John 20 Devotions
by Pastor Mark Hudson
One of the reason, people find the Bible believable is the perspective of the authors. If you read the Bible, you find some pretty horrible things in the stories of the Bible. If we would write our family history, our tendency is to leave the more unpleasant stories out or at least minimize them. That is not the way the Biblical authors do it nor does God, THE author who inspires His authors to write.
This chapter is a case in point. These disciples are not robust, faithful, valiant warriors. Instead, they are dejected, confused, afraid, and preparing to return to their old lives. Secular authors of the day would not have included women as the first witnesses since their testimony was not allowed in court. Yet Mary Magdalene was first to the tomb. Of course, critics say that she went to the wrong tomb. Possible but not likely. Surprised at seeing the empty tomb, she told Peter and John. She told them someone had taken Jesus’ body. She was not expecting a resurrection. Nor were the disciples.
John outruns Peter to the tomb who looks in but does not go in. Then Peter went directly into the tomb. We don’t exactly know how this tomb was laid out. It was probably some kind of a cave with places for a few or many bodies. However, it was laid out, Peter saw evidence of a resurrection yet that was the last thing he was expecting. After Peter went in, John went in and believed. Well, sort of. He was starting to believe. John does not “touch up” the disciples so they look good. John reports the skepticism and unbelief of the disciples.
Even with this observation of an empty tomb, the disciples still went back to their homes (v. 10). They need the Holy Spirit to bring the teaching of the Bible together so they can make sense of it. Although some of the disciples were starting to believe, the bodily resurrection of Christ was just not what they were expecting.
In vs. 11 and following, Mary remains at the tomb weeping. She then bent over to look inside. She sees two ‘people’ standing; one at where Jesus’ head was and one where His feet would have been. They asked why she is weeping. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” was her response. She is so sad. Mary Magdalene enjoyed a close personal relationship with the earthly Christ. In Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2, we discover that Christ cast 7 demons out of her. O, how happy she must have been. Can you imagine the change that Mary experienced? She was a faithful follower of Christ from that moment on. Now in John 20, she is utterly distraught. Then Mary turns around but does not recognize Jesus. He also questions her. She still does not recognize Him until he says, “Mary.” Then she is elated and whether she moves closer to the Lord we don’t know. But notice what comes next. She immediately recognizes Him.
In v. 17, Jesus now begins to teach His followers that their relationship to Christ has changed. Mary is told to not hold Jesus back or to clutch Him according to Herman Ridderbos’ commentary. He is signaling that His relationship has forever changed. He is in process of ascending to the Father. She is sent on a mission to go tell the other disciples. Notice how He includes the disciples into the most intimate of relationships with God. “Say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” He is both elevating their relationship to God while at the same time clarifying that there will be no more one on one time like the disciples once enjoyed. He is now Lord of all the earth going back to heaven where He came from.
Starting in v. 19, we are inside a locked room with all the disciples save Thomas. As one can imagine, they are afraid of the Jews, and they think, for good reason. Jesus appears inside the room and pronounces Peace. Then Jesus shows them His hands and His feet and the disciples, eyes slowing opening to the truth of the gospel, rejoice. Again, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” The followers of Christ, in the midst of faithful service, need peace.
The next few verses address the issue of authority. As God the Father sent Jesus, Jesus, with that same authority, is sending the disciples. Oh, will they need that authority when times get rough. And most of them die violent deaths. Christ is reminding them that their mission is His mission. His mission is God’s mission. They have all the authority they need. Yet one more thing is needed: the power of the Holy Spirit. So, our Lord merely breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Can you imagine a being who can merely breath on people, and they can receive the Spirit?
Finally, Thomas returns and is rebuked yet offered to overcome his unbelief. Thomas quickly yields and confesses Christ as the true Messiah. This is what John has been laboring to show: Christ is the Messiah. We hear these words from a skeptic not someone who easily believes. What John has been communicating throughout His gospel and what this gospel is known for: Who is Christ, Thomas expresses.
Finally in the last few verses, we clearly understand the purpose of this gospel. John did not just write down all he knew as a mere tradent. But he compiles what He knew selectively for a specific purpose. He evidently knew more about the Lord than what is contained in his or other gospels. John writes so people outside the Jewish community, outside of Israel, and outside of his time, may believe and have eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ. Jaw-dropping.
Dear Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see who Jesus is. Our minds are clouded by sin, so we do not see clearly. But we need to see the honor and glory of the Risen Christ. We Need the life that comes from Christ. Strengthen Your church and draw others to Your Son and the life only He can give. In the Strong name of our most glorious Savior. Amen.