A guide from Patrick Fitzgerald-Lombard O.Carm
Every year, the Gospel for Easter Sunday is Jn 20,1-9. For the 2nd Sunday, the Gospel is always Jn 20,19-23. In year A, the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday is Jn 20,19-23.
The importance of chapter 20 of John's Gospel is therefore great. A note on the chapter as a whole is therefore worth while.
The curious result of these Gospel readings is that the encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdelene (Jn 20,10-18) is never read on Sunday but only on Easter Tuesday. The Church today though does recognise the importance of this encounter. Mary is the first witness of the resurrection to the disciples.
Effectively chapter 20 is the concluding chapter of the Gospel, as is clear from its final verses, Jn 20,30-31. Chapter 21 has always been part of the Gospel from the earliest known copies but it is an epilogue. It tidies up some loose ends, notably a reconciliation between Jesus and Peter.
The key to the whole Gospel is therefore to be found at the end of chapter 20, John 20,30-31, the colophon. Here we are told that these things (the Gospel) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and, believing, have life in his name." Believing in Jesus (always a verb, the noun is never used) is the key to this Gospel. And that believing is a radical total commitment to Jesus the Son of God who became fully human for us. "No one can come to the Father, except through me" (Jn 14,6, a reading familiar from many funerals.)
The key to my reading (unlike many commentators far more eminent than myself), is that these final verses are also an integral part of chapter 20. Indeed,I would say that those verses could not be the conclusion to the whole Gospel without their place as part of chapter 20.
With that in mind, I suggest reading through the whole of chapter 20 noting how "seeing" and "believing" are the key words in the chapter.
At the same time, you will note that there is a centre piece to the chapter and also note that there are five scenes.
Having paused for the read, we can now draw together some conclusions
It is noticeable that there are two encounters between Jesus and named individuals. Mary Magdalene (Jn 20,11-18) is told not to touch Jesus whilst Thomas (Jn 20,24-28) is invited to do so.
That gives us our centrepiece, Jn 20,19-23 when Jesus appears to the disciples and he himself gives them the Holy Spirit (Jn 20,22).
We therefore need to look closely at the two outer scenes, Jn 20,1-10 and Jn 20,30-31, to see what they have in common. The climax to the first scene is the beloved disciple at the tomb: he saw and he believed (Jn 20,8).
The counter to this comes with Jesus's final comment to Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (Jn 20,29).
That beatitude is followed by the final scene, verses 30-31, where as in the first scene, Jesus is absent, not seen. It is an exhortation to believe for all those who accept the witness of the disciples. The beloved disciple of the first scene is our model and example.