Trusting the Risen Christ
Sunday School Lesson for
Background Passage: John 20:1-31
The Discovery of the Empty Tomb (20:1-9)
details for us what happened in and around the tomb of Jesus early in the
morning “on the first day of the week” (v. 1). In is interesting that each of the four
Gospels speak of the day of resurrection as the “first day” rather than
referring to it as the third day following His
According to John’s chronology, the first person at the empty tomb on that morning was “Mary of Magdala” who had come in order that she might anoint the body of Jesus with perfumes and spices (v. 1). Mark’s account notes that she hoped that someone would be available to assist in the moving of the massive stone in order to provide access to the Lord’s body (Mk. 16:1-3). However, when she arrived at the scene she was surprised to see that the heavy stone used to seal the tomb’s contents “had been removed from the entrance.” Hendriksen concludes that this language implies that the massive stone had not been simply rolled to the side, but actually lifted up off the ground out of its track and laid flat . Since the robbing of graves was not an unusual event in early times, Mary came to the understandable conclusion that someone had “taken the Lord” (v. 2).
Mary reported her fears regarding the body of Jesus to “Simon Peter” (v.2) who immediately ran to the tomb accompanied by the “other disciple” (v. 2), John, “the one Jesus loved” (v. 4). Upon investigation (vv. 5-6), the men discovered the remarkable evidence that something incredible had occurred within the tomb:
Having witnessed this unusual and thoroughly convincing evidence, the men, especially John himself, “believed” that Christ had risen from the dead (v. 8). It is quite significant that both Peter and John observed the evidence of the empty tomb first hand. This fact ensured that their testimony regarding the resurrection of Jesus would be admissible under Jewish law (Deut. 17:6; ).
In verse 9, John mentions that the disciples still had not connected the amazing things they had just witnessed with the Old Testament Scripture promising that Jesus would “rise from the dead.” While John may have in mind a particular passage that speaks of the resurrection, his language most likely refers to the Old Testament as a whole which, according the Jesus’ own declaration, testified of Him (Luke 24:25-26).
Jesus’ Appearance to the Disciples (-29)
John records that “On the
evening of that first day of the week” at least ten of the disciples (minus
Judas and Thomas) of Jesus gathered behind locked doors “for fear of the
Jews” (v. 19). This meeting, prompted by the likelihood that the Jewish
authorities would seek out the followers of Jesus, probably occurred at a
private home in the city of
In order to provide further confirmation of His identity, Jesus displayed His “hands and side” (v. 20). Upon seeing the scars and the undeniable evidence of His crucifixion the men immediately understood that the same One who had been crucified by Pilate was literally standing before them alive and well. Understandably, they were “overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (v. 20). William Hendriksen outlines four major implications of this powerful display . First, it proved that the very person standing in their midst was really Jesus—the same Jesus they knew, loved, and served. Secondly, it proved that Jesus had a real human body—He was no phantom man. Thirdly, it proved that Christ had actually risen from the dead bodily—not just spiritually. Finally, it proved that the peace Jesus promised them was a real peace—one that was dependant only upon Him.
With the hearts of the disciples now reassured, Jesus repeated His earlier greeting, “Peace be with you!” and then re-commissioned His men for their apostolic mission—“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Thus, as the Son obeyed His Father and faithfully accomplished the task set before Him, the disciples were to see themselves as equally sanctified and dispatched to the world in the Father’s power and authority. In many ways, then, the disciples were not to begin a new mission, but were to continue the very ministry inaugurated by Jesus. That Jesus then “breathed on them” (v. 22) and declared, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22) draws attention to the gift of the Spirit soon to be experienced at Pentecost. These words, therefore, serve as a promise of what is to come as well as marking the formal constitution of the disciples as “the new messianic community” [Kostenberger, 189] fully empowered by the very breath of Yahweh Himself.
Next, John recalls the meeting of Jesus and “Thomas” who was not present when the Lord previously appeared before the disciples (v. 24). When he received the news that the others had “seen the Lord” (v. 25), he announced that he would not believe in the resurrection unless he personally beheld “the nail marks in his hand,” placed his finger “where the nails were,” and put his hand “into his side” (v. 25). However, just one week later, while the disciples were once again gathered at the house behind locked doors, “Jesus came and stood among them” (v. 26). When the Lord appeared, He immediately presented His body to Thomas for inspection in the manner he had demanded—“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (v. 27). With such an undeniable and dramatic display of the reality of Christ’s bodily presence Thomas’s only reasonable option was to “Stop doubting and believe” as the other disciples had done. Finally convinced that his Lord was indeed alive, Thomas confessed “My Lord and my God” (v. 28). Thus, as Bruce concludes, “Thomas’s confession corroborates the prologue to the Gospel: ‘the Word was God’” .
One: Christ’s complete victory over sin, death, and hell—Think carefully about the many practical implications of Christ’s bodily resurrection. For help, look at Paul’s argument powerfully set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
Two: The centrality of the resurrection in the preaching of the Gospel—Look at the content of the very first Christian sermons ever preached as recorded in Acts and note the compelling appeal to the resurrection. Why did the apostles and Paul preach this way? See: Acts -36; -26; -43; -41; -31.