Sermon #127[i]John’s Gospel


      Title:                                 Lessons from the



      Text:                      John 20:1-18

      Subject:   Lessons from Our Savior’s Resurrection



I once read about an old woman, a believer, whose age began to take its toll on her, especially on her memory. At one time, she knew much of the Bible by heart. Eventually only one precious, little portion stayed with her: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Soon, part of that slipped from her mind, as well. She would be found often quietly repeating what she could of the text. Family and friends would hear her going over it again and again. That which I have committed unto Him.” Just before she slipped out of this world into glory, her children noticed her lips moving, and they bent over to hear what she was saying. She was repeating just one word, “Him...Him...Him.” She had lost her memory of the whole Bible and of everything else, but one word. Yet, she had the whole Bible and had everything in that one word — Him.

  • This blessed Book is all about Him.
  • We have come here to worship Him.
  • I want you to know, trust, love, and worship Him.
  • May God the Holy Spirit now set our hearts on Him.


The title of my message is Lessons from the Resurrection But I am not here to merely convince you of the doctrine of the resurrection. I want us to know Him who is Himself “The Resurrection and the Life.” May God give us grace to know Him and the power of His resurrection.


John 20 takes us from Christ’s death upon the cursed tree as our sin-atoning Substitute to His resurrection. He who was delivered up to the painful, shameful, ignominious death of the cross because of our sins which were made His own, arose from the dead because of our justification accomplished by His death, accomplished by His satisfaction of Divine justice with His own blood.


Like Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John dwells on these two great events with peculiar fulness and specificity. And we need not wonder why.


Proposition: The whole Gospel of the grace of God, the whole of our saving faith, the whole salvation of our souls hangs on these facts: — “That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).


Let’s read John 20:1-18 together.


(John 20:1-18) “The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, [and looking in], saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.”


“11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.”


Divisions: Here are seven things we should learn from this portion of Holy Scripture, —— Seven Lessons from the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1.    Those who are forgiven most love most.

2.    God’s saints are not all alike in personality and temperament.

3.    There is much ignorance in true believers.

4.    Our countless fears and sorrows are, for the most part, to be attributed to our own ignorance and unbelief.

5.    The Lord Jesus is very near, even when (especially when) we are altogether unaware of His presence.

6.    Every discovery we have of Christ is the result of Him discovering Himself to us.

7.    All that is Christ’s is ours in Him.


Forgiveness and Love


First, those who are forgiven most love most (Luke 7:36-50). The first one John names among those who came to the Savior’s tomb, is Mary Magdalene. The history of this faithful woman is not given in any detail in the Word of God. We only know that she was one out of whom the Lord had cast “seven devils” (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). Mary had been possessed of the devil and wasted her life serving him, until the Lord Jesus saved her by His grace. From that day on, Mary was always by His side, following Him, hanging on His every word, and observing His wondrous works.


It was this woman, if I am not mistaken, who anointed the Lord Jesus in the house of Simon the leper. The Master was referring to her when he asked Simon, “Who will love most?” He was referring to her when He said, — “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little” (Luke 7:47).


Mary’s gratitude to our Lord for His deliverance of her soul from the clutches of hell and for His forgiveness of her sins was a gratitude that knew no bounds. Of all our Lord’s followers on earth, none seem to have loved Him so much as Mary Magdalene.

Š      None felt that they owed so much to Savior.

Š      None felt so strongly that there was nothing too great to do for Christ and nothing too much to sacrifice for Him.

Š      Mary was the last at the cross.

Š      Mary was the first at the sepulcher.

Š      Mary arose early and came to the tomb while it was still dark.

Š      Having been forgiven much, Mary loved much.


Having received much, she loved much; and loving much, she did much, constrained only by a heart of love for and gratitude to her Savior.


The fact is, the more fully and more deeply we are aware of our depravity and sin, the more we will cherish our Savior and the forgiveness of our sins by His blood. To whom much is forgiven, the same love much.


Why do so many who profess to be the Lord’s disciples do so little for the Savior whose name they bear? — How is it that many whose faith in Christ we cannot and should not question work so little, give so little, say so little, take so little pains, to promote Christ’s cause, and bring glory to Christ in the world? — Why are there so many who know the grace of God in truth that do so little to make the grace of God known to others? There is only one answer to those questions. It is a low sense of debt and gratitude to Christ that makes saved sinners horribly indifferent to the worship and service of our Redeemer.


Where sin is not deeply and painfully felt, little is done for Christ. The man who is deeply conscious of his own guilt and corruption, and deeply convinced that without the blood, the death, the grace, and intercession of Christ he would sink forever into the lowest hell, that is the man who will spend and be spent for the Savior. That is the man who thinks, “I can never do enough for my Redeemer.” — Spirit of God, make me such a man! Give me Mary’s sense of indebtedness, gratitude, and love for “the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me!

