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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on John 20

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The Gospel According to John

Commentary by DAVID BROWN

CHAPTER 20

Jhn 20:1-18. MARY'S VISIT TO THE SEPULCHRE, AND RETURN TO IT WITH PETER AND JOHN--HER RISEN LORD APPEARS TO HER.

      1, 2. The first day. . . cometh Mary Magdalene early, &c.--(See on JF & B for Mr 16:1-4; and Mat 28:1, 2 ).
      she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre--Dear disciple! thy dead Lord is to thee "the Lord" still.

      3-10. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came first to the sepulchre--These particulars have a singular air of artless truth about them. Mary, in her grief, runs to the two apostles who were soon to be so closely associated in proclaiming the Saviour's resurrection, and they, followed by Mary, hasten to see with their own eyes. The younger disciple outruns the older; love haply supplying swifter wings. He stoops, he gazes in, but enters not the open sepulchre, held back probably by a reverential fear. The bolder Peter, coming up, goes in at once, and is rewarded with bright evidence of what had happened.

      6-7. seeth the linen clothes lie--lying.
      And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes--not loosely, as if hastily thrown down, and indicative of a hurried and disorderly removal.
      but wrapped--folded.
      together in a place by itself--showing with what grand tranquillity "the Living One" had walked forth from "the dead" ( Luk 24:5 ). "Doubtless the two attendant angels ( Jhn 20:12 ) did this service for the Rising One, the one disposing of the linen clothes, the other of the napkin" [BENGEL].

      8. Then went in. . . that other disciple which came first to the sepulchre--The repetition of this, in connection with his not having gone in till after Peter, seems to show that at the moment of penning these words the advantage which each of these loving disciples had of the other was present to his mind.
      and he saw and believed--Probably he means, though he does not say, that he believed in his Lord's resurrection more immediately and certainly than Peter.

      9. For as yet they knew--that is, understood.
      not the scripture that he must rise again from the dead--In other words, they believed in His resurrection at first, not because they were prepared by Scripture to expect it; but facts carried resistless conviction of it in the first instance to their minds, and furnished a key to the Scripture predictions of it.

      11-15. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping, &c.--Brief was the stay of those two men. But Mary, arriving perhaps by another direction after they left, lingers at the spot, weeping for her missing Lord. As she gazes through her tears on the open tomb, she also ventures to stoop down and look into it, when lo! "two angels in white" (as from the world of light, and see on JF & B for Mt 28:3) appear to her in a "sitting" posture, "as having finished some business, and awaiting some one to impart tidings to" [BENGEL].

      12. one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain--not merely proclaiming silently the entire charge they had had of the body, of Christ [quoted in LUTHARDT], but rather, possibly, calling mute attention to the narrow space within which the Lord of glory had contracted Himself; as if they would say, Come, see within what limits, marked off by the interval here between us two, the Lord lay! But she is in tears, and these suit not the scene of so glorious an Exit. They are going to point out to her the incongruity.

      13. Woman, why weepest thou?--You would think the vision too much for a lone woman. But absorbed in the one Object of her affection and pursuit, she speaks out her grief without fear.
      Because, &c.--that is, Can I choose but weep, when "they have taken away," &c., repeating her very words to Peter and John. On this she turned herself and saw Jesus Himself standing beside her, but took Him for the gardener. Clad therefore in some such style He must have been. But if any ask, as too curious interpreters do, whence He got those habiliments, we answer [with OLSHAUSEN and LUTHARDT] where the two angels got theirs. Nor did the voice of His first words disclose Him to Mary--"Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" He will try her ere he tell her. She answers not the stranger's question, but comes straight to her point with him.

      15. Sir, if thou have borne him hence--borne whom? She says not. She can think only of One, and thinks others must understand her. It reminds one of the question of the Spouse, "Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?" ( Sgs 3:3 ).
      tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away--Wilt thou, dear fragile woman? But it is the language of sublime affection, that thinks itself fit for anything if once in possession of its Object. It is enough. Like Joseph, He can no longer restrain Himself ( Gen 45:1 ).

      16, 17. Jesus saith unto her, Mary--It is not now the distant, though respectful, "Woman." It is the oft-repeated name, uttered, no doubt, with all the wonted manner, and bringing a rush of unutterable and overpowering associations with it.
      She turned herself, and saith to him, Rabboni!--But that single word of transported recognition was not enough for woman's full heart. Not knowing the change which had passed upon Him, she hastens to express by her action what words failed to clothe; but she is checked.

      17. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father--Old familiarities must now give place to new and more awful yet sweeter approaches; but for these the time has not come yet. This seems the spirit, at least, of these mysterious words, on which much difference of opinion has obtained, and not much that is satisfactory said.
      but go to my brethren--(Compare Mat 28:10 Hbr 2:11, 17 ). That He had still our Humanity, and therefore "is not ashamed to call us brethren," is indeed grandly evidenced by these words. But it is worthy of most reverential notice, that we nowhere read of anyone who presumed to call Him Brother. "My brethren: Blessed Jesus, who are these? Were they not Thy followers? yea, Thy forsakers? How dost Thou raise these titles with Thyself! At first they were Thy servants; then disciples; a little before Thy death, they were Thy friends; now, after Thy resurrection, they were Thy brethren. But oh, mercy without measure! how wilt Thou, how canst Thou call them brethren whom, in Thy last parting, Thou foundest fugitives? Did they not run from Thee? Did not one of them rather leave his inmost coat behind him than not be quit of Thee? And yet Thou sayest, 'Go, tell My brethren! It is not in the power of the sins of our infirmity to unbrother us'" [BISHOP HALL].
      I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God--words of incomparable glory! Jesus had called God habitually His Father, and on one occasion, in His darkest moment, His God. But both are here united, expressing that full-orbed relationship which embraces in its vast sweep at once Himself and His redeemed. Yet, note well, He says not, Our Father and our God. All the deepest of the Church fathers were wont to call attention to this, as expressly designed to distinguish between what God is to Him and to us--His Father essentially, ours not so: our God essentially, His not so: His God only in connection with us: our God only in connection with Him.

