The Gospel According To John Chapter 20

Blessed Be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… 1 Peter 1:3

Jesus speaking to the Apostles on Resurrection Sunday in Luke 24:44: ..then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.’  He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures

St Peter speaking at Pentecost: “..but this is the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.”  -Acts 3:18

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Many modern Biblical scholars do not believe in “predictive prophecy.”  Predictive prophecy concludes that there is a divine intellect behind the writings of the Old and New Testaments which demonstrates that the Bible is a divinely inspired Sacred Text.  To deny predictive prophecy denies that there was a divine plan for man’s redemption since predictive prophecy not only establishes the fact of God but it also authenticates the deity of Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.  Here are only some of the prophecies fulfilled in His crucifixion as recounted in the Gospels:

On Friday, the 6thday of the week, Jesus is laid to rest in a rich man’s tomb.

Question: What happens between Friday and Sunday?  You will find your answer in the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith handed down to us from the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

Answer: The Apostles’ Creed tells us that “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended to the dead [Hades].”  The Catechism teaches that like all men Jesus fully experienced death and that in His human soul united to His divine person that He joined the others in the “realm of the dead.”  St Peter writes that Jesus descended there as Savior for all mankind and that He proclaimed the Gospel to the spirits of the dead imprisoned there: 1Peter 3:18-19“Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison.”

This place, Hades, or “the place of the dead” was not Hell, the place of the damned.  The Jews called this place “sheol” or the grave.  Under the Old Covenant system there was no access to heaven for the righteous because the blood of animals could not fully forgive sins.  These souls, like the poor man Lazarus in Jesus’ parable of the “Rich man and the poor man Lazarus”, awaited their Savior in a place Jesus referred to as “Abraham’s Bosom.  When Jesus descended into this place He freed the righteous dead by forgiving their sins with His precious blood.   St Peter also wrote of this holy mission in 1 Peter 4:5-6  “And this was why the gospel was brought to the dead as well, so that, though in their bodies they had undergone the judgement that faces all humanity, in their spirit they might enjoy the life of God.”

This descent into the abode of the dead brings Jesus’ message of salvation to complete fulfillment.  It is the last phase of His Messianic mission and He emptied the righteous dead out of what we call today, Purgatory.  This place still exists between time and space and continues to hold the dead who are destined for heaven but who must be purified completely before facing a pure and Holy God.  Please see Catechism of the Catholic Church #631-637.  Also on Purgatory see CCC# 1030-32; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:8-9; 1 Peter 3:19; Psalms 68:19; Numbers 16:33ff.

Please read John 20:1-10
Verses 1-2 “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.  She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,’ she said, ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.'” “It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark..” Literally“day one of the week”, a Hebrew idiom.

Fr. Brown in his commentary for Anchor Bible points out that the use of the Greek word for the 4th Watch proi [pro-ee],translated here as “very early” may be evidence that John is using Roman time.  The Jews and Romans had the night watches separated into the same time divisions but the Jews did not use this word for the 4th Watch. The 4th Watch was from 3AM to dawn.  The use of this word and that it is still dark suggests it is the time of the 4th Watch Roman time [the Roman day began at 12 midnight].

“the first day of the week.”
Question:  What day of the week was it and why was this day significant to Jews?  Why will it become significant to Christians?  Please give 3 answers.  Hint: see Genesis 1:4-5 & 2:1-2; Leviticus 23:5-14 and Acts 20:7 & Revelation 1:10.


  1. It is Sunday which was also the first day of Creation [Saturday was day 7 therefore day #1 had to be Sunday].  Resurrection Sunday is the first day of the New Creation in Christ!
  2. According to the schedule of the 7 Sacred Feasts this day is the Feast of Firstfruits which in Leviticus 23:5-14 was celebrated the day after the Sabbath of Passover week.
  3. This day was to become the New Covenant Sabbath: the day set aside for man to commune with God.  It is the Lord’s Day, the day of worship for New Covenant believers.

Question: Why is it that as Christians we no longer keep the Old Covenant Sabbath, Saturday?

Answer: The Old Covenant is fulfilled.  All creation has been redeemed and it is now the time of the New Covenant “Day of the Lord.”  Palm Sunday, the Resurrection, Jesus’ second appearance to the 11 Apostles, and Pentecost are all on Sundays.  After Pentecost it became the custom for the New Covenant  Church to worship on the first day of the week [see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10; also Matthew 28:1].  As Catholics we still observe the Old Covenant custom of the day beginning at sundown and so our Sunday Vigil Mass takes place at sundown on Saturday [although many priests have forgotten this connection and fail to change the Mass times in the Spring and Summer to coincide with the setting of the sun and the beginning of the next liturgical day].

Question: Please consult the chart The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant in the Charts and Resources section of the study: #1. What was the purpose of the Feast of Firstfruits and #2 how was it fulfilled in Christ?  Hint: see Leviticus 23:10-14; Romans 8:22-23; 1 Corinthians 10: 1-3; 15:20-23; and Revelation 14:4.

