The Gospel of John: John 20

Last week Jesus was faced with questions and was ultimate paraded through town to a hill where he would be nailed to a cross and die. The disciples were scared. But the story does not end there. As a professor of mine has said, the Resurrection is the biggest “but” in all of history. This week everything changes.

Jesus died. The Jews exacted their justice upon the man they saw as someone leading a rebellion. He was beaten, ridiculed, spat upon, bled, and stabbed. Two secret disciples revealed themselves and gave Jesus the burial he deserved. Two days later, one of the women at the cross, Mary Magdalene, came to the tomb but found that it was unsealed and empty! She ran to the disciples and came back with Peter and the “disciple Jesus loved” (allegedly John). While the two men inspected the tomb, Mary stood outside and wept in fear of not knowing what had happened to Jesus’ body. When she finally looked into the tomb, she saw two angels and they asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She responded, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:13, NASB). A man came up behind her and asked the same question. Not recognizing the man, she begged him to let her know where Jesus’ body was. When he called her by name, she recognized this man as the resurrected Jesus! He sent her back to the disciples to tell of what she had witnessed.

“I went to a psychologist friend and said if 500 people claim to see Jesus after he died, it was just a hallucination. He said hallucinations are an individual event. If 500 people have the same hallucination, that’s a bigger miracle than the resurrection.”
— Lee Strobel

That evening, Jesus came to his disciples. He showed them all his wounds on his hands and side to prove he was who he claimed to be. Most of the disciples gathered together and rejoiced that Jesus had come back from the dead. He then breathed on the disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22, NASB). For some reason, Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples. When he heard of what had happened, he refused to believe unless he had the same experience. More than a week would go by before Thomas would have his opportunity, but eight days later Jesus returned to his disciples. Thomas witnessed the wounds on Jesus and believed. Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20: 29, NASB).

“If Hebrews 11 teaches us anything, it is that faith has littler to do with certainty and more to do with a willingness to act faithfully despite uncertainty”
— Austin Fischer

Jesus is alive! This is a phrase that believers in the resurrection of Christ (commonly called Christians) should not be able to get enough of saying. But this chapter has more to show us than the fact that Jesus completely reversed the entire order of Creation after the fall; no longer does death have any true power. First, who is Mary Magdalene? There are certainly a couple of theories. Some point to the woman in John 8. Some even claim that she is the wife of Jesus (/thanks Dan Brown for popularizing that theory/). Most importantly, she is the first witness to the resurrected Jesus. Peter and John did not witness him until that evening with the rest of the disciples. No one else was around. She witnessed Jesus and told the disciples about it. This would have been unexpected. First because of her sex and, if she was the woman from John 8, also because of her past. Yet, Jesus chose to reveal himself to her first almost as if to teach us that even the most unexpected people can be witnesses of the truth.

“But Paul, in his preaching of the Gospel, is a debtor to deliver the word not to Barbarians only, but also to Greeks, and not only to the unwise, who would easily agree with him, but also to the wise.”
— Origen

Second, one of the twelve disciples (men who had been with Jesus since the beginning) doubted the resurrected Jesus. Jesus told them many times about his death and resurrection. He told them that they will all be filled with fear and doubt, but they must stay connected with him and each other in order to get through this. The disciples saw Jesus, Thomas did not. Jesus returned to the disciples in order to give Thomas the comfort he needed to work through his doubts. It is okay to have doubts about faith. As a matter of fact, that is what makes it faith; believing in the face of doubts. No one, save God, knows everything. In another Gospel, Jesus himself even tells the disciples that even he does not know everything. Questions are perfectly normal and acceptable in the Christian faith. Ask the questions. Seek the answers. Jesus will eventually meet you and give you what you need to overcome those doubts.

Going Forward

Jesus is alive! The resurrection happened. What does it mean? Theologians have been debating the answer to this and how it happens pretty much since the day it happened. Nobody has all the right answers, but there are two things we must keep in mind. First, doubts are okay. Doubts are what help us to keep our faith alive, if we have the strength of faith to wrestle with them. I am aware that many people fall away from the faith because of their doubts, but what kind of faith is this to begin with? Second, truth can come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes my children are way smarter than I am. They can help me to see God in a way I had never considered before, and that’s probably because they know God and not what all the theologians say about Him. God speaks in unexpected ways, and sometimes that even helps us with doubts. Keep pushing forward. Keep praying. Keep the faith. And ask questions.

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