John 20:19 -31; Luke 24 - Part 1
Once again I emphasized my belief that John was writing to Jewish believers. I say this because here he is making the point that it was still the first day. To the Jewish mind there is an instant understanding when John says this. The hearer or reader understood immediately that it is still light, for sunset marks the beginning of a new day.
Although John does not expound on it, there were many that made it to the tomb that day.
Told by the angel to go and tell the disciples, at least, Mary Magdalene did what the angel asked of her, for she found John and Peter.
Jerusalem, even then, was a large city. How was she supposed to find them all, just start running about the city shouting their names? Considering the fear that is expressed by their “shutting” the door I don't think so, for that would have drawn even more unwanted attention.
Jesus seemed to make a point of personally addressing the two on the road to Emmaus. (They were headed North West out of Jerusalem. What does that imply?)
Consider that after Jesus finally breaks bread with them, they too believed, to some degree, for they changed course and returned to Jerusalem, to the house where they knew they would find the others. For whatever the reasons they felt comfortable enough to have used a particular home; all of them. A relative of one, or a friend of the “ministry.”
John 20:19 NASB So when 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."
- “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week”
As the day has progressed we find them gathering together, but not all.
It's probably a little more than cool this time of the day. It would only make sense to close the doors and put out some candles. It is John telling us that the doors were shut for fear of the Jews.
- “and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews”
The doors might be closed anyway, but fear has driven them to secure the doors so that no one walks in uninvited.
Fearing the Jews?
You might think that the Jews had appeased their anger; apparently not. Remember that the chief priests had worked themselves into a frenzy and the only thing that diffused that momentum was their wish to prepare for their religious practices. What ever evil they had been performing had to come to a quick end before the Sabbath which began at sundown.
They have had three days to calm down, but John understood their ways and their anger; he has watched it for at least three years. This meant something very significant to his Jewish audience.
John, looking back 90 years later, stated that when he looked at the grave-clothes and their placement, he believed. What did he believe?
The two on the road to Emmaus believed enough to turn around and return to the house in Jerusalem. What did they believe?
The door is secured. It was so crowded that John intentionally sits with his back against the door. No one is getting past him without damaging something (we did not call him one of the sons of thunder for nothing.) Only moments before securing the door someone did a head count and assured us that everyone was here. If they noticed that Thomas was missing they did not seem overly concerned. Mary had gone out of her way to round the disciples up (at least that is what we choose to believe), but Thomas was nowhere to be found. He must have gone home. Rather outspoken and belligerent at times, Thomas, just like the others, is aware that Jesus has died; what then is the sense of hashing this out anymore?
Jesus appeared to the two that were headed north-west and began talking with them. He explained who he was beginning with Moses (that covers a lot of territory) and the prophets (This was a long walk). The things he said are what we should understand as established believers, and are the foundations of our faith. Jesus, after what seems like some prodding from them, sits down to dinner with them. As he began to eat, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him and believed. They had to turn around and get back to Jerusalem with enough time to gather “all” the disciples. They were excited and they believed. What did they believe?
Luke 24:33 NASB states,
- And they (the two from the Emmaus road) got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them,
We are not clear on who the “those who were with them” were. We can sort this out, but we have to look at Luke's and Mark's account to fill in the blanks.
- Mary Magdalene
- Mary the mother of James
- There may have been others.
Feeling relatively safe, now that the door is secured, they began discussing the days events.
Can you imagine the emotions, the feelings. It made sense as John described how the grave-clothes were laid. No one stealing a body would have gone to all that trouble. And what about the head cloth; lying by itself as if purposefully taken off. One stated with a pained voice, I saw his face. Why would anyone need to see how torn up he was again? The point of the discussion was if he was really alive. Sitting, standing, leaning against the wall, they were all hashing out what it all meant.
Maybe he was alive?
Don't you remember what he said to us, how that he would rise again on the third day? You might think it was finally sinking in. The events of the day had all been very real. The witness of the two disciples on Emmaus road, realizing that it was Jesus, and they said he just disappeared after supper was over. Mary saw him there at the tomb earlier that day; he called her name, and she touched him.
Much like the death of a loved one, the reality may take days to sink in, and then once it does what do you do next? Having gone through such a horrid shock they are now challenged to believe that he is alive.
How do you dispute evidence; it is difficult at best, but it is so much easier to disqualify the eyewitnesses. This may be one of the reasons that John points out Mary Magdalene. Having read scripture you should have come to realize that Jesus, in the semi-barbaric world of the middle east, was the one person that showed women respect.
Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. I do not think that there were too many people who were not aware of how those things manifested themselves. Of the women that traveled with the company she is the prominent example of the power of God's transformation and love in the life of a human.
- “Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, "Peace be with you."
Forget what he looked like, how did he get in here? We assume so many things about this, and we cannot prove any of them. The word histemi indicates that he was suddenly standing there in the midst of them.
Although they, as a group, had not been trying to draw the attention of the chief priests, one of the ladies screamed when she saw him. Several in the room jumped to their feet as though they were on the defensive and several charged for the door. You would have thought a bomb had gone off.
Suddenly it all became silent when the voice that we had come know as Jesus said, "Shalom Aleichem!" (Peace to you!) It all made sense!
Luke's gospel gives us some clarity that we do not see in John's account. Keep in mind that Luke was a physician and details were important to him.
- Luke 24:36-40 NASB While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, "Peace be to you." (37) But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. (38) And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (39) "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (40) And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
John told us that he believed, but I ask you again, what did John believe? Fully, completely? I don't think so.
- “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Because we don't see things like this, a formerly dead man appearing in the living room, every day. It is hard to put into words, but some even tried to answer him, but you could not understand them. No one would go near him for people do not just appear in the middle of room. Mary, and the two that had seen him on the road, started to approach him for she had already seen him this day.
What were the doubts? Many.
I told you I would rise again! It seemed like an eternity but in truth it was only a few seconds later when Jesus, with just a hint of sarcasm, spoke again.
- “ Look at my hands; look at my feet--it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." Luke 24:39 MSG
It was the same tone he used in response to Nathanael when he said, John 1:51 GW "I can guarantee this truth: You will see the sky open and God's angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man."
We recognized the voice and the manner of speaking, but none of us had ever seen anyone just appear in the middle of a secured room. No one moved toward him as yet.
Perhaps you, like John believe; the question is, what do you believe? We all struggle with belief. One of the things that recently challenged me was the passages about having faith like a grain of mustard seed.
Luke 17:5-6 NASB The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (6) And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.
Having had a mustard seed between my fingers, I pinched them together and you can see no light between them; that is small, and are you telling me that I don't even have that? If that is what it is all about, my lack, or their lack of faith, then we have no hope. But we do have hope and it is in the grace and mercy of the Father, and that Jesus Christ himself stands as our mediator. He does this because we are broken and weak without Him. As a participant in Celebrate Recovery I am consistently saying, I am a grateful believer. I now know why, because in my worst moments he is always faithful and I live in him. Give him your life, allow Him to give you life and heal you.