Answer: The Old Testament celebration of Firstfruits:

  1. When the Old Covenant  Church came into the Promised Land and reaped the harvest they were to bring the first sheaf of the barley harvest and present it to the Lord on the first day after the Sabbath of Passover Week.  That meant that this feast would always be celebrated on a Sunday, unlike the other feasts [except the Feast of Weeks], where the day of the feast was set at a specific date and the day of the week for the feast would change from year to year.  In addition to the firstfruits of the barley harvest [the first of the grain to ripen for harvesting] it was ordained that a lamb must be sacrificed.  Offered along with the lamb of sacrifice and the cereal offering were a cake of unleavened wheat flour [this is during the 7 day Feast of Unleavened bread] mixed with oil as food and a portion of wine [Leviticus 23:12-13].  In advance of this sacrifice nothing was to be eaten [Leviticus 23:14].  This feast commemorated the crossing of the Red Sea [1Corinthians 10:1-3] and it was commanded to be a perpetual sacrifice [Leviticus 23:14]. After Jesus’ Resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits the Pharisees, who were the ruling party of the Sanhedrin, changed the date of this feast to Nisan 16.  We do not know exactly when this change took place but we do know the Sadducees continued to hold that the Scripture passage in Leviticus 23:11 be interpreted literally and the Karaite Jews, a sect of modern Judaism, still continue to celebrate this feast on the first day after the Sabbath of Passover week.  We do know, however, that by the time Josephus wrote his history of the Jews [circa 90AD] the change initiated by the Pharisees was accepted and Firstfruits was designated as the 16th of Nisan. With the exception of the Jewish Karaites, modern Jews do not keep this feast.
  2. How was this feast fulfilled in Christ?  Jesus Christ is Himself the “firstfruits” of the New Creation who makes possible the firstfruits of the harvest of souls into heaven that will result in the Resurrection of the righteous dead at the end of time: Romans 8:22-23 “We are well aware that the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labor pains.  And not only that: we too, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free.”  It is through our baptism into Christ’s death and Resurrection that we have now become re-born into the family of God.  In 1Corinthians 10:1-3 and 1Corinthians 15:20-23 St Paul writes about these “firstfruits”.  1Corinthains 15:20-23:“In fact, however, Christ has been raised from the dead, as the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.  As it was by one man that death came, so through one man has come the resurrection of the dead.  Just as all die in Adam, so in Christ all will be brought to life; but all of them in their proper order: Christ the firstfurits, and next, at his coming, those who belong to him.”

Jesus Christ is the Resurrected Firstborn Son of God.  He is the true Lamb of the Sacrifice and now in our New Covenant liturgical feast we unite ourselves to His sacrifice and in turn receive Him in what has the appearance of cake of unleavened wheat and wine [which was also offering along with the sacrifice of the lamb at the feast of Firstfruits].He is food for our souls and we are commanded to consume no other food before partaking of Christ. See Revelation 14:4. “These are the ones who have kept their virginity and not been defiled with women; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they, out of all people, have been redeemed to be the firstfruits for God and for the lamb.  No lie was found in their mouths and no fault can be found in them.”

There are several interpretations of this passage.   The New Jerusalem Bible interprets this passage as the New Covenant Church who is the spotless Bride of Christ.  In the Old Testament marital infidelity is a metaphor for idol worship [see Hosea  1:2].  Only those who have remained pure can be betrothed to the Lamb.  Just as the old Israel followed Yahweh in the Exodus out into the desert [the relationship between Yahweh and Israel in the desert was the ideal relationship where Israel was completely united with and dependent upon Yahweh], so now must the New Israel, the New Covenant Church, follow the Lamb into the “desert” in obedience, and where the marriage rites are renewed: Hosea 2:16-25 “When that day comes- declares Yahweh – you will call me, ‘My husband’, no more will you call me, ‘My Baal.’  [verse 18]. No more will the relationship be one of a Master to his concubine but as a beloved husband to his covenant Bride! [note: a concubine had no marriage covenant and had to call her husband “my lord” as her master.  She was property not a beloved Bride and the legitimate mother of future generations. Hosea 2:21-25 “I shall betroth you to myself forever, I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice, and faithful love and tenderness. […]  ‘You are my people’, and he will say, ‘You are my God.'”

Returning to verse 1: John seems to indicate that Mary Magdala is alone, although “the other Mary” [of Clopas] may have accompanied her or followed soon after her [see Matthew 28:1]. The other Gospels list Mary Magdala as one of several women who go to the tomb of Christ on the first day of the week [Sunday]. Mark 16:1 names these women, along with Salome the mother of James and John Zebedee, at the tomb just when the sun “had risen”, or“was rising”.  Luke does not mention how many women went to the tomb; he writes that they went “at the first sign of dawn“.  It may be that Mary [or both Marys] went first before dawn and the others came at first light. There may have been 2 or 3 groups of women going to the tomb that morning.  See the chart “Harmony of the Gospels: The Resurrection”.

Question: But who is missing from this group of women and why?

Answer: Mary, the mother of Jesus is missing. Perhaps because she knows He is no longer in the tomb.  Her Son had risen as God’s Firstfruits of the New Creation.

The disciple Mary of Magdala, a woman from a fishing village on the shores of the Galilee, is a central figure in the story of the Resurrection.  She is mentioned 12 times in the Gospels:

27:56 15:40 8:2 19:25
27:61 15:47 24:10 20:1
28:1 16:1 20:18

Mary of Magdala is only mentioned at the cross and in the Resurrection accounts with the exception of Luke 8:2 where we learn that Jesus had exorcised this woman, casting out 7 evil spirits.  Luke also includes the information that she became one of several wealthy women [along with Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and Susanna] who provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their own resources.  According to some traditions she is the sinful women who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee, but the identify of this woman as Mary Magdala is not confirmed, nor is she ever identified in Scripture as a prostitute.

