John 20–21

“Lesson 28: John 20–21,” New Testament Teacher Manual (2018)

Introduction and Timeline

John chapters 20 and 21 record John’s account of the Savior’s post-Resurrection ministry. John recorded the discovery of the empty tomb and the Savior’s appearance to Mary Magdalene and later that day to ten of the Apostles. Upon hearing of the resurrected Savior, Thomas, who had been absent, said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, … I will not believe” (John 20:25). Eight days later Thomas received that opportunity, at which time Jesus taught, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). John recorded the Savior’s appearance to His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee) and His charge to Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17). John stated his purpose in recording these appearances: “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

lesson 28 timeline

Chapter Overviews

John 20

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John found Jesus’s tomb empty. The Lord appeared to Mary at the tomb and later that evening to ten of the Apostles. Thomas initially refused to believe their account. Eight days later Jesus appeared to the eleven Apostles, including Thomas.

John 21

The resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to seven of His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee). He asked Peter three times, “Lovest thou me?” and commissioned Peter to feed His sheep. The Savior foretold the martyrdom of Peter and the translation of John the Beloved.

Suggestions for Teaching

John 20

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Write the word witness on the board. Ask students questions like the following:

  • What are some events for which witnesses are commonly needed? (Possible answers: A wedding, reporting a traffic accident to the police, testifying in court, creating a legal contract, or a baptism.)

  • Why are witnesses necessary for these events?

  • What are the benefits of having multiple witnesses of an event or action?

Explain to students that John 20 contains the accounts of several appearances of the resurrected Jesus Christ. Those people to whom He appeared can be called witnesses. As with most of the Gospel of John, the accounts of these appearances are different from the accounts found in the other Gospels. Divide the class into four groups and assign each group to study together one of the following scripture passages: John 20:1–8; John 20:11–18; John 20:19–21; John 20:24–28. (If your class is large, more than one group can be assigned to a scripture passage. If your class is small, you may assign these scriptures to individual students.) Ask each group to look for details that confirm that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ actually took place.

After a few minutes, ask groups to summarize the account they studied and explain how it confirms that Jesus was resurrected. As students respond, consider summarizing their answers on the board. The board might look something like the following:

John 20:1–8. Mary, Peter, and John saw the stone rolled away, the empty sepulchre, and the burial clothes still in the sepulchre.

John 20:11–18. Mary Magdalene saw two angels and conversed with the resurrected Jesus Christ.

John 20:19–21. The disciples saw the wounds in Jesus’s hands and side.

John 20:24–28. Thomas was reluctant to believe until he saw and touched the resurrected Jesus Christ.

To help students analyze the items on the board, you might ask questions like:

  • What detail in these accounts stands out most to you? Why?

  • How do these evidences combine to testify of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Read John 20:29 to your class and ask students:

  • What does the Savior’s statement to Thomas mean to you personally?

You might have students read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the student manual commentary for John 20:29–31. Then have students read John 20:30–31, looking for why John recorded accounts of Jesus Christ’s post-Resurrection appearances. Write this doctrine on the board: Witnesses testify of the Resurrection to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the reality of eternal life. Give students a few minutes to study the chart “New Testament Appearances of the Resurrected Jesus Christ” in the student manual commentary for John 20:29–31. Ask questions like the following:

  • How has your testimony been affected by the many testimonies of Jesus Christ you have heard or read? What has led to your belief in His Resurrection?

  • How would you describe the influence your knowledge of the Resurrection has on your life?

  • How can every person know for himself or herself that the Savior lives?

Write the following statement on the board:

“The resurrection of Jesus is the most glorious of all messages to mankind” (Bible Dictionary, “Resurrection”).

Encourage students to consider individuals with whom they could share this glorious message of the resurrected Christ and to pray for opportunities to do so.

John 21:1–17

The Resurrected Jesus Christ Appeared to His Disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee)

Have students silently read John 21:1–7, looking for details of this experience that are similar to another experience that occurred earlier in the New Testament. Have students share what they found. They may remember that this experience is similar to what happened when Peter, James, and John were first called to follow the Savior, as recorded in Luke 5:1, 4–11.

The following questions will help students analyze John 21:1–7:

  • According to John 21:3, how successful had the disciples been by their own efforts? (“They caught nothing.”)

  • According to John 21:6, what happened when they followed the Lord’s instructions? (They caught so many fish that they weren’t able to pull the nets into the boat.)

  • What do these two experiences teach about what will happen when we obey the Lord’s instructions?

As the students discuss this question, help them understand this principle: If we exercise our faith and obey the Lord, the results of our efforts will be greater than what we could achieve on our own.

  • What experiences have taught you that if you trust the Lord and move forward in obedience, the results of your efforts are greater than you could have achieved on your own?

Ask a student to read aloud John 21:9–14. Then ask:

  • What can we learn from the fact that the Savior provided food for the disciples instead of having them cook their own meal? (Possible answers: He may have been helping the disciples understand that He would provide for them in times of need, just as He did when He made it possible for them to catch a “multitude of fishes.” He was teaching them through His example that they were to serve all people, as He had done many times before His Crucifixion.)

To help students identify the principles the Savior taught to His disciples after they ate, ask students to read John 21:15–17 on their own and mark words and phrases they find repeated. (“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” “Feed my lambs.” “Feed my sheep.”)

  • Compare Luke 5:4–11 and John 21:10–11, 15. In these two experiences, what decision was the Savior asking Peter to make? (In both instances, Peter was asked to choose between material goods [the fish] and serving the Lord.)

If you feel it would help your students see the importance of loving the Lord above the things of the world, you might read with them the statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the student manual commentary for John 21:15.

  • What do you think it means to “feed” the Savior’s “sheep”? (As you consider the needs and understanding of your students, you may want to share insights from the quotation by President Russell M. Nelson in the student manual commentary for John 21:15–17.)

  • What connection do you see between the Savior’s question to Peter about whether he loved Him and His instructions to “feed my sheep”? (Students should identify this principle: We can demonstrate our love for the Savior and our Father in Heaven by ministering to others.)

  • How is ministering to those around us an indication of our love for the Lord? (Our service to others shows that the Savior is a higher priority in our lives than other things. Serving others is a way of serving the Lord; see Matthew 25:40; Mosiah 2:17.)

Ask students to name some ways they can feed the Lord’s sheep. You might want to list their responses on the board or ask a student to list them on the board for you. (Students might mention serving in Church callings, serving as home or visiting teachers, sharing the gospel with others, reaching out to a family member who has strayed from the Church, or comforting someone who is experiencing a difficult trial.)

Have students work in pairs to read the statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton from the student manual commentary for John 21:15–17. Have one student in each pair look for things Elder Ashton says we should do and the other student look for things Elder Ashton says we should not do as we strive to feed the Lord’s sheep. Have students share with each other what they found and discuss how they might apply this counsel as they serve in the ways listed on the board. After students have finished their discussion, ask the class to discuss answers to the following question:

  • What examples have you seen of someone following the principles Elder Ashton taught?

Give students a piece of paper and invite them to think about the Lord’s commission to feed His sheep and then write down the name of a person who needs to be fed. Invite them to also write down what they could do to strengthen that individual and help him or her feel the Lord’s love. You might share an experience when you ministered to someone, or were ministered to, and how that blessed your life. Testify to the students of the blessings that will come to them as they strive to feed the Lord’s sheep.