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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

John 20

 

 

Verse 1

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene (see the note at Luke 8:2) early, when it was yet dark (see the note at Matthew 28:1, and at Mark 16:2), unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre (see the notes at Mark 16:3-4).


Verse 2

Then 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, and we know not where they have laid him.

Then she runneth - her whole soul strung to its utmost tension with trepidation and anxiety,

And cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved - those two who were so soon to be associated in proclaiming the Saviour's resurrection, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Dear disciple! Thy dead Lord is to thee "The Lord" still.


Verse 3

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

Peter therefore went forth, and that - or 'the' other disciple, and came to the sepulchre - to see with their own eyes.


Verse 4

So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together: and the other disciple (being the younger of the two), did outrun Peter - but love, too, haply supplying swifter wings. How lively is the mention of this little particular, and at such a distance of time! Yet how could the very least particular of such a visit be ever forgotten?


Verse 5

And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

And he stooping down, [and looking in]. The supplement here should not be printed in Italics, as the one Greek word [ parakupsas (Greek #3879)] denotes both the stooping and the looking, as in John 20:11, and in 1 Peter 1:12 ('desire,' or 'stoop down, to look' into):

Saw (rather, 'seeth' [ blepei (G991)]) the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in - held back probably by a reverential fear.


Verse 6

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and - being of a bold, resolute character, he at once "went into the sepulchre" - and was rewarded with bright evidence of what had happened.

And seeth the linen clothes lie - `lying.'


Verse 7

And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes - loosely, as if hastily thrown down, and indicative of a hurried and disorderly removal,

But wrapped ('or folded') together in a place by itself - showing with what grand tranquility "the Living One" had walked forth from "the dead." (See the note at Luke 24:5.) 'Doubtless,' says Bengel, 'the two attendant angels (John 20:12) did this service for the Rising One; the one disposing of the linen clothes, the other of the napkin.' But perhaps they were the acts of the Risen One Himself, calmly laying aside, as of no further use, the garments of His mortality, and indicating the absence of all haste in issuing from the tomb.


Verse 8

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

Then went in also that (or 'the') other disciple which came first to the sepulchre. The repetition of this, in connection with his not having gone in until 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 Ha believed in his Lord's resurrection more immediately and certainly than Peter.


Verse 9

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

For as yet they knew (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 afterward a key to the Scripture predictions of it.


Verse 10

Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.


Verse 11

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping. Brief had been the stay of Peter and John. But Mary, who may have taken another way to the sepulchre after they left it, lingers at the spot, weeping for her missing Lord.

And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked - through her tears, "into the sepulchre,"


Verse 12

And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And seeth two angels. There need be no difficulty in reconciling this with the accounts of the angelic appearances at the sepulchre in the other Gospels; since there can be no reasonable doubt, as Olshausen suggests, that angels can render themselves visible or invisible as the case may require, and so they may have been seen at one time and soon after unseen-seen also by one party and not by another, one seen by one set of visitants and two by another. 'What wonder,' asks Alford pertinently, 'if the heavenly hosts were variously and often visible on this great day, "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy"?'

In white - as from the world of light (see the note at Matthew 28:3),

Sitting - as if their proper business had already been finished, but they had been left there to await the arrival of their Lord's friends, and reassure them --

The one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Why this special posture? To proclaim silently, as Luthardt, Alford etc., think, how entirely the body of the Lord Jesus was under the guardianship of the Father and his servants. But to us this is not a quite satisfactory explanation of the posture. What if it was designed to call mute attention to the narrow space within which the Lord of glory had contracted Himself?-as if they should say, Come, see within what limits, marked off by the space 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.


Verse 13

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

And they say unto her, 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.

She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him

- the very words she had used to Peter and John (John 20:2) are here repeated to the bright visitants from the world of light: q.d., 'Can I choose but weep when thus bereft?'


Verse 14

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.


Verse 15

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? - questions which, redoubled, so tenderly reveal the yearning desire to disclose Himself to that dear desciple.

She, supposing him to be 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. The voice of His first words did not, it seems, reveal Him; for He would try her before He would tell her. Accordingly, answering not the stranger's question, but coming straight to her point with him, she

Saith unto him, 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?" (Song of Solomon 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 (Genesis 45:1).


Verse 16

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

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 unto him [in the Hebrew tongue], Rabboni! which is to say, Master!

[Tischendorf and Tregelles introduce into the text what we have placed in brackets - [ Hebraisti (Greek #1447)] - on what appears to be preponderating evidence. Lachmann brackets it as we have done.] Mary uttered this word in the endeared mother-tongue, and the Evangelist, while perpetuating for all time the very term she used, gives his readers to whom that tongue was unknown the sense of it. 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 actions what words failed to clothe: but she is checked.


Verse 17

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: - `Old familiaries 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 been said.

