John 20


Mary Magdalene, coming early to the sepulchre, finds it

empty, and runs and tells Peter, 1, 2.

Peter and John run to the tomb, and find all as Mary had

reported, 3-10.

Mary sees a vision of angels in the tomb, 11-13.

Jesus himself appears to her, and sends her with a message to

the disciples, 14-18.

He appears to the disciples, gives the fullest proof of the

reality of his resurrection, and communicates to them a measure

of the Holy Spirit, 19-23.

The determined incredulity of Thomas, 24, 25.

Eight days after, Jesus appears again to the disciples, Thomas

being present, to whom he gives the proofs he had desired,

26, 27.

Thomas is convinced, and makes a noble confession, 28.

Our Lord's reflections on his case, 29.

Various signs done by Christ, not circumstantially related, 30.

Why others are recorded, 31.


All that John relates concerning the resurrection of our Lord he

has collected partly from the account given by Mary Magdalene, and

partly from his own observations. From Mary he derived the

information given, Joh 20:1, 2, and from Joh 20:11-18. From his

own actual knowledge, what he relates, Joh 3:3-10, 19-29, and the

whole of Joh 21:1-25. It is supposed that he details the account

given by Mary, without altering any circumstance, and without

either addition or retrenchment. See Rosenmuller.

Verse 1. The first day of the week] On what we call Sunday

morning, the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. As Christ had been

buried in haste, these holy women had bought aromatics, Mr 16:1;

Lu 24:1, to embalm him afresh, and in a more complete manner

than it could have been done by Joseph and Nicodemus. John only

mentions Mary of Magdala, because he appears to wish to give a

more detailed history of her conduct than of any of the rest; but

the other evangelists speak of three persons who went together to

the tomb, viz. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and

Salome: Mt 28:1; Mr 16:1.

Verse 2. Then she runneth] This was after the women had seen the

angels, who said he was risen from the dead, Lu 24:4. She told,

not only Peter and John, but the other apostles also, Mt 28:8;

but only the two disciples above mentioned went to the tomb to see

whether what she had said was true.

They have taken away the Lord] She mentions nothing of what the

angels had said, in her hurry and confusion; she speaks things

only by halves; and probably the vision of angels might have

appeared to her only as an illusion of her own fancy, and not to

be any farther regarded.

Verse 4. Outrun Peter] Not because he had a greater desire to

see into the truth of these things; but because he was younger,

and lighter of foot.

Verse 5. Went he not in.] Why? Because he was fully satisfied

that the body was not there. But why did he not seize upon the

linen clothes, and keep them as a most precious relic? Because he

had too much religion and too much sense; and the time of

superstition and nonsense was not yet arrived, in which bits of

rotten wood, rags of rotten cloth, decayed bones (to whom

originally belonging no one knows) and bramble bushes, should

become objects of religious adoration.

Verse 6. Seeth the linen clothes lie] θεωπει: from θεαομαι, to

behold, and οραω, to see-to look steadily at any thing, so as

to discover what it is, and to be satisfied with viewing it.

Verse 7. Wrapped together in a place by itself.] The providence

of God ordered these very little matters, so that they became the

fullest proofs against the lie of the chief priests, that the body

had been stolen away by the disciples. If the body had been stolen

away, those who took it would not have stopped to strip the

clothes from it, and to wrap them up, and lay them by in separate


Verse 8. That other disciple] John.

Saw] That the body was not there.

And believed.] That it had been taken away, as Mary had said;

but he did not believe that he was risen from the dead. See what


Verse 9. They knew not the scripture] Viz. Ps 16:9, 10:

Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell- ki lo

taazob naphshi l'sheol-For thou wilt not abandon my life to the

grave, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. It was certainly

a reproach to the disciples that they had not understood this

prophecy, when our Lord had given them often the most direct

information concerning it. Christ had referred to the history of

Jonah, Mt 12:40, which was at once the

type and the proof of his own resurrection. However, this

ingenuous confession of John, in a matter so dishonourable to

himself, is a full proof of his sincerity, and of the truth of his


Verse 10. Unto their own home.] Either to their own houses, if

they still had any; or to those of their friends, or to those

where they had a hired lodging, and where they met together for

religious purposes. See Joh 20:19.

Verse 11. But Mary stood without] She remained some time after

Peter and John had returned to their own homes.

Verse 12. Seeth two angels] See Clarke on Joh 20:6. She knew

these to be angels by their white and glistening robes. Matthew

and Mark mention but one angel-probably that one only that spoke,

Joh 20:13.

One at the head, and the other at the feet] So were the cherubim

placed at each end of the mercy-seat: Ex 25:18, 19.


