The Resurrected Christ
Journey to the Empty Tomb
The Resurrected Christ
John 20:11-31
This morning we come to a beautiful passage where we see Jesus after His resurrection interacting with those who are the closest to Him.  And I want you to know, I approach this passage of Scripture and this day with a great sense of awe and amazement.  The resurrection is the very hinge pin of the Christian faith.  I certainly don’t want to minimize Christmas, but in my estimation we should make do with a much smaller celebration of Christmas and instead maximize the impact of Easter.
And as I study the three scenes before us today, I cannot help but feel something of the thrill and joy and love that overflows from their lives and I hope to help you experience that today as well.
Now by way of introduction, we have been on a Journey to the Empty Tomb.  And as we begin the passage before us today, Jesus has risen from the dead. He has done what He said He would do, He has conquered death. That is established.
Before the sun of the world ever rose on the third day, the Son of righteousness had already arisen with healing in His wings. The bridegroom has already gone forth out of His chamber. The one whose heal was bruised by the serpent has, through death become the destroyer of death and him who had the power of death.
And the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. The stone which had been sealed and guarded by the Roman soldiers has been miraculously rolled away. The tomb that held the dead body of Jesus Christ is now empty. The grave clothes that had been wound around the body of Christ now lay undisturbed.  The linen cloth that covered His head is neatly folded and lying by itself, placed there by the hands of the resurrected Christ. Outside that tomb, angels stand ready to testify that He is, in fact, raised from the dead.  Peter and John have seen the empty tomb.
And all of this would have been enough evidence to prove that Jesus was really alive again.  But as we come to these verses we find the greatest proof of the resurrected Christ and that is His appearances in person to His followers.
There were at least eleven appearances to over 500 who bore witness to seeing Him.  Out of those 11, John tells us about three of them.
And the three that are given here in John 20 follow in the same line of thought that we’ve been seeing throughout these chapters.  John wants to proclaim to us the majesty and glory of Jesus as God in the flesh.  And also wants to tell us a little bit what God is like. So through the three scenes we are given here, we are given some special insight into the person of Christ.
The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene and in that appearance we get to see, not only that He was really bodily alive, but that He wants to
1. Show Himself Faithful
verses 11-18
Here we are introduced to a woman named Mary.  This is Mary Magdalene.  She had been saved out of a life of horrible sin when Christ removed seven demons from her.
Now in Mary we see the character and nature of God in action.  She is nothing special or important.  But in the interaction between Jesus and her we are allowed to see the personal, loving faithfulness that Jesus has for just one disciple, no matter how insignificant that one disciple may appear to be.
Now I think had I been writing the story of Jesus, His first appearance after the resurrection would not have been to Mary Magdalene.  Instead, I think I would have had Him meet with the early church leaders.  Men like John and Peter would have been logical choices.
But that’s not the way God does it.  Instead, God chooses the one who perhaps loved Him more dearly and more deeply than any other. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who loved the Lord more than Mary Magdalene and Jesus appears first to her to illustrate the personal character of His loving faithfulness.
This is the kind of God we have. This is the kind of Christ we have. He gets down here where we’re at and feels what we feel.  He loves us on a personal and individual basis. And that's the thrilling thing about knowing Jesus Christ. We're not in a religious system.  We’re not just a member of the church.
We have the privilege of enjoying a intimate, living, loving relationship with a personal God and He wants us to know that and that’s what we see in the encounter with Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Now notice how what happens. Peter and John were long gone.  Mary is standing outside the tomb crying her eyes out.  The Greek word used to describe her crying is that of constant unrestrained sobbing.  She is heartbroken because Jesus wasn't there. Even if He was dead, she wanted Him there. Little did she know her tears were needless tears.  She had absolutely nothing to be crying about. All she needed, everything her heart desired was right there with her.  The risen Christ is present with her.
But rather than acknowledging that, she is lost in the sorrow of the fact that as far as she can tell, somebody stole His body. Her tears are the tears of a frustrated heart. She doesn't understand. She just knows He's not there and even dead she wants Him there.
Then verse 11 tells us as she looks in the tomb, she sees two angels in the form of men sitting at either end of the slab where Jesus had lain. Now it's very important that angels are here because angels are always around when God is doing His work. And certainly here at the greatest work that God ever did, you'd expect to find angels.  In fact, there would be something wrong or out of place if they weren’t here.