Question: Mark and Luke indicate that the women had come to the tomb with aromatic resins and herbs to anoint Jesus’ body but this is the 3rd day in the tomb; why didn’t they come the day before?

Answer: The day after the crucifixion [beginning at sundown] was the Jewish Sabbath.   The Sabbath was a day of rest and no work was to be accomplished, even preparing the dead.

The women met on the way to the tomb. The Gospel of Mark records that the women were concerned about who would help them roll the stone away from the tomb entrance but when they arrived they discovered “that the stone-which was very big – had already been rolled back.” Mark 16:3-4.

“she saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.”

Here the expression “the other disciple” is joined for the first time to “the beloved” or “the one whom Jesus loved” which helps us identify the “other disciple” who had access to the house of the high priest Annas, as John, or at least as the same man as the “beloved disciple”.

You will notice that from the time of the preparation of the Upper Room for the Passover Meal in Luke’s Gospels and from now on in the Gospel of John as well as in Acts of Apostles, and Galatians, Peter will always be paired with John.  This pairing helps to confirm the identity of the “beloved Apostle” as St. John.  [Matthew Luke 22:8; Acts 1:13; 3:1,3,4, 11; 4:1, 3, 7, 13, 19, 23; 8:14, 17, 25; Galatians 2:9].

” ‘They have taken him out of the tomb,’ she said, ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.'”
Mary’s “we” confirms the Synoptic accounts that other women had been with her. Luke 24:10-11 records that Joanna and Mary the mother of James went with her to tell the Apostles the news of Christ’s Resurrection.  The Synoptic Gospels record that at first the Apostles did not believe the women.

Verses 3-5  “So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.  They ran together but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground but did not go in.”

Instead of “reached the tomb” the text literally reads “came into the tomb”.  Most tombs had a narrow hall-like entrance that opened into a wider room.  The “other disciple” must have entered the tomb and then peering into the wider room observed the burial cloths.

Question: Why did the “other disciple” run faster than Peter and why didn’t he immediately enter the burial space once he reached the tomb?

Answer: If this “other disciple” is indeed John, he is a much younger man than Simon Peter and it is reasonable that he should run faster. He did not enter the tomb first because he recognized the priority and the superiority of Peter, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the “keys of the kingdom” in Matthew 16:16-18.   John is acknowledging Peter as Christ’s choice as the leader of the Apostles.  From now on, when the Apostles are listed, Peter is listed first, as always, but now John is listed immediately after Peter [see Acts 1:13].

There must have been enough daylight to see into the interior of the tomb.  This suggests that the opening of the tomb faced east.  It is interesting that the instructions for God’s Tabernacle were that it was always to face toward the east [Exodus 27:13; 38:13].  The Temple in Jerusalem was also built facing east, as were all early Christian churches including St. Peter’s in Rome.

Verses 6-8  “Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloths lying on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.”

Once again John mentions linen cloths in the plural.  This reference is probably to the sidon, or burial shroud, and the soudarion, or cloth that had covered Jesus’ head when He was taken down from the cross and then used in His burial.  John mentions such a cloth as part of Lazarus’ burial garb [see 11:44].  It was the practice for a cloth to be passed under the chin and tied on top of the head to prevent the mouth of the deceased from falling open.  The disciple probably observed these cloths lying on the shelf of the tomb where the body had laid. The observation that the one cloth was still rolled up could indicate it was still rolled in an oval loop and the ends tied as it had been when it had been around Jesus’ head and chin.  It was separate perhaps because it was still lying where Christ’s head had been while the shroud itself [the shroud of Turin is over 14 feet long] was in a heap at the other end of the burial bed or on the floor of the tomb.

There are two relics known as soudarion [also spelled sudarium].  One is the relic of the image of the face of Jesus on the veil of the woman who has come to be known as Veronica [true image].  This holy cloth is in Rome.  The other is the cloth that was placed over Christ’s face when His body was removed from the cross and used in His burial because it contained His bloodstains [the blood must accompany the body that is why a person who died a violent death was not washed in preparation for burial].  This soudarion is kept in Oviado, Spain and the blood on this cloth exactly matches the bloodstains on the face of the man of the Shroud of Turin.

Question: What did the “beloved disciple” see that made him believe?  What he believed, of course, was that Jesus had been raised from the dead but was it simply the empty tomb and the burial clothes?  What did he see that made him believe Jesus had been resurrected?

Answer: This is a mystery.  Some scholars contend that this disciple did not suddenly come to believe in the Resurrection but was now convinced that Mary Magdala had spoken the truth when she said that the body was missing.  Ancient scholars have made the suggestion that it is seeing the burial clothes that supported his belief in Jesus’ Resurrection because if Jesus’ body had been taken by grave robbers they would have taken the body still wrapped in the clothes to avoid drawing attention to themselves.  St John Chysostom supports this argument: “If anyone had removed the body, he would not have stripped it first; nor would he have taken the trouble to remove and roll up the soudarion and put it in a place by itself.” [Homilies on St. John LXXXV, 4].

Ancient scholars have also suggested that it was the position or form of the clothes and not just their presence that convinced the “Beloved disciple.”  It is their suggestion that Jesus emerged from His burial clothes in a supernatural manner, which allowed Him to pass through the clothes still leaving them virtually in place, like an empty cocoon.   Other scholars contend that the force of the words mean much more that simply acceptance of Mary’s statement but rather that it is the Beloved disciple who is the first to believe in the risen Savior in his “seeing and believing”!  I rather like the ancient scholars’ suggestion that it is the clothes themselves that bear the testimony.  If the Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud that truly bears the imprint of the Resurrected Savior, perhaps this disciple saw the imprint of Jesus on the shroud and believed.

Verses 9-10 “Till this moment they had still not understood the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  The disciples then went back home.”

When Mary Magdala first came to them, the disciples did not believe her words that Jesus was not in the tomb.  Didn’t it occur to them then that He had been resurrected?  It hadn’t occurred to Mary as you will see in verses 11-13.


Jesus not only predicted His Resurrection but He also emphasized that His Resurrection from the dead would be the prophetic “sign” to authenticate His claim that He is the Messiah!

  Matthew   12:1-8; 16:21; 17:9, 22,  23; 20:18, 19; 26:32
  Mark   9:10
  Luke   9:22-27, 44
  John   2:18-22 “The Jews  intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us that you should act like  this?’  Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise  it up.’  The Jews replied, ‘It has taken 46 years to build this Temple: are you going to raise it up again in three days?’  But he was speaking of the Temple that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that  he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what he had said.”

Perhaps they were thinking of resurrection in the same way that Martha understood in chapter 11 when Jesus spoke to her of Lazarus’ resurrection.  She assumed He was speaking of the resurrection at the final judgment.  Or, perhaps they “knew” in the same way that we “know” that one day we will face a final judgment before the throne of God when we will be held accountable for our lives.  We “know” but do we really understand?

But now, they not only believe but now they recall the Scriptures that prophesized these events.  It is possible that John is referring to Psalms16:10, to Hosea 6:2, to Jonah 1:17, or 2:1.  But it is also possible that since there is no specific Old Testament reference here it may be John’s intent to suggest that all of Old Testament Scripture had been fulfilled in Jesus’ Resurrection.  This is what Jesus will explain to the disciples on their way to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24:25-27 “Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe all that the prophets have said!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?’  Then starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the Scriptures that were about himself.”   And again to the Apostles in Luke 24: 45-46 “He then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…’.  St Paul will make this same obscure reference to Scripture in 1 Corinthians15: 3-4: “The tradition I handed on to you in the first place, a tradition which I had myself received, was that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried; and that on the third day, he was raised to life, in accordance with the Scriptures…”

Please read verses 11-18
Verses 11-13 “But Mary was standing outside near the tomb, weeping.  Then, as she wept, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet.  They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’  ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.'”

Question: Why was she weeping?

Answer: She believes Jesus’ body has been stolen. She has not remembered the promise of His resurrection.

This is the second reference concerning having to stoop to enter the tomb.  If you visit the tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher today in Jerusalem, you still have to stoop…you are forced to bow low in reverence as you enter the Holy place.

The Greek word for “messenger” is angelos.  It can be used for human messengers or heavenly messengers.  These “messengers” evidently looked quite human to Mary.  She does not realize that they are spiritual beings in human form.

Verses 14-15 “As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not realize that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Who are you looking for?’  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.'”

This encounter is very tender and moving but it is also tenderly humorous since Mary does not realize that she is speaking with her Lord who she has mistaken for the gardener. Notice in verse 13 how Mary speaks of Jesus as “my Lord” instead of “the Lord”, and “I” instead of “we”.  If we truly accept Jesus as our Savior He must be more to us then “the Savior”.  Like Mary we must seek that very personal intimacy and call on Him as “my Lord” and “my God.”  Biblical scholars speculate that this exchange is in Greek until Jesus calls her name in the common tongue.

Question: The writers of Sacred Scripture never waste words. Why does John include this exchange between Mary and Jesus?  Why doesn’t she recognize Him?

Answer: Some scholars have suggested Mary’s tears and grief have clouded her vision.   Other scholars see the theological symbolism of the “hidden Messiah”.  You will recall that John the Baptist didn’t recognize Jesus until God the Holy Spirit revealed to John at Jesus’ baptism His true nature and origin.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24 also do not recognize the risen Lord until the breaking of the bread at supper.  Then too, it could be that His appearance is altered: He is now the transformed risen Savior and His disciples are seeing Him for the first time in His glorified body.

Notice that Jesus repeats the angels’ words to Mary.  He also repeats the angel’s message when He appears to the women in Matthew 28:9-10 [repeating 28:5, 7].

Question: Why does John add that Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener.  What theological connection could he be making in the role as the “tender of the garden’?

Answer: It is possible that there is a connection to the first Adam who failed as the “tender” of the Garden of Eden.  The first Adam could not protect his bride…he was not willing to sacrifice his life to protect the garden and Eve from the influence of Satan but Jesus as the “New Adam” has died for His Bride, and in doing so has broken Satan’s power over man and creation.

Verses 16-18 “Jesus said, ‘Mary [Mariam]!”  She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.  Jesus said to her, ‘do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go and find my brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  So Mary of Magdala told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and that he had said these things to her.”

Jesus calls her by her Aramaic name: Mariam, and immediately, in hearing the sound of His voice calling her name, she recognizes Him!  [the Hebrew would be Miryam].

Question:  Does Mary’s immediate response to the call of her name remind you of any particular teaching Jesus gave in John’s Gospel?  Hint: see John 10:3, 14, 27.

Answer:  Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd whose sheep know His voice.

Mary responds in Aramaic by calling Jesus “Rabbuni”, which means master or teacher but is considered a more dignified title than rabbi.  The great scholar Gameliel was addressed as rabbuni rather than rabbi.  In the first century it is also a title appropriate for addressing God as the great Rabbuni.

“do not cling to me”
Fr. Brown points out the use of the present imperative renders this expression more literally as ‘stop touching me”, implying that Mary was already clinging to Him.

Question: Why would Jesus direct Mary not to touch Him?

Answer: Many scholars indicate there seems to be no satisfactory answer in light of the fact that a week later Jesus will invite Thomas to place his hands on Jesus’ very wounds, and in Matthew 28:9 the other women, to whom Jesus appeared, were clinging to Him and “doing Him homage”. St. John Chrysostom suggests that, having known the human Jesus He is now asking her to show more respect for His glorified body, hence the reference to “ascending to the Father”.  Other scholars suggest that her desire is to cling to Him is to keep Him bound to earth and He is telling her that His place is no longer in Jerusalem but as High Priest offering Himself as the true sacrifice before the throne of God.  Another suggesting is that He is urging her not to waste time clinging to Him but He has given her the mission to run quickly to the Apostles with the news that she has seen Him.

‘find my brothers..”  Brother plural in the Greek = adelphoi.  Adelphos literally means “from the womb” in Greek, designating those born from the same mother.  It is the same word used for Jesus’ relations in Mark 6:3, which generates the misinterpretation that Mary had other children.  Throughout the New Testament when referring to Jesus’ kinsmen or to the Apostles and disciples in their relationship to Jesus or to each other the word adelphoi is used and not all these men are “brothers from the womb.”

Question: Why is the word “adelphoi” in its Greek meaning “from the womb” especially appropriate for the relationship between Jesus and His Apostles and disciples?  The plural form “Adelphoi” can mean brothers and sisters.

Answer: The phrase “to my Father and your Father” in verse 17 is the key.  It is now that the followers of Jesus have experienced the “baptism of Christ” and have become daughters and sons of God the Father.  In that sense they are all indeed His brothers and sisters, born from the womb of the New Covenant Church with Mary as their mother.

“I am ascending to my Father”
Fr. Brown notes that the present tense indicates that Jesus is in the process of ascending to the Father but has not yet reached His designation.  Yet we know from St. Peter that after preaching to the souls in Purgatory-Hades, that He led them to heaven, and that on the day of His resurrection that He ascended into heaven [see John 3:13; 6:62; 20:17; Luke 24:51; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:14; 6:19; 9:24; 11:39; 12:23; 1Peter 3:22; Acts 2:33].  This statement Jesus made concerning His impending ascending does not contradict the teaching that Jesus bodily entered into glory on the day He arose from the tomb; the Resurrection is really the beginning of the Ascension!  The Ascension 40 days after Resurrection Sunday marks the end to the time of Apostles’ and disciples’ earthly companionship with Jesus and that He has assumed His place “at the right hand of the Father” and will return in His Second Advent at the End of Time.

“So Mary of Magdala told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and that he had said these things to her.”

The publication of the novel The DaVinci Code has generated interest in Mary of Magdala and in the apocryphal Gospel of Mary of Magdala.  This so-called gospel was a work of a heretical 2nd century Egyptian sect known as the Gnostics and presents Mary of Magdala as a leader among the Apostles and as the wife of Jesus. Gnosticism was a heretical movement active in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries of the Christian era, which denied the divinity of Christ and offered salvation on the basis of a complex secret wisdom available only to members of the sect.  By the mid 3rd century AD Gnosticism died out but strains of Gnosticism reemerged later in some of the medieval heresies. Even though secret societies became very popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, there is no evidence that either the artist Leonardo daVinci or the Knights Templar ever had Gnostic leanings.  The claim of this book that the Catholic Church hid documents and that Jesus was not declared to be divine until the 4th century is ludicrous.  The writings of the Apostle Paul were written within a decade after the Resurrection in which Paul clearly declares Jesus’ divinity and the Gospels are by Apostles who are eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ ministry [Matthew and John] and disciples of the Apostles who had access to eyewitnesses to these events [Mark and Luke].  The successors to the Apostles in the late first and second centuries also affirmed the divinity and humanity of Christ and frequently quoted Gospel passages as well as passages from Paul’s epistles and the catholic letters of Peter, James, Jude and John.  The page labeled “FACT” which begins the book is a sham.  The book is not based on sound historical research but on all sorts of conjectures, half-truths, and lies. At one point the book’s protagonist argues that Mary Magdala is referred to as Jesus’ “companion”= koinonos [referring to an incomplete line in the Gnostic 3rdcentury Gospel of Philip] and that this word indicates that Mary was Jesus’ spouse because that’s what the Aramaic word really means. Unfortunately, the author of the DaVinci Code apparently doesn’t seem to know that both the so-called Gospel of Mary Magdala and the so-called Gospel of Philip are not written in Aramaic or even in Greek; both are written in Egyptian Coptic!  No reputable historian would accept the claims of this fictitious work, which even misrepresents the beliefs of the Gnostics who saw spirit as good and all matter, including the flesh, as inherently tainted and evil.

