As we see the four scenes pictured by John, we should notice the nature of the evidence to the fact of the resurrection which each presents. We should also notice the content of the faith inspired. And we should notice the prophecy which each contains of the life in which faith will issue.
It was not yet daybreak when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus. It was the first day of the week, Sunday, and Jesus had been crucified on Friday. Mary found the stone moved away and the tomb empty. The cloth which was wrapped around Jesus lay in the place when Jesus’ body had been laid. She thought the body had been stolen and became scared and ran to find help. Mary found Peter and John and told them what she had thought happened and they ran to the tomb.
In this first scene Peter and John are at the tomb of Jesus early on the morning of the first day of the week. They do not know that Jesus has risen as this is not what they are expecting, Jesus to be resurrected as they had not yet understood the scriptures. They have come quickly because of the announcement of Mary Magdalene and though maybe the body had been stolen. Peter goes into the tomb but turns away bewildered and distressed. Then John who had arrived first and looked in now goes into the tomb as Peter had. John also sees the empty tomb, the cloths that had been wrapped around the body of Jesus undisturbed, and the napkin which had been about his head carefully rolled up in a place by itself, John believed. John concludes that there can be only one explanation, that Jesus has risen from the dead. For John there was no other logical conclusion except that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Over time men have been suggesting other explanations to the empty grave. His disciples had come by night and stole Him away, Jesus did not really die He only swooned upon the cross and then escaped the tomb, the disciples never saw Him they only imagined that He rose, and His followers were guilty of intentional falsehood. Theft, resuscitation, hallucination, deception, ignores the facts of all the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross. The only conclusion for the thoughtful mind is that Jesus rose from the grave.
What did John believe? Did John believe that Jesus had risen from the grave? Surely John did but even more than that is the undeniable fact the Jesus truly was the divine Son of God.
Next Mary Magdalene came back to the tomb to weep and was surprised by a vision of angels. Jesus came to her but she did not recognize Him until He spoke her name. Then she knew that it was Jesus, as she called Him, Rabboni which is Hebrew for Teacher. It is the one who stands at the grave weeping at the buried hopes who first of all needs the vision of a risen Christ. Sometimes He will speak to the very heart a message which inspires faith, as that which came to John when he went into the empty tomb, and that which comes to Mary when her heart hears the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus bids her to tell the disciples that He is about to ascend, to the Father, but, “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.” What was to come about by the ascension of Jesus to His Father in Heaven but a greater fellowship with Himself. This fellowship would be more intimate and real than His followers had ever known. A fellowship made possible by the Holy Spirit. Jesus designates a name to His disciple that He had never before given, Brethren. “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” After Jesus ascends to the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to His followers as an abiding spiritual presence then they will have the truest fellowship “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
The same day Jesus appears to His disciples in the evening. The Disciples had withdrawn to the safety of the upper room in fear of the Jews. They had yet to believe in the resurrection, even when reported to them by credible witnesses. “And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” Now that the disciples had physical evidence they believed. Such proof was needed then but now it is not. There is other evidence that should suffice for us. We have the evidence of those have the blessedness of a relationship with Him yet they have not seen but still believe. Their faith was now in One who was divine, One who could give peace to the soul, and One who could impart the Spirit of God. The life in which the disciples were about to enter into was, in its essence, a great mission identical with the mission of the divine Son. His mission would not end: “As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you. The disciples were to carry on the work of the Master. The power was also to be His, as He breathed upon them and said, receive the Holy Spirit. This gift gave the disciples fuller knowledge and was completed at Pentecost. In this way the risen Christ was to carry on His saving work through His human messengers by the power of His divine Spirit.
Thomas was not at this first appearance to the disciples and a week later Jesus appeared again. Thomas was there this time and the purpose of Jesus was to convince him of the reality of His resurrection. Thomas had been commonly known as a doubter. Thomas had been more skeptical than the others had been before they had seen the risen Christ. When Thomas had heard their report he demanded the same proof that they had been given. Thomas was an honest doubter because of his attitude toward the evidence. Thomas went to this meeting of the disciples; to the very place where he would hear repeated testimony he thought to be inadequate. Thomas was not afraid of the consequences of belief. He loved the Master and had been willing to die with Him. When a person is willing to face the evidence, and really loves Christ, he is certain to receive light.
Thomas was convicted when Jesus appeared and offered to give him the very evidence that he had demanded. Thomas then believed without demanding the evidence and proof he had required. The love and mercy and knowledge of his Lord convinced Thomas not only of the resurrection, but of the divine nature. Thomas cried out in an adoring wonder: “My Lord and my God!” this confession is the culmination of belief and it is the climax of the Gospel.
John states that his purpose of writing this Gospel is to convince the readers that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus being the Christ John designates the office of Messiah in whom all the prophecies of the Redeemer and Savior of the world have been fulfilled. By calling Jesus the Son of God he states the divine Person of our Lord. The proof of this is in the signs that Jesus had preformed. The greatest of all the signs that Jesus preformed is His resurrection. When Thomas accepted the evidence he at once believes and confesses his faith. To produce such faith in others is the purpose of John’s Gospel.
John has written this Gospel in order that we may know Christ, may trust Him, may commit ourselves to Him, and have life in all its fullness of peace and joy and beauty and fruitfulness and hope, even the life eternal which issues from knowledge of the true God revealed in Jesus Christ His Son.