John 20 20:1-31: The Resurrection of Jesus


Charles Maurice Talleyrand was born in Paris in 1754. He became Bishop of Lourn in 1788. The next year the clergy of his diocese elected him to the State General where became one of the men selected to draw up the Declaration of Human Rights following the French Revolution. He became an international statesman and very influential in the life of Napoleon. He had a friend called Lapeaux who tried to start his own religion which he regarded as an improvement on Christianity. Yet he came to Talleybrand discouraged that all his efforts and propaganda had not succeeded in producing one single convert. "What should he do?" he asked, "There is one plan that you might try, Talleybrand replied after a moments reflection, "I should recommend you to be crucified and to rise again on the third day."

Christianity is unique because the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the most important fact in all of human history. Nothing like it had happened before or has happened since. There is nothing that can equal it. It is the grand event of the ages, toward which all previous history moved, and in which all subsequent history finds its meaning.

C.S.Lewis put it this way, "By his resurrection Jesus has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the king of death. Everything is different because he has done so. This is the beginning of the new creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened."

Lets look at the Apostle John's account to see:

Faith dawning: discovering the material evidence

Faith shining: the disclosure of the living Lord

Faith transforming: the delegation of the Good News

1. Faith Dawning  20:1-10
The Discovery of material evidence

1.1 The Open Tomb 20:1

Mary loved the Lord so much she was willing to go alone at dawn to his tomb to continue preparing his body for burial. But her grief was compounded with shock at the realization that the stone had been rolled away, the tomb was open, the guards were gone.

1.2 The Body Gone 20:2

She assumed that the authorities had taken the body for some ulterior motive. She ran and told the disciples Peter and John who out ran her. The tomb was open, the body of Jesus was gone. But there was more inexplicable evidence. The tomb was not empty.

1.3 The Grave Clothes 20:5-7

The body of Jesus was no longer there, but the grave clothes were so placed that John saw these and believed. How come? Because the words John uses in the Greek indicate that the grave clothes were lying undisturbed. Have you ever taken a balloon and covered it with paper and glue, let it harden and then burst the balloon? It left you with the shape made of hardened paper mache. That’s what the Greek implies with the grave clothes. In fact the turban head cloth was still rolled up (20:7). The actual word signifies "twirled" meaning that it was lying exactly where the head of Jesus would have been. This was not the work of grave robbers. It was as if Jesus had passed right through the clothes which were still lying there.

Read 20:8-9. They did not understand the implications, yet the material evidence was conclusive. They believed the tomb was empty. When John wrote this account he used three different Greek words for seeing. In verse 5, the verb simply means "to glance in". In verse 6 the word means "to observe carefully". By verse 8 it means "to perceive with intelligent comprehension." What kind of faith did Peter and John have at this stage in their spiritual experience? They had faith based on the evidence, enough to convince the mind. We see here faith dawning - the discovery of material evidence.

2. Faith Shining 20:11-18

The disclosure of the living Lord.

2.1 The Attitude of Mary - Weeping  20:11

By the time Mary returned Peter and John had left. She was alone with her grief. Not only had her Lord died, someone had even denied her sight of his body.

2.2 The Appearance of Angels - Questioning 20:12-13

Mary apparently was not disturbed at seeing these men. She did not perceive that they were angels. The brief conversation neither dried her tears nor quieted her mind. She was determined to find the body of Jesus. Why did Mary turn back and not continue her conversation with the two strangers? Did she here a sound behind her? Did the angels stand and recognise the presence of their Lord? The attitude of Mary weeping, the appearance of angels questioning.

2.3 The Revelation of Jesus - Comforting 20:14-18

Read 20:14-15. Why did she not recognize the One for whom she was so earnestly seeking? Perhaps Jesus concealed his identity, it was still dark, there were tears in her eyes. She was not looking at the one she thought was the gardener. Mary was still looking for Jesus body. What ever the reason Jesus knew that Mary's heart was broken and her mind was confused. He did not rebuke her; tenderly, He revealed Himself to her.

Read 20:16-18. All He had to do was to speak her name, and Mary immediately recognised him. Turning to look at Jesus all she could say was Rabboni, the highest most devoted name a person could give a teacher.

Mary fell to her knees and grasped his feet and held on. This was a natural gesture. Now she had found him she did not want to lose him. She and the disciples still had much to learn about the resurrection and their new relationship to Jesus. He would no longer leave them. For now she must go and tell the others. "I have seen the Lord."

Faith dawning - the discovery of material evidence.

