“Unit 16, Day 4: John 20–21,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Unit 16, Day 4,” New Testament Study Guide
On the Sunday after the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene discovered that the tomb Jesus’s body had been placed in was empty, and she went and told Peter and John, who then ran to the tomb. The resurrected Christ appeared to Mary and later to His disciples. On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus invited Peter to demonstrate his love for Him by feeding His sheep.
Imagine how you might have felt if you had been present when Jesus’s body was placed in the tomb. It was a Friday, and His burial needed to be completed before the Jewish Sabbath began at sundown and continued until sundown on Saturday. As you read the following statement by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, imagine how the disciples of Jesus felt:
“I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
“On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.
“Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.
“On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
“Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.
“On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
“On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
“It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.
“I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest” (“Sunday Will Come,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 29–30).
- Imagine that you had been a news reporter at the time of Jesus’s death and Resurrection and that you were asked to write a series of articles on these events. In your scripture study journal, write a news report as if you had interviewed Jesus’s disciples after His death and burial. You might mention thoughts or feelings they reported having when they watched Jesus’s tomb being sealed.
Despite the tragedy of the Savior’s death and burial, Elder Wirthlin said, “But the doom of that day did not endure” (“Sunday Will Come,” 30).
As you study John 20, look for why “the doom of that day did not endure.”
Read John 20:1–2, looking for what Mary Magdalene discovered when she arrived at Jesus’s tomb early Sunday morning.
What did Mary do when she discovered that the stone had been removed from the entrance of the tomb? What did she believe happened?
How did John respond to seeing the empty tomb? What did he believe?
Until John looked into the empty tomb, he had not fully understood the Savior’s declarations that He would rise from the dead on the third day. Upon seeing the empty tomb, John remembered and believed (see John 20:8–9).
Read John 20:11–15, looking for who spoke to Mary after Peter and John left the tomb.
Read John 20:16–18, looking for what Jesus instructed Mary to do.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the meaning of the phrase “touch me not” in John 20:17: “The King James Version quotes Jesus as saying ‘Touch me not.’ The Joseph Smith Translation reads ‘Hold me not.’ Various translations from the Greek render the passage as ‘Do not cling to me’ or ‘Do not hold me.’ Some give the meaning as ‘Do not cling to me any longer,’ or ‘Do not hold me any longer.’ Some speak of ceasing to hold him or cling to him, leaving the inference that Mary was already holding him. There is valid reason for supposing that the thought conveyed to Mary by the Risen Lord was to this effect: ‘You cannot hold me here, for I am going to ascend to my Father’” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 4:264).
According to John 20:17, what else did Jesus instruct Mary to do?
- Continue imagining that you had been a news reporter during these events. In your scripture study journal, write a news report as if you had interviewed Mary Magdalene. You might write about her witness of the resurrected Lord and her answers to the following questions: What did you think when you found the tomb was empty? What did you do next? When did you realize that Jesus Christ is still alive? In your report, write whether you would have believed Mary’s account and why.
From this account we learn that Jesus Christ overcame death through His Resurrection.
According to John 20:20, how did the disciples feel when they saw the resurrected Lord?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained why “the doom of that [dark Friday] did not endure”:
“The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind. …
“Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
“But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
“No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come” (“Sunday Will Come,” 30).
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How can knowing that Jesus Christ was resurrected help us as we grieve the death of someone we love?
How can the promise of the Resurrection help us during other difficult life experiences?
John 20:21–23 records that after Jesus showed His disciples the wounds in His hands and side, He commissioned them to do His work. He said to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22), which may have meant that He blessed them to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but they would not fully enjoy the blessings of that until later. He also taught about their responsibility to help others receive a remission of their sins.
Read John 20:24–25, looking for the name of the Apostle who was not present for that sacred occasion.
Notice in verse 25 what Thomas said he needed in order to believe. Why do you think it was difficult for him to believe Jesus had been resurrected?
The concept of resurrection was difficult for most or all of the disciples to understand during Jesus’s mortal life. Like the other disciples, Thomas could not as yet understand what resurrection was, and he sought a physical witness.
Read John 20:26–29, looking for what Thomas experienced eight days later.
Notice that Jesus invited Thomas to “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). From Thomas’s experience we learn that we will be blessed if we choose to believe in Jesus Christ even when we cannot see Him.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy taught:
“Belief is a choice. …
“When we choose to believe, we understand and see things in a different way. When we see and live that way, we are happy and joyful in a way that only the gospel can bring” (“Choose Goodness and Joy,” New Era, Aug. 2011, 44).
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why do you choose to believe in Jesus Christ even if you have not seen Him with your mortal eyes?
What can we do to demonstrate that we have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ?
How have you been blessed by choosing to believe in Jesus Christ?
Read John 20:30–31, looking for why John recorded these events.
From these verses, we can learn the following truths: Apostles and prophets testify of Jesus Christ so that we may believe that He is the Son of God. By choosing to believe in the testimony of Jesus Christ given by apostles and prophets and then living true to that testimony, we can receive eternal life.
- Write at least two paragraphs answering the following question in your scripture study journal: Of all that was written in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, what story, event, or teaching from the Savior’s mortal ministry has helped you to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Why? Prepare to share what you write with your class.
John 21:1–17 records that the resurrected Lord appeared again to several of His disciples while they were fishing. When they saw Jesus, they quickly returned to shore, and they dined on fish and bread with Him. During their meal Jesus invited Peter to demonstrate his love for Him by leaving his life as a fisherman and serving the Lord’s people.
In John 21:18–19 we read that Jesus prophesied that when Peter became old he would “stretch forth [his] hands” (John 21:18) and be carried where he did not want to go. It is traditionally believed that Peter died by crucifixion. However, it is said that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he humbly considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as the Savior (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:151–52).
The word tarry in verse 22 means to remain alive on the earth. Thus, John would remain on the earth as a translated being until Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. Translated beings are “persons who are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Translated Beings,” scriptures.lds.org).
According to John 21:22, what did Jesus want Peter to focus on rather than concerning himself with what would happen to John?
Read John 21:24–25, looking for what John wanted everyone to know as he concluded his record.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied John 20–21 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: