New Defender's Study Bible Notes
20:1 cometh Mary Magdalene. The verb actually is “went.” She apparently met some of the other women who also had gone to the tomb (Mark 16:1). When they saw the stone rolled away, Mary Magdalene ran back to tell John and Peter (who, by this time, had gone back to be with John and Jesus’ mother).
20:2 out of the sepulchre. As the Magdalene woman rushed back to the disciples, the other women had encountered the angels, who also told them to go back to tell the other disciples (Matthew 28:5-8). In the meantime, Mary reached Peter and John with the disturbing news that either the Jews or Romans had moved the body.
20:6 seeth. When Peter “seeth” the clothes, the sense of the Greek is “looked quizzically.”
20:7 wrapped together. This word is used elsewhere only in Matthew 27:59 and Luke 23:53, all in connection only with the “in-wrapping” of Jesus body in the graveclothes. The scene was of the graveclothes (and the napkin by itself) still wrapped together just as they had been, but collapsed inward. The resurrected body of Jesus had simply passed through the wrappings—as He later did through the doors (John 20:19,26)—leaving them still intact on the shelf where the body had been placed.
20:8 he saw, and believed. When John “saw”—unlike the word used referring to Peter—the Greek indicates “looked with understanding.” He quickly understood that no other explanation than resurrection could account for the empty, yet intact, graveclothes. Therefore, he believed! This evidence of the empty tomb, which first convinced the beloved disciple, has later convinced multitudes of others, for it can never be explained in any other way. If Jesus had only swooned, or if the Romans or Jews had taken the body, it would soon have become known, and the spread of Christianity halted forthwith. But the body was gone, and would soon ascend to heaven, to remain forever inaccessible to Jesus’ enemies who would have liked desperately to prove that Jesus was dead.
20:9 he must rise again. Despite the Old Testament prophecies (e.g., Psalm 16:9-10) and Christ’s many explicit promises (e.g., Matthew 16:21), the disciples never really believed He would rise until they saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord.
20:10 their own home. John probably wanted to hurry home to tell Mary, the mother of Jesus, the marvelous news, for she was staying with him (John 19:27).
20:14 saw Jesus standing. It is significant that Mary of Magdala, out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils (Mark 16:9) was the first to see Him after His resurrection. By the time she got back to the tomb, the others had all left, so she was alone. This was the first of at least ten appearances to His followers after His resurrection. Mary, her eyes blurred with tears in the dim light of dawn and having no thought that He might be alive, did not recognize Him until He spoke her name (John 20:16). She knew His voice (John 10:4,27).
20:17 Touch me not. Here “touch” could mean, “cling to.” His relation to His followers now is not merely as a human friend or teacher. He is now immortalized and glorified and “though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (II Corinthians 5:16).
20:17 ascended to my Father. He must yet take the inhabitants of the “Abraham’s bosom” compartment of Hades (Luke 16:22) with Him to “paradise” in heaven (Luke 23:43). He had gone in the Spirit to proclaim His victory to the wicked spirits in prison (I Peter 3:18-20) and “the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). Already many of the resurrected Old Testament saints had appeared in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53), but now He must take these with Him to the Father in heaven (note Ephesians 4:8-10).
20:17 your Father. Note He does not say “Our Father” or “Our God.” The relation of the born-again children of God to the heavenly Father will always be different from that of the only begotten Son of God to the Father.
20:20 his side. The wounds of the crucifixion will always remain in His body, even though it is now not subject to pain or death. Likewise, our own resurrection bodies will still be recognizable (note Philippians 3:21).
20:20 saw the Lord. Some others had already seen Him by now, in addition to Mary Magdalene. These included the women (Matthew 28:9), Peter (I Corinthians 15:5), and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
20:21 so send I you. This is the first outline of Christ’s great commission to evangelize the world. It was later amplified further, probably in the following order: Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-49; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:4-8.
20:22 the Holy Ghost. Breathing on them was a symbolic act. As in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit could already have come on the disciples for specific ministries, but Christ had promised He would soon indwell them permanently (John 14:16-17). The command now to “receive ye the Holy Spirit” is imperative and must be carried out at the proper time. However, Christ also told them to tarry in Jerusalem until then (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8). The promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
20:23 remitted unto them. Only Christ can remit sins, and He does so on the basis of saving faith in Himself. The disciples, however, were given authority to recognize such faith, and then to give assurance to new believers. The authorization, as evident from the tenses in the Greek, should actually read: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall have been remitted unto them.”
20:26 the doors being shut. Even though Christ’s resurrection body was a physical body (He could be touched, still had the wounds, and could eat with them), it was no longer subject to the physical constraints on our present bodies (e.g., gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces). For example, He could pass through locked doors, and travel swiftly from earth to heaven and back. Our future resurrection bodies will be like His in such characteristics (Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:2).
20:27 into my side. Jesus allowed Thomas to do much more than “touch” Him, a privilege He had denied Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). However, in the eight-day interim, He had not only led the Old Testament saints up into paradise (see note on John 20:17) but also had presented His shed blood to the Father (Hebrews 9:23-28), received the Father’s promise (Psalm 2:7-9), and presented the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10; I Corinthians 15:23). However, Thomas did not need to touch Him, for to him, seeing was believing.
20:28 my God. Thomas was an honest skeptic (unlike many today), willing to be convinced by sound evidence. Furthermore, he comprehended the full significance of the evidence, for it proved to him that Jesus was both the God of creation and redemption, and also the rightful Lord of his life.
20:29 have not seen. Nevertheless, Thomas should have been willing to believe (as should we) on the basis of the eye-witness evidence of careful observers, such as John. Peter commends those of later times who trust Christ, “whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9).
20:30 signs. The “signs” are “miracles” (same Greek word). These seven miracles chosen by John for exposition in his gospel as evidence of Christ’s deity are all miracles of creation (as distinct from miracles of providence which simply control rates or timing of natural processes), requiring suspension of one or both of the basic laws of science, also known as the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, namely: the law of conservation of matter or available energy, and the law of decreasing organization and/or energy. The signs are as follows: (1) turning water into wine (John 2:3-11); (2) healing of the terminal illness of a nobleman’s son by a word spoken six miles away (John 4:46-54); (3) new limbs for a lifelong hopelessly crippled man (John 5:2-9); (4) the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves and fishes (John 6:5-14); (5) walking on the water (John 6:15-21); (6) new eyes for a man born blind (John 9:1-7); and (7) the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:3-44).
20:31 that ye might believe. Here John states that his specific purpose in writing was to win people to Christ. It is very significant that the divinely inspired method of doing this (as well as serving as an authoritative guide for methods of evangelism today) began with a strong affirmation of the special creation of all things by Christ, followed by a strong presentation of the program of redemption. In addition to the evidences provided by the miracles performed by Christ, John stresses the evidences of His resurrection and victory over death—especially the evidence of the empty tomb (John 20:8) and the post-resurrection appearances (John 20:20, etc.). Finally, the written Word itself gives abundant evidence of inspiration, and thus itself is a strong evidence (John 20:31).