20:1-2 On the first day of the week—Sunday—Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning (20:1). Jesus had cast seven demons from her (see Luke 8:2), so she was a devoted follower. The Synoptic Gospels inform us that Mary had gone to the tomb with other women to anoint Jesus’s body (see Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55–24:1). She saw that the large stone sealing the tomb had been removed (20:1), and she had also seen an angel (see Mark 16:5). So she ran to tell Simon Peter and John (the disciple . . . Jesus loved) that the Lord’s body had been taken (20:2).
20:20 The disciples were surely reeling as Jesus stood before them alive. But he showed them his hands, with nail wounds, and his side, which had been pierced by a Roman spear (see 19:34). Those scars had not been removed from his resurrection body. One day, then, all believers will see them. They will serve as eternal reminders of the cost of our redemption, and they will forever give us reason to praise him. Jesus will be the only scarred person in eternity, a perpetual reminder of the price paid for our redemption.
20:21 He said, Peace be with you. Why? Because they were terrified of the Jews. That’s why they had locked the doors (20:19). Yet Jesus gave them his peace. Notice that their situation hadn’t changed. The Jewish leaders would still oppose them in the days ahead (see Acts 4:1-24; 5:17-42). But Jesus can speak peace into trouble. Though your circumstances are unstable, he can provide the internal stability your heart needs.
As the Father has sent me, I also send you. The Father had sent the Son on a kingdom mission to atone for the sins of the world so that all who believe would receive eternal life. Now the Son was sending his disciples on a kingdom mission to proclaim that message and make other disciples throughout the world (see Matt 28:16-20).
20:22-23 Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, Receive the Holy Spirit (20:22). Most interpreters recognize this as an anticipatory act. The Holy Spirit would come to dwell within the apostles on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-21), enabling them to accomplish the mission on which Jesus was sending them. Here, then, Jesus was visibly and physically preparing them for what was spiritually to come. They would be granted kingdom authority, so he told them, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (20:23). The Holy Spirit would enable them to authoritatively declare that God had indeed forgiven the sins of any who believe in Jesus.
20:24-25 One of the disciples, Thomas, had not been present on that evening (20:24). When they told him about what happened, he refused to believe unless he could put his finger into the mark of the nails and put his hand into Jesus’s side (20:25). This is why, in church history, he earned the nickname “Doubting Thomas.” But this isn’t a fair appraisal of his character. Previously, Thomas was prepared to go into hostile territory and die with Jesus (see 11:7-8, 16). So it’s clear that a believer can be spiritually strong one moment and spiritually deflated the next.
20:26-28 Jesus responded to Thomas’s unbelief with grace. He gave the struggling disciple the opportunity to do exactly what he had wanted: to touch the wounds of his risen Savior (20:26-27). Then Thomas made a profound confession: My Lord and my God! (20:28). He acknowledged Jesus’s deity. As John says at the beginning of his Gospel, “The Word was God” (1:1).
20:29 Notice that Jesus did not correct Thomas but accepted his worship, saying, Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. God wants you to believe in him before you see him work in your life.
20:30-31 Jesus performed many other signs . . . that are not written in this book (20:30). In other words, John tells his readers that the things he has written down in his Gospel are merely the highlights! Nevertheless, these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (20:31).
Here John gives us the evangelistic purpose for his book. He wrote it “so that” readers might believe that Jesus is the Messiah—the God-Man—who died as a substitutionary atonement for sins and that, by believing, they will receive eternal life—that is, an eternal relationship with God and an ever-expanding experience of his reality in our lives (see 17:3). That’s what salvation is all about.