Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 20

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John 20

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  THE PASSION, DEATH AND RESURRECTION  13-21 (continued)

3.  The Resurrection of Jesus  20-21

With the Synoptic account of the Resurrection already known, John has only to supply what pertains to his thesis.  All the Gospels are manifestly concerned with the presentation of evidence of our Lord's actual rising from death.  The brevity of each narrative and the difference in the details selected make it difficult to arrange the whole in the exact order of occurrence.

20, 1-18:  Mary Magdalene.  Cf. Matt. 28, 1-10.29 f; Mark 16, 1-8; Luke 24, 1-12.    1.  The first day of the week: our Sunday.  It was later known to the Jews as "the day of the Christians."  While it was still dark suggests the early hour and the zeal of the women.  It can mean the dusk just before sunrise, and hence it does not conflict with Mark's note "the sun being now risen."  The women (Mark and Luke) also saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance of the tomb.    2.  Mary thought first of informing the Apostles.  Peter here assumes his place as head of the group: John, under his peculiar title, is at his side.  We: including the other women.

3-10:  With the exception of Luke 24, 13, this is peculiar to John.    3 f.  The Apostles, though devoted to Christ, had no thought of the Resurrection.    5.  John merely satisfied himself that the body was gone, and then waited for Peter.  Stooping down because of the low entrance.    6 f.  Peter, true to his character, entered at once and inspected the tomb.   The cloths were evidence that the body had not been stolen, otherwise its wrappings would not have been removed.    8.  When John saw this evidence he believed, was convinced that Christ had risen, while Peter only wondered: cf. Luke 24, 12.    9.  They did not understand: John's faith sprang from what he had seen, not from any anticipation of a resurrection; and this explains also why Peter only pondered what he had seen.  The Scripture: the texts later used by the Apostles; cf. Acts 2, 25-27.31; 13, 33; 1 Cor. 15, 3 f.  Our Lord Himself had foretold it (cf. 2, 22; 16, 16 f), and the Jews seem to have understood Him (Matt. 27, 63).  It is frankly admitted here that He was imperfectly understood by His Apostles.

11-18:  Mary Magdalene, the first to see the risen Christ.    11.  She could but weep, still thinking the body had been carried off.    12 f.  Rewarded by the sight and the words of the angels, she is not yet consoled like the other women.  But a greater consolation is reserved for her.    14 f.  He may have somewhat altered His appearance; cf. 21, 4; Luke 24, 16.  She thought Him the gardener.  If thou hast removed him, etc.: her preoccupation is still uppermost.    16.  She said to him: the Greek text adds "in Hebrew," i.e., in Aramaic.  Mary had again turned toward the tomb, when she joyfully recognized His voice pronouncing her name.  Master (literally "My Master") expresses her deepest devotion.    17.  Do not touch me: the present imperative implies that she had already done so (cf. Matt. 28, 9 f).  I have not yet ascended: the relation of these words to the foregoing is variously explained.  (a) They are usually taken to express a reason why Mary should not touch Him; but here again opinion varies.  (b) A more satisfactory explanation makes this statement parenthetical: "do not touch me (for I have not yet ascended; I shall soon), but go, tell this to the brethren," etc.  He thus urges her not to delay.  My Father and your Father is intentionally phrased so as to express the difference between His relationship and theirs.    18.  These things: Christ's message.

20, 19-23:  The Disciples.  Cf. Mark 16, 14; Luke 14, 36-43; 1 Cor. 15, 5.    19.  John dates this on the day of the Resurrection.  It was late: the time in not exact, but we may suppose it late enough to permit the return of the two disciples form Emmaus.  The doors . . . closed: the supernatural manner of our Lord's entrance showed the glorified state of His body.  For fear of the Jews explains both the gathering of the Apostles and the fastening of the doors.  Peace be to you:  the usual Aramaic salutation, but pregnant now with deeper meaning.    20.  He showed them: evidently, as in the Synoptics, they had to be convinced of His presence in the same body.  The Greek text reads: "seeing the Lord . . . rejoiced."    21.  As the Father, etc.: this is the definitive mission of the Apostles.    22 f.  The power to forgive sins was conferred in a special way, for it was one of the principal features of their mission.  The Council of Trent (Sess. 14, cap. 5-6; Denzinger, 899-902) has defined that this verse proves a ministerial power to forgive sins.  Cf. Luke 24, 49, where the Apostles are told to await the power from on high; yet on this occasion the Holy Spirit was actually given them.  The term receive implies "here and now."  The Spirit is the principle of their new life, but here He confers a special power.  Breathed: cf. Gen. 2, 7; Wisd. 15, 11; Ezech. 37, 9; external sign of this power.  Its nature, the forgiving or retaining of sins, is made very clear.  Here that power is definitively conferred.  The forgiveness is to be effected through an act of their judgment, not merely through the faith of the penitent.