Now one of the things I want to take note of is their location.  John makes sure to tell us that one is at either end where the head and feet of Jesus would have been.
Just reading that gives me Jesus bumps because I am transported all the way back to Exodus 25 where God was instructing the people of Israel who were building of the tabernacle to construct the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant had on top of it a place called the Mercy Seat. And once a year the high priest would take the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat and that was where God met man. There, by the shedding of blood, God forgave the sins of the nation of Israel.
Listen to how the Mercy Seat and the Ark were to be built:
Exodus 25:17-22
So in the Old Testament, God met man between two angels on the Mercy Seat where the blood was sprinkled. Do you realize that ever since Jesus Christ left the tomb, God has continued to meet men between two angels where the blood was sprinkled?
No longer do we need the Ark of the Covenant because we have the privilege of meeting God in the empty tomb of Christ’s resurrection.  And when Mary Magdalene looked in the empty tomb, she was the first one to see the New Covenant in His blood as those two angels greeted here there.
In fact, we she had a conversation with them.
Verse 13
Notice she doesn’t say “the” Lord, but “my” Lord. He belongs to here.  It’s personal.  And even though she believes Him still to be dead, He is still her Lord and she had come in that morning hour ready to finish the task of anointing His body and she came there to be so disappointed and so frustrated and so panicked and so love lost and alone and lonely, there was no Jesus, no body. So she feels empty and she says, "They've taken away my Lord." And she's weeping and weeping.
I can't say much for her faith but I can sure say a lot for her love. In fact, we should ask God to help us develop that kind of love.  It is the kind of love that is absolutely devoted to Christ.  It is that kind of affection that leaves us with tear-filled eyes because we’re separated from the Lord.   
I don’t think we know how to love like that. It's so easy for us to get so cold and indifferent and stray away from the warmth of a personal experience with Jesus Christ and not even care. There are some of  you here today who haven't talked to Jesus Christ in a personal intimate way in a long time. Some of you really don't know what it is to experience the fullness of His presence and you don't even seem to mind.  That's the sad part. Today was just a religious obligation.
Your being here had nothing to do with loving Jesus.  And maybe you could care less that Jesus is not involved in your life or is removed from your presence. What an example we find in how to love the Lord in this woman at the tomb.  She wonders where the body of Jesus has been taken, but no answer comes from the angels. They don't say a thing.
verse 14
You say, "Well, if she knew Him so well and loved Him so much then why didn’t she recognize Him?”
Some commentators say she had her hair in her eyes from crying. Other say the tears blurred her eyes and she couldn't focus on Him. Still others say it was her lack of faith.  She didn't expect Him so she didn't see Him.
I've got a better thought than all those, at least I think it's better. I think she didn’t recognize Him because there was something different about Jesus that made it impossible for her to recognize Him apart from His disclosure of who He was.  Listen to what Mark 16:12 says about one of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Mark 16:12
One translations says it this way:
“Later, Jesus appeared to two followers while they were walking in the country. But Jesus did not look the same as before he was killed.”
The Greek term is “heteros  morphe”. He appeared “en heteros morphe”.  He appeared in another body.   I submit to you the reason Jesus was so hard to recognize was that He was in a glorified body. He had another form. He was in a body that was now supernatural. It was a body that could eat fish and honeycomb but it could also pass through a wall. And I don't know what it was but I’m pretty sure there was more to it than a little halo around His head!
There was something about the form of Jesus that made it impossible for someone to recognize Him immediately apart from His own disclosure of who He was. And the evidence for that seems to be overwhelming.  For example, on the road to Emmaus He walked along with two disciples, did they know who He was? The Bible says He opened their eyes and then they knew. By direct revelation He disclosed Himself to them.
Even as far as Matthew 28:17 when they should have known, it says, "And when they saw Him," this is the eleven disciples clear up in Galilee, this is after this occasion we're reading about, "When they saw Him they worshiped Him but some doubted."
Another time they saw Him standing on the shore and they weren't too sure who He was. It was only when Jesus Christ revealed Himself by divine revelation to their minds and hearts that they knew who He was.
By the way that is a great Scriptural truth because no one any time throughout the history of God's dealing with man can ever know God apart from divine revelation.  And Mary Magdalene illustrates that.  She didn't know Jesus until He reveals Himself.
verse 15
She still doesn’t recognize Him.  In fact, she thinks He’s the gardener.  One commentator says the reason she thought that was because Jesus had been buried naked except for a loin cloth and when He came out of the grave He went over and got the gardener's clothes, put them on and therefore she mistook Him for the gardener.
