Jesus is raised from the dead. Mary Magdalene visits the empty tomb. She reports back to Peter, who visits the tomb, but the beloved disciple gets there first. They depart and Mary returns. She sees two angels in the tomb; then Jesus appears to her outside it. She clutches him, and he tells her to stop because he will not leave permanently at that moment. He commissions her to tell the other disciples. He appears to them and shows them his hands (wrists) and side. He exhales and says for them to receive the Spirit. He appears to Thomas. John lays out the purpose of the book.
As I write in every introduction:
This translation and commentary are for everyone who needs an online reference, but the commentary is mainly for readers in developing and persecuting countries, where Christians cannot afford or do not have access to excellent printed Study Bibles or commentaries. The main goal is missional.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek says. It tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so I had to make adjustments.
Readers can go to biblehub.com and use the interlinear link to look up every Greek word, and then the links go to every occurrence of the word. They can also visit biblegateway.com for many translations.
A GrowApp section is offered after every passage of Scripture, which asks challenging questions for deeper discipleship.
Links are provided for further study.
The Resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-10)
1 On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early, while it was still dark, to the tomb and saw the stone taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and said to them, “They have removed the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have placed him.” 3 Then Peter went out, and the other disciple too, and came to the tomb. 4 The two ran together. And the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and was the first one to come to the tomb. 5 Stooping down, he saw the strips of linen lying there, but he did not enter. 6 Then Simon Peter came and followed him and went into the tomb and saw the strips of linen cloth lying there. 7 And the face-cloth, which was on his head, was not lying with the strips of linen but was apart and rolled up by itself. 8 So then the other disciple, who was the first to the tomb, also went in and looked and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead. 10 So the disciples departed back to their own homes.
This quotation from Carson, though long, summarizes the centrality of the resurrection.
For John, as for all the early Christians, the resurrection of Jesus, was the immutable fact upon which their faith was based; and their faith in large part depended on the testimony and transformed behavior of those who had actually seen the resurrected Jesus. Their Master was not in God’s eyes a condemned criminal; the resurrection proved that he was vindicated by God, and therefore none the less the Messiah, the Son of God he claimed to be. The culminating faith that brings the disciples out of the era of the Mosaic covenant and into the era of the saving sovereignty of God mediated through the Son is based on the sheer facticity of the resurrection (20:8, 24-29)—or, better put, such faith trusts Jesus as the resurrected Lord. Nor is John alone on the non-negotiability of the resurrection, for Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:14-17) (pp. 631-32)
That is perfectly stated.
He goes on to point out that each resurrection appearance in all of the four Gospels could stand alone, as each person or group told their stories. So it is difficult to reconcile all four Gospels accounts in the trivial details. We don’t need to reconcile them in the trivial details because the main message and even the sequence of events (burial—resurrection—appearances) are clear. Nonetheless, as we go along, I’ll refer to attempts to harmonize the details, which is not too difficult in most cases.
Remember, don’t let your faith be so brittle that it snaps in two when these differences arise in the four Gospels. We must not allow post-Enlightenment and postmodern demands to intimidate us about documents that were written two thousand years ago. These story-tellers did not have modern technology. Even the Guttenberg printing press was invented in the mid-1400’s.
Just hold on to the central fact of the resurrection. It is central to our faith.
At the link, scroll down to the Resurrection and celebrate the similarities.
The fact that Mary Magdalene got there early, while it was dark, indicates that she was eager to find out what happened. She had a strong desire and hope to ensure that Jesus’s predictions about his death and resurrection would come true. Her answer was partly revealed. The stone was removed and the tomb was empty. Could it be that he really was raised from the dead? Her slight unbelief was revealed, however, when she told Peter that she (we) did not know where they placed or put him. It never occurred to her, apparently, that he was resurrected, or if the thought crossed her mind, she dismissed it.
Mark 16:2 says that the women got to the tomb “just after sunrise. The best explanation is that Mary got there first, while the other women came later (Mounce, comment on v. 1). I also like what Borchert writes:
We may also inquire concerning the time when Mary came to the tomb. All the Gospels indicate it was about dawn, but Mark 16:2 notes that the sun had risen. Yet John states that it was still dark (prōi skotias). Both Gospels, however, use the term prōi, “early,” and “dark” is a relative term. Also Mark’s “very early” suggests that that sunrise had barely occurred. More important, the reader should remember that time and temperature readings in John are also theologically oriented statements (cf. 3:2; 10:23; 13:30). It was indeed early morning when Mary Magdalene saw a sign of the resurrection—the removed stone—but she was still in the dark concerning its significance.
Why did Mary shift the verb and the implied pronoun to “we” when John shows she was alone? The other Gospels say that Mary Magdalene was not alone but came with other women. John is simply training the camera on her in this scene. The other three Gospels always put this Mary first in their list of first women to get to the tomb. Remember: Gospel writers were free to omit and include data points. These are differences, not contradictions. The equation is simple:
Data Points in One Gospel + Omitted Data Points in Another Gospel
= a Difference
≠ a Contradiction.
How can an omission or silence contradict anything? Or how can included data points contradict silence or omitted data points? They cannot. There is no contradiction between the Gospel accounts.
Let’s move on.
When the stone was removed, it was taken away from the opening of the tomb.
“they”: Who were the men who would remove the stone and take away the body of Jesus? Klink is right: the Jewish authorities. This reflects Matt. 28:11-13, which says that a story circulated that the authorities removed the body. If they had moved it, they could have produced, as soon as the Jesus Movement grew rapidly in Jerusalem. But the good news is that they did not remove the body. God did, by transforming and resurrecting it.
One small point: Mary’s name in Greek here is Maria, not Miriam, though sometimes the name “Mary” is also spelled as “Miriam” in Greek (vv. 16, 18). John did not see the need to write “Miriam” every time, as if to return to Hebrew roots. The two names are interchangeable. So we don’t have to make a big deal about using Miriam as if we are returning to some deep level of pure origins. Though John had Jewish origins in Galilee, he wanted to relate to his (adopted) Greek culture. Or he simply saw them as synonyms and used Miriam to relate to the Jewish converts in the new Jesus Movement. Therefore, if some translations wish to use Hebrew names (Jacob instead of James or Miriam in place of Mary), then this is not a bad practice, if it is used for outreach to the Jewish community. The problem is that the Hebrew Roots Movement seems to use these names (and other Hebrew words) as shibboleths to guarantee original purity. So once again, walls are put up between the people of God, Jew and Gentile, which Paul warned against everywhere in his epistles.
