John after the Resurrection
John stayed at the cross until after Jesus had died, and witnessed first-hand the soldier shoving a spear into the side of Jesus. He watched as the blood and water came flowing from the wound, and it made an indelible impression on him. Years later, when he wrote his account of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he made sure to include this information, and even stressed that he was there to see it firsthand.1
After the death of Jesus, John was quite sad and upset. He still didn’t understand the Scriptures, that Jesus would rise from the dead.2 But the next morning, Mary Magdalene, along with Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James,3 came running to him and the other apostles, most likely with tears and confusion, saying, “They’ve taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we don’t know where they’ve laid him.” They also said that they had seen men in shining clothes who told them that Jesus had risen. But the apostles thought they were making things up and didn’t believe them.4
However, John and Peter took off running immediately for the tomb where Jesus had been laid. John was the faster of the two men, and beat Peter there. Then, while waiting for Peter to get there, John bent down and looked inside. There he saw the linen burial clothes laying inside the rock tomb, but he didn’t enter. Then, Peter finally arrived and went straight in the place where Jesus’ body had been placed a few days earlier. John followed Peter in, and saw again the burial clothes laying there, and also noticed that the face cloth was laying by itself, “rolled up” (ASV) together. Seeing this was enough to make John believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even though he didn’t understand yet that it was what the Scriptures had foretold.5 Coffman has some interesting comments at this point:
Commentators who refer this to some mere tidying up of the grave, or the folding of the garments (there were no garments; but medical bandages), miss the point. Since when has it ever been supposed that a folded garment, or cloth, proved that the dead had arisen? The certain implication of this astounding narration is that Jesus had risen through the winding shroud of bandages, napkin and all, leaving behind the positive and undeniable evidence of his supernatural triumph over death. Remember, this evidence convinced John. The very amount of space accorded this phenomenon in this Gospel is far more than enough to indicate the extraordinary implications of “the linen cloths lying.” Matthew has a remarkable corroboration of this account in the words of the angel, “Come see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 26:6), thus emphatically implying all that John here related.
…The napkin around the head would not have connected with the winding shroud; and that independent placement was preserved in the manner of the linen cloths lying.6
Then something else struck him–the grave-clothes were not disheveled and disarranged. They were lying there still in their folds—that is what the Greek means—the clothes for the body where the body had been; the napkin where the head had lain. The whole point of the description is that the grave-clothes did not look as if they had been put off or taken off; they were lying there in their regular folds as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them. The sight suddenly penetrated to John’s mind; he realized what had happened—and he believed. It was not what he had read in scripture which convinced him that Jesus had risen; it was what he saw with his own eyes.7
That evening, word had spread that Peter had seen the Lord,8 and John gathered together with all the apostles (except for Thomas, who was absent).9 They kept the doors shut, in fear that the Jewish leaders might come after them—especially now that whispers were spreading that the tomb was found empty, and people were claiming to have seen Jesus very much alive.10 While they were gathered together, Jesus appeared in their midst, and said “Peace to you,” and showed them His hands and His side, proving that it was Him. Joy cannot begin to describe the feeling that John was experiencing. But at the same time, Jesus upbraided them because they hadn’t believed the ones who had told them that He had been raised.11
Some time afterwards, John accompanied Peter and some of the other apostles onto a boat where they went fishing all night, but caught nothing. The next morning, John saw a man on the shore, who called out to them, “Children, do you have any food?” After they replied in the negative, John heard the man say, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you’ll find [fish].” When they did this, there were so many fish that they couldn’t draw the net in.
The other apostles apparently didn’t realize who it was on the shore, but John did. He said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” John was left with the boat as he watched Peter jump into the water and swim to shore. John and the other apostles brought the ship to shore, dragging the net behind them, and then sat down with Jesus and ate.
After they finished eating, Jesus began to walk with Peter, and John followed them. It is probable that John heard at least part of the conversation, including Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s death, and Peter asking Jesus, “What about this man?” (referring to John). Then John heard Jesus’ reply of, “If I desire that he remains until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” Decades later, this conversation about John was still remembered, so that when John wrote his account of the good news of Jesus, he had to make it clear that Jesus wasn’t saying John would never die—just that John’s fate was unimportant to the command of Jesus to “follow me.”12
That is a lesson that we would all do well to remember—it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, our command is to follow Jesus.
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 John 19:30-35. John does not emphasize his status as an eyewitness for any other specific event his gospel account. This shows that the blood and water coming from Christ has a major significance. See Romans 6:3-5; Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5, 7:14.
2 John 20:9.
3 Luke 24:10. Most likely, this is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Since they had not yet seen Jesus Himself raised, she would have been called by the name of her oldest known living son, which was James. Luke has a general habit of not mentioning someone by name unless he expected the reader to already know who that person was, or unless that person showed up elsewhere in his writings. Joanna was mentioned in Luke 8:3, Mary Magdalene in 8:2. Other than Mary Magdalene, Luke mentions two women named Mary: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (and his brothers, including James). Since it was already common knowledge (thanks to Matthew’s gospel which was published and distributed around 20 years earlier) that James was the brother of Jesus and the son of Mary, Luke could identify the mother of Jesus as “Mary, the mother of James,” and the readers would have known exactly what he meant by it.
4 John 20:1-2 only mentions Mary Magdalene speaking to John and Peter, but she says “we don’t know where they’ve laid Him.” Luke 24:10-11 mentions two other women by name, and includes “others.” It is possible that the women split up in order to get the news spread to the apostles quickly.
5 John 20:1-9.
6 James Burton Coffman, comments on John 20:6-7.
7 The Daily Study Bible Commentary on John, notes on John 20:1-10.
8 Luke 24:33-34. The actual appearance to Peter isn’t described in the Scriptures, but it is referenced in this passage, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:5.
9 John 20:24-25. For why Thomas may have been absent during this meeting, see the chapter dealing with him.
10 Even the Jewish leaders knew the tomb was empty, for they paid the soldiers who were guarding it to lie and say that the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15).
11 Mark 16:9-15.
12 This whole incident is found in the last chapter of John, especially