Š      Show me more of myself!

Š      Show me more of Christ!

Š      Show me more of God’s amazing grace to me in Him!


Then, only then, can we begin to understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, — “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).


“Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee!”


Different Personalities


Second, God’s saints are not all alike in personality and temperament. When Mary Magdalene told Peter and John, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him” (v. 3), as they ran to the sepulcher and arrived at the place, all three acted differently.


They all ran to the sepulcher; but John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, outran Peter, and reached the empty grave first. John stooped down and looked in, but went no further. Peter, a bit more zealous and impulsive, ran right into the sepulcher that he might see with his own eyes. Mary, apparently, came somewhat more slowly back to the tomb and quietly waited to see what Peter and John would do and say. They all loved the Lord Jesus and trusted Him. The hearts of these three believers were, no doubt, full of hopes, and fears, and anxieties, and expectations, all tangled together. Yet each behaved in their own characteristic fashion. Without question, these things were intentionally written by the Spirit of God for our learning.


We should always remember that there are great differences of personality and temperament among God’s saints. All are redeemed, justified, and sanctified. All are washed in the blood of Christ. All live in the Spirit. All seek the glory of God. But God’s saints are not all alike. We do not do things exactly the same way. We do not all react to things the same way.


If we will remember this simple fact, it will save us much trouble in the journey of life and prevent many unkind and uncharitable thoughts and words. We should never judge one another harshly, or think ill of others, because they do not see or feel things exactly as we do, or because things do not affect them same way they affect us. The flowers in the Lord’s garden are not all of one color and of one scent, though they are all planted by one Spirit and are all in His garden. The subjects of His kingdom do not all look alike or always act alike, though they all love the same Savior and all have their names written in the same book of life. The Church of Christ has some in its ranks who are like Peter and some who are like John, and some who are like Mary. Some are fathers, some are elders, some are young men, some are mothers, some are children; but all are God’s. Let us always treat them as such.

Š      Loved and chosen of God the Father.

Š      Loved and redeemed by God the Son.

Š      Loved and called by God the Spirit.


(Philippians 2:1-5) “If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind. 3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”


Much Ignorance


Third, there is much ignorance in true believers. — “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (v. 9). That fact seems utterly incredible! For three years the Lord’s disciples had heard Him declare repeatedly that His resurrection from the dead would be the proof of His Messiahship and the means by which He would take His seat upon the Throne of Heaven as the Son of David. Yet, it appears that none of them, except Mary, had paid any attention to His words in that regard. —— They were true believers; but they were very ignorant of some very important Gospel truths!


Š      If the Lord’s disciples remained so ignorant of this simple, vital fact, after sitting under His ministry for three years, no faithful Gospel preacher should be surprised to find that those who hear him are ignorant of a few things!


Š      The one thing needful is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of Christ! — “Christ in you, the Hope of glory!


Š      Some things we must know if we would be saved. — We must know our sinfulness and guilt before God. — We must know Christ and His accomplishments as our Savior and Redeemer. — We must know that salvation is by the grace of God, through faith in Christ.


The extent to which one man may have true grace with much ignorance and another may have much knowledge and no grace is one of the greatest mysteries in world. It is a mystery that only the Day of Judgment will unravel. Let us then seek knowledge, and be ashamed of ignorance. But above all let us make sure that Christ is ours. Let us make our calling and election sure, trusting the Son of God as our only Lord and Savior!


Baseless Fears


Fourth, our countless fears and sorrows are, for the most part, to be attributed to our own ignorance and unbelief. We are told that Mary stood at the sepulcher weeping, and wept as if nothing could comfort her.


Only John was inspired of God to record the conversation that took place between Mary Magdalene and the Lord Jesus in verses 11-18. Yet, this is, in my opinion, the most heart touching account of our Lord’s many appearances after His resurrection.


When Peter and John went to their homes, Mary stayed at the sepulcher. Love to her Lord would not let her leave the place where He had been laid. Where He was now she did not know. What had become of Him she could not tell. But she could not drag herself away from the empty tomb, where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid her Lord. And her loving attachment to the Lord Jesus was richly honored.

Š      Mary Magdalene saw the angels whom Peter and John never observed.

Š      Mary Magdalene heard those angels speak words of comfort to her heart.

Š      Mary Magdalene was the first to see our Lord Jesus after He rose from the dead, the first to hear His voice, the first to hold conversation with Him.


Blessed are those who wait to find the Savior! Mary stood there at the place where the Lord Jesus was last seen, waiting for Him. There she stands in silence, weeping with great sorrow, looking in, not knowing how to leave the sacred spot. Let us wait like Mary...

Š      In the House of God.

Š      Before the Preaching of the Gospel.

Š      At the Lord’s Table.