The other scandalous assertion raised in the DaVinci Code that Mary of Magdala was married to Jesus of Nazareth and bore children is preposterous.  This heresy reemerged in the 19th century with a romantic novel by a French author named Renan, which pictured Jesus as the object of the physical love of Magdala.  In his letter to the Corinthians when St. Paul was defending his right to have a wife, even though it was a right he did not exercise [see 1 Corinthians 9:4-5], he mentioned that St. Peter, the other Apostles and even the kinsmen of Jesus had their wives with them in their missionary work for the Church.  If Jesus had also been married, Paul would have included this information in his argument. It has always been a teaching of the New Covenant Church that marriage is a blessing but virginity is a holy estate.  Both Jesus and His mother were virgins and Jesus called for a holy virginity in the men who served His Bride in Matthew 19:11-12.  This was a calling unique to Christianity and not a practice in the Old Covenant Church were priests were required to marry.  Mary of Magdala is not mentioned in the Acts of Apostles, or in any of St. Paul’s letters, or in the rest of the canon of the New Testament.  For more information on “Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom” please see CCC # 1618-1620.

The DaVinci Code is more Gnostic than Christian and more pagan than Gnostic!

However, one claim made in the DaVinci Code is true.  Some of the Fathers of the Church did indeed refer to Mary of Magdala as “an apostle to the Apostles“.  You may recall that the word “apostle” means “one who is sent“.  The point of the Fathers in giving Mary that title was not to promote women’s ordination or give her the supreme place of leadership to the Apostles.  The Fathers only meant that she was divinely chosen and was “the one sent” to the Apostles as the first to bear the news that Jesus was alive and raised from the dead.  This was a time in history when women did not play an active role in many cultures, including Judaism.  Women could not even be counted as legal witnesses in a court of Law.  This divine mission made her a role model for the active work of Christian women bearing witness in the Church.

There is also a possible Old Testament connection to the Magdala’s search for Jesus before the dawn in the Song of Songs [also known as the Song of Solomon] 3:1-4c.  In reading this passage keep in mind that the rabbis saw the woman in the Song of Songs as symbolic of Israel, the Old Covenant Church: “On my bed at night I sought the man who is my sweetheart: I sought but could not find him!  So I shall get up and go through the city; in the streets and in the squares, I shall seek my sweetheart.  I sought but could not find him!  I came upon the watchmen-those who go on their rounds in the city: ‘Have you seen my sweetheart?’  Barely had I passed them when I found my sweetheart.  I caught him, would not let him go…”

Question: What could be the symbolic connection between Mary, as a representative of the New Covenant Church and this passage in Song of Songs?

Answer: Just the woman in this Song of Songs passage is symbolic of Israel looking for Yahweh, her beloved, so Mary is representative of the New Covenant Bride searching for her beloved.  Jesus’ instructions to Mary not to cling to Him in her physical embrace could be because He wants her to understand they now have a supernatural relationship where, as His beloved, the Church is meant to cling to Him in the embrace of the Most Holy Eucharist. Mary can also be seen to be symbolic of the individual Christian’s search for Jesus’ in the life of each believer.  It is interesting that when Mary goes to the Apostles and disciples she does not announce “I have seen the Rabbuni”, as she first greeted Him, but instead that “I have seen the Lord!, meaning God, indicating that she has understood there is now a new dynamic to the Christian’s relationship to Jesus.

Question: Mary of Magdala was the first to see the risen Lord but who were the other disciples who saw Him?  Hint: read 1 Corinthians 15:5-7

Answer:   St. Paul records that Jesus appears to Peter [Kepha in Aramaic or Cephas in the Greek], to the 12 Apostles, to His kinsman James who would become the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem, and to 500 other disciples.  “he appeared to Cephas; and later to the Twelve; and next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time; most of whom are still with us, though some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles.”  It is interesting that Paul mentions “apostles” twice.  The designation “apostle” = one who is sent” came to be the title of the bishops of the Church.  Even though the 11 Apostles realized immediately that they needed to elect a man to take Judas’ place they realized relatively early on that their number would not be limited to 12.  The additional “apostles” may be men who, although disciples at the time of Jesus’ appearance, went on to serve the Church as bishops.  St. Paul, in this way is also an Apostle of the Church, even though he did not see Christ until after the ascension.

Some scholars point to the mention of the “Twelve” as an error because, we in fact know, that in the absence of Judas the count would be 11.  It could be that James the Just [kinsman of Jesus] was present, raising the number to 12, however, St Paul is probably using 12 as one of the perfect numbers [see “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture”] indicating the “perfection” of the Magisterium.  12 in Scripture has always been the number for the Church; in the Old Covenant it is the number of Israel’s 12 physical fathers and in the New Covenant, the universal Church’s 12 spiritual fathers.  When the Magisterium meets in council, even if not all the bishops are present, it is said that the Magisterium, as a whole, is in council.  In the same way, even though 11 Apostles were present in the Upper Room Resurrection Sunday, it can be said the Twelve in the fullest sense as the leadership of the Church, were present.

Mary’s announcement of Jesus Resurrection to the faithful sons of Jacob in the Upper Room recalls a verse from one of the greatest of the “Passion psalms”.  It was the first line of this Psalms that Jesus cried out from the cross.  Mary’s announcement is prophetically found in Psalms 22:22-23: “I shall proclaim your name to my brothers, praise you in full assembly: You who fear Yahweh, praise him!  All the race of Jacob, honor him!  Revere him, all the race of Israel!”

