John 20:1–18: The Resurrection of Jesus
From one perspective, John 19 ended on the darkest note possible. Jesus’ own people did not love, adore, worship, and obey him; rather, they demanded his crucifixion and death. By the end of John 19, the most that Jesus’ friends can do is to lay his corpse lovingly in a tomb. From another perspective, however, John gives us three sets of clues to let us know that things are not as bad as they may seem on the surface. First, when Jesus died, he did not give the impression that he had failed—in fact, he triumphantly declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Second, John tells us that Jesus fulfilled various prophecies, types, and shadows from the Old Testament Scriptures through his death. Third, after Jesus’ death, he is no longer treated with shame, scorn, and contempt. Instead, Jesus receives a burial fit for a king, suggesting that not only is Jesus’ estate of humiliation finished, but a new estate of exaltation is coming.
All of this brings us to the story of Jesus’ resurrection. On the one hand, Jesus has finished his work to fulfill God’s redemptive plan at his death on the cross (cf. John 19:28–37). On the other hand, Jesus has still more to do. The difference, though, is that Jesus will never again descend back into his estate of humiliation, suffering, shame, and death. From this “first day of the week” (John 20:1) onward, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ will consist entirely of his estate of exaltation, beginning with his resurrection. The twist, though, is that the joy of Jesus’ resurrection represents so much more than simply receiving Jesus back into the land of the living, so that Jesus will not even allow Mary to cling to him at this point (John 20:17). In fact, the resurrection has cosmic implications, and here in John 20:1–18 we see the first facet of the significance of the resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead to reconcile us to God.
1. Why did Jesus’ disciples and followers read with such chaos at first when they could not find Jesus’ body? What prevented them from recognizing God’s hand in the resurrection of Jesus? Where do you struggle to see God at work in your own life? How do you react when you judge your circumstances outwardly, according to the flesh, rather than by faith?
2. Why do you think John tells us about the grave clothes that Peter and John find in Jesus’ tomb? How do these grave clothes contrast with the grave clothes that still bound Lazarus when he came out of his tomb (John 11:44)? What does that tell us about the nature of Jesus’ resurrection? What does that contrast tell us about our own hope for resurrection?
3. What is significant about holy angels gathering in the tomb of Jesus? How does their presence signify a radical departure from the standards of cleanness and purity in relation to death from the old covenant? What does this detail tell us about the nature of Jesus’ resurrection? What does that contrast tell us about our own hope for resurrection?
4. What is Mary Magdalene’s reaction to hearing the voice of Jesus? Why does Jesus tell Mary not to cling to him? Why does Jesus insist that he must ascend to his Father? What is significant about the way that Jesus says that his Father is our Father, and that his God is our God (John 20:17)? Why is it better for Jesus to be at the right hand of his Father than with you right now in the midst of your loneliness, suffering, struggles, and confusion?