Well what happened to the gardener?  Was he out there in the cemetery running around naked? Did Jesus have to physically wrestle him down and take his clothes away from him?  I’m not buying that!  My Savior was not wearing the ragged, dirty clothes of a gardener.  He is dressed in the glorious, victorious robes of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
But for some reason, she thought that He was the gardener.  But then He speaks and He doesn’t just speak, He calls her by name and He doesn’t just speak her name, but He spoke her name in her own language.  That’s the name her family used for her.  That’s the name He had always used to address her.  He speaks her name and that’s all He had to say and everything changes!
Verse 16
So how did she know Him by just that one word?  If you have to ask that, then obviously you’re never heard Jesus speak your name because when you love somebody and you hear that somebody speak your name, you know them.  There is nothing else like it!
Listen:  One day I heard Jesus speak my name and everything changed!  My past changed because I went from being a guilty, stained sinner to knowing what forgiveness feels like! My present changed because all of a sudden I had a constant Friend and companion in every experience of life.  I suddenly knew what the songwriter meant when he said, And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own!
 I was suddenly surrounded with the love and tender care of God almighty!  And my future changed.  No longer am I a hell-bound sinner, but a child of God with a mansion in glory where I will live forever in the presence of Almighty God!
Listen:  the Lord knows your name. He knows everything about you and He loves you in a personal way. That’s what John is trying to teach us here.  We don’t have an indifferent Christ.  He’s not cold and distant.  He loves us.  He knows us.  He cares about us.  He speaks our name!  All He had to do was say her name and Mary immediately Mary knew it. She knew Him.  All the tears were gone!
And if you can just picture that scene in your mind, you see her there as she falls at His feet and clutches His legs, hanging on to Him like she will never let Him go.  Can you imagine the thrill of that moment as she realizes Jesus is alive?
Not only did she find Him, but here He is standing here alive.  It’s just overwhelming and she's just pouring out her emotion, gushing with love and she's hanging on as if to say, "Lord, You'll never get out of this grip again. I'm not letting go anymore."
But our Lord speaks to her and He says
verse 17
She wants to hang on to His physical presence but it can't be because there is work yet to do.  In other words, He's saying, "Mary, it's not going to be like it was when I visited in your home and we spent time together.
I'm going to go to the Father and when I go the Father I'll send the Spirit and at that point I'll not be just with you like I am physically, I'll be with you in a different way."
Then notice what He does in
verse 17
Catch that phrase “go to My brethren”.  That is very important because that's a brand new designation.  Before He makes this statement, He has referred to His followers as disciples and servants and even friends, but they have never been called brothers until now.
The resurrection introduces a brand new relationship to Christ. How is that possible?  try to explain it simply because it is one of the most marvelous thoughts you can ever comprehend.
Christ is the Son of God by perfect righteousness. When you and I receive Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us. It’s like He makes a deposit into our spiritual account of His perfect and sinless righteousness.
Because of that, we are declared to be perfectly righteous. We are in Christ. It’s like He completely covers us.  We are baptized into Him.  There is nothing left of us showing and the result is positionally before God we're as good as Christ.
It hasn’t happened practically yet. There is still lots of work to do while we are in the flesh.  But positionally and spiritually, I have arrived.
By the way, that is the only way I can be accepted by God and get into His presence.  He doesn’t allow anyone in who isn't totally perfect and holy and the only way we get in there is if we qualify.  But the only way to qualify is by union with Jesus Christ whereby His righteousness becomes ours. So when you receive Jesus Christ, positionally God looks at you as being as holy as Jesus. That means as far as our righteousness is concerned, we are equal to Christ in the eyes of God.
If we weren't, we wouldn't get in.  I sure can’t do it by my own righteousness.  By the way, you can’t get out by your own unrighteousness either.   You want to hear something shocking? You are as secure as Christ is.
You have as much chance of losing your salvation as Christ does of getting kicked out of heaven or expelled from the Trinity. Did you know that?  How do I know?  To begin with, the only way I get to heaven to begin with is because I’m in Christ.  Now if I’m in Christ, the only way I could ever go is if He goes.
Christians who worry about losing their salvation frustrate me because they don’t understand the grace and gift of God.  Let me give you some advice:  Quit worry about losing your salvation and instead spend your time and energy , honoring the God who gave you such a secure salvation and learn to live your life out of gratitude instead of fear.
