NextLevel Online: John

Session 10: John 20 & 21

He Is Risen: The empty tomb, Jesus appears to the 10, then to Thomas as well. These are written that you might believe, breakfast with Jesus.



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John 20

John 19 has ended with Joseph and Nicodemus burying Jesus. From the Synoptics we also know:

  • Mary Magdalene & Jesus' mother see where he is laid (Mt/Mk/Lk)

  • Saturday morning the tomb is sealed (Mt)

  • Saturday evening (after Sabbath ends) the women buy spices (Mk)

  • Sunday dawn Mary Magdalene, other Mary, Salome go to tomb (Mt/Mk/Lk)

  • Sunday dawn angel rolls away stone (Mt)

John 20 resumes the narrative before dawn as Mary Magdalene leaves for the tomb. When she (and the other women) arrive and see the stone moved away, she runs to tell Peter and John. Even though John's Gospel has not mentioned the other women, Mary exclaims, “We don't know where they have put him.”

Running to the tomb, John arrives first and looks cautiously inside. Peter goes right on inside. They see the “strips of linen” (see Jn 11:44) lying there, with the head cloth folded up by itself. (The “strips of linen” argue against the famed Shroud of Turin as the authentic burial cloth of Jesus.) They believe, but do not understand, that Jesus has risen and fulfilled Scripture (such as Ps 16:8-11).

By the time Mary gets back to the tomb the others have already left. She speaks to two angels, assuming them to be men, and speaks to Jesus, assuming he is the gardener. When he calls her by name she recognizes him. His words, “Do not hold on to me” imply that she has embraced him (as the other women will soon clasp his feet in Mt 28:9). The KJV has “Touch me not,” which mistakenly implies that Jesus cannot or must not yet be touched. This has given rise to an odd theory that Jesus had to make a quick trip to heaven and back before the other women touch him.

Mary Magdalene reports that she has seen the Lord (v. 18). Sometime during the day Jesus also appears to Peter (see Lk 24:34) and two men on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:25). Now it is evening and the disciples are hiding in a locked room (traditionally assumed to be the Upper Room). Jesus suddenly appears, and shows them his pierced hands and side. He is not a ghost or apparition; he is the same man that was crucified!

The apostles are (1) sent, (2) told to receive the Holy Spirit (in some way preparatory for Pentecost), and (3) promised authority to be able to forgive sins. For an unknown reason, Thomas is not present that evening. He stubbornly insists that he will not believe unless he sees and touches for himself.

On Sunday a week later, Jesus appears again and offers Thomas the opportunity to do just what he had demanded. Thoroughly convinced, Thomas concludes what every reader of John should conclude: Jesus is “my Lord and my God.” Jesus commends him for his faith, but has a better word for those who cannot see, but still believe. In fact, at this point John states this as the purpose of his book: He has written this Gospel so that readers may believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, and by believing have eternal life.

John 21

To conclude, John records another appearance, one not mentioned in the Synoptics. Seven of the disciples were together in Galilee when Peter announced, “I'm going fishing.” Oddly, several commentators have understood this as abandoning Jesus and returning to the old life of fishing. (Then the question of verse 15 becomes, “Do you love me more than these boats & nets & fish?”) However, the other disciples saw nothing negative in Peter's statement and said, “We'll go with you.” Then, just as in Luke 5:5 at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, they fished all night and caught nothing.

In the morning mist Jesus stood on the shore and called to them. “Throw your net on the other side of the boat,” he called. This probably sounded silly, but they obeyed and caught so many big fish they could not haul them into the boat. Perhaps remembering the similar results from Luke 5:6, John exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”

Simon Peter—always the impulsive one—threw on his outer garment and jumped (literally, “threw himself”) into the sea. The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net of fish behind them. On shore Jesus stood by a charcoal fire, with fish and toast ready for their breakfast.

When asked to bring more fish, Simon single-handedly dragged the bulging net ashore. (This is our sole reason for picturing Simon as a big, strong guy.) Surprisingly, the net was not torn, even though it held 153 big fish (300 or 400 pounds?). Through the centuries this number has intrigued interpreters. Jerome said there were 153 different kinds of fish in the world. Some said there were 153 nations. Some played with the numeric equivalents of letters: “Simon” (76) + ichthys “fish” (77), ichth in reverse numerics, “the church of love” or “the children of God” in Hebrew, “Pisgah,” or “Cana G.” Another early effort recognized that 153 was the total of 1 + 2 + 3 + . . . + 17, or a triangle with 17 on each side. Then 17 could be 10 commandments + 7 spirits of God, 10 commandments + 3 (trinity) + 4 (foursquare city). And then 12x12 (apostles) + 3x3 (trinity) would also add up just right! Or . . . maybe that was simply how many fish they caught, and since they were experienced fishermen, that number mattered.

More importantly, after the meal Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love me more than these?” This likely referred back to Simon's bold claim in the Upper Room that he would be loyal to Jesus, even if the rest of the disciples were not. Back then, beside the other charcoal fire he denied him. Three times the question is asked; three times Simon says, “You know I love you!” This threefold question undoubtedly reopened the wound on Simon's soul, so Jesus could forgive, heal, and commission Simon for the work ahead.

It has often been noted that Jesus said agapao, agapao, phileo and Peter said phileo, phileo, phileo. This may have been just for variety (as in switching sheep & lambs, or switching feed & take care of). It is not likely that Jesus said, “really love, really love, sort of love” and then Peter stuck with merely “sort of love.” It is more likely that Peter thought (as most people did) that phileo, the kind of love based on the object's lovability, was more complimentary.

Finally, Jesus warned Peter that his discipleship would end in his own death. Still, the call to Peter was, “Follow me!” Then, yet one more time, Peter spoke impulsively: “Lord, what about him?” But what Jesus had in mind for “the disciple whom Jesus loved”—even if that disciple were to live until the Second Coming!—was not Peter's concern.

That disciple, the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the table, now announces that he is the writer of this Gospel and that his testimony is true. Much more could have been written, but could all the books in the world do justice to the greatest life ever lived?

About NextLevel Online

The vision of Ozark Christian College is to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and edifying Christians worldwide. The mission of Ozark Christian College is to train men and women for Christian service as a degree-granting institution of biblical higher education.