Verse 13. They have taken away my Lord] It was conjectured, on

Joh 19:42, that the body of our Lord was only put here for the

time being, that, after the Sabbath, they might carry it to a more

proper place. Mary seems to refer to this: They have taken away my

Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. This removal she

probably attributed to some of our Lord's disciples, or to some of

his friends.

Verse 14. She turned herself back] Or, εστραφηειςταοπισω, she

was turned back, i.e. to go again with the other women to

Jerusalem, who had already departed; but she had not as yet gone

so far as to be out of the garden.

Knew not that it was Jesus] John has here omitted what the

angels said to the women, about Christ's being risen; probably

because it was so particularly related by the other evangelists:

Mt 28:5-7; Mr 16:6, 7; Lu 24:5-7. Mary was so absorbed in

grief that she paid but little attention to the person of our

Lord, and therefore did not at first discern it to be him; nor

could she imagine such an appearance possible, as she had no

conception of his resurrection from the dead. She was therefore

every way unprepared to recognize the person of our Lord.

Verse 15. Supposing him to be the gardener] κηπουρος, the

inspector or overseer of the garden, from κηπος, a garden, and

ουρος, an inspector-the person who had the charge of the

workmen, and the care of the produce of the garden; and who

rendered account to the owner.

And I will take him away] How true is the proverb, Love feels no

load! Jesus was in the prime of life when he was crucified, and

had a hundred pounds weight of spices added to his body; and yet

Mary thinks of nothing less than carrying him away with her, if

she can but find where he is laid!

Verse 16. Mary.] This word was no doubt spoken with uncommon

emphasis; and the usual sound of Christ's voice accompanied it, so

as immediately to prove that it must be Jesus. What transports of

joy must have filled this woman's heart! Let it be remarked that

Mary Magdalene sought Jesus more fervently, and continued more

affectionately attached to him than any of the rest: therefore to

her first, Jesus is pleased to show himself, and she is made the

first herald of the Gospel of a risen Saviour.

After Mary's exclamation of Rabboni, and its interpretation by

the evangelist, one MS., the later Syriac, Syriac Hieros., and

three copies of the Itala, add καιπροσεδραμεναψασθαιαυτου,

And she ran to embrace, or cling to him. Then our Lord's words

come in with the reason for them.

Verse 17. Touch me not] μημουαπτου, Cling not to me.

απτομαι has this sense in Job 31:7, where the Septuagint use

it for the Hebrew dabak, which signifies to cleave, cling,

stick, or be glued to. From Mt 28:9, it appears that some of the

women held him by the feet and worshipped him. This probably Mary

did; and our Lord seems to have spoken to her to this effect:

"Spend no longer time with me now: I am not going immediately to

heaven-you will have several opportunities of seeing me again: but

go and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to ascend to my

Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore, let

them take courage."

Verse 18. Told the disciples-that he had spoken these things]

St. Mark says, Mr 16:11, that the afflicted apostles could not

believe what she had said. They seem to have considered it as an

effect of her troubled imagination.

Verse 19. The doors were shut-for fear of the Jews] We do not

find that the Jews designed to molest the disciples: that word of

authority which Christ spoke, Joh 18:8,

Let these go away-had prevented the Jews from offering them any

injury; but, as they had proceeded so far as to put Christ to

death, the faith of the disciples not being very strong, they were

led to think that they should be the next victims if found. Some

think, therefore, that they had the doors not only shut, but

barricadoed: nevertheless Jesus came in, the doors being shut,

i.e. while they continued shut. But how? By his almighty power:

and farther we know not. Yet it is quite possible that no

miraculous influence is here intended. The doors might be shut for

fear of the Jews; and Jesus might open them, and enter in the

ordinary way. Where there is no need for a miracle, a miracle is

never wrought. See Clarke on Joh 20:30.

The evangelist has omitted the appearing of our Lord to the

other women who came from the tomb, Mt 28:9, and that to the two

disciples who were going to Emmaus, Lu 24:13, &c., which all

happened in the course of this same day.

Peace be unto you.] His usual salutation and benediction.

May every blessing of heaven and earth which you need be granted

unto you!

Verse 20. He showed unto them his hands and his side.] So it

appears that his body bore the marks of the nails and the spear;

and these marks were preserved that the disciples might be the

more fully convinced of the reality of his resurrection.

Verse 21. Even so send I you.] As I was sent to proclaim the

truth of the Most High, and to convert sinners to God, I send you

for the very same purpose, clothed with the very same authority,

and influenced by the very same Spirit.

