Study Notes

John 19:38-20:18


Last Sunday, we saw Jesus Christ crucified with two thieves. Because the feast of Unleavened Bread was approaching at sundown, the Jews demanded that the prisoners be killed and taken off of the crosses. Jesus was already dead. Now as we pick up in verse 38 of John 19, we read...

19:38 Joseph Of Arimathea

All four gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea. By reading all that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote of him, we learn that he was a good and righteous man who was waiting for the kingdom of God.

He was a prominent member of the council, but had not consented to their plan and action of arresting and accusing Jesus, because he had become a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews.

After Jesus' death on the cross, he gathered up courage to go before Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus.

What was it that changed this fearful, secret disciple into a man of courage and action? I believe it was seeing Jesus' death on the cross in all of its reality. You see, when we fully understand what Jesus did to die for us, it is a natural byproduct to die to ourselves and live for Him. That is why we make communion available every Sunday here. Because I know that as you remember the death of Christ, as you look intently at the cross of Christ, you will live your life for Christ.

If this morning, you are still living life as a secret disciple, fearful of your family, afraid of the folks at work, I encourage you to look intently at what Jesus did for you personally on the cross. I know that you will gather up the courage to publicly proclaim Jesus Christ.

19:39-40 Nicodemus Brings Myrrh

You may recall that shortly after Jesus was a young child, Magi from the east came bearing three gifts for Him.

Matt. 2:11 And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Gold is the precious metal which the Word often uses in association with a king's rule. Frankincense was the spice that was used by the priests in the temple, and myrrh was the spice that was used in embalming bodies for burial.

By bringing gold, the Magi were proclaiming that Christ would be a king. By bringing frankincense, the Magi were proclaiming that Christ would be a priest. By bringing myrrh, the Magi were proclaiming that Christ would be dead.

Jesus will be given these three gifts again, at the fulfillment of their symbolism. Here in John 19, Nicodemus came along with Joseph, bringing myrrh. We are still waiting for Jesus to come back to rule and reign on earth for a thousand years. Then, the prophet Isaiah tells us, when our Redeemer comes again to Zion to reign,

Isa. 60:6 "...All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the Lord."

Joseph brought myrrh at His death. When He dwells in the temple in Jerusalem again, and rules the earth with a rod of iron, He will be given gold and frankincense.

19:41-42 The Tomb

Matthew's account of this is interesting.

Matt. 27:57-60 And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered {it} to be given over {to him.} And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.

What Matthew reveals is that the tomb Jesus was buried in was Joseph's own new tomb hewn out of the rock. It was so new that no one in his family had yet been buried in it. Even today in Jerusalem you can see Mount Moriah, with its skull-shaped features. Right next to it is an ancient garden, in which is a tomb. Most people believe that this is the actual tomb that Jesus was buried in.

The other interesting detail Matthew uncovers for us is that Joseph was a rich man. This is a fulfillment of prophecy, because Isaiah, when he was prophesying of Christ, said,

Isa. 53:9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

Jesus was killed between two thieves, yet He was buried in this rich man's tomb.

20:1 Mary Magdalene

There are so many Marys in the gospels, it is hard to keep track of them all! This Mary is the one that Jesus had cast seven demons out of (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). Mary Magdalene had been at the cross, then she sat and watched as Joseph and Nicodemus laid Jesus' body in the tomb.

Now, right as the sun starts to rise, while it is still dark, Mary and some other women come early to the tomb, bringing more spices, wondering how they're going to move the stone to get in and further anoint Jesus' body.

But when they arrive, the stone is already taken away!

20:2-10 Peter And John

Mary runs to tell Peter and John, "They've taken Jesus' body out of the tomb, but we don't know where!"

John and Peter run to the tomb. John, being younger and smaller, gets there ahead of Peter.

The Linen Wrappings

Inside the tomb were the linens that Jesus had been wrapped in - was this the Shroud of Turin?

The Shroud of Turin is a centuries-old linen cloth that somehow bears the image of a crucified man. Many millions of people believe that it is the actual image of Jesus Christ. Scientists have dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours studying and researching this strange cloth. To date, it is the most-studied artifact in the world. In 1978, an international group of researchers were allowed to examine the shroud. Their conclusion was that no paint, pigment, stain, or dye created the image. They said that "there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately." So its origin remains a mystery.