Like the spouse of old, let us send out the anxious enquiry “Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth? (Song of Solomon 3:3). — “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I [am] sick of love” (Song of Solomon 5:8).


Yet, we are told that Mary stood there “weeping(v. 11). She wept in great sorrow and fear, as if nothing could comfort her. She wept when the angels spoke to her. She wept when the Lord Jesus himself spoke to her. But her sorrows and fears were completely baseless. Had she only known what had happened, was happening, and would soon happen, she would have been dancing and rejoicing!


O my dear brothers and sisters, how readily we must identify ourselves with Mary in this! We often weep when we should really rejoice. We cry, too much, like Jacob, “All these things are against me,” when in reality our God is working all things together for our good! — If we could see as God sees, if we knew what He knows, in every circumstance, in every event, we would give thanks and praise to Him. I can hear you say, “But, pastor, we can’t see as God sees or know what He knows.” I understand that; but we ought to be able to trust Him!


(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) “Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”


“God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea

And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds you so much dread

Are big with mercy and will break

With blessings on your head.


His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His works in vain;

God is His own interpreter.

And He will make it plain.”


Christ Near


Fifth, the Lord Jesus is very near, even when (especially when) we are altogether unaware of His presence. Mary complained, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” (v. 13). Yet all the while her risen Lord was right beside her, with body, and flesh, and bones. Her tears were needless. Her anxiety was unnecessary. Like Hagar in the wilderness, she had a well of water by her side, but she had no eyes to see it.

Š      When your heart is empty, He is near to fill it!

Š      When your heart is cold, He is near to warm it!

Š      When your soul is languishing, He is near to revive!

Š      When you are weak, He is near to strengthen you!

Š      When you are fallen, He is near to lift you up!


(Philippians 4:4-7) “Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord [is] at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


Discoveries of Christ


Sixth, every discovery we have of Christ is the result of Him discovering Himself to us. Though the Lord Jesus was standing in front of her and talking with her, Mary did not and could not know Him until He made Himself known to her.


(John 20:15-16) “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”


So it is with us. We cannot know the Lord Jesus (before we are converted and after we are converted), except He make Himself know to us.


(Isaiah 65:24) “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”


(2 Corinthians 4:6) “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”


(1 John 4:19) “We love him, because he first loved us.”


Union with Christ


Seventh, all that is Christ’s is ours in Him. — “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God” (v. 17). There was nothing wrong with Mary touching Him. He later commanded Thomas to do so. But the Lord was saying to Mary, “There is no need for you to be clinging to my body. I have something for you to do. Go tell my disciples that I have risen from the dead” — “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her” (v. 18).


Š      It is not the physical presence of Christ that we need, but His grace and spiritual presence.


Š      The Lord Jesus has left us here to tell others that He has accomplished redemption by the sacrifice of Himself, risen from the dead, and sits on the Throne of Grace to give repentance and remission of sins to needy sinners.


Look at verse 17 again. — “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.” Be sure you get this. Carry it home with you. Roll it over in sweet meditation and joy, with praise and thanksgiving. — All that is Christ’s is ours in Him!

Š      His Father is our Father.

Š      His God is our God.

Š      His obedience is our obedience.

Š      His death is our death.

Š      His reward is our reward.

Š      His inheritance is our inheritance.

Š      His glory is our glory.

Š      His safety is our safety.

We are one with Him as He is one with the Father!


“‘Twixt Jesus and the chosen race

Subsists a bond of sovereign grace,

That hell, with its infernal train,

Shall ne’er dissolve nor rend in vain


This sacred bond shall never break,

Though earth should to her center shake;

Rest, doubting saint, assured of this,

For God has pledged His holiness.


[He swore but once the deed was done;

'Twas settled by the Three One;

Christ was appointed to redeem

All that the Father loved in Him.]


Hail! sacred union, firm and strong,

How great the grace, how sweet the song,

That worms of earth should ever be

One with incarnate Deity!


[One in the tomb, one when He rose,

One when He triumphed o’er His foes,

One when in heaven He took His seat,

While seraphs sang all hell’s defeat.]


This sacred tie forbids their fears,

For all He is or has is theirs;

With Him, their Head, they stand or fall,

Their life, their surety, and their all.”


[The sinner’s Peace, the Daysman He,

Whose blood should set His people free;

On them His fond affections ran,

Before creation’s work began]


Blest be the wisdom and the grace,

Th’ eternal love and faithfulness,

That’s in the Gospel scheme revealed,

And is by God the Spirit sealed.”











Don Fortner



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[i]    Date:              Danville — Sunday Morning — July 31, 2011

                           Sovereign Grace Fellowship, Booneville, NC — (08/09/11)


     Reading:        Psalm 24:1-10 and Song of Solomon 2:1-17

     Tape:             John #127