From Seeing To Believing

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Believing in Jesus' resurrection requires a progression of understanding.

John(85) (Part of the Easter(7) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on April 12, 2020 (Sunday Morning(341))

Easter(3), Resurrection(5), Salvation(84)


From Seeing To Believing

(John 20:1-23)



I want you to think about the very beginning of the COVID-19, Coronavirus. ​​ There were news reports coming out of Wuhan, China that people were getting sick with a terrible virus. ​​ The initial reports talked about how this virus was particularly serious for children and the elderly. ​​ Now, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t too concerned about the novel Coronavirus, simply because it was halfway around the world and I wasn’t planning on traveling to that part of the world anytime soon.


We heard about how cruise ships were quarantining crew members and passengers for 14 days, when confirmed cases of the virus were discovered. ​​ Again, I wasn’t too concerned, because I wasn’t going on a cruise anytime soon.


When the first cases hit the state of Washington, I started to think more seriously about this new virus, but again wasn’t anxious or fearful. ​​ There was a progression of understanding, as cases of the virus began to pop up in New York and New Jersey (that’s closer to home).


When federal and state authorities closed schools for two weeks, we all started going through a progression of understanding about this virus and its seriousness. ​​ I’ve been keeping an eye on the Pennsylvania state map and the graph of new cases that Senator Doug Mastriano provides every day (show map).


We are continuing to move through a progression of understanding as it pertains to the Coronavirus – should we wear masks and gloves when we have to go out, how long can I wait before I have to go to the store, when will my children be returning to school, when can I return to work, is my work considered essential or not, as a first-responder, am I going to get infected, if I’m infected am I asymptomatic, if I’m infected will the hospital have the medical supplies available to help me?



  • ME

    • Learning Greek

        • When I would read technical commentaries that had the actual Greek letters without an explanation of which English word it was referring to, I would use the same filler word when reading the sentence

        • I could visibly see the Greek word, but I had no idea what the word was or even how to pronounce it

        • Then I took the Greek Language course at seminary

          • At first, I was still looking at Greek words and didn’t know how to pronounce them

          • I had to start with the Greek letters and learn each one of those

          • Then I was able to sound out some basic Greek words

          • I learned a lot of Greek vocabulary words at the beginning

          • As I continued to study, I learned that there were various case endings that helped in understanding how the word is used in a sentence

          • Eventually we began translating simple sentences and then multiple verses

        • Intermediate Greek – fall of 2015

          • This course required translation of larger portions of scripture each week, from the beginning

          • It was and still is exciting to see and understand the nuances of Biblical Greek and the understanding that it brings to what scripture really means


  • WE

    • School

        • The COVID-19, Coronavirus has taken almost every student and teacher on a learning curve ride

        • While cyber school is becoming a more popular alternative to traditional public and private schools, the vast majority of students and teachers still use the traditional schooling approach

        • Since federal and state authorities have implemented social distancing as a way to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, students and teachers, in traditional schools, have had to make some pretty major adjustments to how they are learning

        • Now every student and teacher are experiencing online learning

        • They have had to go through a progression of understanding in order to make online learning work

          • Teachers have had to learn Microsoft Teams and other software options to teach remotely

          • Students have also had to learn different software options

          • Parents aren’t exempt from learning different software options, but they are also learning how to be a teacher

    • Work

        • When you start a new job, there is always a learning curve

        • You have to learn the ins and outs of how the company does certain things

        • After a couple of weeks, you begin to get the hang of it, but you may not have figured out all of the inside lingo, the chain of command, the authority structures, or the unspoken expectations

        • Eventually you understand all of that and you fit right in

    • Church

        • When attending a new church there is also a progression of understanding

        • When do we stand, when do we sit, what is the order of the service, do we raise our hands and/or clap when we’re worshiping, where is the bathroom, is there children’s church and Sunday school, where is the nursery, are food and drink allowed in the sanctuary, how do I find out more information about the ministries of the church

        • Eventually all of those questions are answered and we feel comfortable coming to church

        • Of course right now, you should have all of those questions answered, because you’re probably worshiping in your own home and you can stand, sit, raise your hands, clap, eat, drink, and use the bathroom whenever you’d like

    • There is a progression that takes place in school, work, church, and other areas of life

        • We’ll see in John 20:1-23 that the disciples went through a progression of understanding as they tried to comprehend Jesus’ resurrection

        • HI – Believing in Jesus’ resurrection requires a progression of understanding.