Relax and pull back, Hebrew Roots Movement!
Evidently Peter and the beloved disciple started out from their hiding place in or near Jerusalem and ran together, but John put on his “trainers” or “tennis shoes” or “sneakers” and outran Peter. I have always pictured Peter to be husky, yet the beloved disciple—and it seems to be John the apostle and author of this Gospel—was probably younger and certainly fleeter of foot. But of course this is just my speculation.
In any case the beloved disciple got there first and stooped down and looked in and saw the cloths. The one covering the Lord’s head was apart and away from the strips of linen covering his body, as if to say that the glorified body simply slipped out and left them there where they were. It could be that an angel rolled up the face-cloth. Or maybe Jesus himself did! If so, then he wanted to leave the tomb better than when he found it! Or maybe we should cool our jets and say it was an unknown gardener. In any case, the cloth did not keep its shape when the Lord was resurrected.
The tomb was big enough to go inside, but the beloved disciple had to stoop down or bend down to peep inside. Two angels could fit in it (v. 12).
“face-cloth”: it was used for the face to wipe perspiration (BDAG). It was a sweat cloth. It comes from the Latin sudarium, which in Greek here is soudarion. Lazarus also had a face cloth on him at his burial (11:44).
Here we have some ideas spliced in with rapid-fire. John finally went in, saw the cloths, and believed. But the others (plural) did not believe because they had not yet come to understand the Scriptures that said he must rise from the dead. John is simply introducing what is about to happen in this chapter, when Jesus appears to the disciples. They will not believe at first, but eventually will. Verses 8-9 simply compress and abbreviate the time.
For the Scriptures, we can consult the Book of Acts and Peter’s preaching, which I place at the end of this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit of Scripture. For now, Peter did not understand the full meaning of the resurrection. He did not connect the dots when Jesus said that he could raise this “temple” in three days (2:19-22). He was talking about his body.
Morris insightfully writes: “The Easter faith means more than the conviction that a resuscitation has taken place; it includes understanding that the divine purpose revealed in Scripture has now taken place. It seems that John had now come to believe that the resurrection had taken place, but that he did not yet appreciate all that that meant” (comment on v. 8)
“disciples”: Let’s discuss what a disciple is.
The noun is mathētēs (pronounced mah-they-tayss). and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
Translation note on v. 10: the phrasing is not the same as it is at 19:27 (“to their own homes”); it could be translated “to their own places,” which broadens out their destination (Carson, comment on v. 10).
“must”: in v. 9, this verb comes from the word dei (pronounced day). The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). Additionally, it is often translated as “must” or “has to” or “it is necessary.” John uses the verb in an eschatological sense of inaugurating the kingdom by Jesus’s ministry, particularly in the saving work of Jesus (John 3:7, 14, 30; 4:4; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9). In other words, God is directing his Son on a mission, and there is a sense of “divine must” or “divine necessity” in the direction, in order to invade the dark world (Klink, comment on 4:4). Now, however, the divine necessity is his resurrection.
If the hostile authorities had wanted to refute the resurrection of Jesus, they could have produced the body, but they never did.
Further, here is a table of the resurrection appearances. I hope it clarifies the main passages:
|The Empty Tomb||Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Mt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:1-9|
|Mary Magdalene||In a garden in Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 11-18|
|Other women||Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Mt. 28:9-10|
|Two men on Road to Emmaus||Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32|
|Peter||Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5|
|Ten disciples in upper room||Jerusalem||Resurrection Sunday||Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25|
|Eleven disciples in upper room||Jerusalem||Following Sunday||Mk. 16:14; Jn. 20:26-31; 1 Cor. 15:5|
|Seven disciples||Sea of Galilee||Some time later||Jn. 21:1-23|
|Eleven disciples on mountain||Galilee||Some time later||Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15-18|
|More than five hundred||Unknown||Some time later||1 Cor. 15:6|
|James||Unknown||Some time later||1 Cor. 15:7|
|His disciples at his ascension||Mount of Olives||Forty days after resurrection||Lk. 24:44-49; Ac. 1:3-8|
|Paul||Damascus||Several years later||Ac. 9:1-9, 22:3-16, 26:9-18; 1 Cor. 9:1|
|Adapted from NIV Study Bible, p. 1754.|
David L. Turner in his commentary Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 683-84, has a magnificent section in his commentary on “Without the resurrection,” which I modify here:
Without the resurrection…
Jesus’s redemptive act of dying for sinners would not have divine endorsement. The Father would not declare that Jesus’s death was victorious and the blood shed on the cross to initiate the new covenant would be effective (Rom. 4:25).
His promise that he would rise from the dead (12:40; 16:21; 17:9; 20:19; 26:32) would be empty, and his death would be scorned or pitied, but not believed or obeyed (1 Cor. 15:16-19)
Jesus could not save people from their sins, just as the angel had promised (1:21), for he would be cursed with infamy because he hanged on a tree or wooden pole (Deut. 21:22-23; Gal. 3:13).
There would be no apostolic foundation of the church (16:18), since the apostles deserted him at his arrest and death. Yet his resurrection turned them back and restored them and made them into disciples (26:27-29; 28:7, 10, 16-20).
There would be no complete model of sacrificial living. By dying to self, you gain your soul. Genuinely abundant living occurs when one gives up one’s own life, but without the resurrection the new orientation is short-circuited (10:38-39; 16:24-26; 20:26-28; 23:12; cf. Rom. 6:1-11).
There would be no eschatological shalom to rectify all earthly wrongs and renew the world (19:28). Shalom means peace and prosperity and wellbeing, and this will happen at the end of the age. But it would not happen without the resurrection.
The martyrs whose blood cries out from the ground would experience no justice or vindication (23:35; Rev. 6:9-11). Those who commit violence would not be held accountable without an ultimate reckoning (13:37-42; Dan. 12:2). “Satan would win the cosmic battle.”