We are one with Christ, therefore our position before God is in Christ, our righteousness is Christ's, our holiness is Christ's, our security is Christ's.
We are totally in Christ and thus can Jesus say, "Now because of My death and because of the fact that I have borne your sin and you have died with Me and risen with Me, I’m not going to call you friends anymore.  I’m going to call you brothers, family."
And to illustrate this to them, notice what He says in
verse 17
That sounds like equality to me, how about you?  Jesus says, “I’ve got to ascend back to our Father”.
Well, when Mary got this message she gets up and goes.
Verse 18
Can you imagine when she burst in to wherever they were and said, "I have seen the Lord" how they must have responded? She tells them everything He’s said and she tells them about His ascension, that He's only going to be here a little while. I mean she is a changed girl from the one we first met a few verses ago!  She bursts in there singing, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!”
And that's to be our testimony as well.  God forgive us for when we reduce our relationship with God down to, "Well, I read the Bible and I concur that it is accurate.  I go to church with regularity and punctuality.  I’ve got the attendance records to prove it!"
Our testimony is, "The Lord spoke my name and I've seen Him and I’ve spent time with Him and I’ve been listening to what He had to say and I can’t wait to share it with you!”  That's our testimony of a child of God who’s been in His presence.  That's the message of Christianity.  It’s not second-handed theology.  It’s first-hand experience as Jesus appears to Mary just because He wants to prove Himself faithful.
Then notice what happens next as we see Jesus appear to the disciples to
2. Send the Faithful
verse 19
Now Jesus has a different purpose in mind for this appearance.  Here are the disciples with the exception of Thomas, locked down tight.  They were in there shivering in terror, expecting at any minute the temple police would knock on the door and get them when suddenly Jesus appears.
How did He get there? Some people say that He climbed through a window. Not too easy in the upper room. Some people said He slipped down from the roof. One commentator said He sneaked in before the door was locked and hid in the corner then revealed Himself. One other writer said the door keeper lied and let Him in.
The Bible says He came and stood in the midst.  . You say, "How did He come?" He walked through the wall. You say, "Do you believe that?" I believe that. If He could ascend out of His grave clothes, what's a wall? If He could escape a rock tomb before they rolled the stone away, a wall ain’t no big deal!
If Jesus Christ even in His physical form prior to His resurrection could walk on water, don't you think He could rearrange the molecules to walk through a wall? That tells us something about your body when the Rapture comes because you're going to have a body like unto His glorious body. So whatever He can do, you just read it through and you'll see what you'll be able to do. And so Jesus Christ was just in the midst.
Now if they were scared before, imagine how they feel now because all of a sudden they’ve got the police on the outside and a ghost on the inside!  At least that’s what they thought.  But He speaks peace to them and shows them His hands and His side.  And like Mary, everything changed when they saw the Lord.
Verse 20
But He came to do more than just reassure them.  He came with some marching orders.
Verse 21
Jesus commissions them, "You're going to be My sent ones. You're going to carry the gospel." That's the first phase of the commission and that's our task as well. Our task is to carry the gospel to the world. We, the body of Christ, are the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ. He's proven Himself faithful, now He sends the faithful.  And notice, He doesn’t send them without resources.
verse 22
Now theologians have had a lot of fun dealing with this verse trying to figure out whether He really gave them the Holy Spirit or not. When He said, "When He blew and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit,'" the text does not say they did and it is my conviction that they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit at that time.
In fact, Scripture says in Acts 2 that happened at Pentecost.  So what happened here? I believe this is a pledge on Christ's part that the Spirit will come. If they had received the Holy Spirit they wouldn’t have stayed locked in the upper room like they did for eight days.  Jesus said, "You shall receive power after the Spirit of God has come upon you, you shall be My witnesses." If that’s what happened here in John 20, they sure wouldn’t have stayed huddled up in a room with the door locked for eight days.
This is simply a pledge, a preview if you will, that they will receive the Holy Spirit.  He is simply reassuring them that once the Spirit comes, they will have everything they need to fulfill the commission He’s given them. And I might add, this is His pledge to us as well.  This is a promise for all believers. Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. And that sure makes it hard to understand why some Christians find it so easy to keep their mouth shut regarding their faith.  If you have the Holy Spirit living within you, there is an expectation of a verbal, open, public and powerful witness to Christ.
