Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 20

By Lloyd Ellefson

Early in the morning Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. Excitedly she ran to get Peter and another disciple, apparently John, to investigate this strange happening. They entered the tomb and found the linen wrappings, but the body of Jesus was gone! They could not understand this!

Let's look at the spiritual significance of this. The knowledge that Jesus Christ is the life and the truth, has to come to us in the inner man. When Christ (the life and the truth) is buried, He is entombed in our carnal mind as an earthy concept. The carnal mind is the graveyard for the truth of Christ. It keeps truth in death! When it is resurrected out of the tomb of our carnal mind, it becomes life to us. This is an enigma for humanity. It does not have a spiritual comprehension of His presence. Therefore it cannot find Him unless He appears to humanity.

Humanity is only aware of the historical account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It only understands that the physical body of Jesus was put into a tomb and that it later disappeared. The real body of Christ is a body of spiritual truth and life, whereas the real body of Adam is a body of sin and death. In Rom. 7:24 Paul cries out, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" Our old self, or our old man was crucified with Christ, so that our body of sin might be done away with. (Rom. 6:6) This body of sin is a conglomeration of lies which produces sin and death. It is a body of error, whereas Christ is a body of truth and life; this realization comes to us at different levels.

Resurrection is the breaking forth out of death. This occurs when Christ ascends us out of our earthy realm, out of the tomb of our carnal mind - out of our death in Adam. This is our resurrection into Christ. We can now walk in the newness of life; we can hear the Spirit and have the mind of Christ! Our new mind is able to receive spiritual realities. Our hope is ascended from an earthy destiny to our true destiny. Christ now reveals to us that we are the sons of God!

There was much consternation at the grave! They were very, very upset because they could not find the body of Jesus Christ. Even today many Christians are anxiously looking forward to seeing His bodily presence. But Christ now appears in the earth through those whom He has called out, chosen, commissioned and anointed by the Spirit. He is not asking for volunteers. Those who volunteer may do so because they think they are needed, or because they owe it to God for all He has done for them, and/or because they want to pass on the good news. God does not choose people because of their natural qualifications; He chooses whom He wills!

"For as yet they did not understand the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead." (v.9) Even though Jesus had often foretold His death and resurrection, the disciples did not realize that He was to rise from the dead. The scriptures declaring the suffering Messiah were fairly well known, but the Jews failed to associate them with Jesus. In their estimation, resurrection was only for the future - even as it is for most Christians today!

It was Mary who saw two angels. Angels are ministering spirits. God's angels minister truth, while Satan's angels minister lies. They bring darkened deluded ideas of God and self to us. It is obvious that Satan wants to retain his authority over us; he doesn't want his authority undermined nor destroyed by the light and truth that is in Christ. The angels appeared to Mary Magdalene in physical form so she could see them. At that time she and the disciples were limited by their natural understanding, so the message had to come on that level. They needed something they could see and understand.

"And they said to her, `Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, `Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.'" (v.13) After Mary Magdalene had spoken to the angels, she turned around and saw Jesus, but she did not know that it was Jesus. No one could see Jesus after His resurrection unless He revealed Himself by appearing to them visibly. His visible appearance was not His true essence, for spirit does not have form. So it is not necessary to see Him in visions. Jesus said that those are blessed who do not see, and yet believe. Truth does not change, therefore this principle always remains.

Visions can be induced by alcoholism, teachings, and various emotions, especially fears and love. However, Christ is not unveiled through visions. Testimonies of people going to heaven and seeing Jesus are not equivalent to the inspired scriptures. Let's not regard or view these people according to their experiences, but according to their relationship to the truth which has come to them through the Holy Spirit. The Father is the only One who knows the Son, so He has to reveal Him to us. He has given us the Holy Spirit, and He reveals the Son to us!

In Heb. 1 we read, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son." The Son is the unseen Word or the anointed message. He is the anointing, the Messiah. He speaks spiritual realities to spiritual receivers. That is why we must be generated anew in the Spirit; we must be born again to hear spiritual realities - to hear the rule of the kingdom.

Truth produces growth and maturity in our spiritual understanding of who Christ is and who we are. It brings a change in our sense of being. Our hope is in Christ! It is not in going to a geographical heaven, wearing white robes and playing on harps among the clouds. Angels don't need wings to traverse the heavens! That idea is just an artist's conception. The scriptures refer to cherubim and seraphim as having wings. The Bible does not say that angels have wings, but people put wings on them.