20, 24-29:  Thomas.  The other disciples also had hesitated, and were reproved for doubting; cf. Mark 16, 14.  John's present aim is to show that even the Apostles were not credulous, but had to be convinced.    24.  Cf. 11, 16.  Various reasons have been assigned for the absence of Thomas; we know only the fact.    25.  Put my hand into his side, where the wound was larger than those of the nails.    26.  After eight days: a week later, on the eighth day.  This may be the first indication that the Sunday was even now hallowed.  Cf. 1 Cor. 16, 2; Apoc. 1, 10.  Again suggests that they did not thus gather every day.    27.  Using Thomas' own words, Christ condescends to his demands.  The words may have been accompanied with gestures.    28.  The language of 29 makes it uncertain whether Thomas touched the wounds.  Thomas recognized God in the fact of the resurrection of Christ.  His faith is now complete, acknowledging our Lord's supremacy and divinity.  This is the faith Christ required of them, the faith they were to create by witnessing to Him and to His Resurrection.    29.  Thomas is thus criticized only for the slowness of his faith, his need of compelling evidence.  The Greek text, omitting Thomas, reads "dost thou believe?"  Blessed are they: i.e., still more blessed, more pleasing to God.

20, 30-31:  The Evangelist's Epilogue.  To the strong profession of faith just recorded John deems it appropriate to add this statement of his thesis, propounded to engender that very faith.  Some authors are of the opinion that the Gospel originally ended here.  Still others would transfer these verses to 21, 23, making them the conclusion of 21.  There is not sufficient reason for either view; see following introduction to 21.    30.  Many other signs: as, e.g., in the Synoptics.  John claims to have selected only those best suited to his purpose.  In the sight of his disciples, who have since been His witnesses.    31.  Cf. 1, 14-18.  Faith and its reward run all through the Gospel.  The content of faith is that Jesus, who lived a human life among them, is the Messias promised in the Old Testament; that He is the eternal Son of God, equal to the Father, who took on Himself this humanity in order to give us eternal life.  Cf. 3, 15 f; 5, 24; 6, 35; etc.  In his name: cf. 15, 4 f; Acts 4, 12.


Confraternity Bible:

Mary Magdalene  1 Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and she saw the stone taken away from the tomb.  2 She ran therefore and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and they went to the tomb.  4 The two were running together, and the other disciple ran on before, faster than Peter, and came first to the tomb.  5 And stooping down he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not enter.  6 Simon Peter therefore came following him, and he went into the tomb, and saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief which had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself.  8 Then the other disciple also went in, who had come first to the tomb.  And he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  10 The disciples therefore went away again to their home.

11 But Mary was standing outside weeping at the tomb.  So, as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb, 12 and saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.  13 They said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping?"  She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

14 When she had said this she turned round and beheld Jesus standing there, and she did not know that it was Jesus.  15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why art thou weeping?  Whom dost thou seek?"  She, thinking that he was the gardener, said to him, "Sir, if thou hast removed him, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away."

16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!"  Turning, she said to him, "Rabboni!" (that is to say, Master).  17 Jesus said to her, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

18 Mary Magdalene came, and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me."

The Disciples  19 When it was late that same day, the first of the week, though the doors where the disciples gathered had been closed for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, "Peace be to you!"  20 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord.  21 He therefore said to them again, "Peace be to you!  As the Father has sent me, I also send you."  22 When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit; 23 whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."

Thomas  24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord."  But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

26 And after eight days, his disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, the doors being closed, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be to you!"  27 Then he said to Thomas, "Bring here thy finger, and see my hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing."  28 Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  29 Jesus said to him, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.  Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

The Evangelist's Epilogue  30 Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.