But go to my brethren. (Compare Matthew 28:10; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 2:17.) 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!" exclaims devout Dr. Hall, '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 O, 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.'

And say unto them, 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 moments, His God. But both are here united, expressing that fullorbed 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 what He is to us-His Father essentially; ours not so: our God essentially; His not so: His God only in connection with us; our Father only in connection with Him.


Verse 18

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Mary Magdalene came and told, [ erchetai (G2064) apangellousa (G518), rather, 'cometh and telleth'] the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. To a woman was this honour given, to be the first that saw the risen Redeemer, and that woman was not his mother.


Verse 19

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, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

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. [The word enclosed in brackets - [ suneegmenoi (Greek #4863)] - is probably not genuine.]

Came Jesus and stood in the midst. That this was not an entrance in the ordinary way is manifest not only from the very special manner of expression, but from the corresponding language of Luke 24:36. But there is no need to fancy any penetrating through the doors, as several of the Fathers did and some still do: far less reason is there to fear that by holding that He appeared among them without doing so we compromise the reality of His resurrection-body. The natural way of viewing it is to conclude that the laws of the resurrection-body are different from those of "flesh and blood," and that according to these the risen Saviour, without any miracle, but in the exercise of a power competent to the risen body, presented Himself among the assembled disciples.

And saith unto them, Peace be unto you - not the mere wish that even His own exalted peace might be theirs (John 14:27); but conveying it into their hearts, even as He "opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).


Verse 20

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side - not only as ocular and tangible evidence of the reality of His resurrection (see the notes at Luke 24:37-43), but as through "the power of that resurrection" dispensing all His peace to men.


Verse 21

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Then said Jesus to them again - now that they were not only calmed, but prepared to listen to Him in a new character.

Peace be unto you. The reiteration of these precious words shows that this was what He designed to be not only the fundamental but ever-present, ever-conscious possession of His people.

As my Father (rather, 'the Father') hath sent me, even so send I you - or rather, perhaps, 'even so am I sending you,' that is, just about to do it. (See the note at John 17:18.)


Verse 22

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them - a symbolical and expressive conveyance to them of the Spirit, which in Scripture is so often compared to breath (see the note at John 3:8);

And saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit - as an earnest and first-fruits of the more grand and copious Pentecostal effusion, without which it had been vain to send them at all.


Verse 23

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 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 the note at Matthew 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.


Verse 24

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came - that is, on the evening of the resurrection-day. Why he was absent we know not; but we cannot persuade ourselves, with Stier, Alford, and Luthardt, that it was intentional, from sullen obstinacy. Indeed, the mention here of the fact of his absence seems designed as a loving apology for his slowness of belief.


Verse 25

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. This way of speaking of Jesus-as in John 20:20, and John 21:7 - so suited to His resurrection-state, was soon to become the prevailing style.

But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger 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 his unbelief. For, as Bengel says, it is not, 'If I see, I will believe,' but 'Unless I see, I will not believe;' nor does he think he will see, though the rest had told him that they had. How Jesus Himself viewed this state of mind we know from Mark 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 springs this pertinacity of resistance in such minds? Not certainly from reluctance to believe, but as in Nathanael (see the note at John 1:46), from mere dread of mistake in so vital a matter.


Verse 26

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

And after eight days - that is, on the eighth or first day of the following week. They themselves probably met every day during the preceding week, but their Lord designedly reserved His second appearance among them until the recurrence of His resurrection-day, that He might thus inaugurate the delightful sanctities of THE LORD'S DAY (Revelation 1:10).

His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Then came Jesus , [ erchetai (Greek #2064) ho (Greek #3588) Ieesous (Greek #2424)] - rather, 'Jesus cometh,'

The doors being shut (see the note at John 20:19),

And stood in the midst - not 'sat;' for the manifestation was to be, as on the evening of the week preceding, merely to show Himself among them as their risen Lord.


Verse 27

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it. This is here rather too strong a word. Probably 'put it'-as the same word [ balloo (Greek #906)] is rendered in John 10:4 - is the right English word here.

Into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. These words of Jesus, as Luthardt remarks, have something rhythmical in them. There are two parallel members, with an exhortation referring to both. And Jesus speaks purposely in the words of Thomas himself, that, as Lampe says, he might be covered with shame. But with what condescension and gentleness is this done!


Verse 28

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

[And]. This "And" is evidently no part of the genuine text.

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 John 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, sea on John 1:49. The Socinian evasion of the supreme divinity of Christ here manifestly taught-as if it were a mere call upon Gad in a fit of astonishment-is beneath notice, except for the profanity which it charges upon this disciple, and the straits to which it shows themselves reduced.


Verse 29

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Jesus saith unto him, [Thomas]. The word enclosed in brackets is almost totally destitute of authority.

Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed - words of measured commendation, but of indirect, and doubtless painfully felt rebuke: q.d., 'Thou hast indeed believed; it is well; but it is only on the evidence of thy senses, and after peremptorily refusing all evidence short of that.'