People could not hope for their own resurrection and reward (13:43; 16:27; 25:31-40; 27:51-52). Jesus’s ethical teaching said that there would be judgment and reward in the coming kingdom (4:17; 5:12; 7:1-2, 21). What would become of the thrones of the twelve apostles and the rewards Jesus promised to all his disciples (6:9-21; 13:43; 19:27-29; cf. Dan. 12:3; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21)?
The kingdom would never come to earth and be implemented fully, as it is in heaven (6:10, 33).
Jesus’s “climatic saving act of dying for sinners by crucifixion would lack interpretation and proof of divine acceptance.” The preaching of the cross (Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 18-25; 1 Pet. 1:19; Heb. 2:9, 14; 9:12-14; Rev. 5:6-9) would be insignificant and meaningless.
To sum up, the gospel must include the cross and the resurrection, side by side. The gospel must be communicated with the saving power of the cross, and the proof of the saving power of the cross comes through the resurrection. “Any ‘gospel’ that does not place Jesus’s resurrection alongside Jesus’s death is not the authentic message of Jesus and the apostles.”
Scriptures for the resurrection:
Acts 2:32; 3:15, 26; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30-37; 17:18, 31; 23:6; 24:21; 25:19; 26:8, 23
Rom. 1:4; 4:25; 6:4-5; 8:11; 10:9
1 Cor. 15:3-8, 12-23, 32, 42.
2 Cor. 4:10, 14; 13:4
Eph. 1:20; 2:5; 4:10
Col. 2:12; 3:1-4
1 Thess. 4:14
1 Tim. 3:16
Heb. 1:3; 10:12; 12:1
1 Pet. 1:21; 3:18-22
Rev. 1:5, 18; 2:8; 5:6-10
Thus, the apostolic community, some of whom were infallibly inspired to write the NT, believed that the resurrection was the foundation of their faith. So it should be the foundation of our faith too. Are we better than their generation? No.
GrowApp for John 20:1-10
A.. The resurrection is the core of our faith. Please study 1 Cor. 15:12-20 to find out how important it is.
B.. From those Scriptures, what does it mean in your life?
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
11 Mary was standing before the tomb, weeping. As she was weeping, she stooped into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they placed him.” 14 When she said these things, she turned around behind and saw Jesus standing and did not know it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” She, thinking that he was a gardener, said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you have put hm, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned around and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “teacher”). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not keep touching me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going my Father and your Father and my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord” and that he spoke these things to her.
This is one of the best scenes in the entire Gospel. It is filled with seeing and not seeing, understanding and recognizing and not understanding and recognizing.
First, Mary was weeping because she wanted the body of her Lord, to recover it and take it away and give it another burial, but it had gone missing. She got to the tomb early in the morning, hoping for something wonderful, but she could not connect the dots about the missing body and the resurrection. Would we have done better? Perceived things more accurately? I’m not so sure.
Second, wipes her eyes and decided to stoop or behind down to look inside the tomb. It was not empty. God knew she was going to do this, so he sent two angels to meet her where she was. They refer to her respectfully by the word “Woman.” the experts tell us that two thousand years ago, and in that culture, “woman” was not rude. It was equivalent to “madam” or “ma’am” (Mounce, comment on 19:26). Usually, when God or his representatives ask a question to which they already know the answer, it is not a stupid question. They are testing her faith and knowledge. Does she have faith in the words of Jesus predicting his resurrection? Does she still remain an anxious friend there to collect the body? Or is she there to witness a miracle? It looks as though she is there in anxiety and intending merely to collect the body.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
Klink has a symbolic reading of the two angels on where the head and feet used to be—they symbolize the two cherubim on the ark of the covenant, and the stone slab or bench on which Jesus had lain is the new mercy seat, effecting our redemption (long comment on v. 12). I don’t like super-symbolical readings, personally, but you can certainly run with it.
As soon as she said those words, she must have heard or saw something and turned around to look behind her. She got up out of the tomb. She saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Did he appear in a different form, or was she kept from recognizing him, as it happened to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16)? Surely if she had believed in the resurrection as Martha did, proclaiming him to be the Son of God (11:24-27), then she could have recognized him. But because she was obtuse and in unbelief, she was kept from recognizing him. She thought he was a gardener acting as a kind stranger. Inability to recognize or know is called irony. Job and his friends thought they knew the ways of God, and they did to a certain degree (great poetry!), but when God showed up, he had to set them straight. They did not know as much as they claimed. Mary has a similar predicament, but the ignorance / irony is not harsh or bad; it is sweet and innocent—still fluctuating between hope and despair.
Jesus uses the address “woman, which as noted in v. 13, was a form of respect back in those days, yet we should not miss the distancing effect of the word, because he will soon call her by her name.
She still intends to track down the body, so that it would not remain in a stranger’s custody. Apparently she did not know about Joseph of Arimathea’s and Nicodemus’ concern for the body at the initial burial. If she had known, she would have sought them out. She would have found out that they did not have the body. Where’s the body? The glorified body is standing right in front of her. Irony abounds.
Mounce: “Mary’s inability to recognize the presence of the Lord, though he was right there at that very moment, is illustrative of the common experience of all too many believers in our day. May God open our eyes as he opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant Dothan (2 Ki. 6:17) to see that we have not been abandoned to the enemy but that God surrounds us with his protective love” (comment on v. 14).
Now comes the moving part (at least for me). He calls her by her name: Miriam. This jolts her awake. She turned around. Therefore she must have humbly not been facing him when he asked the “gardener” where the body was. Or she was blinded by her tears. But the mention of her name brought her to her senses.
Mounce: “On hearing her name, Mary suddenly realized that it could be none other than Jesus. She had seen him placed in the tomb as a lifeless corpse. But now he spoke. He was alive! We know from John 10 that when the good shepherd calls his sheep, ‘they know his voice’ (v. 4l cf. vv. 1-18). Mary belonged to his flock” (comment on v. 16).
She replies with the title Rabboni, which the Shorter Lexicon says is a heightened form of Rabbi, both meaning “my Master,” and which John translates for his Greek audience. The sound of her name prompts her to recognition. She escapes from her irony, form her obtuseness, her unbelief.
Jesus says not to touch him, while he invites Thomas to touch him. How doe we reconcile the two accounts? Here the verb “touch” could be translated as “touch,” “take hold of,” or “cling to.” It is also in the present tense imperative (command), which indicates that she was clinging to him. Novakovic says (pp. 295-96) that the choice of translation boils down to the context. Most translations go with the latter two. Whichever translation one chooses, it reveals deep devotion and even relief. He is indeed alive!
