John 20:1-18

1 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.

[The first day of the week] On what we call Sunday morning, the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. As Christ had been buried in haste, these holy women had brought aromatics, Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1, to embalm his body afresh, in a more complete manner than it could have been done by Joseph and Nicodemus. John mentions only Mary of Magdala because he appears to wish to give a more detailed history of her conduct than any of the rest. The other evangelists speak of three persons who went together to the tomb; Mary of Magdala, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. (Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:1).

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.

[Then she runneth] This was after the women had seen the angels who said he was risen from the dead, see Luke 24:4-6. She told not only Peter and John, but the other apostles also, Matthew 28:8, but only the two disciples mentioned above went to the tomb to see whether what she had said was true.

[They have taken him away] In her hurry and confusion she mentions nothing of the angels. She may not have been sure in her own mind what it was she had seen.

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.

[He went not in] Why? Because he could see that the body was not there. He may have been a little winded or even a little timid in the face of such an unexpected event.

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.

[The linen clothes...and the napkin] The providence of God ordered these very small matters so that they become the fullest proofs against the lie of the chief priests, that the body had been stolen away by the disciples. If the body had been stolen away, those who took it would not have stopped to strip the clothes from it, and to wrap them up and lay them in separate places.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

[That other disciple saw...and believed] John saw that the body was not there and believed that it had been taken away as Mary had said. See what follows.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

[They knew not the scripture] See Psalm 16:9-10 and Acts 2:25-28.

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,

[The disciples went away] Jesus was not there and they knew not where he was, so they went home to await further developments. Mary could not bring herself to leave.

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.

[They have taken away my LORD] It is possible that the body of the Lord was put there temporarily, to remain there over the Sabbath, and that later they might carry it to a more proper place. John 19:42. She probably attributed the removal to some of the disciples or some of his friends.

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.

[Supposing him to be the gardener] That Mary was nearly overcome with grief is evident. She had seen angels twice and had not yet made the connection that something wonderful had happened. Even as she saw Jesus standing near she did not recognize him or his voice.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

[Mary.] This word was no doubt spoken with uncommon emphasis; and the usual sound of Christ's voice accompanied it, so as to immediatly bring recognition to her heart. Let it be remarked that Mary Magdalene sought Jesus more fervently and continued more affectionately attached to him than any of the rest; therefore Jesus was pleased to show himself to her first, and she was made the first herald of the Gospel of the risen savior.

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.

[Touch me not] The Greek phrase used here is often translated "cling not to me." Go, carry this message to the brethren.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

[Told the disciples] In Mark 16:9-11 we read that the afflicted apostles could not believe what she had said. They seem to have considered it an effect of her troubled imagination.
If the apostles, who had been with Jesus and heard him teach, had difficulty believing that he was risen, how much more difficult it must be for men and women today? We must not be bitter toward unbelievers and write them off as unreachable. Our instructions are to lovingly and persistently present to them the Word of God so that they might come to know our Savior. Matthew 28:19-20.

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 02/06/2007

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