The Gospel of John, chapter 20 reveals how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ resurrection. Not surprisingly, they were skeptical when the news began to trickle down to them. We read how they became witnesses to the most remarkable event in history.

The First Eyewitnesses

I believe John reveals how the witnesses came to believe in the resurrection and provides their testimony in order to dispel the lies and rumors about it. First, we have the witness of Mary. She thought someone had taken Jesus’ body, and knowing that he had died a few days earlier, perhaps she draws what might be a legitimate conclusion in any other case of death. Yet Mary sees Jesus and becomes the first witness to this triumph.

Second, Peter and John came to the tomb but left puzzled and confused. Only later were they privileged to see him alive. They also were not quick to believe he had risen; they needed convincing. He appeared to them on numerous occasions over the next forty days, ate food in their presence, and allowed them to touch him.

A Special Privilege and a Unique Testimony

Third, the disciple we now call Doubting Thomas got a special privilege and uttered a unique and dramatic testimony. Thomas had not been with the others when Jesus revealed himself. He refused to believe until he saw and touched Jesus. Jesus allowed him that privilege, and Thomas’ testimony completely reversed his skepticism. “My Lord and my God,” (20:28) was his response.

Despite Thomas’ unwillingness to believe the testimony of his friends, Jesus allowed him this moment of revelation. Jesus further recognized that many will have to come to faith on the testimony of the disciples and even doubters like Thomas. He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” (20:29).

False Narrative

After their testimony, many refused to believe it, and some hid behind lies. Though at first Mary thought that someone had taken his body, the Sanhedrin bribed those guarding the tomb to say that the disciples had taken the body (Matthew 28:11-15), and many believed this false narrative. The Book of Acts then describes how they tried to stop the preaching of the Gospel though they were unable to refute it. As the message of resurrection and redemption spread, hired thugs in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-8) and mob rule in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) also sought to negate what had happened that resurrection morning.

Choose Your Witness

The Resurrection of Jesus was a seminal moment in history. Believing in it changes our fear of death into hope for a better life. We choose who we want to believe. You could be one with the soldiers who promoted a rumor because of monetary reward. You could be one of the hostile thugs hired to chase the Apostle Paul out of Thessalonica. You could also be a part of the mob in Ephesus. Some of them were motivated because their income from pagan artifacts was threatened, but some were just swept up in a mob moment.

Or you might want to choose the testimony of the disciples. Remember that many of them didn’t believe at first but came around when Jesus presented himself to them. They were eyewitnesses to something extraordinary. Who will you choose to believe? The liars, the thugs, the mob, or the eyewitnesses? John tells us that he wrote the account of Jesus so that we might believe and, by believing, have life. Getting life by believing John and the other eyewitnesses sure sounds like the best choice.

© 2023 Robert T Weber, The Lazarus Chronicles, and Words Done Right LLC

Listen to a brief conversation starter on John 20 here.