Please read verses 19-23
Verses 19-20
“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.  Jesus came and stood among them.  He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord,”

Question: What day of the week is it and what is the time of day [remembering Jewish traditions].

Answer: It is Sunday afternoon.  The “even time” of the day is toward the close of the day.  The next day for the Jews begins at sundown, so evening is in the mid-to-late afternoon.  The time is probably about 3PM, the time of the third hour of prayer.

Question:  Why are the disciples afraid and what is significant about the way Jesus comes to them, in what was probably the Upper Room of the Last Supper?

Answer:  They are afraid because the Sanhedrin may arrest them and try them for blasphemy just as they condemned Jesus.  He comes to them supernaturally.  Locked doors cannot stop Him.

Question: Jesus’ greeting to the disciples is the customary greeting of the Jews.  What is familiar to you about Jesus’ greeting to His followers?

Answer: These are the very words the Priest uses, as he stands in “persona Christi“, in the Person of Christ, as he greets the congregation.

“The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord”.  In this greeting Jesus has reassured the Apostles, who must have been feeling ashamed of their conduct after His arrest, and He has lovingly reestablished the intimacy they had previously enjoyed with Him.

Question: Why does He show them His wounded hands and His pierced side?

Answer: To show them His wounds dispels any impression that they are seeing a ghost or imposter.  They are truly seeing the risen, glorified body of Jesus Himself.

Incidentally, for those concerned with the question of whether the nails were in Jesus’ hands or wrists, Fr. Brown points out that both the Greek and Hebrew words for “hand” includes the wrist as part of the hand.

Verses 21-23 “..and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’  After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

Question: This is the ordination of the Magisterium of the Church.  What is significant about how Jesus will “send” the Apostles?

Answer: He is sending them with the power and the authority of God the Father.

“Receive the Holy Spirit”, in the Greek text the article is missing.  Some scholars suggest the missing article indicates that in this case Jesus’ breath was not the giving of the personal Holy Spirit, as they would receive with the rest of the New Covenant Church at the Feast of Pentecost 50 days later, but was instead an “effusion” of His Spirit.

Question: But why does Jesus breathe on them?  What is the significance of this act?  When did God breathe on man in the first creation?

Answer: In Hebrew and in Greek the word for “breath” is the same word as “spirit.” God first breathed into Adam to give him physical life and now Christ breathes His Spirit into the Apostles to give them spiritual life.  He is sending them forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will make all things “new” again just as He did in the first creation [ see Genesis 1:2].  The prophet Ezekiel envisioned this day when he wrote of the Messianic restoration of Israel: “He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man.  Say to the breath, “the Lord Yahweh says this: come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead, so that they come to life!” ‘  I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.”[Ezekiel 37:9-10]Man, formally dead to sin has been resurrected in Christ and this faithful remnant of the Old Israel has become the nucleus of the New Israel, the New Covenant Universal [catholic] Church that will become an immense army of disciples converting the world through the spread of the Gospel.

“If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

Question:  The Sacraments of the Church are visible signs instituted by Christ to confer grace.  What Sacrament is Christ instituting here in verses 22-23 and why?  How is the Old Covenant system of sacrifice and repentance transformed in the New Covenant?

Answer: Jesus is instituting the Sacrament of Penance [Reconcilliation].  Under the Old Covenant the sinner placed his hands on the animal, confesses his sins before the priest, and the animal died in his place.  Now Christ is the Lamb of sacrifice but we still must have confession and repentance before sins can be forgiven and communion with God restored.  In verses 22-23 the priests of the New Covenant carry the Son of God’s authority to forgive or retain sins.  The concept of private confession of sins has never been a part of the sacramental system of the Old or New Covenant. Even though it is a healthy spiritual practice to confess our shortcomings to God in our daily prayers, it is necessary to bring those venial sins [unintentional sins] before the Lord in the Penitential rite of the Mass in order to receive forgiveness, and any mortal sins must be confessed to an ordained priest of the New Covenant Church, who is a successor of the first ministerial priesthood in Christ, to whom we confess as though we are confessing to Christ Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus is the physician of our souls and our bodies.  He both healed the sick and forgave their sins and He has willed His Church, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, to continue His work of healing and salvation.  In this sacrament the sinner places himself before the merciful judgment of God who heals and purifies hearts and souls.  CCC#1422 “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” Also see CCC# 1423-1498.

Question: So you may ask the question, how do we really know Jesus meant for us to confess to a human priest and not just to Him?

Answer: You will agree that in verse 22 in speaking to the Apostles Jesus has given the Church the power to forgive individual sins and the power to retain individual sins.  Well, how can the Church exercise this power to make decisions about particular sins unless those sins are openly confessed to Christ through His priesthood?  We have to specifically confess specific sins!

Please read verses 24-31
Verses 24-25
“Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ but he answered, ‘Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.'”

Here John refers to the “Twelve” as a “perfect unity” of Apostles just at St. Paul did in the Corinthians passage.  Poor St Thomas is always remembered for this remark which must have come from his discouragement and his fear.  He seems not to be remembered for his courageous statement in John 11:16 when he declared he was prepared to die with Jesus, and he would die for Jesus.  According to the history of the Church, Thomas was martyred at the altar of his Church in India.  He had faithfully carried the Gospel to what was then the end of the earth!

