John 20


John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  2 Then 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 first day of the week is Sunday. After the Sabbath was over, the women including Mary Magdalene went back to the tomb to add more spices and fragrant oils to Jesus’ body (Lk. 23:56). They had no idea He was resurrected. John’s account focuses on Mary Magdalene and does not mention the other women, but in verse 2, Mary says “we do not know,” which includes the other women mentioned by the other Gospels.


Those who oppose the Bible claim there are many contradictions between the Gospels, but none exist. When we put together the events recorded by the four Gospels, we gain a greater understanding of what happened. While one account may only mention one woman, another account may mention multiple women. Each account gives us additional information without causing a contradiction.


While I cannot be dogmatic about every detail of that day, we will examine the most logical timeline of that day and the appearances of Jesus during the 40 days before His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:3) from all four Gospels. In addition to the four Gospels, I will also use the information found in Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:5-9.


All four accounts agree that it was the first day of the week. While John only mentions Mary Magdalene, the other accounts mention the other women that were there including Mary the mother of James, Salome and Joanna (Mt. 28:1; Mk 16:1: Lk. 24:1, 10; Jn. 20:1).


John’s account says that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb while it was still dark (Jn. 20:1). Luke says it was early in the morning (Lk. 24:1). Matthew says the day was beginning to dawn as they made their way to the tomb (Mt. 28:1). Mark tells us it was early in the morning, but when they arrived at the tomb the sun had risen (Mk. 16:2). Some says this is contradiction, but it is not. These four accounts teach us that they started out early in the morning while it was still dark and as they made their way to the tomb the day begin to dawn. When they made it to the tomb the sun had risen.


Before the women arrived at the tomb Matthew writes:


Matthew 28:2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.  3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.  4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

These Roman soldiers were scared to death by this event and rightly so. They shook and became lifeless. We do not know how long these men remained there, but we do know that some of them left quickly and made their way into the city and told the chief priest what happened (Mt. 28:11). When they heard this news, they assembled the elders and decided to pay the soldiers to lie about what happened (Mt. 28:12). The soldiers agreed to say they fell asleep and that Jesus’ disciples stole the body during the night (Mt. 28:13).


The angel did not roll the stone back for Jesus to escape; it was done so the women and others could see that He was raised from the dead. If the angel had not rolled back the stone and the soldiers were left in place, the women would not have been allowed into the tomb by them because it was sealed (Mt. 27:66).


The women wondered who would roll the stone away for them, but when they arrived at the tomb they found the very large stone already rolled away, which proves the soldiers experience happened before they arrived (Mk. 16:3-4; Lk. 24:2; Jn 20:1).


What happens next cannot be put into a specific order, but we know what happened. These women went into the open tomb, but they did not find the body of Jesus. Matthew and Mark tells us there was an angel, described as a young man with a long white robe, sitting on the right side (Mt. 28:5; Mk. 16:5), but Luke’s account tells us there were two angels that stood by them in shinning garments (Lk 24:4). Again, some view this as a contradiction but it is not. Neither Matthew nor Mark says that there was only one angel, so Luke is giving us the complete picture by telling us there were two angels. Matthew and Mark says the angel was sitting, but that does not mean he remained sitting. He could have stood up with the other angel and stood by the women when he said the things recorded in Luke’s account. So, there is no contradiction.


Notice what the angel said from Luke’s account:


Luke 24:5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?  6 "He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,  7 "saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' "  8 And they remembered His words.


Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts are almost identical, but Mark’s account has a few more details:


Mark 16:6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.  7 "But go, tell His disciples -- and Peter -- that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." (See Mt. 28:5-7).


These women were the first eyewitnesses that Jesus’ body was gone, and the first to start realizing that Jesus was raised from the dead. When the angels instructed them they listened, and they fled from the tomb and were amazed, full of joy, and fear (Mt. 28:8; Mk. 16:8). Mark’s account says the women said nothing to anyone, which some say is a contradiction since the other accounts say they told the disciples what happened. All Mark is saying is that they did not tell anyone on their way to the disciples, and after Jesus encouraged them not to be afraid (Mt. 28:10), they found the disciples and told them about their experience.  