  • The Empty Tomb (John 20:1-9)

    • The women were up early

        • We know from the other three Gospel passages that there were more women with Mary Magdalene

          • She was the one whom Jesus freed from seven demons that possessed her

          • Mary loved Jesus deeply

          • She was one of the women that followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb to see where Jesus would be buried

        • Mary’s statement to Peter and John in verse 2 also tell us there were a group of women that went together, because she uses the word “we”

        • They were on their way to the tomb while it was still dark

          • Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1-2)

          • They went to the tomb very early on the first day of week

          • They were talking about who would roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb

        • They find that the stone has been rolled away

          • It is significant that the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ were believing women. ​​ Among the Jews in that day, the testimony of women was not held in high regard. ​​ ‘It is better that the words of the Law be burned,’ said the rabbis, ‘than be delivered to a woman.’ ​​ But these Christian women had a greater message than that of the Law, for they knew that their Saviour was alive.” ​​ [Wiersbe]

        • Mary Magdalene immediately assumes Jesus body has been moved and starts running

    • Mary Magdalene comes to Peter and John

        • Since John is writing the Gospel account, he does not mention his own name, but rather calls himself “the other disciple, the one Jesus loved”

        • She would have probably come to the house of John

        • Peter was staying with him

        • She tells them that they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and that she and the other women don’t know where they have put him.

    • Peter and John go to the tomb

        • John outruns Peter

        • But, John is contemplative, so he doesn’t enter right away

        • When Peter arrives, he goes right in

        • The linen that was around Jesus’ head was folded nicely

          • Most commentaries state the linens around Jesus’ body still had the shape of his body, like an empty cocoon

            • Now, the Greek construction indicates that the linen clothes that were wrapped around Jesus were still lying in a circular form as though a body were in them.” ​​ [Smith]

            • That would have been an amazing sight

          • No grave robbers had stolen his body, because they would not have left the linens so nicely

          • They would have stolen the linen burial clothes instead of the body, because they would have been brand new and made of fine linen

          • The fact that the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head was folded up by itself, separate from the linen is significant

            • This would have allowed Peter and John to see that even though the other linens had the shape of a body that there was no body there

            • Jesus was not there

        • John sees the empty tomb and believes

          • The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s ‘receipts’ telling us that the debt has been paid.” ​​ [Wiersbe]

          • Significant of “saw,” “saw” and “saw” in the Greek

            • Verse 5 (NASB) – “and stooping and looking in, he [John] saw the linen wrappings lying there. . .” – the word “saw” in the Greek is ble’-pō (bleh-poe), meaning “to look at, to see visibly

            • Verse 6 – the Greek word is the-ō-re’-ō (thay-o-ray-o) which means, “to study more carefully” We get our English word “theory” from this Greek word

            • Verse 8 – The Greek word is ā’-dō (eye-doe) and means, “to perceive with intelligent comprehension” We get our English word “idea” from this, so it can also mean “I get it”

          • First you’re exposed to some piece of information. ​​ You hear what the teacher is saying. ​​ Then you give it some more thought down the road. ​​ And finally comes that moment when you really get it. ​​ It’s not just a concept theologically – but it becomes part of your life personally.” ​​ [Courson]

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people see the empty tomb and believe in Jesus.

        • Why were they slow to believe what they were seeing?

          • Verse 9 tells us

          • . . . They did not consider, and apply, and duly improve, what they knew of the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” ​​ [Henry]

            • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4a, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: ​​ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that ​​ he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

            • Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

          • We know they eventually understood

            • Luke 24:6-8, He is not here; he has risen! ​​ Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ​​ “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” ​​ Then they remembered his words.

            • Luke 24:45-48, Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. ​​ He told them, “This is what is written: ​​ The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. ​​ You are witnesses of these things.

          • They definitely took the Gospel to all nations!

          • We are commanded to do the same thing

          • Do you understand from the Bible that Jesus had to rise from the dead?

            • This is an important truth of the Gospel

            • Many self-proclaimed prophets have died, but none have come back to life

            • Jesus wasn’t a prophet – He was the Son of God

            • God allowed Him to come alive again proving that Jesus’ perfect sacrifice was full payment for our sins

          • There was a progression of understanding for Peter and John as they examined the empty tomb

            • Where are you at in that progression?

            • Are you just seeing it for the first time, but not understanding?

            • Are you examining it more closely?

            • Are you at the “got it” stage, where you understand why Jesus had to come alive again?

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Move to the next phase of understanding concerning why Jesus had to rise from the dead.

