Title: Resurrection 2018
In chapters 18-20, the gospel of John reaches its conclusion. In these chapters the conflict of unbelief and belief comes to its apex.
JOH 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, into which He Himself entered, and His disciples.
JOH 18:2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place; for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
JOH 18:3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
The feature of the betrayal which John made most important was the voluntary surrender of Jesus.
JOH 10:14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me,
JOH 10:15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
JOH 10:16 "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.
JOH 10:17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
JOH 10:18 "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
His surrender was conscious.
JOH 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and said to them, "Whom do you seek?"
He went into the garden with the full knowledge that Judas had gone to betray Him and that they would look for Him in this place. When they arrive, He doesn’t hide, but goes to them, allowing them to shackle Him and lead Him to His interrogators.
From the time that Judas was sent away to His arrest, hours must have gone by. He could have fled to the wilderness or gone to any number of places where they would not have been able to find Him.
When He said, “I am He.” They all shrank away at His power, and He waited in stillness for them to react. One wonders how long He waited, watching them on their knees, feeling His own power, tempted to use it, but refusing, choosing rather for the will of the Father.
He was captured, not because of their superior power, but because of His consent.
He releases the disciples. They could not handle the imprisonment and interrogation of the religious leaders. He protects them. He takes upon Himself what they cannot bear.
John expresses the purpose for which he wrote this gospel.
JOH 20:30 Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
JOH 20:31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
A summary of this statement yields two things: 1) Jesus performed many signs which are unrecorded in this book; 2) those that are recorded are written for a definite purpose: that you may believe and have life in His name.
Leading up to this end, the climax of the book pits belief and unbelief at their apex.
The climax of John’s gospel reveals the consummation of the tension of belief and unbelief. At the cross there were various groups that had representative belief or unbelief.
JOH 18:12 So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him,
JOH 18:13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
JOH 18:14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
The Sadducees and Pharisees possessed the bitter and implacable unbelief of organized religionists who were motivated by jealousy, prejudice, self-aggrandizement, and self-interest.
JOH 19:12 As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar."
Pilate is nothing like the religious leaders. He hates them. But he is also a man of unbelief.
Pilate was the type of man who was willing to believe something provided he did not have to sacrifice his reputation or personal convenience.
Pilate embodied the unbelief of political expediency which was accompanied by no particular religious convictions, or by no convictions at all. He listened to Jesus more carefully, he did not treat Him maliciously, and he might have even released him, but his own political career and standing with Caesar was at stake. The unrest of the people and the power of the Sanhedrin likely could have brought Pilate’s career and life to an end. Pilate, in short, was the type of man who will believe, provided he does not have to sacrifice his reputation or personal convenience.
JOH 19:23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.
JOH 19:24 They said therefore to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"
The soldiers at the foot of the cross were a picture of the callousness and indifference of unbelief.
The soldiers rolling dice at the foot of the cross for the meager belongings of the deceased, were a picture of the callousness and indifference of unbelief. Jesus meant less to them than He did to Pilate or the Sanhedrin. To them, Jesus was only an incident in a hard day’s work, and a rather unimportant one at that. His sufferings and death provoked no interest from them.
At the cross, unbelief in all its hideous manifestations is put on display stripped of all disguises.
Unbelief, then, malicious [Sanhedrin], or selfish [Pilate], or indifferent [soldiers], appeared at its worst at the cross. Stripped of all polite disguise, it stood revealed in all its hideous rebellion against God.
Belief was manifested at the cross also.
Belief is also revealed. At a time like this, so important, so different, so tragic; all disguises and politeness are removed and the nakedness of both belief and unbelief are laid bare.
JOH 19:25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
JOH 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
JOH 19:27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
The faith of the women made them courageous in their loyalty, even though they all felt it was futile.
The women courageously took their stand nearby as a declaration of loyalty, though that loyalty seemed futile. By these women the chief qualities of belief, loyalty, gratitude, and love were exemplified.
The faith of John gave him loyalty and courage though his heart ached for the hole in his heart that the death of his best-friend would leave.
With them stood John. His belief was rewarded by Jesus’ confidence in him to care for His mother. In the case of John, Jesus reversed the attitude predicated of Him:
JOH 2:24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men
The faith of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus gave them the courage to openly ask for Jesus’ body for proper Jewish burial, despite the certain backlash from the Sanhedrin.
JOH 19:38 And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body.
JOH 19:39 And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.
JOH 19:40 And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
JOH 19:41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid.
JOH 19:42 Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were wealthy Jewish noblemen who were probably members of the Sanhedrin. Their eagerness to claim the body of Jesus is little short of surprising since by so doing they openly declared themselves as sympathizers with His cause.
The Jews did not embalm like the Egyptians. The corpse was washed and swathed in bandage-like wrappings from armpits to feet, in the folds of which spices were placed.
The tomb belonged to Joseph. It was originally reserved for his own family. Joseph’s ownership would insure the comparative safety of Jesus’ remains against vandalism or dishonor of any kind.