One thing that is hard to determine is if Mary Magdalene heard the angel’s instructions or not. Luke’s account implies that she did (Lk. 24:9-11). If she did hear the angel’s words, John’s account indicates that she did not understand what he was talking about because she still believed that someone moved Jesus’ body to another location. Whether she heard the words of the angels or she left as soon as she saw the body was gone I do not know for sure, but John’s account indicates that Mary Magdalene ran off by herself and found Peter and presumably John.


John 20:2 Then 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." 


We must also consider Luke’s account:


Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.  11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. 


Since Luke’s account is vague, we cannot determine if all the apostles were together when Mary spoke to them or if it was just Peter and John because this verse does not necessarily mean that all these women stayed together or that they told all the apostles this information while they were in one place. However, we do learn that they did not believe what they were told, but Peter and John were curious enough to investigate the matter themselves.


John 20:3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.  4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.  5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.  6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,  7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.  9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.  10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.


Luke also records an abbreviated account of this, but he does not mention the other disciple or that Peter went into the tomb (Lk. 24:12). It is believed the other disciple is John. John outran Peter to the tomb, but he stopped and did not go in. He stooped down and saw where Jesus was laid and saw the linen cloths lying there. When Peter finally made it to the tomb, he also stooped down and saw the linen clothes, but he went into the tomb and took a closer look. Not only did he see the undisturbed linen cloths, he saw the handkerchief or facecloth folded in a place by itself. Since the grave clothes were left in an orderly fashion it offers strong proof that Jesus’ body was not stolen.


If the disciples had taken the body, they would not have taken the time to remove Jesus’ grave clothes or take the time to fold the facecloth in its own place. Remember these strips of linen would have been stuck together by the spices and aloes they used, so it would have taken some time get them off, and they would not have taken the time to reposition the grave clothes to look undisturbed.


If grave robbers came to the tomb, they would not have stolen the body and left behind the linen cloths or folded the handkerchief because the linen clothes were the only valuables in the tomb. Also, whoever came to the tomb would have to deal with the Roman soldiers.


Some even claim that Jesus was just passed out and woke up in the tomb and walked away. There are many problems with this view because it would have been difficult if not impossible for Him to get out of His grave clothes by Himself. Even if Jesus managed to get out of His grave clothes in His weakened state, He would not have taken the time to put His grave clothes back into place to make them look undisturbed.  


When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus managed to make his way out of his tomb with his grave clothes on, but he still had to have assistance in getting them off (Jn. 11:44). He also did not open the sealed tomb himself because it would be difficult if not impossible for one man to be able to move the stone from inside the tomb.


After everything Jesus went through, He would not have enough strength to push this very large stone (Mk. 16:4) out the way from the inside. Even the saints that were raised from the dead after His resurrection had their tombs opened for them by the earthquake that happened at Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt. 27:51-53). If Jesus managed to open the tomb, He would still have to contend with the Romans guards. The only logical explanation is that Jesus’ body was raised up through the grave clothes.


There are two main thoughts on what is meant by the handkerchief or facecloth being folded together in a place by itself.


First, it could mean that Jesus took the handkerchief and folded it Himself putting it in its own place to show that He was finished with it.

Second, it could also mean the handkerchief remained wrapped up like it was around Jesus’ face. Since the handkerchief and the linen cloths were not attached to each other, the handkerchief could be considered as being in a place by itself not with the linen cloths.  


The Interpreter’s Bible notes:


The meaning of the Greek word applied to the napkin seems here to be “wound around.” As the evangelist regards the sight as a faith-creating phenomenon for the other disciple, the interpretation that thinks of the linen cloths as merely having been “rolled up” is too jejune for the context. The explanation that best fits the Johannine view of the mode of the Resurrection is that the body had been swiftly dematerialized, leaving the swathing cloths as they were, with the cloth that had been wrapped around the head still lying on the slightly raised ledge where the head had been laid, and keeping its annular shape (The Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon Press, p. 790).


