John 19:38-20:31: Discipleship After The Death Of Jesus -- By: Ken Chan
Conspectus 15:1 (March 2013) p. 57
John 19:38-20:31: Discipleship After The Death Of Jesus
Most commentaries see John 19:42 as the end of the description of Jesus’ death and burial, and 20:1 as the beginning of his resurrection account. While this is true of the chronology in the life of Jesus, how does the narrative account of Jesus contribute to John’s aim in 20:30-31? This article suggests that the narrative after the death of Jesus in 19:38-20:31 presents two patterns of discipleship: (a) those whose faith is based on seeing the resurrected Jesus, and (b) those who follow him even without having seen his resurrected body. A detailed investigation in the Johannine text of the responses of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, Peter, the beloved disciple, Mary Magdalene, and Thomas to the death of Jesus shows that the passage in question is structured chiastically. John 19:38-42 is tied to John 20 and balances 20:30-31. The intent of this chiasm is to emphasise the fact that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are disciples par excellence. Their willingness to follow Jesus after his death, even when they did not have the chance to see him resurrected, is exactly the kind of faith called for by John
Conspectus 15:1 (March 2013) p. 58
in 20:30-31. The beloved disciple fits this mould to a lesser extent, whereas Thomas and Mary Magdalene do not.
1. The Problem
John 19-20 is normally understood to be about the chronology of Jesus. This can be seen in the division labels of UBS3, where Jesus’ crucifixion begins in 19:16, the ‘death of Jesus’ in 19:28, the ‘piercing of Jesus’ side’ in 19:31, the ‘burial of Jesus’ in 19:38, the ‘resurrection of Jesus’ in 20:1, and what happened after the resurrection of Jesus thereafter. This view is widely supported across confessional divides in the literature, as shown in table 1 below.