Believing The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ–John 20:1-31

20150405FBCAM [Resurrection Sunday]

Levi Durfey




I read a newspaper article by a liberal “Christian” pastor, who claimed that all religions, every single one of them, are valid. He said that there was much to learn from all of them, and it didn’t matter which one you chose, as long as you had a faith in something.


Now, that’s all very well and good, but let me tell you something. In order to think that all other religions are valid, you will have to knock down Jesus in the process. For instance, you will have to say that he was wrong when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”


You will also have to say that his death on the cross didn’t pay for our sins, because if his death did atone for our sin, then you wouldn’t even consider any other religion, because none of them has a Savior who dies for your sin.


And you will have to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ wasn’t a real, physical resurrection. You have to say that because no other religion accepts the truth of Jesus rising from the grave. They might say that he was a great prophet, but not a risen Savior.


To accept all religions as valid means that you will have to walk up to the Bible and yank out any pages that those other religions disagree with. You will have to tell Jesus to back off, and stay in the grave, like all the other founders of those other religions.


I hope you won’t do that. I hope that you’ll believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, carefully laid out the historical record of Jesus Christ, so, as John states at the end of chapter 20, that we who read might believe that Jesus is the one and only Savior.


Will you believe the fact of the real, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ? You say, “Well, that’s a little far out, it’s hard to believe.” Well then, maybe hearing about the trouble the first disciples had believing will help you.




John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 

John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 


John focuses on the Mary Magdalene, but with her was also Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1). These women came to finish embalming Jesus with spices (Luke 24:1).


One of the first evidences that we see here that the Gospels are telling the truth about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that the first people at the tomb are women. No, ladies, it’s not that women are more truthful than men. It’s because, in that day and age, women could not be legal witnesses. If a man committed a crime that was only seen by a woman, she could not testify in court! So if the disciples were making up a story about Jesus’ resurrection, they would not have chosen women to be the first witnesses to the empty tomb. The fact that God allowed the women to be the first to the empty tomb gives honor to women.


Another tell-tale sign that the gospels aren’t made up is the reaction of the women and disciples at the sight and news of an empty tomb. If you were making this up, you’d probably have them immediately shouting “Hallelujah, he has risen!” But what happens here? Mary’s only thought about the empty tomb is that the Romans or the Jewish authorities had taken away Jesus’ body.


This is still a common argument for the empty tomb today, that it was taken by the authorities. If that were the case, why wasn’t his body produced to prove that he didn’t rise from the dead? The reason that they had sealed the tomb was that Jesus had taught that he would rise again on the third day (Matthew 27:64), so it’s doubtful they would have encouraged that belief by taking the body.


It’s interesting, even though Jesus taught the resurrection clearly enough for unbelievers to be concerned about it, his disciples couldn’t bring themselves to belief.


John 20:3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 

John 20:4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 

John 20:5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.


Peter and John race to the tomb. John beats Peter there, but he only looks into the tomb and doesn’t go in. He looks in though, and sees the linen clothes that Jesus was wrapped in. This is more evidence that the body was not stolen by thieves or taken by the authorities. Why would they unwrap the body and then leave the expensive linens behind?


John 20:6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 

John 20:7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 


Then Peter arrives, and being impetuous Peter, he doesn’t stop and just look in, he dives right into the tomb to look around closely. He sees the linen clothes as well, but also the napkin, the cloth, that was wrapped around Jesus’ head, lying in a place by itself. These details are important because they aren’t the sort of thing that people dream up. They are the subtle details that someone remembers when they witness something great.


John 20:8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 

John 20:9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 


John finally steps into the empty tomb and what he sees is enough to convince him to believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead. For John, that is the only possible explanation for what he saw. But his belief will be a quiet, unsure belief for now. The best way of looking at it is to say that he saw something that he couldn’t explain, and he went home to think about it. Meanwhile…




John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 

John 20:11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 

John 20:12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 

John 20:13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 

John 20:14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 


As John tells it, Mary Magdalene had returned to the tomb (Peter and John must have left her in the dust in their dash to the tomb and had left again without noticing her), and when she looked in the tomb, she saw two angels in the form of men. They asked her why she’s weeping, and that’s when a man walked up behind her and spoke.


John 20:15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 


Mary did not recognize Jesus right away. We need not think that there is anything too mysterious here, Mary could have easily been blinded by tears, and perhaps had her head bowed with her hands covering her face.


John 20:16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 

John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.


When Jesus speaks her name in 20:16, it finally registers in Mary’s mind—“How does the gardener know my name? Oh, oh, it’s Jesus!” So Jesus sends her to tell the rest of the disciples, who, according to Luke, do not believe her or the other women.




