“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
John 20:20 (NIV)
It was resurrection day. Jesus was very busy appearing to individuals and groups of disciples. First he appeared to women, Mary first (John 20:11-18) and then the other women (Matthew 28:9-10) who had gone to the tomb early in the morning. So women received the highest honour in the resurrection appearances.
Our Lord then appeared to Cleopas and another disciple (Luke 24:13-24), and to Peter privately (1 Corinthians 15:5). Finally, on this first day of the week, our Lord appeared to the disciples as described in our verse for today.
So in a variety of contexts and at different times of the day, Jesus appeared to individuals and to a group of His followers. In John 20:20 we read the words “the disciples were overjoyed“.
We can only imagine the incredible noise and commotion of the disciples as the truth of the resurrection dawned upon them. When they were most fearful (Luke 24:36-38) Jesus came to them and showed the healed wounds of the crucifixion.
As soon as they saw the marks of death on the Saviour they went from terror (Luke 24:37)—thinking they saw a spirit—to being “overjoyed”. Such a profound swing in emotions could only be accomplished in the presence of overwhelming evidence.
The message of the New Testament is that we must believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). The entire Gospel is based on the truth that Jesus came back from the dead.
Only such a truth will keep us standing when tragedy strikes. Only if Jesus is risen from the dead will we be assured that the full price of our sins has been paid. Jesus could only be released from death if He completed the punishment for our sins. Then He had to be released from death as the price had been fully paid.
Even when we suffer we may endure, because we “see” the invisible Saviour (Hebrews 11:27). George Herbert the great English poet ends his poem The Dawning with the following lines concerning the resurrection:
And with His burial linen dry thine eyes.
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears or blood, not want a handkerchief.