RAISED FROM THE DEAD John 19–20
“Go . . . to my brothers and tell them ’I am returning to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ Mary of Magdala went to the disciples with the news, ’I have seen the Lord!’ ” (John 20:17–18)Because Jesus lives, God is our Father and our God.
Pilate permitted Jesus to be crucified (19:1–16). About noon Friday Jesus was nailed to a cross (vv. 17–21). His executioners gambled for His clothes (vv. 22–24), and Jesus committed His mother to John’s care (vv. 25–27). Jesus’ death (vv. 28–30) was confirmed by the soldiers (vv. 31–37), after which His body was placed in a tomb (vv. 38–42). But early Sunday Jesus’ followers discovered the tomb was open—and empty (20:1–9). Jesus, alive, spoke with Mary of Magdala (vv. 10–18), and appeared to His disciples (vv. 19–31).
Understanding the Text
“He claimed to be the Son of God” John 19:1–16.
The Jews viewed Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God as blasphemy, and reacted either with faith or fury. Pilate reacted with fear. Already in some awe of Jesus, who had said He was ruler of a kingdom that is “not of this world,” Pilate tried desperately to avoid having to make a personal decision. But there are some decisions no one can avoid. And this is one. Each individual must choose to believe or disbelieve the Bible’s clear affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Pilate tried to set Jesus free without making that decision. But the Jewish leaders threatened to accuse him of supporting a rival to Caesar (v. 12), and Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified. It was the wrong choice. Perhaps we can sympathize with the vascillating Pilate, but the resurrection of Jesus shows just how wrong Pilate was. The Resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God, and, under pressure, Pilate chose not to believe. Let’s remember the Resurrection, and make our daily choices for, rather than against, Jesus Christ. “We have no king but Caesar” John 19:15. These words of the chief priests reveal their utter hypocrisy. The Jews supposedly had no king but God, who ruled from heaven through His Law. In their frenzy to see Jesus dead, the leaders of the Jewish people repudiated God Himself! If we are to live as God’s people, there are certain principles on which we can never compromise. One of the most important of these is that, always, our first allegiance must be to God. “This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled” John 19:17–24. John’s report of the Crucifixion and Resurrection are intended to demonstrate that Jesus truly is the Son of God. How does the story of the soldiers’ division of Christ’s clothing at Calvary fit this theme? John reports the event, and shows that over a thousand years before David had foreseen and predicted this event (Ps. 22:18). Even the “minor details” of Jesus’ crucifixion were carefully superintended by God, and were elements of a carefully orchestrated plan. The casual observer might think that death on the cross, so terrible and so unjust, proved that Jesus was not the Son of God. How could God allow His Son to suffer such a terrible death? So John links several “minor details” of the scene to Old Testament prophecy, to show that God not only knew but described beforehand just what would happen at Calvary (cf. also John 19:36 with Ps. 34:20, and John 19:37 with Zech. 12:10). Fulfilled prophecy proves John’s thesis. Jesus truly is the Son of God. John’s evidence that Christ’s death was in accord with the fixed intention of God raises the question, “Why?” How wonderful the answer. Through death Jesus is able to offer us forgiveness and cleansing. He suffered gladly, knowing His suffering was for you and me. “Here is your mother” John 19:25–27. All commentators agree that the disciple mentioned here is John himself. His closeness to Jesus made him Christ’s choice as the one to care for His mother, Mary. Some Christians reading this passage emphasize how precious Mary was to Jesus. She was most certainly dearly loved. But this only serves to emphasize the deep love of John for Jesus, and of Jesus for John. Christ was comforted knowing that His friend would care for His dearly loved mother. The closer we are to the Lord, the more likely He is to commit precious things and precious people to our care. Let’s love Him deeply, that we might be privileged to serve our Lord as John served Christ. “Myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds” John 19:38–42. Spices had to be imported, and were extremely expensive. The contribution of 75 pounds