Blessed are they that have net seen, and yet have believed. 'Wonderful indeed,' as Alford well says, 'and rich in blessing for us who have not seen Him, is this closing word of the Gospel.'


Verse 30

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

And many other signs - or 'miracles' truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.


Verse 31

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

But these are written (as sufficient specimens), that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life - in the sense of John 6:27, etc.,

Through (or rather, 'in') his name. Two things about Jesus the Evangelist says his Gospel was written to establish. First, That He was "THE CHRIST," or 'the Messiah,' the great Hope of all heaven-taught souls from the beginning; and next, that this Messiah was "THE SON OF GOD." The one of these titles was the official one with which all who were looking for the promised Deliverer were familiar; the other is intended to express His Personal dignity and relation to the Father-for claiming which the Jews once and again took up stones to stone Him, and at length put Him to death. Without the Sonship, the Messiahship would be of no avail to sinful men; nor would the Sonship have done anything for us without the Messiahship. But as the two together constitute that "all fullness" which "it hath pleased the Father should dwell in Him," (Colossians 1:19), so in the hallowed phrase, that "Jesus is the Christ the Son of God," we have that full Name which is as ointment poured forth to all that have ever tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Beautiful is the connection between these concluding verses and the last words of the preceding verse, about Thomas: q.d., '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.'

For Remarks on the Resurrection of Christ, see those on Matthew 28:1-15, at the close of that section, and on Luke 24:13-53, Remarks 1 and 5 at the close of that section. But on the distinctive features of the present section we may add the following. Remarks:

(1) Referring to the Remarks already made on Christian womanhood (on Luke 8:1-3, at the close of that section), one cannot but notice how exquisitely Woman's position in relation to Christ and His cause come out in this chapter. Indeed, were one internal evidence of the truth of the Bible, and of the divinity of the religion it discloses, to be demanded-one that should be at once decisive and level to ordinary capacity, perhaps the position which it assigns to Woman might as safely be fixed upon as any other; for whether we take her destination before the fall, her condition under the fall, or what the religion of the Bible has done to lift her out of it, the finger of God is alike clearly seen. But nowhere in the Bible-nowhere in Christianity-is her place more beautiful than here, in looking, before others were astir, for the Saviour so dear to her, receiving from the lips that had fed so many His first word as the Risen One-a word, too, of such familiarity and love-and getting a commission from Him to carry the glad tidings to His disconsolate "brethren." O Woman! self-ruined but dearly ransomed, how much owest thou unto thy Lord! The Lord hath need of thee, not only for all thou hast in common with the other, sex, but, over and above this, for all that sanctified Woman has to render to Him; and that is much. Some of the services of Woman to Christ are recorded in the New Testament for her encouragement in all time, (see the notes at Mark 14:1-11, Remark 2 at the close of that section; and at Romans 16:1-27.) But some of most beautiful specimens of female Christianity will never be heard of until the resurrection-morn.

`Unseen, unfelt their earthly growth, And self-accused of sin and aloth They live and die: their names decay,

Their fragrance passes clean away; Like violets in the freezing blast, No vernal steam around they cast - But they shall flourish from the tomb, The breath of God shall wake them into od'rous bloom'

(KEBLE)

And this should be enough with male or female.

(2) As "PEACE" was the last word which Jesus spoke to His assembled disciples before He suffered (John 16:33), so it was His first word to them as He presented Himself in the midst of them for the first time on the evening of His resurrection day (John 20:19). As this was what His death emphatically procured (Ephesians 2:14-15), so this is what His resurrection emphatically sealed (Hebrews 13:20). Let the peace of God, then, rule in our hearts, to the which also we are called in one body (Colossians 3:15).

(3) Did Jesus, when He was announcing to the Eleven His purpose to send them forth on a high mission into the world, even as His Father had sent Him, breathe on them and say, Receive ye the Holy Spirit? How impressively does this proclaim to all who go forth to preach the Gospel, that their speech and their preaching, if it is to be efficacious at all, must not be with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power! (1 Corinthians 2:4).

(4) Is not a divine seal set upon the faithful exercise of church discipline in John 20:23? (See the note at Matthew 18:18, and Remark 4 at the close of that section.)

(5) As our Lord, in very emphatic terms, exalts those who have not seen and yet have believed, over those who have believed only on the evidence of their senses, and as the miraculous introduction of the Gospel Economy has long ago given place to the noiseless development of it under the ordinary laws of the spiritual kingdom, so there is no reason to expect that this will ever on earth be superseded by the re-erection of a supernatural economy and the re-introduction of palpable contact between heaven and earth. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," is the fitting description of all who have been or ever shall be drawn to the Lord Jesus from the time of His departure until He come again and receive us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 20:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-20.html. 1871-8.

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