His body was wrapped tightly, the headscarf also wrapped, inlaid with spices, and it was laid in the tomb and the door was closed firmly by the stone which had been rolled against it.
I want you to hear in your mind the solid “thud” of the huge stone falling into place, the falling echo of its percussion inside the empty tomb, the darkness slamming down upon the deceased forever. It’s over!
If this is it, then the faith of the faithful were commendable and the unbelief of the malicious, selfish, and indifferent is simply in bad taste, but their lives go on. The life of the unbelieving goes on as it always had. The lives of the believing trudge on in grief, disappointment, emptiness, and despair.
The ones with no belief just went on with life as usual. None of us can imagine what it was like for the believers. Every one of us who have believed in Him have never once thought He was dead. They did. Every one of them thought it was over.
The twentieth chapter of the gospel of John is the crescendo of the climax. The tragedy of unbelief which culminated in the cross would remain forever unresolved were there no resurrection, for evil would have triumphed over good and the heroic and vicarious death of Jesus would be at best a magnificent but futile gesture. In that event, faith in a good God would be irrational, the concept of a moral universe would be impossible, and stark pessimism would be the necessary philosophy of all humanity.
John’s account of the resurrection is remarkable for several reasons. It is compact. It is historical. It is personal. It is the personal nature of it that we will make the rejoicing of our gathering this morning.
John’s account is very personable because it describes the impact that the resurrection had on the very character of people.
John describes the effect of the resurrection on five groups who witnessed it:
Mary Magdalene (frustrated devotion)
Peter (agonizing penitent)
John (empty bereavement)
The disciples as a group (fear and timidity)
Thomas (pessimistic doubter)
The mere chronicle of the event, however wonderful that might be, would have no value unless the acceptance of its actuality affected personal character.
The same is true of all of Christ’s work. His cross, His death, and His resurrection, when believed, has to affect the character of a person. This is why some talk of a head faith vs. a heart faith, but faith is faith, and if the things Jesus did are believed, they have to affect life and character. It is not for us to judge the efficacy of a carnal person’s faith. Leave all judgment to God. It is for us to openly state the gospel, and today the gospel is that Jesus Christ is alive!
Mary is the picture of frustrated devotion.
JOH 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.
JOH 20:2 And 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."
JOH 20:11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
JOH 20:12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
JOH 20:13 And 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."
JOH 20:14 When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
JOH 20:15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Her love for Jesus was particularly emphasized by John. He was an eye witness of it.
When she went to the tomb with the other women, they neglected to consider how they would remove the stone. This showed that they were so taken up with their errand of love that they overlooked one of the most important problems in the execution of it.
Mary gets agitated that the stone is rolled away, she hurries to summon Peter and John, and she has uncontrollable grief as she watched the tomb. These all indicate the depth of her emotion.
For Mary, life had lost its meaning when Jesus died because she had lost the object of her gratitude and affection.
Mary represents all of us who are very devoted to life and meaning but become frustrated and disillusioned when it is found to be only temporary and finite.
A mother devoted to her marriage or her children, a man devoted to a career or a company, a person devoted to a sport or a skill, another to a cause that they believe will do some good. The devotion gives them life and meaning for a time, but they will eventually become sorely disappointed. The beloved people become a letdown, old age makes the work and the sport impossible, the cause comes to nothing. Eventually they find that nothing about any of it is actually real and lasting.
ECC 1:2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
ECC 1:3 What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
Mary, as well as the other four on our list, is devoted to the One who is real and lasting and meaningful, so much so that the grave cannot hold Him, but not one of them believes that. All five believe that Jesus’ death is the end of him. All five grieve for different reasons.
When Jesus is recognized as alive, her futile tears are turned into active effort: Jesus’ first missionary.
JOH 20:16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher).
JOH 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.'"
JOH 20:18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.
The mourner becomes the first missionary as Jesus commissioned her to go to His disciples with the message that He had risen.
In Luke’s account her words appeared to them as nonsense, and so the first missionary is not believed. That should comfort all missionaries.
Next, we turn to Peter. What little is said of Peter is significant. He ran to the tomb; and it is safe so say that he would not have run unless he had a deep concern for Jesus.
The last reference to him was his denial. He had repented in tears and had spent three days in guilt and agony. To him, Jesus’ death removed any possibility of reconciliation.
JOH 20:3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple [John], and they were going to the tomb.
JOH 20:4 And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first;
JOH 20:5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.
JOH 20:6 Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there,
JOH 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.
JOH 20:8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.
JOH 20:9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
JOH 20:10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
Peter represents all those who live with shocking past failures, who have repented, but cannot leave the past behind them.
Peter must hold on to his grief for the rest of his life, or so he thought. The last moment he had with Jesus, the Man that he loved so much that he sincerely and openly declared his willingness to die for, was to see Jesus lock eyes with him directly after hearing Peter’s denial. Peter never saw Him again and never would.
Peter represents all who define themselves by the massive failures of their past. How can we go back and apologize to the people we hurt? How can we make it right? Far more often than not, we can’t. We are penitent. We acknowledge the wrong done, but we cannot be reconciled.