Could this shroud be the same linen that Peter and John saw in the tomb? There are two reasons that I don't believe so.

The first reason is that God doesn't like to leave souvenirs laying around. Mankind has an inherent tendency to worship images they can see, rather than the One who created man in His image.

Remember what happened in Numbers 21...

Num. 21:6-9 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery {serpent,} and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

After an incredible miracle like this, man wouldn't consider just leaving the thing in the desert. We'd obviously keep it with us, at least for nostalgia's sake. It's something we can look at to remember how God did this miracle. But as the years go by, it turns into an idol. In 2Kings, King Hezekiah...

2Kgs. 18:4 ...removed the high places and broke down the {sacred} pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.

Would God really create the Shroud of Turin, knowing that millions of people would be brought into idolatry?

The Head Separated

But to me, the biggest proof against it is that verse seven says Peter saw...

John 20:7 ...the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

Joseph wrapped His body with the clean linen cloth, but the head was separated from the rest of the body! That is why the plural word "wrappings" is used. But the Shroud of Turin is all one piece!

Regardless of the Shroud, God did paint a picture with the linens in the tomb. What picture? The Scriptures tell us,

Eph. 5:23 ...Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself {being} the Savior of the body.

Col. 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church...

Christ is the head, the church is the body. What did Peter and John see in the tomb? The head separated from the body. At the resurrection, the Head - Christ - was physically separated from the body - the church. Today, Jesus Christ is physically in heaven, while the church is physically on earth.

That may at first sound a little depressing. But it is for the best. Remember that Jesus told the disciples,

John 16:6-7 "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

Because the Head is now separated from the body, we have the Holy Spirit working in us individually and internally, a far superior ministry than Jesus was able to perform when He was limited to a body of flesh.

20:11-13 Two Angels

After Peter and John leave, Mary Magdalene comes back to the tomb. As she is crying outside, in confusion and sadness, she sees inside the tomb two angels sitting on either side of where Jesus had been laid.

The small room, the angels on either side, the blood-stained table - for those of you who studied the Holy of Holies with us in Exodus, this should immediately paint a picture for you. A picture of the ark of the covenant. Cherubs on either side, the blood of the sin offering sprinkled on the mercy seat.

20:14-17 Unrecognizable

Mary doesn't recognize Jesus' appearance. Is it because her eyes are so flooded with tears that she is seeing through a blur? Is it her unbelief that makes her blind? I believe it is something else.

As we learned about the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ over the last couple of studies, we saw how incredibly brutal His suffering was. His scalp was lacerated from the crown of thorns being shoved down upon His head. His eyes were blackened and face swollen from the punches He's received in the face, many when He had a bag over His head, preventing the instinctive recoil that God has built into each of us. Isaiah tells us that they plucked His beard right off of His cheeks, further adding to His disfigurement.

Now we have this idea that Christ was all better after the resurrection. That He was back to normal. But that is not true. As we will see next week, when Thomas wanted physical proof that Jesus was resurrected,

John 20:27 ...He said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side..."

"Put your hand into My side." This wound is open! Years later, when John the apostle was caught into heaven, he writes,

Rev. 5:6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain...

The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, standing in heaven, looking as if He'd been slain. If you read of how they butchered the Lambs for sacrifices, this would present a gory picture.

And when Christ comes back at the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus says,

Zech. 12:10 "...They will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born."

Jesus Christ retains those wounds to this day. Why didn't Mary Magdalene recognize Him?

Isa. 52:14 ...His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.

He didn't look anything like He had before His arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

20:18 I Have Seen The Lord

Mary ran back to the disciples proclaiming, "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them everything He'd said to her. Have you seen the resurrected Lord? Have you seen the brutality He endured to forgive your sins? Have you heard Him command you,

Mark 16:15 ..."Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

Have you proclaimed it to others, saying, "I have seen the Lord!"

You don't need to be qualified. In those days, the testimony of a woman wasn't even admissible in court. Yet Jesus appeared to women first and told them to testify of His resurrection.

2Tim. 1:7-8 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...

May God empower you to testify of His resurrection to all creation.

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