After Peter went in the tomb, John followed. When John saw the linen cloths and the handkerchief up close it caused him to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Since these graves clothes were able to make Peter and John believe it tells us that the linen cloths and possibly the handkerchief were exactly in the same place undisturbed. If the linen cloths had been unwrapped or cut, it could have meant that someone came and took Jesus’ body, which would have left doubt in Peter and John’s mind. So, Peter and John’s belief offers more proof that Jesus’ grave clothes were undisturbed. One thing we know for sure is that Jesus’ body was gone.


Verse 9 teaches us that they did not know the Scripture that Jesus would be raised from the dead (Ps. 16:10) even though He told them many times that He would be (Lk. 9:22; 18:33; 24:7). This miracle was enough to convince Peter and John that He had been raised from the dead, but how strong this belief was I do not know. After they finished examining the grave clothes, they left the tomb and went back to their homes. Luke tells us that Peter was “marveling to himself at what happened” (Lk. 24:12). Peter was amazed at what he saw and he wanted to know more about it.


John 20:11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  13 Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."


By the time Mary makes it back to the tomb, apparently Peter and John have already left. She was still distressed about Jesus’ body being gone, which is why she was weeping. She stooped down to look in the tomb and she saw two angels dressed in white. One was sitting where Jesus’ head was and the other was sitting where Jesus’ feet were. These angels were not there when Peter and John were at the tomb, or at least there not mentioned, but they appear to Mary and ask her why she is weeping.


Mary’s response tells us that she did not understand that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She was still convinced that someone came and took Jesus’ body to another location.


John 20:14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away."  16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).  17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.' "  18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. 


Mark’s account confirms that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus alive from the dead (Mk. 16:9). When she turned around from looking in the tomb, Jesus was standing before her. He also asked her why she was weeping, and He asked her whom she was seeking. She thought this man was the gardener, so she asked him if He had taken the body of Jesus.


Some have wondered why she did not recognize Jesus. While we cannot know for sure, there are several legitimate reasons she did not recognize Him at first. First, she thought He was dead and would not have expected to see Him alive, so it did not register in her mind that it was Him. Second, she was crying and grieving and would not have paid much attention to the details of His face, and the tears in her eyes would also impede her vision. Third, verse 16 indicates that she had turned away from Jesus because when Jesus said, “Mary!” John says that Mary “turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).”


Whatever it was that kept her from recognizing Jesus, when He said her name, she knew it was Him. Verse 17 indicates that Mary grabbed Jesus with a tight grip, but Jesus told her not to cling to Him because had not ascended to the Father yet. There are several opinions about Jesus’ statement, but I believe all Jesus is saying is that He wants Mary to let Him go because He is not ascending to the Father yet, and He wants her to go tell His disciples that He will ascend to the Father, which is referring to His ascension recorded in Acts 1:9.


Mary obeys the Lord and tells the disciples that she saw the Lord, and she told them the things He spoke to her, but Mark’s account says they did not believe her (Mk. 16:10-11). Both Mark and John show that Mary was by herself when she saw Jesus, but earlier she was at the tomb with other women who also left to tell the disciples what happened. All these events with Mary Magdalene happened while these other women were seeking out the disciples to tell them what the angel had told them. Sometime after Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, He appeared to these women as recorded by Matthew:


Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.  10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."


Jesus tells them to rejoice. This was an occasion to rejoice since Jesus was alive from the dead. These women held Him by the feet and worshipped Him, and He did not rebuke them because Jesus is God. At this point, they had not told anyone about their experience, but Jesus encourages them not to be afraid and to go and tell the brethren to go to Galilee because they would see Him there. Both Luke and Mark tell us that the apostles did not believe these women or Mary Magdalene when they told them about their experience (Lk. 24:9-11; Mk. 16:10-11).


