Day 20 – Nick
Summary of Chapter 20
Verses 1-10: Mary Magdalene was distraught with grief and couldn’t sleep so she goes to be as near to Jesus as she thinks she can. Even being near to a dead Jesus is surely better than no Jesus at all. But the stone rolled away and an empty tomb? Mary’s anxious mind first jumps to further insult to injury rather than a miracle of God in her midst. Clearly Mary wasn’t expecting a resurrection. Taking the news immediately to Peter both he and John sprint to the tomb. It was likely still dark outside so it wouldn’t have been an easy run. But fleet-footed John arrives at the scene first, cautiously peering in, while the heavier-set Peter arrives second boldly entering without a second thought. John then joins Peter inside the empty tomb as together they stare astonished at not the strewn aftermath of a tomb robbery but the neatly folded grave clothes of a resurrected King. Believing as they did they still struggled with understanding the Scriptures – because they didn’t understand they didn’t expect.
Verses 11-18: This misunderstanding of Scripture wasn’t just restricted to Peter and John; Mary continued to anxiously, (respectfully, perhaps), mourn outside the tomb. Her mind was exhausted with emotion, confusion and grief. Jesus then masterfully touches her heart with one word, calling her by name. This is the touch of the resurrected Shepherd from chapter 10 stood behind a forlorn Mary with tear-soaked face; He arrests Mary’s grieving heart and all confusion, doubt and fear disappear in a single breath. Mary now joins with Job (42:5) in, effectively, saying,
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Verses 19-23: Jesus appears to His men on two occasions in this chapter and this is the first. We can easily imagine the atmosphere of fear and panic on the streets of Paris at the moment; the scene in John 20 is very similar to this with the community bunkered away in fear for their very lives. Peace and joy overtake the moment as the dawning realisation of Jesus’ glory peaks over the horizon of their previous understandings. Faith has filled the house because of the presence of Jesus!
Verses 24-29: Jesus returns a week later to appear specifically for the doubting Thomas. This time He comes proclaiming peace and also inviting scrutiny and enquiry of His wounds. This is a mind-blowing thought that Jesus would be raised to glorified new life but still have the scars of the crucifixion. Then in verse 29, as though turning to the camera and addressing you and I directly, Jesus distinguishes between the actual eye witnesses there and then and the readers of the Bible in 2015:
Because you (Thomas and co) have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed
This personally encouraging verse is echoed in 1 Peter 1:8 (who would have recalled Jesus saying this) and also in Matthew 11:11 where Jesus speaks of the Lamb-heralding John the Baptist,
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Verses 30-31: John, racing towards the completion of his book, makes it clear that all of this was just the tip of the ice-berg. Our imagination can run wild with the rest of the things that happened in and through Jesus’ life. Indeed, as he says in the next and final chapter,
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written
Key thoughts from Chapter 20
- As we reach the end of this 21-day study, it’s amazing to me that the peace and joy that Jesus proclaims is exploding as the heart-beat of the whole gospel. Despite monumental opposition and persecution, the early church begin to flourish and these private scenes in the homes of the believers is a picture of the church flourishing today under the persecution of secularism, political correctness and false teaching. Joy and peace are the evidences of Jesus’ presence in our homes and churches!
- I am touched by the simplicity and power of Jesus’ encounter with Mary at the tomb. The calling of her by name, in the tempest of her grief, is such a powerful moment! Imagine Jesus calling you in exactly the same way when you feel anxiety or confusion or doubt clawing at your mind. He stands behind you simply saying your name. Your Maker has your back.
- Jesus allows Thomas’ doubts but He doesn’t allow him to remain in doubt which 1) would kill his heart of worship and 2) would have effected the atmosphere of faith of the house
- Peter’s boldness in almost barging into the empty tomb I think demonstrates that his mind and heart were already in a different place: he was more concerned about His Friend and God than he was any cultural or religious courtesies concerning a grave. Remember Peter’s words in John 6 where he boldly proclaims that he would have nowhere else to go other than to Jesus, the Christ. Peter running into Jesus’ tomb was like him coming up for air having held his breath overnight
- Notice that Jesus’ grave clothes were neatly folded and that the cloth used to wrap Jesus’ head was lying in its place. What significance is there to this detail? Surely that with all finality Jesus had dealt with death and that it had no hold on him in any way; that the cloth used to wrap and conceal His face was now the only thing left in the grave.
Prayers from Chapter 20
Thank you, Jesus! That you have brought us joy and peace in the midst of our fear, that You’re closer than we know and that You call us each by name. Overcome the fear in our lives again and any doubt that we would know the assurance of Your presence. Cause us, like Peter, to be bold in approaching You and, like John, quick to follow where You lead. We love You! Amen.