John: Jesus Appears

Read John 20:11-29

Jesus is resurrected! He is alive! Just like He said. He appears to Mary Magdalene, the disciples, then a special visit to Thomas. John recalls these moments with great fondness, almost playfully if that doesn’t sound too irreverent for you! Look at the interactions:

Mary Magdalene

Mary was the first one to arrive on the scene, even while it was still dark. Her loyalty and concern for how Jesus was buried seem to have earned her the spotlight. She was the first to discover the tomb and tell the disciples to come and see. Now she will be honored by being the first to see, touch, and hear the voice of the resurrected Savior of the world.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” John 20:13

This is a rare moment. Two angels appear to Mary and she is not the least bit frightened. She is mourning the death of someone she loved and now His body was taken. It’s interesting that she doesn’t accuse these two of taking His body. Then another man appears.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” John 20:15

Though she doesn’t accuse this man, she is beginning to wonder if they might know what was done with the body. Perhaps they saw others carrying it away. She’s far beyond any concern for herself, she simply wants to do what is right for her departed friend. Then she hears a familiar voice.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). John 20:16

Yes! It is Jesus! She doesn’t just turn toward Him, she immediately hugs Him without reservation. The best I can do is imagine losing a daughter, then suddenly seeing her again. The embrace would be deep and strong, joy would flood my heart. Mary has this moment with Jesus before anyone else in the world. This is beyond amazing!

For some reason that’s not completely clear, Jesus tells her not to hold onto Him but dispatches her for the second time to tell the others what she has seen.

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:18

I imagine the darted back to the tomb and found it quite empty, no sign of gardener or angels, but now their hope was beginning to ignite. I’m completely convinced that they believed Mary. (We’ll discuss Thomas separately!) But what should they do next? His body is gone, Mary has seen Him and even had a conversation, however brief, with Jesus. This is fantastic! Actually, it’s beyond words.

The Disciples

They return to the room. In my imagination I see them telling Mary to repeat the story over and over again. “Tell it again, Mary, tell us exactly what He said!” The excitement is beyond belief. Jesus doesn’t make them wait too long, but He does make them wait as they kept themselves hidden in fear.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. John 20:19-20

Overjoyed indeed. It’s all starting to make sense…well, a little sense that is.

Doubting Thomas

Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. When they told him they had seen the risen savior, he had doubts. I’m sure I would have had doubts as well. Even if we talk about impossible events in our wildest imagination, actually seeing it come true is another thing altogether. John’s sense of humor is not the least bit impaired.

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27

I think Jesus had some fun with Thomas. Most of my life I’ve heard these words to Thomas as a rebuke, words spoken with force, even a condescending tone. Perhaps a Gandolf moment if that makes any sense. In my old age, I see things differently.

God created us and wants us to live a life of joy. He created music and art to stir our hearts and He created laughter and play. I’m not suggesting this was overly playful, nor that He was laughing at Thomas, but I honestly think that Jesus loved this man Thomas and spoke these words as a friend would spur on another friend. You can take or leave that for all it’s worth. The God I read about is the One who went out of His way to show His love for all of us. He is all-powerful, no doubt, but His love is even stronger. Now Thomas knows. And soon he will fully engage in the mission of telling the world.

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

Again, I want to encourage you to read the words of Jesus from a perspective of encouragement and not a scolding demand. So many more will be asked to believe in Jesus without seeing Him. Jesus said He was going to ascend to the Father. He taught them just a few days ago that He was leaving them while sending the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. They’re not going to see Him, but they are going to tell the world. How could they not!!

Last Sunday, Theresa spoke and gave us a beautiful portrait of how Jesus sees us. She used the woman at the well to emphasize how Jesus sees beyond our outward appearances and looks straight at the heart. “I see you,” she said. It’s true. Jesus sees you and me beyond addiction, failures, and mistakes. He sees us beyond fancy clothing, cars, and opulent houses. He sees us when we’re down and when we’re flying high. And He saw Thomas.

Jesus is risen, just as He said! It’s the last day of January. Let’s celebrate Easter today and every day! Let your joy be complete in Christ Jesus!!


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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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