Today we will finish the Gospel according to John. We left off with Pilate releasing Barabbas to appease the Jews (18:40). Jesus is then given over to be flogged (19:1). He is also mocked by the Roman soldiers (vv. 2-3). Pilate is hopeful that the Jewish leaders will be satisfied with the beating (vv. 4-5). They are not (v. 6). When Pilate hears the charge against Jesus – that He has made Himself the Son of God (v. 7) – Pilate is afraid (v. 8). When Jesus does not answer Pilate’s questions (vv. 9-10), Jesus points out that Pilate’s authority is rooted in God’s ultimate authority (v. 11). That those who delivered Him to Pilate (the Jewish leaders) have “the greater sin” than Pilate who has God-given authority would seem to intimate that the Jews took on authority they did not have over Jesus. They literally placed themselves above God.
When Pilate insists on releasing Jesus, the Jews make a not-so-veiled political threat (v. 12). So Pilate sits in the position of judgment (v. 13) and legally sentences Jesus to death by crucifixion (v. 16). Note throughout that the Jews claim their loyalty is to Caesar. They are denying God as their king. Without giving much detail, John says Jesus was crucified (vv. 17-18). We are told of the inscription that Pilate placed on the cross (v. 19). Based on verses 14-15 and the Pilate’s response in verse 22, it is possible that Pilate was purposely trying to upset the Jewish leaders because they forced his hand.
In verse 25, we are given a list of those standing “by the cross” of Jesus. In the other Gospel accounts, some of these women (and others) are said to be standing “at a distance” (Matt 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49). This is the only account that includes Jesus’s mother. It seems that for a time near the end of Jesus’s time on the cross, His mother and some others were bold enough to approach nearer to Him. When they do, Jesus entrusts His mother to the unnamed disciple (vv. 26-27). Jesus’s care for His mother considering His circumstances is amazing.
Also unique to John’s Gospel account are the other two things Jesus says from the cross. The “I thirst” is said “to fulfill the Scriptures” (v. 28). This doesn’t necessarily indicate that Jesus said this specifically to fulfill Psalm 69:21, but it doesn’t exclude that possibility either. The “it is finished” goes along with verse 28 (v. 30). Jesus knew this was the plan all along and He knew that He had finished His race according to the Father’s will.
Because the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosses when the next day began at sundown, the legs of the other two are broken to hasten death (vv. 31-32). The inability to raise their bodies up would inhibit their breathing and death would come quickly. Jesus, however, had already died (v. 33), which is verified by the piercing of His heart by the spear (v. 34). John here claims to be an eyewitness to this (v. 35). He adds that Nicodemus (see chapter 3) joins Joseph of Arimathea in getting Jesus into the tomb (vv. 38-42). The haste with which they had to get this done because sundown was approaching is the reason Jesus is placed in Joseph’s tomb (v. 42).
Chapter 20 records the resurrection of Christ. Mary Magdalene alone is mentioned here (20:1), though we know from the other accounts that she was accompanied by others (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 23:55-24:1). There is also no mention of the angels yet. John here mentions who it was that ran to the tomb after hearing the testimony of the women (vv. 3-8, see Luke 24:24). Note that they did not yet understand (v. 9). They would not until the Holy Spirit would be given. At some point, Mary returns to the tomb (v. 11). This is when she (and others) sees the angels (v. 12). When they question her, she believes the body of Jesus to have been stolen (v. 13).
When she turns, she sees Jesus, but does not recognize Him (v. 14). Like the disciples later (see 21:4) or the two on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:16), this is an act of God. She asks where the body is (v. 15), and Jesus reveals Himself to her by calling her name (v. 16). His sheep hear His voice. Jesus’s “do not touch me” command likely means Mary was touching Him, perhaps falling before Him and grabbing Him when she recognized Him. We know that there is nothing wrong with touching the resurrected Christ, as Jesus Himself invited His disciples to do so (see v. 27). Jesus’s response to Mary (v. 17) is along the same lines of His response to Thomas (v. 29). His ascension was coming and they had to let go of Him physically, because His spiritual presence would mean so much more for them (see 16:7).
Jesus then appears to other disciples (v. 19). Note the repetition of “peace be with you” (v. 19, 21). This refers them (and us) back to 14:27 where Jesus is speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The reminder that they were to carry on His mission (v. 21) is followed up by Jesus’s breathing of the Holy Spirit onto them (v. 22). This word for “breathe” is used only here in the New Testament. It is the same word used in the Septuagint for God breathing life into Adam. This is a representation of the new creation Christ has made: His church. They have the calling to carry on Christ’s mission, and the authority to carry it out (v. 23). The forgiveness and withholding of forgiveness the work of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the church. The authority the Father gave to Jesus is now given to the Spirit, Who will work it through the church.
The event that earned Thomas the name “doubting Thomas” is now recorded. This is unearned. Jesus showed His hands and side, and then the other disciples believed (v. 20). Thomas is no different (v. 25). Jesus again appears with the greeting of “peace be with you” (v. 26). This is more Spirit talk, as Christ again speaks of how His spiritual presence is more of a blessing than His physical presence (vv. 28-29). We then read the purpose of the book. The ministry and miracles of Jesus are recorded that the readers would believe in Him (vv. 30-31). John is carrying out the mission, in the power of the Spirit.
The appearance of Jesus to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) is also unique to John. Again, the eyes of the disciples are closed to Jesus’s identity at first. Jesus repeats the miracle He performed when He first called Peter (v. 6 – see Luke 5:4-8). And just as Peter’s eyes were opened to Who Jesus was on that occasion, here the disciples’ eyes are again opened to the risen Christ (v. 7). When all the disciples get to shore, Jesus is cooking fish and bread (v. 9), and He invites the disciples to bring some of the fish they just caught (v. 10). This would have invoked images of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. There, Jesus turned a few fish into enough for everyone. Here, He shows the disciples that through obedience to Him, they will be the ones to multiply the fish (Christians). They will continue His work.
Next John records the restoration of Peter. Jesus is calling Peter to turn from his denial and lead the disciples (see Luke 22:31-34). Jesus asks Peter if he loves Hm “more than these.” The “these” can be masculine or neuter. It could refer to the other disciples, or it could refer to the fish (symbolic of those the church would bring the Gospel to). And is Jesus asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than he loves others? Or is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than anyone else does? I believe it is a question of where Peter’s love is. This is Christ explaining to Peter how to lead the fledgling church. They need to love Christ first – with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then they are to love others because that is how they will love Him. In other words, the church does what we do for Jesus. And Jesus predicts Peter’s death by crucifixion (vv. 18-19). If Peter doesn’t love Jesus enough to endure the sufferings of this world, the church will not survive. So too for all of us. And Jesus tells Peter to do what He did at the first miraculous catch of fish: follow Him. In calling people to salvation, and even to death.
The book ends with a focus on the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus tells Peter that we each need to follow no matter what anyone else does (v. 22). And this disciple followed. He again claims to be an eyewitness to what he has written about (v. 24 – see 19:35). And what he has written is but a small part of all Jesus did (v. 25). But what we know of Jesus is enough to believe.