Klink points out that the angels must be inside the tomb because they do not impact Mary as Jesus does, who must be outside the tomb to show his resurrection to her (comment on v. 16). And you can certainly accept his interpretation if you wish.
She should not cling to him because he has not yet ascended to his Father. Why? Bruce suggests that he will still be available to her when she goes and tells his baffled disciples. So she should not clutch him now. Bruce further says that this ascension may not refer to the big one in Acts 1:9, when the clouds enveloped him. This brought to an end the series of resurrection appearance now underway and throughout this chapter and Chapter 21. There is a new phase of relationship, and she was clinging to the old way. She can show her devotion to him in the new way—glorifying him and knowing him through being a branch in the vine (John 15). Bruce further adds: “There is the further implication that Mary, like his other followers, would have to get used to a new situation in which it would no longer be possible to him and touch him as formerly” (comment on vv. 17-18).
After a long and excellent (as usual) discussion by Carson, he suggests this paraphrase to catch the wording and the context (I omit most of his parenthetical comments:
“Stop touching me [or holding on to me] for I have not yet ascended to my Father [I am not in my ascended state] … so you do not have to hang on to me as if I were about to disappear permanently. This is a time for joy and sharing the good news, not for clutching me as if I were some jealously guarded private dream-come-true. Stop clinging to me, but go and tell my disciples that I am in the process of ascending to my Father and your Father (p. 644)
It’s a huge paraphrase, but it seems perfect for the context.
Morris paraphrases the meaning: “Stop clinging to me. There is no need for this, for I am not yet at the point of permanent ascension. You will have opportunity of seeing me” (comment on v. 17).
Jesus’s message to her was to go and tell his brothers, his disciples, the message that a new order to knowledge of God is now shifted and at work. Jesus is now introducing his Father and God to them. Bruce is particularly enlightening here, as well. Matt. 28:19 also says to go and tell his brothers, which refers to the eleven disciples. So this coincidence indicates a reliable gospel tradition. Next, Ps. 22:22 says that “I will tell your name to my brothers” (ESV). Ruth 1:16 says, “Your people will be my people, and your God my God” (ESV). With his OT background, Bruce writes: “So, when Jesus goes on to speak of ‘my Father and your Father’ and your God and my God,’ he not merely distinguishes himself from them with regard to their respective relationship to God, by the same token he links them with himself. … ‘I am ascending to my Father who is also yours, to my God who is also yours’ –so we may understand the force of his words. This message, then was taken to the disciples by Mary” … (comment on vv. 17-18).
Bruce’s explanation is relational. Let’s explore the issue of “my God” in light of systematic theology. What does this mean to Jesus’s deity? Does it mean that he is inferior in his being or nature or essence? No, it means he is submissive in his role and function. He is also identifying with them. He is the way to Father and God. A new way of salvation and knowledge of God has been opened up and forged, a new trail, a new path. In light of this new relationship, he calls his disciples “brothers” which Mounce calls “a new and affectionate title for the disciples” (comment on v. 17).
Miriam (so says the Greek) or Mary goes and announces to the disciples that she has seen the Lord. The Synoptics say that women (plural) do this. John excludes them for his own purposes.
Remember the equation at vv. 1-2:
Differences ≠ contradictions.
John’s silence about the other women, and the Synoptics speaking of them, cannot be a contradiction because words cannot contradict silence. Included data points cannot contradict omitted data points. These are differences. That is it.
“announcing” is a big deal. It is more than just whispering and muttering and even just telling or speaking. It is a proclamation and announcement. She is doing the work of an evangelist. She (and the other women) are the bridge between the resurrection and the disciples who will go on to lead the new community.
“I have seen”: this verb is also used by Paul when he said, “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1). This verb is found in many verses about the Lord appearing to the disciples: 1 Cor. 15:5, 6, 7, 8. It is also used when Jesus appeared to Paul: Acts 9:17, 27; 22:14, 15, 18; 26:16 (three times). John says in his first epistle that what “we have seen” (with our eyes) three times in 1:1, 2, 3. Therefore, Mary Magdalene has a special privilege and honor to see Jesus, who commissioned her to announce the resurrection to the eleven. This commission was significant, particularly when women’s testimony was inadmissible in Jewish courts (Carson, p. 636, cites this source: Mishnah Rosh ha-Shannah 1.8).
GrowApp for John 20:11-18
A.. At her most desperate point, while she was weeping, Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus when he said her name. How did you recognize him at your lowest moment? How did he speak to your heart?
Jesus Appears to His Disciples (John 20:19-23)
19 Then, while it the evening of that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said to them, “Peace to you.” 20 When he said this, he showed his hands and side to them. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus again said to them, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And when he said this, he breathed and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 And if you forgive the sins of any people, they will be forgiven them. If you retain (the sins) of any people, they will be retained.”
It was evening of (our) Sunday, and (our) Monday had not yet begun because the sun had not set, plus an hour. In this context, the Jews were the Jewish authorities who undoubtedly had sympathetic townspeople to act as lookouts. Times were tense.
Jesus spoke peace into his disciples’ lives and souls twice already (14:27 [twice] and 16:27). Now, he saw their fear, so he spoke it again, and will do so twice more (v. 21, 26).
“Klink calls this meeting the first “meeting of the church” (comment on v. 19). I prefer to think that the church was born at Pentecost in Acts 2, but maybe the Johannine Pentecost here is the first one (“Johannine” is an adjective for “John”).
Jesus is bequeathing his disciples his peace. Morris rightly reminds us that the peace which Jesus bequeaths and gives is “the natural result of the presence within people of the Holy Spirit of whom Jesus has been speaking” (comment on 14:27). So Jesus’s peace does not come by sheer willpower, but by the Spirit, which is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
Let’s explore more generally the peace that God brings.
It speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and wellbeing. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.
This word in Hebrew is shalom and means wellbeing, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience wellbeing and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits. Peace is a major reality of the messianic kingdom anticipated in the OT (Num. 6:26; Ps. 29:11; Is. 9:6-7; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; Ezek. 37:26; Hg. 2:9) and partly fulfilled or alluded to in the NT (Acts 10:36; Rom. 1:7; 5:1; 14:17).