Verse 22. He breathed on them] Intimating, by this, that they

were to be made new men, in order to be properly qualified for the

work to which he had called them; for in this breathing he

evidently alluded to the first creation of man, when God breathed

into him the breath of lives, and he became a living soul: the

breath or Spirit of God ( ruach Elohim) being the grand

principle and cause of his spiritual and Divine life.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost] From this act of our Lord, the

influences of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men have been termed

his inspiration; from in, into, and spiro, I breathe. Every word

of Christ which is received in the heart by faith comes

accompanied by this Divine breathing; and, without this, there is

neither light nor life. Just as Adam was before God breathed the

quickening spirit into him, so is every human soul till it

receives this inspiration. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or

felt of God, but through this. To every private Christian this

is essentially requisite; and no man ever did or ever can preach

the Gospel of God, so as to convince and convert sinners, without

it. "There are many (says pious Quesnel) who extol the dignity of

the apostolic mission, and compare that of bishops and pastors

with that of Christ; but with what shame and fear ought they to be

filled, if they do but compare the life and deportment of Christ

with the lives and conversation of those who glory in being made

partakers of his mission. They may depend on it that, if sent at

all, they are only sent on the same conditions, and for the same

end, namely-to preach the truth, and to establish the kingdom of

God, by opposing the corruption of the world; and by acting and

suffering to the end, for the advancement of the glory of God.

That person is no other than a monster in the Church who, by his

sacred office, should be a dispenser of the Spirit, and who, by

the corruption of his own heart, and by a disorderly, worldly,

voluptuous, and scandalous life, is, at the same time, a member

and instrument of the devil."

Verse 23. Whose soever sins ye remit] See the notes on

Mt 16:19; 18:18. It is certain God alone can forgive sins; and

it would not only be blasphemous, but grossly absurd, to say that

any creature could remit the guilt of a transgression which had

been committed against the Creator. The apostles received from the

Lord the doctrine of reconciliation, and the doctrine of

condemnation. They who believed on the Son of God, in

consequence of their preaching, had their sins remitted; and they

who would not believe were declared to lie under condemnation. The

reader is desired to consult the note referred to above, where the

custom to which our Lord alludes is particularly considered. Dr.

Lightfoot supposes that the power of life and death, and the power

of delivering over to Satan, which was granted to the apostles, is

here referred to. This was a power which the primitive apostles

exclusively possessed.

Verse 24. Thomas-called Didymus] See this name explained,

Joh 11:16.

Was not with them] And, by absenting himself from the company of

the disciples, he lost this precious opportunity of seeing and

hearing Christ; and of receiving (at this time) the inestimable

blessing of the Holy Ghost. Where two or three are assembled in

the name of Christ, he is in the midst of them. Christ had said

this before: Thomas should have remembered it, and not have

forsaken the company of the disciples. What is the

consequence?-His unbelief becomes 1st. Utterly unreasonable. Ten

of his brethren witnessed that they had seen Christ, Joh 20:25;

but he rejected their testimony. 2dly. His unbelief became

obstinate: he was determined not to believe on any evidence that

it might please God to give him: he would believe according to his

own prejudices, or not at all. 3dly. His unbelief became

presumptuous and insolent: a view of the person of Christ will

not suffice: he will not believe that it is he, unless he can put

his finger into the holes made by the nails in his Lord's hand,

and thrust has hand into the wound made by the spear in his side.

Thomas had lost much good, and gained much evil, and yet

was insensible of his state. Behold the consequences of forsaking

the assemblies of God's people! Jesus comes to the meeting-a

disciple is found out of his place, who might have been there; and

he is not only not blessed, but his heart becomes hardened and

darkened through the deceitfulness of sin. It was through God's

mere mercy that ever Thomas had another opportunity of being

convinced of his error. Reader! take warning.

Verse 26. After eight days] It seems likely that this was

precisely on that day se'nnight, on which Christ had appeared to

them before; and from this we may learn that this was the weekly

meeting of the apostles; and, though Thomas was not found at the

former meeting, he was determined not to be absent from this.

According to his custom, Jesus came again; for he cannot forget

his promise-two or three are assembled in his name; and he has

engaged to be among them.

Verse 27. Then saith he to Thomas] Through his infinite

compassion, he addressed him in a particular manner; condescending

in this case to accommodate himself to the prejudices of an

obstinate, though sincere, disciple.

Reach hither thy finger, &c.] And it is very probable that

Thomas did so; for his unbelief was too deeply rooted to be easily


Verse 28. Thomas answered, &c.] Those who deny the Godhead of

Christ would have us to believe that these words are an

exclamation of Thomas, made through surprise, and that they were

addressed to the Father and not to Christ. Theodore of

Mopsuestia was the first, I believe, who gave the words this

turn; and the fifth OEcumenic council, held at Constantinople,

anathematized him for it. This was not according to the spirit of

the Gospel of God. However, a man must do violence to every rule

of construction who can apply the address here to any but Christ.