The resurrection meant for him the assurance of forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with the Lord he denied.
The resurrected Christ appears to Peter personally and alone. We only know of the meeting since Paul quickly mentions it in 1Co 15. Peter told Paul about that visit, and Paul knew enough to leave the details between the restored denier and his Lord. We can confidently assume that Jesus restored Peter in forgiveness.
We have sinned against many people, but ultimately all sin is against God. God in Christ has forgiven us. The resurrected Christ is alive and He calls upon us to fellowship with Him now, today, and every day after. We cannot fellowship with the risen Christ today while holding on to our past errors.
John, the disciple who was Jesus’ best friend, and who was the only one of the disciples courageous enough to attend the crucifixion, was left desolate. He did not carry the regret that Peter did, but the emptiness in him yawned wide.
John represents all those who have lost someone that they loved dearly, feeling as if they will travel the rest of life somewhat empty.
Like Peter, he ran to the tomb, prompted by the desire to ascertain what had happened to the body.
It would seem that John’s emptiness was briefer than others since he believed when he saw the garments, but we must remember that this is three days after the crucifixion.
We find John reclining on the chest of Jesus at the last Passover. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Evidence points to the fact that they were first cousins. John became the best friend of the best man in the history of the world. We can imagine John’s comfort knowing that he has such a friend in Jesus. The Lord speaks with him and shares with him in a unique way that they only share. This brings great joy to John and a sense of completeness.
And then his best friend died. They had only been friends for 3 years, had grown so close so quickly, both young; and now it’s over. How could John ever expect to find another friend like Him? He knows he will not and he knows for the rest of his life he will never find another friend like the Master.
Ironically, the closeness of John to Christ would make John the loneliest one after His death. Having Jesus as a best friend means that after His death you will never really have another. How could anyone else compare?
But then John saw the empty tomb and the folded garments and he believed. He doesn’t give us any details about his belief and this shows us that it was enough. At that moment he likely knew that he would see his dear friend again.
When John’s eyes fell upon the neatly folded garments in the open tomb, he saw and he believed. His friendship would be restored and last forever.
One might say, “Well that’s fine for John, but my wife/friend/brother/sister/parent/etc. are not coming back.” And that is true. You have to go through the rest of your life without them, waiting for your own death to see them. But what is also true is that Jesus Christ is your best friend and your husband both now and forever. There is no marriage in heaven because we are married to Him. Your dearest friend, companion, spouse, partner, is alive at the right hand of God and you are seated with Him. If you love anyone more than Him than you are not worthy of Him.
Then there are the disciples as a group.
JOH 20:19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."
JOH 20:20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
JOH 20:21 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
The disciples as a group represent all who fear and are timid because they assume they are alone and/or that there are stronger ones who would hurt them if they could.
The disciples as a group were oppressed by the emotion of fear. They dreaded the Jewish rulers, who had sent Jesus to His death.
There are so many in this world who have been abused emotionally and physically. There are so many who have been bullied. Yet all of us have experienced at least some time of comfort, peace, and security.
All of us started out as infants without a care. We trusted easily. But for all of us, this trust is eventually broken. For some trust is broken by abuse, either from parents, relatives, schoolmates, etc. Some are imprisoned, captured, enslaved, but all eventually find themselves oppressed by someone, something, or their own sin. All go from some relative comfort and strength to abandonment, loneliness, and oppression by the strong.
That group is represented here by the disciples.
The disciples languished in their small room, door locked, in fear and timidity. But then the resurrected Jesus, able to pass through doors and walls as if they were air, appears in their midst.
The resurrection changed their fear to courage. From that day on, revealed by their boldness at Pentecost, the knowledge of their living Lord gave them courage, and through faith, grace was upon them all.
To all the oppressed, afraid, and timid: Your Lord lives. He lives to intercede for you. What can mere man do to you? He has not given you a spirit of timidity leading to fear, but of power, love, and discipline.
Thomas is a living demonstration of the power of Christ to dispel doubt. He was naturally of pessimistic temperament and his doubt was a product of it. Knowing Jesus had died, a man like Thomas would think, “The worst has happened just like I knew it would.”
JOH 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
JOH 20:25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
Thomas represents all the pessimists in the world who cannot see a future of hope and always expect the worst.
Jesus volunteered to submit to the very test that Thomas demanded. The fact that He knew what Thomas had said when He was not present was convincing proof of His supernatural knowledge, and His willingness to accept Thomas on his own terms was a marvel of condescension and compassion.
JOH 20:26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be with you."
JOH 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing."
JOH 20:28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
JOH 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
It is unthinkable that Thomas did actually put Jesus’ body to the test.
All his unbelief vanished as he worshipped. The resurrection made the difference between the skepticism of despair and the worship which brings certainty.
If you are a pessimist, you may still contend that you do not know the future and that it will likely be grim and painful, citing as evidence the pain and darkness of the world around you. But how does any of that have any bearing on the risen Lord? Can any darkness overcome Him? Can any future be unknown to Him? Can He give you a future and a hope? Rejoice and have faith, your Lord and Savior is alive!