With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people.” (Mounce, p. 503).
BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29).
This verse reminds me of these two verses in the Epistle to the Philippians.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7, NIV)
So how do we get and maintain peace? We pray.
When he said those two words (in Greek), he showed them the injuries in his hands and his side. This showing or demonstration amounts to evidence that they could believe with their eyes. It was not too good to be true. It was so good that it had to be true. Of course the disciples rejoiced when they saw him.
Beasley-Murray reminds us that both in Hebrew and in Greek the words can include the wrist, “so a loose translation could be as follows: “Jesus showed his hands and wrists” (p. 366, note i).
Morris: In their rejoicing, “we should certainly see in this the fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy that the disciples would have sorrow while the world rejoiced, but that they would see him again and their sorrow would be turned to joy (16:20-22)” (comment on v. 20).
Jesus spoke peace to them because he commissioned them. In Jesus’s high priestly prayer, he also commissions them, but as he addresses his Father: “Just as you have sent me into the world, I also am going to send them into the world” (17:18). Recall that the world is a dark place, and Jesus brings light to it. Now he commissions his disciples to penetrate the dark world, so he must give them his shalom (peace). They will encounter opposition, as they do, for example in Acts 5, so they must have his peace. Remember the verses in Phil. 4:6-7.
Being a disciple and fulfilling the mission is hard work! It can be scary, so he provides us with supernatural peace, which transcends or rises above our own understanding and which will guard our hearts and minds—in Christ Jesus. We must remain in him. He is our peace.
Now we can ask how Renewalists interpret this verse. We believe that we are Christ’s representatives or ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). We proclaim the ministry of reconciliation and the gospel of salvation and forgiveness of sins. Also, we incorporate the healing and demon-expelling ministry of Jesus, as well. He sends these original disciples into the world, just as Jesus entered the dark world. Now we today carry on his full-gospel ministry, which includes healing and demon expulsion because the rest of the Gospels shows us that these are signs for the advancement of the kingdom. We believe and practice, by God’s grace, the full commission and the full gospel, here in v. 21, and the other commissioning passages at the end of the other Gospels and the entire Gospels themselves. He empowers us to carry on his ministry.
Jesus blew or breathed (either English verb is fine, per Liddell and Scott and BDAG), but it does not say “on them.” The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) is a third to second century, B.C., translation of the Hebrew Bible into English. The verb emphusaō (pronounced em-foo-sah-oh) appears in Gen. 2:7, where God breathed into Adam’s face the living breath, and then the man became a soul. The verb also appears in Ezek. 37:9, which says that God tells the prophet to prophesy to these dead that the breath or wind may bring them to life. In a Jewish writing that is not found in the Bible, it says that God breathed into Adam and infused him with an active soul breathed in him a life-giving spirit (Wis. 15:11).
So what do these OT (and Wisdom) data points mean here in v. 22? It seems that something was missing in these disciples’ lives—the power of the Spirit. Jesus had already commissioned them in a prayer (17:18), but he had not empowered them with this direct commissioning. Therefore, he needed to empower them with the Spirit. Let’s not overlook the fact that Thomas was not in this room (v. 24), so let’s call the number of disciples “the ten,” just for convenience.
These verses are about all of humanity:
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus was standing up and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 The one believing in me, just as the Scripture says: Out of his inner most being rivers of living water will flow. 39 But he said this about the Spirit whom those believing in him were about to receive, for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39).
I believe this passage speaks of Acts 2:1-4, where the Spirit is poured out and empowers the disciples, beyond the breathing here in v. 22.
Yet here in v. 22, he is talking to the ten. Yet in all of the next verses he is also talking to the eleven disciples, in the upper room discourse.
Recall these verses in John 14:16-17:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, so that he may be with you forever, 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not perceive him nor knows him. You know him because he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
And these verses:
25 I have spoken these things to you while residing with you. 26 But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you all things and will remind you of everything which I have told you.” (John 14:25-27)
Here are others:
26 When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from my Father, the Spirit of truth who goes from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
Finally, here are other verses that talk of the Spirit coming:
12 I still have many things to say to you, but you are unable to bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own, but whatever things he will hear he will speak and announce to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me because he will receive from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All the things the Father has are mine. Because of this, I have said that he [the Spirit] receives from what is mine and will declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
The Spirit will teach the disciples everything (14:26), he will bear witness or testify about Christ (16:8), he will guide the disciples in the way of all truth (16:13). The Son came to glorify the Father (7:18; 17:4), and soon the Spirit will glorify Jesus by unfolding and revealing the meaning of Jesus’s person and work while he was on earth.
All of the above verses in the upper room discourses and prayer indicate that the Spirit had not yet been given, except 14:17, which uses the present tense “dwells,” as if the Spirit is dwelling with them at that moment. However, John often—very often—uses the present tense for narrative effect. In fact, even in this chapter he uses the present tense, which in English is usually translated in the narrative past. “Jesus says to them” becomes “Jesus said to them” (and so on), which professional grammarians call the historical present. So let’s not make too much of “dwells” in 14:17. However, it could be that the present tense of “dwells” really does mean that the Spirit was dwelling in them or with them on some level in the upper room in 14:27.
The bottom line so far is that in all these verses the sending and impartation of Spirit is in the future, and it seems that that the future is right now in v. 22.
So now the questions of interpreting the breathing becomes: (1) Are the ten disciples being born again for the first time (John 3:3, 5)? (2) Or are they receiving the Spirit to be empowered for their commission to be sent into the world? (3) Or are they being born again for the first time and being empowered for their mission? (4) Is this a foretaste or preparation for the wider and more spectacular of the empowerment in Acts 2:1-4, at Pentecost? (5) It is a symbolic gesture, referring back, in John’s own theology, to the powerful infilling at Pentecost, which happened long before John wrote his Gospel and which John himself experienced.
Before we select an interpretation, let’s factor in Thomas’s absence from the commissioning here in v. 22 and Matthias being the replacement of Judas, much later (Acts 1:12-26).
Thomas was not in the upper room when Jesus came to them and stood in their midst and breathed on them. Thomas seems to have been born again in v. 28, when he proclaims “My Lord and my God!” and Jesus said that Thomas believed. This belief must have been saving faith, for him to proclaim such profound words.
