Him away: It's possible that Mary was a large, strong woman and was physically capable of carrying away the body of a dead man. It is more like that she was simply so filled with sorrow and devotion that she isn't thinking through her plans carefully.

i. "Her words reveal her devotion. She never paused to consider how she would carry the corpse of a full-grown man or how she would explain her possession of it. " (Tenney)

b. Jesus said to her, "Mary!" Jesus had only to say one word, and all was explained. "Never was a one-word utterance more charged with emotion than this. " (Tasker)

3. (Jhn 20:17-18) Jesus sends Mary to tell the disciples.

Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. '" Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

a. Do not cling to Me: Why didn't Jesus want Mary to touch Him? Actually, the ancient Greek construction of this phrase "means to stop an action already begun rather than to avoid starting it. " (Tenney) Mary was holding on to Jesus and did not want to let Him go.

i. This shows that the resurrection body of Jesus was different, yet similar to His pre-resurrection body. It was definitely real and tangible, and Jesus not a phantom.

ii. "Jesus was not protesting that Mary should not touch Him lest He be defiled, but was admonishing her not to detain Him because He would see her and the disciples again. " (Tenney)

iii. "We need not be detained by that curiosity of exegesis which supposes that he still had to enter the heavenly holy of holies to complete the antitype of the Day of Atonement initiated by his sacrifice on the cross. " (Bruce)

b. I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God: Jesus is pointing out a difference between His relationship with God and the disciples' relationship with God.

i. "He says not 'Our Father': in one sense therefore, He is mine, in another sense He is yours; by nature mine, by grace yours … my God, under whom I also am as a man; your God, between whom and you I am a mediator. " (Augustine)

c. Go to My brethren and say to them: The fact that Jesus makes a woman the first witness of His resurrection is significant. The law courts of that day would not recognize the testimony of a woman, but Jesus did.

i. This also argues for the historic truth of this account. If someone fabricated this story, would they make the first witnesses to the resurrection women, who were commonly (if unfairly) regarded as unreliable witnesses?

C. The disciples meet the risen Jesus.

1. (Jhn 20:19) Jesus appears in their midst.

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

a. We are told of five appearances of Jesus on the resurrection day: to Mary Magdalene, to the women, to two on the road to Emmaus, to Peter and here to ten of the disciples, Thomas being absent. The Gospel of John tells of two of these five appearances.

b. When the doors were shut … Jesus came and stood in the midst: How did Jesus enter the room? "We can scarcely say more than that John wants us to see that the risen Christ was not limited by closed doors. " (Morris) Apparently, resurrection bodies are not subject to the same limitations as our present bodies.

c. Peace be with you: After their desertion of Jesus on Friday, the disciples were probably expecting words of rebuke or blame. Instead, Jesus brought a word of peace, reconciling peace.

2. (Jhn 20:20-23) The risen Jesus ministers to His disciples (more than the ten are gathered here, according to Luke 24).

When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. " And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

a. He showed them His hands and His side: Jesus gives assurance to the disciples about who He is and that He really has risen from the dead.

b. As the Father has sent Me, I also send you: Jesus gives His disciples a mission, to continue His work on this earth.

c. Receive the Holy Spirit: Jesus gives His disciples the Holy Spirit, bringing new life and the ability to carry out their mission. Many people see the connection between this breathing on the disciples and when God created man, and breathed the breathe of life in him. This is a work of re-creation, even as God breathed life into the first man. This is where the disciples are born again.

d. If you forgive the sins of any: Jesus gives His disciples authority to announce forgiveness and to warn of guilt, as authorized by the Holy Spirit.

i. This lays down the duty of the church to proclaim forgiveness to the penitent believer, and the duty of the church to warn the unbeliever that they are in danger of forfeiting the mercy of God.

e. Jesus wants to continue this fourfold ministry of giving assurance, a mission, the Holy Spirit and authority to believers today.

3. (Jhn 20:24-29) Jesus convinces the previously absent disciple, the skeptic Thomas.

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord. " So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. " And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. " And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

a. Unless I see … I will not believe: Thomas is not a doubter, but an unbeliever who will not accept the valid testimony of others.

b. Do not be unbelieving, but believing: Jesus explicitly repeats Thomas' demands back to him. This must have been very impressive to Thomas, and very convincing.

i. Do not be unbelieving, but believing: Jesus also plainly commands him to cease his unbelief and to start believing

c. My Lord and my God: Both Lord and God were titles of deity, and Thomas boldly and explicitly assigns these titles to Jesus. Jesus accepts these titles, and did not tell Thomas, "Don't call Me that."

d. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed: There is a special promise blessing given to those who believe. The faith of Thomas is the climax of the book: Jesus has triumphed over sickness, sin, evil men, death and sorrow; now He conquers unbelief.

e. Thomas is a good example in many ways. He refused to say he understood when he didn't, he refused to pretend to believe when he didn't. And when he did understand and believe, he went all the way and properly called Jesus Lord and God.

4. (Jhn 20:30-31) Summary statement of the book.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.

a. Jesus did many other signs: John admits that he presents an incomplete collection, written for a purpose.

b. One collects everything possible about a dead prophet; it is all one has of him. But one only tells enough of a living person to introduce one's hearers to him. John trusts that a personal relationship with Jesus will reveal more to the believer.

© 2000 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Luke 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Acts 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for John 19 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for John 21 Next Chapter →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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