Faith shining - the disclosure of the living Lord.

3. Faith Transforming  20:19-31

Delegation of the Good News.

3.1 From Fear to Courage (The Eleven) 20:19-23

Luci Shaw in a "Widening Light" described the scene this way, "Doubt padlocked one door and memory put her back to the other. Still the damp draught seeped in, though fear chinked all the cracks and blindness boarded up the window. In the darkness that was left, defeat crouched in his cold corner. Then Jesus came, (all the doors being shut) and stood among them." Jesus came to them 20:19.

Jesus transformed the disciples fear into courage by coming for them. They met in secret, hiding, behind locked doors. They were not expecting Jesus. He could have rebuked them for their unfaithfulness, their cowardice the previous few days, but he did not. He came to bring peace. The cross is the sign of peace, the cross is the means to peace.

Jesus reassured them 20:20.

Jesus not only came to them through locked doors, he reassured them. He showed them his wounds. They were to be sure it was Jesus and not another, nor a ghost. Jesus came to them, reassured them and also

Jesus commissioned them  20:21

They had forsaken Him yet he entrusted them with the message of reconciliation they were beginning to experience. They were the best advertisement. And he bestowed on them the Holy Spirit to equip them to proclaim forgiveness. From fear to courage. Entrusted with the Good News; Empowered with the Holy Spirit.

3.2 From Unbelief to Confidence (Thomas) 20:24-28

Read 20:24-25. Thomas is a good warning to all of us not to miss meeting with the Lord's people on the Lord's day. Because Thomas was not there, he missed seeing Jesus Christ, he missed hearing his words of peace, he missed receiving His commission and gift of the Holy Spirit. He had to endure another week of fear and unbelief when he could have been experiencing joy and peace. Remember Thomas when you're tempted to stay in bed next Sunday, you never know what blessing you will miss.

Thomas' words contain a double negative, "I positively will not believe!" Jesus had heard Thomas' words. Read 20:26-27. How gracious our Lord is to stoop to our level in order to lift us to where we ought to be. Thomas didn't need to touch the Lord's wounds. Seeing Jesus was sufficient. Jesus gentle rebuke is a warning to us all, "Stop becoming faithless but become a believer." It is not easy to understand the psychology of doubt and unbelief. Perhaps it is linked with personality. Some people are more trusting that others. Faith is really trusting Jesus beyond the horizon, much as we watch a ship sail out to sea, and off there on what we call the horizon, it gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears, and is gone.

But the horizon is merely the limit of our vision, the place beyond which our earth bound sight cannot go. The ship is still there, it has just moved. If we were lifted up or could follow we would see that the ship is just as big as it was when it left the harbour. So it is with faith. Faith is trusting God's word beyond not in spite of the limitations of the optic nerve.

Perhaps Thomas was so depressed he was ready to quit so he threw out this challenge never expecting to have to eat his own words.  Face to face with Jesus his doubts evaporated. "My Lord and my God." 20:28 This is the greatest profession of authentic personal faith any where in the Bible. Not just the Lord but my Lord, not just God but my God. See how the disciples moved from fear to courage, from unbelief to confidence.

3.3 From Death to Life (You and I) 20:29-31

Here is the purpose for John's biography of Jesus. Read 20:31. That we can experience the same relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When Jesus says, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", it is a word for us. It is not necessary to see Jesus in order to believe. It was necessary for the apostles to see him. It was a great blessing for the first Christians to see the risen Jesus, to know that he was alive; but that is not what saved them. They were saved not by seeing but by believing what they saw.

They saw, believed and testified, risking there lives to do so. We are saved by believing what they saw. By believing the evidence of the Old Testament scripture prophecies pointing to Jesus; by believing in the signs and wonders which Jesus performed as proof of his divinity; and by believing the eye witness testimony of those who saw him die and rise to life the third day just as he said he would. We believe by taking God at his word, and by believing we experience the life that he promises.

There was and is an energy which flows from Jesus, like a wind blowing, like running water, like light shining, a power which is able to transform the self consciousness of men and women. This energy is called anastasis in Greek, resurrection comes closest to it. The energy of divine love that burst into our world on Easter Day makes people new, born all over again, calls people from their ego-centricity into his presence and his service. On that first Easter day the ten disciples were transformed from fear to courage by meeting Jesus. A week later Thomas was transformed from unbelief to confidence.

Today, God the Father calls you this Easter morning to trust His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and let Him transform you from someone who is living to die into someone who is dying to live.

Let us pray.