John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 

John 20:20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 


Sunday night: The disciples were hiding. There doesn’t seem to be any joy over the reports that the tomb was empty. Everyone cowered in fear. John specifically mentions that the door was “shut”, i.e., locked.


S.M. Lockridge, in his sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming,” mentions the attitude of the disciples—he says:


It’s Friday

The disciples are running

Like sheep without a shepherd

Mary’s crying

Peter is denying

But they don’t know

That Sunday’s a comin’


It’s Friday…

The disciples are questioning

What has happened to their King

And the Pharisees are celebrating

That their scheming

Has been achieved

But they don’t know

It’s only Friday

Sunday’s comin’[1]


Well, the disciples’ depression actually lasted until Sunday night. They cowered in fear and then Jesus appeared in their midst. Whether he passed through the door or whether he materialized out of thin air, we aren’t told. But his appearance startled them. Luke says that “…they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit” (Luke 24:37).


Jesus calms them: “Peace be unto you.” And they are glad. Nevertheless, we learn in 20:24, one of them wasn’t there this first time Jesus appeared to all the disciples: Thomas was gone.




John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 

John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 


Before we get down on Thomas, remember that he was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. Just as they did not believe the report of the women who had seen Jesus, neither did Thomas believe the report of the other disciples that they had seen Jesus.


Thomas is symbolic of so many people today who say that they would believe if only God would give them some sort of physical evidence. Jesus will address that very issue in John 20:29.


John 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 


Still frightened of the Jewish leaders, the disciples are still hiding behind locked doors. This time Thomas is there, and Jesus again appears in their midst.


We have no indication that after Jesus appeared to them a week earlier, that he remained with them. I think that he didn’t, and that he did not do so in order to test and strengthen the faith of the disciples. Imagine seeing Jesus for a few minutes and then not seeing him for days on end. You might start to think that you and your friends were seeing things. You would have to cling to your faith in Jesus.


John 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 


We can’t say for sure if Thomas actually touched Jesus; it could be that the mere sight of his wounds was enough to convince Thomas to believe.


John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 


Our tendency is to be jealous of these early disciples of Jesus. Many yearn for their own opportunity to see Jesus and to touch his wounds. They yearn, in effect, to test and prove Jesus. But what Jesus says here to Thomas tells us at least two truths:


1) We shouldn’t expect the same privilege that the first disciples got when they saw the risen Lord with their own eyes. Jesus doesn’t say to Thomas, “Well, I guess everyone will have to see me in person to believe.”


2) At the same time, however, Jesus pronounces a special blessing on everyone who believes without seeing. The privilege of the early disciples of seeing the risen Lord is offset by a blessing on us for believing without seeing. That is the very essence of faith: “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). 


You might ask: “But can’t we have something to give proof to our believing? Anything at all?” Read on…




John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


The early disciples saw Jesus, they experienced his miracles (35 different miracles are recorded in the Gospels). They then proceeded to record the events that they experienced (and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they did so without error). Our evidence is the inspired record that they left us, and it was left so that we, and millions like us, might read it and believe. You cannot read the Gospels and not come to some sort of decision. There are only two possible decisions you can make.


A. Reject Jesus


You can read it and reject it as a fairy tale on the level of Santa Claus. But if you do, you will be giving up your life. You will sentence yourself to an eternal punishment. And you cannot, from this moment forward, say that it’s unfair or unjust of God to do so, because you have heard that you can have life through the name of Jesus. Even if you hadn’t heard these words, you would still have no excuse because we should know enough to come to him just from Creation (see Romans 1:20).


B. Believe Jesus


You can read this Gospel and believe every word. You can sense that you are a sinner, and that you need a Savior. And let me tell you, we have a risen Savior in Jesus Christ.


What does it mean to believe?


Imagine a ship filled with people crossing the Atlantic. In the middle of the ocean there is an explosion. The ship is severely damaged and slowly sinking. Most are dead, and the rest are rushing for the lifeboats.


Now suppose one man doesn’t know about the lifeboat, so he does not get aboard. He doesn’t have knowledge, so he is not saved.


Suppose another man knows about the lifeboat and believes it will save his life, but he is grief-stricken over seeing his wife killed, so he chooses not to get aboard and dies with his wife. He has knowledge and mental assent, but he is not saved.


Others believe the lifeboat will save them, and they get into the boat. They are saved by faith, that is they have knowledge, mental assent, and trust.


However, it is not their faith that saves them—no matter how much they have. It is the boat. Saving faith trusts Christ, and Christ [and only Christ] saves.[2]


There may be many religions in the world, and different scriptures for many of them…but there is only one right one, there is only one real lifeboat. Jesus very clearly claimed to be the right one: 


6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)


Are you in the lifeboat? Do you believe Jesus?




[2] Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 77

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