            • Maybe you need to see it for the first time

            • You may be ready to study it more carefully for yourself (we’re here to help you with that)

            • Perhaps you’re ready to move to full comprehension (we’re here to help with that move also)


  • The First Witness (John 20:10-18)

    • Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb

        • Peter and John had returned home

        • She looked into the tomb again while she is crying

        • She sees two angels in white

          • They are seated where Jesus’ body had been

          • One at the head

          • One at the foot

          • It is a picture of the ark of the covenant

    • The angels ask her a question

        • Why are you crying?

        • Mary gives her answer

          • They have taken MY Lord away

          • She uses the word “my” here, because she is fully committed to Him – she has given her life to serve Him

          • Are you fully committed to the Lord?

          • Can you call Jesus your Lord?

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s desire is that His people are fully committed to Him.

          • Believing in Jesus and being fully committed to Him are two different things

            • James 2:19, You believe that there is one God. ​​ Good! ​​ Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

            • Mark 8:34-38, Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ​​ For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. ​​ What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? ​​ Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? ​​ If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus, being fully committed to Him as my Lord!

    • Mary sees Jesus

        • She does not recognize Him

        • Jesus asks her the same question (why are your crying?), but goes further by asking who she is looking for

        • Mary thinks he is the gardener

          • She asks if he has carried Jesus body away

          • She is willing to go wherever the body is and carry it away

          • Her words reveal her devotion. ​​ She never paused to consider how she would carry the corpse of a full-grown man or how she would explain her possession of it.” ​​ [Tenney quoted in Guzik’s commentary]

    • Jesus reveals Himself

        • He only says her name, Mary

          • However, Jesus said her name, whether it was with the same tone or flexion that He had said it before, she recognizes that it is Jesus speaking

          • John 10:3-4, The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. ​​ He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ​​ When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

            • More than one shepherd would keep his sheep in a fold over night

            • When morning came, each shepherd would go to the fold and call to his sheep

            • They recognized his voice and they would come out of the fold and follow him

          • Mary recognizes Jesus’ voice when He says her name

        • She calls Him teacher

        • Jesus gives her a warning

          • Don’t cling to me

            • Actually, the ancient Greek construction of this phrase ‘means to stop an action already begun rather than to avoid starting it.’ ​​ (Tenney)” [Guzik]

            • She was worshiping Jesus at this point

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is overjoyed when His people worship Jesus.

          • Why did He say, “Do not cling to Me?”

            • She would see Him again

            • He had to ascend to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come

            • She had a job to do

        • Jesus gives her instructions

          • Go to my brothers

            • He doesn’t call them servants or friends anymore, but brothers

            • John 15:15, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. ​​ Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

          • Tell them I am returning to heaven

    • Mary goes to the disciples

        • She tells them that she has seen the Lord and what is message was to them

        • There was doubt about the fact that Jesus had risen and that Mary had seen Him (Mark 16:9-11)

        • That was about to change


  • The Disciples Saved (John 20:19-23)

    • Jesus appears to the disciples

        • It happened on the same day they found the empty tomb

        • The disciples are all together

        • They are behind locked doors, because they are fearful of the Jews

    • Jesus encourages them

        • Shalom! – Peace be with you!

          • He does not condemn them for running away in the garden or for being absent at the crucifixion (although John was there)

          • He offers this same peace to you

          • Romans 5:1-2a, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

        • He proves that He is alive

          • He shows them His hands and side

          • Hebrews 9:22b, . . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

          • He encourages them to touch Him and asks for something to eat (Luke 24:38-43)

        • The disciples are overjoyed

    • Jesus saves them

        • Jesus again pronounces peace to them

        • He is sending them just as the Father had sent Him

        • He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

          • At this point, the disciples are born again. ​​ Although they were already following Jesus, they were not yet regenerated because He had not yet died for their sins.” ​​ [Courson]

          • God had created Adam, but he did not have life until God breathed into him

          • The Gospel

            • Every person who believes in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit as their guide and comforter

            • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

            • Why do I have to believe in Jesus?

            • Every human being is born with a “want to” to sin (Romans 3:23)

            • Because God is holy and just He has to punish sin (separated Adam and Eve from the Garden, work the ground, increased pain in child bearing) otherwise he wouldn’t be holy and just (Romans 6:23)

            • Another attribute of God is that He is loving (Jeremiah 31:3, I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.)