Jesus revealed Himself physically to believers because as yet they did not have the Spirit, so they did not have a spiritual receiver to enable them to receive Jesus as a spiritual being. Jesus made various appearances. He appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, to the disciples through locked doors, to other disciples on their way to Emmaus, etc. These appearances occurred in the realm in which humanity was living. They had to receive Him in the physical realm because the Adamic man is limited to the physical. Humanity's image of God has been conceived in its own mind.

The message has to be heard through spiritual ears instead of natural ears! In Matt. 13:14-15 Jesus quoted Isaiah and said, "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear..." They did not have the faculty to hear spiritual things. The ground upon which the seed fell had not been cultivated or prepared, for the Spirit had not yet come to them.

However, the real coming and work of Jesus Christ is to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness and to transfer us into the kingdom of His beloved Son! He rescued us from the darkness of our limitations, for everything we receive with our five senses in the natural realm has limitations. We have to die to the lordship of our senses, and be ascended into a new sense of being! Then we can understand what takes place in the Spirit, because the Spirit brings us spiritual realities.

This was Christ's purpose! He made it possible for us to see that our earthly citizenship, and our affinity for, and relationship to earthy things, have to be superseded by an affinity for, and relationship to the spiritual kingdom of God! This can only come by the Spirit. His words can only be heard in our spirit.

In Luke 24:39 Jesus said, "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Since we cannot touch a spirit, we know that this appearance was not Christ Jesus in His true essence. He appeared to them in a form so that He could be touched, and the disciples could understand that He had truly risen from the dead. Spiritual truth has to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Whenever this does not occur, man is only getting human imagination, human seeing and human delusion!

Jesus said a very puzzling thing. He said, "Do not touch Me; for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, `I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" At this point I do not understand why she was not to touch Him. However, He came in this form and said, "I am going to My Father and to your Father; to My God and to your God." What a tremendous identification! My Father is your Father! When His mother and siblings came to see Jesus, He said His mother and His brothers are those who do the will of the Father; but He did not say His Father was also our Father. Now He says His Father is also our Father!

This gives us the reason why we are not to call anyone on earth our father! Our true Father has nothing to do with our physical father and our physical being. This means, that although we do not reject the relationship, affinity, and friendship of family, we do reject this relationship as the basis of who we truly are. Our life has come out of the Father, the omnipresent, invisible Spirit! The only way the Father and the Son can be seen by natural man, is by an appearance. Today God is revealing the Son to us through the Holy Spirit, because only the Father knows the Son. Those who saw Jesus after His resurrection, did not grow in the knowledge and understanding of what the Spirit teaches us; but it was a preparatory step. It was historical and showed the transition from the natural to the spiritual!

"When therefore it was evening, on that, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, `Peace be with you.'" (v.19) Even after Jesus had been buried, the disciples were afraid the Jews were going to come and kill them too. Their fear silenced them because they did not have the power of the Spirit in them. While they were in this fearful state, Jesus appeared to them and brought them a message of peace!

This is an introduction to the kingdom of God. It introduces a relationship with God - a relationship which man had not known before, and therefore could not even be comfortable with the idea of it. This is a relationship of total subjection to the Father; there is no dependence on self! Just as the Holy Spirit taught Jesus to rely completely on the Father who never changes, He will also teach us. The life, truth and knowledge we have, do not belong to us; they are not our own! We can never possess the Lord Jesus Christ or God; He has to possess us!

"And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord." (v.20) At this time the disciples could only see the Lord by having Him come and present Himself visibly to them, thus proving that He truly was the One who had been crucified. At this level they began to believe in Him. Believing in Him is basic to learning to live in the feast of tabernacles.

Christ's death was a fulfillment of the feast of Passover. It was the passage from death into life; it was the completion of Christ's death to sin. Death came as a result of sin - the wages of sin is death. The venom of death is sin (1 Cor. 15:56), and sin again produces death. Sin came from death, and through sin death entered the world. The power of sin is the law. This was very obvious at Christ's crucifixion. He was put on the cross because of the extreme hatred man had for Jesus. It revealed man's conflict with God! For those who believe, this battle is over!

On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished," and now He said, "Peace be with you." Peace shows us that the conflict has been taken away! God wants us to know that He does not have anything against us! We were ignorant of that, but now we are to realize it. The peace He gives is not like the peace the world gives!

"So Jesus said to them again, `Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, `Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.'" (vv.21-23) What a truth! The Holy Spirit was bringing them the remission of sins, so that they could either remit the sins of people or retain them. If the remittance of sins would not be received, they would be retained. This brought understanding to the disciples, but humanity remained in ignorance of this. They could not understand that Jesus could forgive sins! Therefore they asked, "Can this man forgive sins?"