Matthew nor John’s account records what happens next, and Mark’s account only gives a brief account of it (Mk. 16:12-13). However, Luke’s account gives us a lot of detail:


Luke 24:13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.  14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.  16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.  17 And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"


Later that day, two men were traveling to Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. To pass the time as they walked, they talked about everything that happened over the last few days. Although not mentioned anywhere in Scripture, I am sure some were talking about those dead saints that were raised from the dead that day who appeared to many in Jerusalem (Mt. 27:53).


While these two men discussed the events of the day, Jesus starts walking with them. Luke says their eyes were restrained and Mark says Jesus appeared to them in another form (Mk. 16:12), which indicates their eyes were made to see Jesus in a different form. In this instance, Jesus is hiding His identity, but He will make His identity known shortly. Even though Jesus knew what they were talking about, He asked them about their conversation.


Luke 24:18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?"  19 And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  20 "and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  21 "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.  22 "Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  23 "When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  24 "And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see."   


Cleopas is the only man identified. The other disciple’s identity is a mystery. Some have speculated that Luke or Peter was the other disciple, but this cannot be because Luke was Gentile and would never claim the Jewish leaders as being his ruler (20), and verse 33 says that these two men went to find the eleven, which means this other man could not be Peter.


Cleopas is shocked that anyone would not know about the events of the last days, but Jesus asked them, “What things?” They start telling Him about Jesus and how the chief priests and their rulers condemned Him to death and crucified Him. They had no problem indentifying who caused Jesus to be crucified.


In verse 21, we learn that these men thought that Jesus was going to restore Israel like it was under King David and liberate them from the Romans. Like Jesus’ apostles, they did not understand that He came to establish a spiritual kingdom not a physical one.


In verses 22-23, they tell Him how the women went to the tomb and told the disciples about their encounter with the angels. They tell Him how some of them went to the tomb and confirmed what the women said, but they did not see Jesus.


Luke 24:25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"  27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.  28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.  29 But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them. 30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.  32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" 


These men thought they were speaking to someone who was oblivious to what happened to Jesus, but He tells them they are foolish and slow of heart in believing what the prophets have said about Jesus. For example, Isaiah 53 talks about the suffering that Christ would go through and how God would prolong His days. There are over 300 prophecies about Jesus throughout the Old Testament, but these men had not believed everything the prophets had said. As they walked together, Jesus started with Moses and He used the other prophets from the Scriptures to teach them what they said about Christ. The same prophets and Scriptures were used during the growth of the church as well (Acts 2:14ff; 3:11ff; 7; 13:16ff), which proves that the Old Testament is important to the Christian today.


As Paul said:


Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.


Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.


When they got close to the village, Jesus finished expounding on the Scriptures, and He was going to continue His journey, but these two men constrained or compelled Him to stay with them because the day was almost over, so He did.


According to verse 30 some time has passed and Jesus was sitting at table with them. He prays over the food, breaks the bread, and gives it to them. We do not know if Jesus ate anything Himself at this time. When He did this, their eyes were no longer constrained, and they could see that Jesus was before them, but He vanished from their sight.


In verse 32, they discussed how their hearts were burning when Jesus expounded the Scriptures to them earlier, which indicates they were surprised they did not known that Jesus was the one talking to them. We do not have to see Jesus with our eyes to believe because God’s Word will reveal Him to us, and it tells us everything we need to know about Him and what we need to do to be saved (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:3).


Luke 24:33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,  34 saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"  35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. 


The day was almost over when they made it to their village, and some time passed before they ate and saw Jesus. At that moment, they got up from the table and returned to Jerusalem. If they walked as fast they could without jogging or running it would have taken them at least two hours to make the seven mile journey.


The apostles were gathered with other disciples behind closed doors because they feared the Jews (Jn. 20:19). Thes two men found them and told them how Jesus walked with them on the road to Emmaus and how they knew it was Him after the breaking of the bread. They also claim that Simon had seen Him. Most believe this is talking about Peter because Paul says, “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5). While this could be some other Simon, it is probably Peter since it fits Paul’s timeline. If this Simon is not Peter, according to Paul, Peter still saw Jesus some time that day before this gathering. According to Mark, the disciples did not believe these two men (Mk. 16:13).