of spices was extravagant, indicating both the wealth and the love of the giver. John tells us that the giver was Nicodemus—the important religious leader who years before had come to Jesus at night. At last Nicodemus was ready to declare his allegiance to Jesus, even though Jesus was dead. It’s one thing to jump on the bandwagon of a person or movement then at the height of popularity. It’s another thing entirely to come out publicly in support of a leader who has been rejected and lies dead. The test of our faith is faithfulness to Jesus when things go wrong, not when everything is going right. “He saw the strips of linen lying there” John 20:1–9. The first reaction to the discovery that Jesus’ tomb was empty was one of panic. Someone must have stolen His body! John, the “other disciple,” saw the linen in which Christ had been wrapped lying on a stone slab, and assumed Jesus’ body was still there. Peter stooped and went inside, and discovered that the linen wrappings were empty and hollow! They were shaped like a human body. But there was no body within! John entered then, and saw the wrappings and the napkin that had been placed over Jesus’ face. The evidence was incontrovertible. The two did not understand, but they knew. Jesus had risen from the dead. There is no more carefully documented event in ancient history than the death and resurrection of Jesus. The evidence is indisputable. People do not have to understand. But any careful examination of the testimony compels belief that Jesus is risen indeed. “I have seen the Lord!” John 20:10–18 There’s a difference between circumstantial and eyewitness testimony. The first may compel a verdict. The other confirms it. Like Mary, Christians today believe in the Resurrection not only on the evidence offered in Scripture, but on the basis of personal experience. We know Jesus lives, because He has entered our hearts, and we experience His presence. It’s not enough to agree intellectually that Christ was raised. We need to open our hearts to Jesus, and to experience His presence by faith. “I will not believe it” John 20:24–29. What a blessing Thomas is to Christians everywhere. He reminds us that the skeptic is not rejected by God—that doubts and uncertainty do not lose us a place in God’s kingdom. He reminds us too that Jesus willingly comes to us, to show us His hands and side, that we might believe. If you have any doubts—even as deep as Thomas’ doubts—share them. Jesus will come to you, and when you recognize Him, you will bow down with Thomas and cry, “My Lord and my God!” “These are written that you may believe” John 20:30–31. John didn’t try to give a complete account of Christ’s life. That would have been impossible. What John did was to carefully select material that would reveal Jesus as the Son of God, and so stimulate belief in Him. Because you and I do believe, the purpose of John’s Gospel has been fulfilled in us. We have, now, “life in His name.”
“The Resurrection”/Jonathan Brooks(John 20)
His friends went off and left Him dead In Joseph’s subterranean bed, Embalmed with myrrh and sweet aloes, And wrapped in snow-white burial clothes. Then shrewd men came and set a seal Upon His grave, lest thieves should steal His lifeless form away, and claim For Him an undeserving fame. “There is no use,” the soldiers said, “Of standing sentries by the dead.” Wherefore, they drew their cloaks around Themselves, and fell upon the ground, And slept like dead men, all night through, In the pale moonlight and chilling dew. A muffled whiff of sudden breath Ruffled the passive air of death. He woke, and raised Himself in bed; Recalled how He was crucified; Touched both hands’ fingers to His head, And lightly felt His fresh-healed side. Then with a deep, triumphant sigh, He coolly put His graveclothes by— Folded the sweet, white winding sheet, The toweling, the linen bands, The napkin, all with careful hands— And left the borrowed chamber neat. His steps were like the breaking day; So soft across the watch He stole, He did not wake a single soul, Nor spill one dewdrop by the way. Now Calvary was loveliness; Lilies that flowered thereupon Pulled off the white moon’s pallid dress, And put the morning’s vestures on. “Why seek the living among the dead? He is not here,” the angel said. The early winds took up the words, And bore them to the lilting birds, The leafing trees, and everything That breathed the living breath of spring.
Rejoice! Christ is risen from the dead.
“Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”—Traditional Russian Orthodox Easter Greeting