The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 51


(John 20:1-18)


1.     Last week I preached, “What is Wrong with the Da Vinci Code” and I pointed out that the book and movie teach many errors regarding Mary Magdalene.

2.     For example, the “DVC” teaches that Mary Magdalene was married to our Lord.  This is nonsense but many people are apparently being deceived by this foolishness.

3.     Back to the sixth century AD, Pope Gregory I (the one associated with Gregorian chant) taught that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  The RCC continued teaching this error up until recent times. But the Bible nowhere teaches this.  Unfortunately the RCC has many peculiar doctrines, which are contrary to the Bible.

4.     In his zeal to attack Romanism, the DVC author (Dan Brown) has also attacked the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible.   Unfortunately many people do not have enough discernment to see through this.

5.     Tonight we will return to our study of the Gospel of John and as the Lord would have it we are now in John 20 and the first person we meet is none other than Mary Magdalene (John 20:1).

6.     So tonight we will look at the real Mary Magdalene.  Not the Da Vinci Code Mary Magdalene.  Not the Hollywood Mary Magdalene.  And not the RC harlot Mary Magdalene – but the genuine Mary Magdalene as she is portrayed in God’s Holy Word.

7.     Mary Magdalene was devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It has been said that Mary was the last at His cross and first at His grave.

8.     Her name means literally “Mary from Magdala” (which is probably a reference to her hometown in Galilee).  Magdala is mentioned only once in the Bible – in Matthew 15:39.

9.     We are first introduced to Mary Magdalene in Luke 8:2.  From this passage we learn that she had been possessed by seven devils (cf. Mark 16:9).  But then she met Jesus.  The devils were cast out and she was gloriously saved.

10. Furthermore, from this passage we learn that Mary Magdalene, along with certain other women, “ministered unto Jesus of their substance.”  No doubt Mary Magdalene and these other women were grateful to our Lord for their deliverance.




1.     As we have studied the Gospel of John, I have emphasized that it is important to compare John’s Gospel with Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  From reading just John’s account we might assume that Mary went to the tomb by herself.

2.     But as we compare the other Gospels we learn that she was with several other women.  Matthew 28:1 refers to “the other Mary,” probably the mother of James, one of the twelve apostles (cf. Luke 24:10).

3.     Luke 24:10 also refers to Joanna.  She is referred to in Luke 8:3 as “Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward.”  Apparently Joanna arrived at the tomb after Mary Magdalene.

4.     Mark 16:1 also refers to Salome, probably the wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John.

5.     The Scofield Study Bible gives a good order of events on page 1043 (note for Matthew 28:1).

6.     By the way, note that Mary Magdalene says in John 20:2, “and we know not where they have laid Him.”  This implies there were others with Mary.

7.     These women had an important mission and that was to anoint our Lord’s body.  But they were too late for that.  The stone had been rolled away (Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1, 2).

8.     Mary then ran and told Peter and John (20:1, 2).  John, being younger than Peter, outran Peter “and came first to the sepulchre” (20:3, 4).

9.     It was when Simon Peter arrived, and went into the sepulchre and saw the linen clothes and the napkin, “that was about His head,” that both Peter and John “believed” that Christ had risen from the dead (John 20:5-10).

10. Seeing the linen wrappings set neatly in the sepulchre was all it took to convince the two apostles that Christ’s body was not stolen.  Now they believed in His resurrection.

11. It is interesting to note that our Lord’s enemies were quicker to understand our Lord’s predictions regarding His resurrection than His own disciples (cf. Matthew 27:62-66).

12. Our Lord’s adversaries understand what our Lord meant but His own disciples did not (cf. John 20:9). 



1.     Peter and John went home (20:10).    Why?  Perhaps to eat breakfast.  But Mary Magdalene stayed at the empty tomb.

2.     An old commentator (quoted by AC Gaebelein) wrote, “The going away of Peter and John commends Mary’s staying behind.  To the grave she came before them, from the grave she went telling them, to the grave she returned with them, at the grave she remained behind them” (The Gospel of John, p. 385).

3.     Mary Magdalene stood there at the tomb weeping (20:11).  “And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre” (20:11b).

4.     She was weeping because she did not know our Lord was alive.  She was crying over His cruel death and the mysterious disappearance of His body.

5.     But then she saw “two angels in white sitting” where our Lord had lain (20:12). 

6.     The angels asked Mary Magdalene why she was crying (20:13).

7.     In John 20:2, Mary Magdalene told Peter and John, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre…” But now she tells the angels, “Because they have taken away my Lord…” (20:13).

8.     Now Mary Magdalene “turned herself back, and saw Jesus…” (20:14).  What happened to the angels?  We should remember that angels are spirits and can appear and disappear; they can become visible and invisible.

9.     Mary Magdalene was now face to face with Jesus but she did not recognize Him and she thought He was the gardener (20:15). 

10. This does seem strange but remember that when our Lord appeared to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road they did not recognize Him either (cf. Luke 24:13-18, 30, 31).

11. Mary Magdalene may have been confused regarding our Lord’s resurrection but her devotion to Christ was genuine (20:15b, 16).

12. It is wonderful when you consider this.  Mary Magdalene did not recognize our Lord until He spoke her name (20:16).



1.     John 20:17 has puzzled people since other believers touched our Lord (cf. Matthew 28:9).  In fact, our Lord encouraged Thomas to touch Him (John 20:27).

2.     The Scofield Study Bible gives three different views (note for John 20:17; p. 1143):

Cf. Matthew 28:9, “and they came and held him by the feet.” A contradiction has been supposed. Three views are held: (1) That Jesus speaks to Mary as the High Priest fulfilling the day of atonement (Lev. 16). Having accomplished the sacrifice, He was on His way to present the sacred blood in heaven, and that, between the meeting with Mary in the garden and the meeting of Matthew 28:9, He had so ascended and returned: a view in harmony with types.

(2) That Mary Magdalene, knowing as yet only Christ after the flesh (II Cor. 5:15-17), and having found her Beloved, sought only to hold Him so; while He, about to assume a new relation to His disciples in ascension, gently teaches Mary that now she must not seek to hold Him to the earth, but rather become His messenger of the new joy.

(3) That He merely meant: “Do not detain me now; I am not yet ascended; you will see me again; run rather to my brethren,” etc.

3.     The second view makes little sense to me.  The third view seems plausible, but I think the first view is the strongest.

4.     Scofield said that Christ “was on His way to present the sacred blood in heaven, and that, between the meeting with Mary in the garden and the meeting of Matthew 28:9, He had so ascended and returned: a view in harmony with types.”

5.     This is in accord with Hebrews 9:11, 12; 12:22-24.

6.     J. Vernon Mc Gee wrote, “The Lord told Mary not to touch Him...Later, He told the disciples to touch Him.  Why this difference?  He says to her, ‘for I am not yet ascended to my Father.’  This is the reason she should not hold on to Him.  So apparently He did ascend to His Father before the appearance to the disciples in the house.  I believe that the Lord Jesus presented His blood at the throne of God and that His blood turned the judgment seat into the mercy seat which it is today.  That blood was shed for your sin and for my sin.  I think the blood will be there throughout all eternity as an eternal testimony of the price He paid for us” (Thru the Bible, Volume 4, p. 497).



Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?  (Elisha A. Hoffman)

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