What happens next is recorded by Luke and John (Lk. 24:36ff; Jn. 20:19ff). While there are some similarities, each account gives us additional information, so we will take a look at both accounts. I will put these events in the most logical order to me.


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, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."


Luke 24:36 is an abbreviated version of this verse, but it does add that these two men from Emmaus were still talking when Jesus made His miraculous appearance in the closed room. Many believe that John is using Roman time and the term evening is referring to 6 to 9 P.M., which would make sense based on the timeline of the two men from Emmaus since the day was almost over when they made their way back into Jerusalem.  Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.”


Luke 24:37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.  38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?


This sudden appearance of Jesus terrified and frightened them, and they thought He might be a spirit. Jesus could read their hearts like an open book, which is why He asked them these questions in verse 38. They still doubted even though they saw Jesus standing before them.


John 20:20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 


Luke 24:39 "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."  40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.


Jesus wants them to understand that He is not a spirit, but flesh and bone, so He shows them His hands, feet, and His side. He wants them to touch Him, so they can know for sure that He is flesh and bone. Even though this made them glad, they still doubted what they saw as Luke states:


Luke 24:41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?"  42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.  43 And He took it and ate in their presence.


Jesus was doing everything He could to prove to them that He was not a spirit including eating some fish and honeycomb. From this point it becomes difficult to know what Jesus did or said next because Luke’s account from verse 44 to the end of the chapter includes events that happened up to the 40th day after Jesus’ resurrection. Before we look at Luke’s account, notice what John’s account says.


John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 


Once again, Jesus tells them “Peace to you!” He tells them, He is sending them out just as the Father sent Him out, which is John’s version of The Great Commission. Each Gospel account teaches The Great Commission, and it was repeated by Jesus at different times as we will see.


When Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit, what does that mean? Some believe this was symbolic or done in anticipation of them receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, or it could refer to how Jesus used the Holy Spirit to open their understanding to the Scriptures as Luke says:


Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."  45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  47 "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 "And you are witnesses of these things.


Most likely Luke’s account is still talking about the same event as John, I do not know for sure. The reason I say this is because verses 49-53 talk about what happened on the 40th day after Jesus’ resurrection and beyond. In these verses, the apostles are told to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise from the Father of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and they record the ascension of Jesus to heaven (Acts 1:4ff).


Whatever is meant by receiving the Holy Spirit, we know that it not referring to the promise of the Holy Spirit because that happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and Jesus had to be in heaven (Jn. 16:7). Even though Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures in Luke’s account, their understanding seems to be limited to the reason Jesus had to suffer, die, and how He would be raised from the dead on the third day. The reason I say this is because they did not understand about the spiritual kingdom after this happened (Acts1:6). We also learn from verse 44 that Jesus considered the Law of Moses, the books about the prophets, and the Psalms as being inspired by God. 


When we look at Mark’s account it has the same difficulty as Luke’s account because it briefly talks about what happened before Jesus ascension and the ascension itself (Mk. 16:19-20). After Mark tells us about the two men from Emmaus telling the disciples what they saw, Mark writes:


Mark 16:14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  17 "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  18 "they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."


While I cannot be certain, these events seem to happen during this first meeting as well. However, some say that verse 14 happened during this first meeting, but verses 15 -18 happened at a later time. It also possible this happened during the next Sunday when Thomas was present.


John 20:23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." 


This passage has been abused by the Roman Catholic Church. They teach that Jesus was giving His apostles the ability to forgive sins, and they in turn passed this ability down to the Roman Catholic priesthood, which is why they say they can pardon your sins. While this works well for their false doctrine, this passage is not teaching that the apostles could forgive or retain sins because only God could do that. Instead, it means that they would proclaim what was necessary for the forgiveness of sins by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit just like they did at the birth of the church (Acts 2:38). So, the forgiveness they offered for sins would be in agreement with God’s Word. We can also see this truth from the grammar of this passage.