In fact, verse 23 tells us just how powerful it is
Verse 23
Now that sounds like we can go around forgiving or not forgiving people’s sins.  Is that what it is teaching?  Obviously not.  So what does it mean?
It's saying, not that you have the right to forgive someone's sins, but to declare that someone’s sins are forgiven.  Did you realize you have the authority as a Christian to say to them, “You’re sins are forgiven”?  And you can say to another, “You’re sins are not forgiven.”
You say, "How can I ever do that?" I'll tell you how.
It is our privilege to be able to say to any person who repents of his sin and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, "My friend, your sins are forgiven." And to any man who willfully rejects and will not believe and refuses Christ or trusts in anything other than Jesus, you can say, "My friend, your sins are not forgiven."
You and I have the right to say to a man whether or not God has forgiven his sins or hasn't by the fact of what he has done with Jesus Christ.
In fact, can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have that authority?  We go out there and preach the gospel and someone professes faith in Jesus Christ and then he asks us if he’s really saved.  How do we respond?  "Well, I don't know.  You’ll just have to wait until you die to find out.”
No! We’ve got to be able to say, "Brother, on the authority of the Word of God and the fact that you have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I am privileged to say to you that your sins are forgiven."
By the same token, we unashamedly declare to anyone who has not trusted in Jesus that they are bound for hell without Him.  That is the right and privilege that is ours and it was given to us by the resurrected Lord!  Praise God that Jesus not only told us what to do, but he gave us the power to do it.  There is a third appearance we are told about in this text and it was to
3. Secure the Faithless
Here we find Thomas.  Now Thomas is the proverbial pessimist. He doesn't believe anything and thinks the worst is always going to happen.  He is full of doubts.  One time Jesus said, "I'm going to Jerusalem." Someone says, “If you go to Jerusalem, they’ll kill you.”  Thomas says, "Well, guys, let's all go and die with Him."  It’s always bad and getting worse.
In John 14, Jesus said, "I'm going to go away and I'm going to come back and bring you to where I am."  Thomas says, "We don't know where You're going and we haven't got any idea how to get there."
With Thomas, everything is a disaster. But you know, the Lord meets him at the point of his faithlessness. That's how the Lord is.
verse 24
Thomas skipped Sunday School and church and missed the risen Lord!
Verse 25
And old Thomas, Mister Rain-on-everybody's parade" says, unless I can see and touch Him for myself, I won’t believe.”
verse 26
Now he's there this time. And once again, He just came right through the door and the walls and He stands in the middle of the room. Now He's there for one purpose and that's to meet Thomas. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s encouraging to me.  With everything Jesus has going on, why should He care about one weak, faithless disciple? And even if He does show up, He should have come into that room and said, “Shame on you."
But He came in and said, "Peace be unto you." Why? Because a loving Christ always meets you where you’re at so He can get you to where you need to be.  God isn’t interested in condemning you, but building gyou up.  He wants you to know Him and enjoy life as He designed.  God is like that.
Aren't you glad when your faith wanes He doesn't browbeat you but He comes and meets you at the weakness of your faith and lifts you up?
And so He comes to Thomas.
Verse 27
Thomas, if you want to set the test up that way, I'll meet you right there.  Now I think Thomas was an honest doubter because otherwise Jesus wouldn't have met him. But Thomas was honest and the Bible says if you seek Me with all your heart, you'll find Me.”
So if you want to propose a test and it's an honest test, God will meet you there. Thomas really wanted to know.  And what he discovered is he didn’t need the test.  He never followed through with his test.
He just saw Jesus and heard Him speak and that was enough.
Verse 28
What a confession for a skeptic and doubter!  But that’s what Jesus does.  He’ll meet you where you are and make a believer out of you!  He’ll even meet you as a believer and strengthen your faith! Then in verse 29 He lays a principle.
Verse 29
Thomas, it's one thing to believe when you've seen it all but it's even greater to believe when you haven't seen anything. Do you realize that since the time of Thomas there have been hundreds, thousands, literally millions who have believed without ever seeing.  That's what faith is all about.  There He is, the resurrected Christ. All the evidence is in. How could you deny that He rose from the grave? He appeared to show His faithfulness, to send the faithful and to secure the faithless.
And then John adds this:
Verses 30-31
John wants us to believe that Jesus is God in order to have life. John says I want you to see that He's alive. I want you to see that He's the resurrection and the life, that you might believe and that you might have life.
Let's pray.
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