John 20

Chapter twenty jumps ahead about 36 hours from sunset on Friday to sunrise on Sunday (John 20:1-9). Mary Magdalene (and other women, according to the other accounts) approached the tomb but found it open. She ran to tell Peter and John about it, and they came to find Jesus’ body gone but the wrappings still in the tomb. When they went back home, Mary stayed there weeping at the shock of Jesus’ body having presumably been stolen (John 20:10-18). In what can only be called an extreme measure of grace, Jesus presented himself to her first as alive again. Not only did she get to announce the open tomb, she was privileged to announce the resurrection as well.

Later that evening, while the apostles were meeting together to discuss the day’s events, Jesus appeared to them in a locked room (John 20:19-23). Much has been written and debated about what Jesus meant when “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Comparing this passage with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, it seems that this was actually the point of their “salvation,” where they were born again based on the resurrection, although the Church had not yet begun. The statement about forgiving and retaining sins seems to look back to Jesus’ only other recorded mentions of discipline in the Church context in Matthew 16:19 and 18:15-22.

Although there would be other appearances, John made special mention of one a week later, when Thomas was with the rest of the apostles (vs. 24-29). He had apparently refused to believe their report that Jesus was alive and said that he needed physical proof. At this, Jesus appeared and offered his hands and side as the proof Thomas needed. Immediately Thomas believed, but not without a minor rebuke from Jesus about his lack of faith.

The chapter ends with John’s stated purpose of the book: that his readers would come to know Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, and that they would believe in him for eternal life (John 20:30-31). Although Jesus certainly did and said much more than John recorded, nothing else is necessary to provide evidence of the truth of who he is and what he did.

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