How many times have we been guilty of the same unbelief when we reject the teaching of Mother Church in favor of secular values and morals?  How many Catholics in government have stated that Church must be separated from State and since the law of the land allows abortion how can they stand against it?  Do they need to see the nails in His hands?  How many of us question the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the perpetual virginity of His blessed mother…do we need to see the wound in His side?  To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept all that He taught and to be obedient to the teaching of His Church.  There is no such animal as a “liberal Catholic”. Liberal and conservative are political terms.  There are orthodox, true doctrine Catholics, or there are bad Catholics.  Catholicism is not a cafeteria style religion.  It is an all or nothing religion.  Place your finger in His wounds and like Thomas cry out “My Lord and My God!

Verses 26-28  “Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them.  The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them.  ‘Peace be with you,’ he said.  Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Do not be unbelievingany more but believe.’  Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ [the literal Greek is “become not unbelieving”]

Question: What day is it? Hint: it is 8 days from the previous Sunday; see verse 19.

Answer: It is the next Sunday.  Did you remember to count the series as the ancients counted with no 0-place value?  The 7th day of Creation was Saturday.  Sunday is both the first and the eighth day.  The number 8 in the symbolism of numbers represented salvation, regeneration and redemption.  It became the number of the New Covenant people.  All early churches were built 8 sided; this includes the early church that was formed at Peter’s house in Caperanum and all the Byzantine Churches of the 4th-6thcenturies.  Whenever archaeologists find an ancient foundation that has 8 sides they know they have found a Christian Church marking a holy site associated with Christ.

Question: How is Jesus’ entry into the room similar to His entry a week earlier?

Answer: He did not use the doors to enter.  This testimony proves that Jesus was not prematurely pronounced dead and later revived.  He is not bound by the laws of physics!

The literal Greek “become not unbelieving” gives us a better sense of Thomas’ spiritual condition. He had not yet fallen into unbelief but his doubt about the Resurrection put him in danger of falling into unbelief.  What you believe matters!

Question: How does Thomas respond to Jesus’ challenge?

Answer: By acknowledging Jesus as His Lord and God.  The literal translation is “the Lord of me and the God of me.”  Both Peter and Thomas knew how to humble themselves and to repent.  Judas was lost because he would not repent and turn to Christ.  Thomas’ profession of faith is one of the strongest statements affirming the deity of Jesus in Sacred Scripture!

Verse 29 “Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

In Hebrews 11:1 it is written that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen…”.   Thomas’ faith would have had more merit if he had accepted the testimony of the other Apostles instead of the exceptional proof he received through seeing and touching Jesus’ wounds.  St Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ.” [Romans 10:17].  It is that preaching of Christ that is passed from the Apostles down to us in the Church today.

Question:  What is our obligation when receiving this testimony passed by the Apostles to their successors and down through the centuries to us?

Answer: When we accept that testimony we must not only believe but we must practice what we believe.  Jesus’ statement “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” is a benediction our Lord has pronounced on all the future generations of believers!

Verses 30-31 “There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples, but they are not recorded in this book.  These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”

Question: What does John’s statement in verse 30 suggest to you?

Answer: These other signs are not recorded in this book but in other books.

Question: What is the significance of John using the word “signs” instead of “miracles”?

Answer: The use of “signs” has been a major theme of this Gospel.  Jesus performed supernatural acts that had greater significance beyond the miracle.  Each miracle was a sign that pointed to a theological truth and John has built his Gospel around 7 theologically significant public signs that point to Jesus’ divinity and His claim that He is the Messiah:

The Seven Public Signs of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel
  #1  2:1-11   The sign of water turned to wine at the wedding at Cana
  #2  4:46-54   The healing of the official’s son
  #3  5:1-9   The healing of the paralytic
  #4  6:1-14   The multiplication of the loaves to feed the 5,000
  #5  9:1-41   The healing of the man who was born blind
  #6  11:17-44   The raising of Lazarus from the dead
  #7  20:1-10   The Resurrection of Jesus

*Jesus performed 8 miracles in John’s Gospel, 6 of which are not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.  The 8th miracle is a private revelation for the Apostles when Jesus walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee and calmed the storm.

Jesus’ final, and most significant public “sign” of His divinity is of course, His Resurrection, the key event of Christian faith.

Question: Why is Jesus’ Resurrection the key to Christian faith?


  1. It is the fulfillment of His promise that He would rise from the dead, therefore verifying that everything He told us about Himself is true: He is the eternal Son of God.  We can be confident, therefore, that He will accomplish everything else that He has promised.
  2. Jesus’ bodily Resurrection provides us with the evidence that He is the living Christ, not just a false prophet, or a ghost, or an imposter, but that He is the ruler of God’s eternal kingdom.
  3. We are assured of our own bodily resurrection.  Death is not the end-Jesus has given us the promise of eternal life.
  4. Jesus’ divine power that has brought Him back to life is now available to us to supernaturally by bringing our spiritually dead selves back to life in Christ.
  5. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for the Church’s witness to the world that Jesus is exactly who He says He is and that He can fulfill all He has promised!

[see the document “The Claims of Jesus of Nazareth” in the resources section]

“Finally, Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ Himself – is the principle and source of our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’  The risen Christ lives in the hearts of His faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians ‘have tasted…the powers of the age to come’ and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may ‘live no longer for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.'” CCC# 655



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