The text is plain: Jesus comes in-sees Thomas, and addresses him;

desiring him to come to him, and put his finger into the print of

the nails, &c. Thomas, perfectly satisfied of the reality of our

Lord's resurrection, says unto him,-MY LORD! and MY GOD! i.e. Thou

art indeed the very same person,-my Lord whose disciple I have so

long been; and thou art my God, henceforth the object of my

religious adoration. Thomas was the first who gave the title of

God to Jesus; and, by this glorious confession, made some amends

for his former obstinate incredulity. It is worthy of remark, that

from this time forward the whole of the disciples treated our Lord

with the most supreme respect, never using that familiarity

towards him which they had often used before. The resurrection

from the dead gave them the fullest proof of the divinity of

Christ. And this, indeed, is the use which St. John makes of this

manifestation of Christ. See Joh 20:30, 31. Bishop Pearce says

here: "Observe that Thomas calls Jesus his God, and that Jesus

does not reprove him for it, though probably it was the first time

he was called so." And, I would ask, could Jesus be jealous of the

honour of the true God-could he be a prophet-could he be even an

honest man, to permit his disciple to indulge in a mistake so

monstrous and destructive, if it had been one?

Verse 29. Thomas] This word is omitted by almost every MS.,

version, and ancient commentator of importance.

Blessed are they, &c.] Thou hast seen, and therefore thou hast

believed, and now thou art blessed; thou art now happy-fully

convinced of my resurrection; yet no less blessed shall all those

be who believe in my resurrection, without the evidence thou hast

had. From this we learn that to believe in Jesus, on the testimony

of his apostles, will put a man into the possession of the very

same blessedness which they themselves enjoyed. And so has God

constituted the whole economy of grace that a believer, at

eighteen hundred years' distance from the time of the

resurrection, suffers no loss because he has not seen Christ in

the flesh. The importance and excellence of implicit faith in the

testimony of God is thus stated by Rab. Tanchum: "Rab. Simeon ben

Lachesh saith, The proselyte is more beloved by the holy blessed

God than that whole crowd that stood before Mount Sinai; for

unless they had heard the thundering, and seen the flames and

lightning, the hills trembling, and the trumpets sounding, they

had not received the law. But the proselyte hath seen nothing of

all this, and yet he hath come in, devoting himself to the holy

blessed God, and hath taken upon him (the yoke of) the kingdom of


Reader! Christ died for thee!-believe, and thou shalt be saved,

and become as blessed and as happy as an apostle.

Verse 30. Many other signs truly did Jesus, &c.] That is,

besides the two mentioned here. Joh 20:19, 26, viz. Christ's

entering into the house in a miraculous manner twice,

notwithstanding the doors were fast shut: see on Joh 20:19. The

other miracles which our Lord did, and which are not related here,

were such as were necessary to the disciples only, and therefore

not revealed to mankind at large. There is nothing in the whole

revelation of God but what is for some important purpose, and

there is nothing left out that could have been of any real use.

Verse 31. That ye might believe] What is here recorded is to

give a full proof of the Divinity of Christ; that he is the

promised Messiah; that he really suffered and rose again from the

dead; and that through him every believer might have eternal life.

Life] Several MSS., versions, and fathers read eternal life, and

this is undoubtedly the meaning of the word, whether the various

reading be admitted or not.

GROTIUS has conjectured that the Gospel, as written by St. John,

ended with this chapter, and that the following chapter was added

by the Church of Ephesus. This conjecture is supported by nothing

in antiquity. It is possible that these two last verses might have

formerly been at the conclusion of the last chapter, as they bear

a very great similarity to those that are found there; and it is

likely that their true place is between the 24th and 25th verses

of the succeeding chapter; Joh 21:24, 25; with the latter of

which they in every respect correspond, and with it form a proper

conclusion to the book. Except this correspondence, there is no

authority for changing their present position.

After reading the Gospel of John, his first Epistle should be

next taken up: it is written exactly in the same spirit, and keeps

the same object steadily in view. As John's Gospel may be

considered a supplement to the other evangelists, so his first

Epistle may be considered a supplement and continuation to his

own Gospel. In some MSS. the epistles follow this Gospel, not

merely because the transcribers wished to have all the works of

the same writer together, but because there was such an evident

connection between them. The first Epistle is to the Gospel as a

pointed and forcible application is to an interesting and

impressive sermon.

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