Matthias was selected by God to replace Judas. We must not believe that he was less empowered than the ten were, because he was not with them at this time. Matthias must have received his new birth and empowerment at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-14) or his new birth occurred at a time we do not know about.
So which option, given all these data points, is the best one or ones? I like the second and fourth and fifth ones. I also like Morris’s reminder, just below. But you can choose which one you like or come up with your own Bible-based interpretation. Klink counts seven of them (pp. 855-57). Research them in his commentary. I’m satisfied with limiting the interpretations to five and selecting the fifth one, which Carson came up with (pp. 652-54). John is simply compressing the time and reminding his community of an event that happened several decades ago. Yes, Jesus actually breathed, but it is a symbolic gesture. It cannot be equal to the powerful Pentecost which radically changed the disciples, for John 21 shows the disciples as returning to their regularly work.
The bottom line, in my opinion. is that John 20:22 seems to be a commission and empowerment from Jesus and a foretaste of the bigger and more spectacular Pentecost, with the possibility that they were also being born again. It seems that John 20:22 here is personal for the ten, so this is their personal empowerment, which will carry them through to the empowerment for the 120 in the upper room in Acts. Of course the ten would need extra-authority and power to get to Pentecost about fifty days later. And the same is true of Thomas.
I really like Morris’ broad perspective:
It is the teaching of the New Testament that ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:4), and the problem is probably to be solved along these lines. It is false alike to the New Testament and Christian experience to maintain that there is but one gift of the Spirit. Rather the Spirit continually manifests himself in new ways. Subsequent to the gift at Pentecost the Spirit fell on all who heard the word in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44), just as ‘on us at the beginning’ (Acts 11:15). On several occasions believers are said to have been ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (e.g. Acts 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9; cf. Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 2:12, etc.) … John tells us of one gift of the Spirit and Luke of another. (comment on v. 22)
As a Renewalist, I like the idea that this is one encounter with the Spirit among many others the disciple have throughout Acts and some teachings in the epistles.
Whichever option you choose, God is in charge of it all. He empowers and causes new birth in everyone who believes in Jesus. The more I think of it, the more I like Morris’s excerpt.
But see the addendum below v. 23, next, for more ideas.
The verb tenses “are forgiven” and “are retained” are actually in the perfect tense, but the conditional “if” puts it in a continuous, static condition (Novakovic, pp. 302-03). Note that the verbs are also in the passive voice. In contexts like these, passive voices are called the divine passive, which means that the implied subject of the verbs is God, who is the one who forgives or retains sins. His disciples are merely his human agents, and the message which the Spirit anoints is the gospel for the forgiveness of sins (see Luke 24:47, below).
This verse also corresponds to two verses in Matthew’s Gospel in the context of church discipline.
Jesus talking to Peter:
And whatever you have bound on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you have loosed on earth will have been loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:9)
Jesus to the entire community (or at least to the leaders over the community):
18 I tell you the truth: whatever you have bound on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you have loosed on earth will have been loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)
We also see the divine passives in those two verses. God is the one who binds or forbids (retains) and looses or permits (forgives). We humans are just his down-on-earth agents.
Addendum to John 20:19-23
It is widely acknowledged that John 20:19-23 corresponds to Luke 24:26-49, despite the incidental differences in details. Luke’s version is greatly expanded, while John’s is greatly compressed.
36 Now, while they were speaking about these things, he stood in the middle of them and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 They were terrified and became filled with fear and were thinking they were seeing a spirit. 38 He then said to them, “Why are you disturbed and why are doubts rising up in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet because I myself am he! Touch me and look, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones, just as you perceive me having. 40 And saying this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 While they were still not believing from joy and were astonished, he said to them, “Do you have food in this place here?” 42 They gave him a portion of broiled fish. 43 And he took it and ate in front of them. 44 Then he said to them, “These were my words which I have spoken to you while I was with you, because it was destined that all the things written in the law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms about me be fulfilled. 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said to them that in this way it was written that Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses to these things. 49 Now be attentive. I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But you settle in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:36-39)
Here is how I interpret these verses and John 20:19-23. First, the breathing or blowing on the ten in v. 22 may be merely a foretaste of Pentecost, just as Jesus is telling them here in Luke 24:26-49. The deeper empowerment will happen in Acts 2:1-4. Second, Thomas received his commission in Luke 24:46-49, and the eleven received another one in Acts 1:8-9. In all, there are three commissionings (20:22; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8-9) or four if we count John 17:18. Fourth, the forgiving or loosing of sins and retaining them is seen Luke 24:47. The gospel gives the disciples the power and authority to release or retain sins, but God is the one who works behind the scene actually doing the releasing and forgiving.
Borchert believes the breathing empowered them: “So, just as God, who in Gen 2:7 (cf. also Ezek 37:9) breathed into man the breath of life and he became a “living being” (nephesh hayyah), Jesus also breathed into his followers the new breath and let the Spirit loose among his followers so that they might be empowered to do his will” (comment on v. 22).
GrowApp for John 20:19-23
A.. Jesus spoke peace to the disciples because they were afraid of the Jerusalem religious establishment and because he was commissioning them to go out into a hostile world. Has God ever given you deep peace during your time of fear and worldly hostility? Tell your story.
Jesus and Thomas (John 20:24-29)
24 Thomas, one of the twelve, the one called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he told them, “Unless I see his hands, the mark of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and in his side, I will in no way believe.”
26 And after eight days, again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors were locked, and stood in the middle and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Reach out your finger here and look at my hands. Reach your hand and put it in my side, and do not be faithless, but instead faithful!” 28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you see me, do you believe? Blessed are those who have not seen yet also believe.”
Didymus simply means “twin,” so in this group, he was simply called the twin.
I wonder where the other half was? Was he a follower but not chosen to be one of the twelve? If so, was he jealous of this brother, or was he relieved that he could live a normal life? Was he a disbeliever? Did Thomas win him over later? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to these questions this side of heaven.
Thomas was not with them for reasons we do not know. Bruce reasonably believes that he was grieving by himself, while the others were grieving together (comment on vv. 24-25). This is good enough for me.
“One of the twelve”: it is simply a title of the twelve apostles, to designate Thomas as being counted among their number. Paul himself names Peter as someone who saw the resurrected Jesus, and then Paul says that the twelve did too (1 Cor. 15:5).