Jesus said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes... He will glorify Me; for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." He did not come as a separate entity; He came to bring the things of Christ to us. The things He brings are so important! At this point the Holy Spirit could bring the result of what had taken place on the cross; there our sin and enmity toward God had been dealt with! The Prince of Peace now came to them and breathed on them, and they received the result of that which had been accomplished so far. This is the fulfillment of the Feast of Passover! It gives us the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and the passing from death (which is the penalty of sin) into the justification and life that God has provided for us.

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." What a statement! We are sent as He was sent! Jesus Christ sends us even as the Father sent Him! Our commission is to bring the peace of God to people! We are to tell people that their sins have been remitted, and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus! This is the message of peace He has commissioned us to bring to people!

If we truly believe that our sins have been remitted, how can this message of no condemnation in Christ, be only relegated to the future? Jesus did not come to condemn the world! If we do not receive this basic foundation we cannot enjoy its fruit; without the foundation there is no fruit!

Our life is to demonstrate our remission of sins and the joy and peace we have in the Holy Spirit. When Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit, they received what the Feast of Passover symbolized, namely, the crucifixion of Jesus - the washing, the offering, and the shedding of blood for the remission of sin. Those who do not receive their remission of sins, retain them.

The types in the Old Testament help us to understand the difference between the giving of the Holy Spirit and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The first Passover in Egypt brought the Israelites a release from the bondage of Egypt. In the wilderness they were led by a physical cloud; it symbolized the Holy Spirit, and typifies the release received by the disciples when Jesus breathed on them and remitted their sins.

Fifty days after the first Passover, the Israelites were stationed at Mt. Sinai. There God gave them a new government and a new law, namely, the law of Moses. But this law did not give them the power to keep it. This first Pentecost typified the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2) The Holy Spirit brought a new government in a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! Incorporated in this new law is the power to keep it! A dwelling place with God is established in us, and we receive God's nature. Eternal life brings us oneness with God!

"After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, `Peace be with you.' Then He said to Thomas, `Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.'" (vv.26-27) Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the disciples the first time. His unbelief was so strong that, unless he saw the nailprints and His pierced side, he would not believe that Jesus was alive.

At this time Thomas did not have a spiritual realization of Christ. He was still in the natural realm and did not have a true understanding of who the Christ was. In fact, nobody can have it, until he receives the right foundation, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. When Christ becomes real to us, we are able to hear beyond the letter of the word. He gives us the ability to hear and understand the spiritual realities the Spirit is revealing to the churches! These are beyond human understanding!

"Jesus said to him, `Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'" (v.29) Only by receiving a testimony from the unseen, can we believe something we cannot see. This testimony comes to us in the Holy Spirit! He does not speak of Himself, but He brings us the things of Christ. He is not a force, nor does He initiate the words He speaks. Neither do we pray to Him. In bringing us the things of Christ, He upholds the same principles which are in Christ. Jesus said, "I can do nothing of Myself. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. I only do the works My Father shows me to do."

The Father is the source of everything! He sent Jesus, and Jesus sends us. Our ministry consists of speaking the words the Holy Spirit gives us to speak. Our testimony must not originate in ourselves, and we must not depend upon ourselves. We only testify of our experiences when the Holy Spirit prompts us, and this brings glory to the Father. We do not testify of ourselves; testifying of ourselves causes people to think God will work in the same way in their lives. God does not want us to believe in methods; He wants us to believe in Him!

Jesus could have had a wonderful, exciting testimony! He could have related the experiences He had in heaven before He came to earth, His experience of crucifixion and death, His experience of being in death for three days, His resurrection, etc.! But Jesus did not describe any of these things! Instead, He opened their eyes to the testimony of the scriptures! He told them they were very slow in believing what the scriptures said.

He always directs us to the testimony of the Spirit. Our experiences depend on that testimony! Experiences with God are not meant to enhance us, but to glorify God! Jesus did not relate His experiences, for He did not want them to bring glory to Himself. However the scriptures relate His experiences, because they bring glory to God and reveal His nature to us! We are to believe the reality of the spiritual word of God, so we can be changed! To think that our testimony of self can produce an inward change in people is egoism! Jesus said, "A man will come in his own name and you will receive Him." Jesus came in His Father's name. We too must come in the Father's name, even though it brings rejection!

"Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." (vv.30-31) Believing in His name gives us His life, and living in His life is our desire!

God bless you! Amen.

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