      18. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her--To a woman was this honor given to be the first that saw the risen R edeemer, and that woman was not His mother. (See on JF & B for Mr 16:9).

      Jhn 20:19-23. JESUS APPEARS TO THE ASSEMBLED DISCIPLES.

      19-23. the same day at evening, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus--plainly not by the ordinary way of entrance.
      and saith unto them Peace be unto you--not the mere wish that even His own exalted peace might be theirs ( Jhn 14:27 ), but conveying it into their hearts, even as He "opened their understandings to understand the scriptures" ( Luk 24:45 ).

      20. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side--not only as ocular and tangible evidence of the reality of His resurrection (See on JF & B for Lu 24:37-43), but as through "the power of that resurrection" dispensing all His peace to men.
      Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.

      21. Then said Jesus--prepared now to listen to Him in a new character.
      Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, so send I you--(See on JF & B for Joh 17:18).

      22. he breathed on them--a symbolical conveyance to them of the Spirit.
      and saith, Receive ye the Holy Ghost--an earnest and first-fruits of the more copious Pentecostal effusion.

      23. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, &c.--In any literal and authoritative sense this power was never exercised by one of the apostles, and plainly was never understood by themselves as possessed by them or conveyed to them. (See on JF & B for Mt 16:19). The power to intrude upon the relation between men and God cannot have been given by Christ to His ministers in any but a ministerial or declarative sense--as the authorized interpreters of His word, while in the actings of His ministers, the real nature of the power committed to them is seen in the exercise of church discipline.

      Jhn 20:24-29. JESUS AGAIN APPEARS TO THE ASSEMBLED DISCIPLES.

      24, 25. But Thomas--(See on JF & B for Joh 11:16).
      was not with them when Jesus came--why, we know not, though we are loath to think (with STIER, ALFORD and LUTHARDT) it was intentional, from sullen despondency. The fact merely is here stated, as a loving apology for his slowness of belief.

      25. We have seen the Lord--This way of speaking of Jesus (as Jhn 20:20 ), so suited to His resurrection-state, was soon to become the prevailing style.
      Except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my linger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe--The very form of this speech betokens the strength of the unbelief. "It is not, If I shall see I shall believe, but, Unless I shall see I will not believe; nor does he expect to see, although the others tell him they had" [BENGEL]. How Christ Himself viewed this state of mind, we know from Mar 16:14, "He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen." But whence sprang this pertinacity of resistance in such minds? Not certainly from reluctance to believe, but as in Nathanael (see on JF & B for Joh 1:46) from mere dread of mistake in so vital a matter.

      26-29. And after eight days--that is, on the eighth, or first day of the preceding week. They probably met every day during the preceding week, but their Lord designedly reserved His second appearance among them till the recurrence of His resurrection day, that He might thus inaugurate the delightful sanctities of THE LORD'S DAY ( Rev 1:10 ).
      disciples were within, and Thomas with them. . . Jesus. . . stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

      27. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither. . . behold. . . put it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing--"There is something rhythmical in these words, and they are purposely couched in the words of Thomas himself, to put him to shame" [LUTHARDT]. But wish what condescension and gentleness is this done!

      28. Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God--That Thomas did not do what Jesus invited him to do, and what he had made the condition of his believing, seems plain from Jhn 20:29 ("Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed"). He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven. On the striking parallel in Nathanael, see on JF & B for Joh 1:49. The Socinian invasion of the supreme divinity of Christ here manifestly taught--as if it were a mere call upon God in a fit of astonishment--is beneath notice, save for the profanity it charges upon this disciple, and the straits to which it shows themselves reduced.

      29. because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed--words of measured commendation, but of indirect and doubtless painfully--felt rebuke: that is, 'Thou hast indeed believed; it is well: it is only on the evidence of thy senses, and after peremptorily refusing all evidence short of that.'
      blessed they that have not seen, and yet have believed--"Wonderful indeed and rich in blessing for us who have not seen Him, is this closing word of the Gospel" [ALFORD].

      Jhn 20:30, 31. FIRST CLOSE OF THIS GOSPEL.

      The connection of these verses with the last words of Jhn 20:29 is beautiful: that is, And indeed, as the Lord pronounced them blessed who not having seen Him have yet believed, so for that one end have the whole contents of this Gospel been recorded, that all who read it may believe on Him, and believing, have life in that blessed name.

      30. many other signs--miracles.

      31. But these are written--as sufficient specimens.
      the Christ, the Son of God--the one His official, the other His personal, title.
      believing. . . may have life--(See on JF & B for Joh 6:51-54).

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

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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