            • Out of His great love He sent Jesus from heaven to earth, to grow up to be a man, and then to give His life to take away our sin and provide eternal life to those who believe

            • Believing is not a once-and-done act, but rather a continual, active turning away from sin – that’s called repentance

            • The Holy Spirit helps us to know what to do and what not to do – He is that still small voice

          • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive God’s love and believe in Jesus so I can have eternal life.

        • He states about forgiving and not forgiving sins

          • We know that only God has the right to forgive sins, so what does this verse mean?

          • Jesus gives His disciples authority to announce forgiveness and to warn of guilt, as authorized by the Holy Spirit.” ​​ [Guzik]


  • YOU

    • People who hear about the resurrection for the first time may need time before they can comprehend this amazing story. ​​ Like Mary and the disciples, they may pass through four stages of belief.

        • At first, they may think the story is a fabrication, impossible to believe (20:2)

        • Like Peter, they may check out the facts and still be puzzled about what happened (20:6)

        • Only when they encounter Jesus personally are they able to accept the fact of the resurrection (20:16)

        • Then, as they commit themselves to the risen Lord and devote their lives to serving him, they begin to understand fully the reality of his presence with them (20:28)” [NIV Life Application Bible]



Just as believing in Jesus and accepting His resurrection took a progression of understanding for the disciples, it sometimes takes a progression of understanding for us to accept others who may be different than us.


“Once upon a time I had a young friend named Philip. Philip was born with Downs Syndrome. He was a pleasant child—happy, it seemed—but increasingly aware of the difference between himself and other children. Philip went to Sunday school at the Methodist church. His teacher, also a friend of mine, taught the third-grade class with Philip and nine other eight-year-old boys and girls.


You know eight-year-olds. And Philip, with his differences, was not readily accepted. But my teacher friend was creative, and he helped the group of eight-year-olds. They learned, they laughed, they played together. And they really cared about one another, even though eight-year-olds don't say they care about one another out loud. My friend could see it. He knew it. He also knew that Philip was not really a part of that group. Philip did not choose nor did he want to be different. He just was. And that was just the way things were.


My friend had a marvelous idea for his class the Sunday after Easter. You know those things that pantyhose come in—the containers that look like great big eggs—my friend had collected ten of them. The children loved it when he brought them into the room. Each child was to get one. It was a beautiful spring day, and the assignment was for each child to go outside, find a symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom. They would then open and share their new life symbols and surprises one by one.


It was glorious. It was confusing. It was wild. They ran all around the church grounds, gathered their symbols, and returned to the classroom. They put all the eggs on a table, and then the teacher began to open them. All the children stood around the table.


He opened one, and there was a flower, and they ooh-ed and aah-ed. He opened another, and there was a little butterfly. ‘Beautiful,’ the girls all said, since it is hard for eight-year-old boys to say ‘beautiful.’ He opened another, and there was a rock. And as third-graders will, some laughed, and some said, ‘That's crazy! How's a rock supposed to be like new life?’ But the smart little boy who'd found it spoke up: ‘That's mine. And I knew all of you would get flowers and buds and leaves and butterflies and stuff like that. So I got a rock because I wanted to be different. And for me, that's new life.’ They all laughed.


My friend said something to himself about the profundity of eight-year-olds and opened the next one. There was nothing there. The other children, as eight-year-olds will, said, ‘That's not fair — that's stupid! — somebody didn't do right.’


Then my friend felt a tug on his shirt, and he looked down. Philip was standing beside him. ‘It's mine,’ Philip said. ‘It's mine.’


And the children said, ‘You don't ever do things right, Philip. There's nothing there!’


‘I did so do it,’ Philip said. ‘I did do it. It's empty. The tomb is empty!’

There was silence, a very full silence. And for you people who don't believe in miracles, I want to tell you that one happened that day last spring. From that time on, it was different. Philip suddenly became a part of that group of eight-year-old children. They took him in. He was set free from the tomb of his differentness.


Philip died last summer. His family had known since the time he was born that he wouldn't live out a full life span. Many other things had been wrong with his tiny body. And so, late last July, with an infection that most normal children could have quickly shrugged off, Philip died. The mystery simply enveloped him.


At the funeral, nine eight-year-old children marched up to the altar, not with flowers to cover over the stark reality of death. Nine eight-year-olds, with their Sunday school teacher, marched right up to that altar, and laid on it an empty egg—an empty, old, discarded pantyhose egg.”


Harry Pritchett, Jr., condensed by permission of The St. Luke's Journal of Theology, School of Theology, The University of the