Wayne Jackson notes:


The Greek tenses of John 20:23 make it clear that the apostles were authorized only to announce the terms of forgiveness, and that upon the basis of God’s previous appointment. Literally, the text suggests: “Those whose sins you forgive, have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive, have not already been forgiven.” The first verbs in the two clauses are aorist tense forms, while the second verbs are in the perfect tense. The perfect tense verbs imply an abiding state which commenced before the action of the aorists. In other words, the apostles (and others since that time) were only authorized to declare forgiveness consistent with what the Lord had already determined (Wayne Jackson, Can Man Forgive Sins?,


John 20:24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."


Only John reveals that not all 11 apostles were there when Jesus appeared to them because Thomas was not there. At some point, the disciples try to convince Thomas that they had seen Jesus, but their words were not good enough for Thomas. He said he would only be convinced if He could see and touch Jesus where the nails pierced His hands, and if he could put his hand into the wound on Jesus’ side.


John 20:26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"  27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."  28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"  29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."


Most believe the eight days mentioned here are Sunday to Sunday. This gathering behind closed doors is similar to the first gathering except Thomas is there. Jesus appears miraculously again and makes the same statement, “Peace to you!” Thomas was getting his wish. Jesus was standing before Him and was willing to let Thomas touch Him. Jesus tells him to stop being an unbeliever.


We are not told if Thomas touched Jesus or not, but if He followed Jesus’ instructions, he did. Whether he just looked or touched, this experience caused Thomas to believe, and he affirmed that Jesus is God when he said, “My Lord and my God!” When Thomas said this, Jesus did not correct him because He was right, Jesus is God.


While it is great that Thomas believed, he had to see Jesus to bring about his belief, but Jesus pronounces a blessing on all those who will believe in Him without physically seeing Him. The Word of God provides us with all the proof we need to know that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we believe, we will be blessed.


John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence 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.


Again, everything we need to know to have faith in God is found in His Word. Sometime between the 8th and 40th day after Jesus resurrection, the disciples went to Galilee to meet Jesus at an appointed time on a mountain (Mt. 28:16). Before that meeting took place, seven of the disciples decided to go fishing in the Sea of Tiberias, and Jesus appeared to them (Jn. 21). After that appearance, they met with Jesus on the mountain.


Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.  17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.  18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.


When they saw Jesus, they worshipped Him, and He did not rebuke them for their worship because He is God. Even though His disciples had seen many proofs of His resurrection, some still doubted. The Great Commission is given again, but this time it was done on top of a mountain.


Paul gives us some additional information not found in the Gospels:


1 Cor. 15:6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.


Some speculate that He was seen by 500 brethren at once at Galilee since it was the place the angels told the women He would be, and because He had appointed a certain place and time He would appear. He was also seen by James, who some believe was His brother. Finally, He was seen by all the apostles, which may refer to the last meeting Jesus had with all the apostles at His ascension (Acts 1:9).


Even after Jesus’ ascension, He appeared to a few more people: Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), Paul (1 Cor. 15:8), and John (Rev. 1:9-20).


It was challenging, but we have examined a logical timeline of the 40 days Jesus was on the earth after His resurrection (Acts 1:3) and beyond.


Summary of Jesus appearances:

  1. Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:14-18).
  2. Other women on their way to tell the disciples (Mt. 28:9-10).
  3. Simon (Lk. 24:33-35; 1 Cor. 15:5).
  4. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mk.16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32).
  5. Ten apostles, Thomas was not there (Mk. 16:14; Lk.24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25).
  6. Eleven apostles, Thomas is there (Mk.16:14; Jn. 20:26-29).
  7. Seven apostles at the Sea of Tiberias (Jn. 21:1-24).
  8. Eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee (Mt. 28:16-20).
  9. Over five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor. 15:6).
  10. James (1 Cor. 15:7).
  11. All the apostles at the ascension (Mk.16:19-20; Lk. 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-11).


After His ascension:

  1. Stephen (Acts 7:54-60).
  2. Paul (1 Cor. 15:8).
  3. John (Rev. 1:9-20).