John 20


John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.

Mary Magdalene was one of at least three and possibly as many as five women who came to the empty tomb (see entry for Luke 24:10).


John 20:2

So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

The disciple Jesus loved was John; see entry for John 13:23.


John 20:7

and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

(a) The face-cloth or napkin, to quote the KJV, was used to cover to cover the face of the deceased (see John 11:44).

(b) Rolled up in a place by itself. The empty tomb wasn’t empty. The fine linen cloths remained to show the grave had not been robbed, and Jesus folded the napkin as if to say, “I was here.”

Some take this even further. As Barbara Richmond explains in her 1996 book, Jewish Insights into the New Testament, there were customs governing how one should act when visiting a Jewish home. The proper way to express gratitude after an evening of fine food and fellowship was to casually crumple your napkin. However, if you had an unpleasant evening and wished to express your displeasure, you would fold the napkin and leave it as you found it. A folded napkin was a slap in the face of the host, an unmistakable sign that you would never return to his house.

Knowing that many pairs of eyes would look into the tomb, Jesus took the time to fold the napkin as if to say, “I’ve been to the grave, I didn’t care for it, and I will never return.” Jesus, who faced death on our behalf and was raised to new life, will never die again.


John 20:11

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;

Mary had come to the tomb with at least two other women (see entry for Mark 16:2).


John 20:17

Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

(a) My Father; see entry for John 4:21.

(b) Go to My brethren. The first person commissioned to preach the good news of the resurrection was a woman, and this in an age when a woman’s testimony was considered worthless. Those who followed Christ placed a similarly high value on the testimony of women.


John 20:18

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

(a) Mary Magdalene; see entry for Luke 8:2.

(b) He had said these things to her. Jesus began his earthly ministry by listening to a woman (John 2:3), and he concluded it by conversing with another woman. In between these conversations, Jesus spent a great deal of time engaging with women. He treated women with respect, he defended them against bullies, and he trained them to be fully-fledged partners in his ministry. Before Jesus no one treated women like this. Because of Jesus, the world would never be the same.

Further reading: “How did Jesus empower women?


John 20:21

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

(a) The Father; see entry for John 4:21.

(a) Has sent me. On numerous occasions, Jesus told his disciples that he was not from earth but had been sent from heaven. See entry for John 6:38


John 20:31

but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

(a) So that you may believe. John preached for a verdict.

In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).

Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7).

But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).

(b) Have life. “To have life” is the answer to the question, why did Jesus come, and not just any sort of life, but abundant and eternal life (John 3:16, 10:28, Rom. 6:4). Jesus did not come principally to free us from sin or to give us a new nature. He came to give us a new life which includes those other things. “I have come that they may have life” (John 10:10). When we preach the gospel, we are telling people about the new life that Jesus offers to all (Acts 5:20). See entry for New Life.


The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.

Leave a Reply