See v. 18 for other occurrences of the verb “see” (horao and pronounced ho-rah-oh). John uses it as a witness to the truth of the mighty resurrection. They were naturally interested in sharing their experience. Jesus really was alive. It must have been something to be the ones to see him right after the resurrection. Thomas wants ocular (eyewitness) and tangible (the sense of touch) proof. He even specifies that he must see and touch the wounds where the nails were and the spear pierced Jesus’s side. If he does not see and touch them, then he won’t believe. The Greek negation is emphatic: “in no way.” Apparently, just seeing Jesus as the other disciples would not be sufficient. The other disciples did not demand that they must see his hands and side, which he showed them anyway; for them, seeing was believing. No wonder he is called doubting Thomas.
“after eight days”: they counted (our) Sunday as the first day, so eight days would mean the next first day or (our) Sunday, a week later.
Jesus is again appearing to his disciples just to meet Thomas’s demand. Evidently, because Thomas is one of the twelve (or eleven), he must be given the honor of ocular and tangible proof. How would it be if Jesus let one of his specially chosen disciples loose on to the world, when he is a skeptic or unbeliever? No. The eleven must be sure beyond all doubt. It is on them, plus Matthias later, that he will lay the foundation of his church (Eph. 2:19-20 and Rev. 21:14). Jesus made a special allowance for Thomas.
However, Jesus rebuked Thomas for putting this demand on Jesus. The ones who believe without seeing—those are you and me—are really blessed (v. 29). The term “faithless,” used only here in John’s Gospel, is used elsewhere in the NT to mean unbelievers (1 Cor. 7:12-15; 1 Tim. 5:8) (Mounce, comment on vv. 26-27). It could be translated as “Do not be an unbeliever, but a believer” or more expansively “Stop being unbelieving, but show yourself a believer” (Carson, comment on v. 27).
In v. 19 the door was also locked, but Jesus stood in the middle of them. Here it is the same. Let’s cover this appearing in a locked room, since for some reason, some theologians have difficulty with this. By the Father’s will he can translate anyone he wishes and anywhere he wishes if the party is willing, and Jesus was gladly willing. Evidently Jesus went into the spiritual dimension and appeared in their earth-bound dimension. Angels can do this, as seen in Acts 12:7, where Peter was in prison, guarded by two men and with sentries before the door, guarding the prison. Yet an angel appeared next to Peter in his prison cell and woke him up. If an angel can do this, then surely Jesus can too, even with his glorified body. Per the Father’s will, just appear!
“peace to you”: see v. 19 for more comments on the word “peace.”
Speaking of Jesus’s glorified body, it still retains the wounds in his hands and feet and side. God has chosen to keep the wounds there so that we can be reminded of the terrible and great price he paid to acquire our redemption. There is continuity between his body before and after the resurrection.
Yet Morris is right to point out that in continuity, there is something different about the resurrected body, so that it is not always recognized. On the road to Emmaus the two disciples did not recognize him (Luke 24:16). The disciples did not recognize him at the miraculous catch of fish (John 21:4). The disciples thought they saw a spirit (Luke 24:37 (comment on v. 14). In some of these cases, however, the disciples were kept from recognizing him.
Similarly, our glorified bodies will be like his glorified body; it will be recognizable to everyone; it will never die. But it will also have a mysterious aspect to it that we cannot yet understand.
Thomas made his great profession of faith. He was not talking to Father God in heaven, but he was addressing Jesus who was standing right in front of him, as the Greek clearly shows, “said to him.” It was a flash of inspiration that only the Spirit could give.
Notice what Jesus said to Peter when he recognized who Jesus was:
In reply, Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 In reply, Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven has.” (Matt. 16:16-17)
The Father revealed to Peter who Jesus was before the resurrection, and now after the resurrection, Thomas has a fuller revelation of Jesus: “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus affirms to the disciples in a prayer, that the Father showed them more fully who Jesus was in the power of their ministry.
21 At that very time, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden this from the wise and intelligent and revealed it to children. Yes, Father, because this way is your good will for you. 22 Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is, except the Son and to whomever the Son wills to reveal him.” (Luke 10:21-22)
And here in Thomas’ case, the Son did reveal who he was more fully.
Thomas’s confession corresponds to the opening verses in John 1: The Word was with God and the Word was God (v. 1-2); the Word became flesh (v. 14).
Beasley-Murray goes deep into theology:
This revelation of the Father in the Son reaches its apex in the ‘hour’ of Jesus, which in light of Easter proves to be his death-resurrection-ascension to the presence of God. The eschatological nature of that event (cf. 12:31-32) means that the ‘return’ to the Father entails the assumption of sovereignty with the Father. It is not an accident that the status of Jesus as ‘Messiah’ is emphasized in his Passion; it is as King of the Jews that he lifted up and enters on his reign at the right hand of God, where he is King not alone of Jews, but of all nations. Jesus thus is seen to be Mediator between God and man—in revelation, redemption, and rule. (p. 390).
But Borchert summarizes the other titles of Jesus and concludes that Thomas’s confession is the highest of all and is a fitting ending to the Gospel (or the first-stage ending).
Thomas’s response forms the high point of confession in the Gospel. What it does is bring the Gospel full circle from the Prologue, where it is emphatically said that the “Word was God” (1:1) to this confession, “My Lord and my God.” In the process of writing this Gospel the evangelist has proclaimed that Jesus was active in creation (1:2), the Word who became incarnate / enfleshed (1:14), the sin-bearing Lamb of God (1:29, 36), the Messiah (1:41; 4:25–26), the Son of God (1:48), the King of Israel (1:48), the new Temple (2:19–21), a teacher sent from God (3:2), a new symbol of God’s power exhibited through Moses (3:14), the evidence of the love of God (3:16), the Savior of the World (4:42), equal with God (5:18), the authority in judgment (5:27), the agent of God (5:30), the fulfillment of Scripture (5:39), the expected prophet (6:14), the “I am” (6:35, etc.), the supplier of living water (7:38), the one who was from God (9:31–33), the Son of Man (9:35), the consecrated/Holy one (10:36), the lifted up one (4:14; 12:32–34), the glorified one (13:31), the preparer of his followers’ destiny (14:2), the non-abandoning one (14:18), the one in whom we must abide and who is the basis for the fruitfulness of his followers (15:5–7), the sender of the Paraclete (15:26), the bearer of truth (18:37), the crucified King (19:15), the risen Lord (20:20) and God (20:26). The list can be expanded greatly, but the point is that when this list is compared to the designations of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, the other presentations of Jesus pale in significance before these magnificent confessions about him in John. In the years of contemplating the significance of Jesus, the Johannine evangelist in the context of that early community has supplied for the church of all ages a truly masterful statement about Jesus—Jesus is indeed Lord and God! (Comment on v. 28)
Sorry, but Borchert is excellent here, so I cannot resist quoting him in full again. He continues:
The confession of Thomas is not unlike the attribution to “my God and my Lord” in Ps 35:23 and to a lesser extent is somewhat similar to Pss 29:3 and 86:15. But more pointedly it also touches directly upon the daily Jewish reciting of the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6:4). The early Christians thus claimed for Jesus attributes akin to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. To suggest that such a confession might go unnoticed by the Jews would be highly naive. Moreover, since the Roman Emperors took to themselves designations of divinity, it meant that the early Christians were caught in a grip between two hostile forces. Indeed, Suetonius, the Roman historian, reports that Domitian claimed the title “Dominus et Deus noster” (“Our Lord and God,” Dom. 13). This confession epitomizes the highest declaration Christians could make concerning Jesus and brought them into a direct challenge with their contemporaries. (Comment on v. 28)
Jesus calls us blessed when we believe without seeing him after his resurrection, yet we still believe. We are not like skeptical Thomas.
Let’s explore the word “blessed” more thoroughly.
The more common adjective, which appears here, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Further, let’s dig into Hebrew roots. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
Any synonyms of makarios in the NT? The NT was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.
So speak blessing to yourself and to others. Jesus is now speaking it over you. You are blessed because you believe without seeing him after his resurrection.
GrowApp for John 20:24-29
A.. Are you like Thomas who doubts and insists on proof? Or do you easily believe in Jesus, after you heard the gospel? That is, did the gospel go directly to your heart, or did it first have to go through your head and then reach your heart?
The Purpose of the Book (John 20:30-31)
30 And therefore Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written down in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is the first conclusion of the two-stage conclusion in John’s Gospel. The other one is Chapter 21. Klink sees purpose in them and the two conclusions are not a hodge-podge of confusion (pp. 873-75).
In this brief epilogue John’s concern is evangelism “that you may believe” (those outside of the church) and pastoral because the verb tense is present: “that you may continue to believe” (those inside the church). (HT: Morris, comment on v. 31). This seems balanced to me.
John uses the men … de construction (pronounced mehn … deh), which shows a contrast: On the one hand, Jesus did many other signs … on the other hand these signs are written so that you may believe … (HT: Carson, comment on v. 30, the construction which I had missed).
These two verses contain most of the important concepts and terms throughout the Gospel of John: signs, disciples (see v. 10), believing, the Christ, the Son of God, live, and name.
Let’s take the terms one at a time, in order of their appearance.
The signs were performed before the disciples, but also before the world, and the disciples, a subset, cannot be excluded from the larger group.
John wrote these specific signs and trimmed out the others, so his book is theologically shaped.
Martha was one of his disciples, and “She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I do believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’” This is the faith John wants, so long as it goes deeply within the heart and does not remain a belief in a proposition.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally.
It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel, believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” Instead, everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
What does the term Christ or Messiah mean? The term means the Anointed One. In Hebrew it is Messiah, and in Greek it is Christ. It means that the Father through the Spirit equipped Jesus with his special calling and the fulness of power to preach and minister to people, healing their diseases and expelling demons (though demon expulsion is not mentioned in John’s Gospel). The Messiah / Christ ushered in the kingdom of God by kingdom preaching and kingdom works.
“Son of God”: Let’s look into some systematic theology (as I do throughout this commentary). Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Now that we have opened up some systematic theology about the Son in relation to Father God, let’s discuss even a little more systematic theology: The Trinity. The Father in his role as the Father is over the Son while is is incarnated; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son while the Son carried out the plan of redemption during his incarnation.
In their essence or essential natures: Father and Son are equal.
Bruce points out that title “the Christ” may be relevant for some members of John’s, original community, while “the Son of God” communicates a deeper meaning to other members.
“life”: this is more than mere existence. This is life of the next age, that age, which has broken into this age or right now. In other words, eternal life happens now, but we must be careful not to believe that everything in the new age, in everlasting life, is happening now. This is called over-realized eschatology (study of ends times and new ages). Not every new-age blessing becomes realized or accomplished right now. But let’s not remain negative. We get some benefits of the next age or new age right now. We get some benefits of eternal life, right now.
Let’s look at life by the book—by the prominent Greek lexicon.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
Clearly, John means the fourth definition.
Believing in his name means to believe in him, his person, his character, and his being—who he is, the Lord, the Son of God and the Messiah. The noun name stands in for the person—a living, real person. Let’s develop this thought, so it can apply to you.
What’s in a name?
You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, next to the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
Remember that believing in his name is more than just intellectual assent or agreement with a doctrine. Belief has to go from the head to the heart (1:6-8), or so says the entirety of the Gospel of John.
I like these verses because they illuminate vv. 30-31 here. At first many did not believe, even though the signs were performed right in front of them. Then towards the end of the long passage, some believed, in perhaps a half-hearted way.
37 Even though he did so many signs in front of them, they did not believe in him, 38 in order that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, who said:
Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? [Is. 53:1]
39 For this reason they were unable to believe, because Isaiah again said:
40 He has blinded their eyes
And hardened their hearts,
So that they may not see with their eyes
And understand with their heart and turn
And I will heal them. [Is. 6:10]
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke about him.
42 Nevertheless, indeed, many even of the rulers believed in him but because of the Pharisees did not profess him so that they might not become desynagogued, 43 for they loved the glory of people more than the glory of God. (John 12:37-42)
Our faith in Christ must be so all-encompassing that it cannot be half-hearted; we must not let peer pressure scare us off a full commitment.
GrowApp for John 20:30-31
A.. John’s Gospel was written to build your faith in Christ, the Son of God. How has this Gospel touched your life so far?
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Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
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Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
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