Jesus appears to his disciples. 20:19-29
All the gospels, other than Mark, recount Jesus' resurrection appearances. John's resurrection stories are particular to his gospel, but still fit with the accounts of the other gospel writers. John, in the passage before us, records two resurrection appearances, both in a locked room: The first with ten disciples, Judas and Thomas not being present; The second, a week later, with Thomas present.
v19. The disciples, apart from Judas and Thomas, have gathered secretly for fear of the authorities, and although the room is locked, Jesus miraculously appears in their midst.
v20. Jesus shows them his wounds, obviously to assure them that he is not just a spirit. They are overjoyed.
v21. Jesus then commissions his disciples to mission, a mission defined by his own ministry. "Their mission proceeds from His", Leon Morris. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, in the same way Jesus sends his disciples into the world.
v22. Jesus then gives his disciples the means for mission - the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit of Christ, his very person with them to enable them. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, as recorded by Luke, may represent the same event, Pentecost being the actual realization of the diverse empowering of the disciples for ministry.
v23. Jesus goes on to give his disciples the authority to forgive sins. This authority is not given to a priestly class, nor even to individual Christians. It is an authority given to the church, not the institution, but the fellowship of believers. It is not an authority to forgive or retain particular sins, but sin generally as it relates to the gospel. We have the authority to proclaim the gospel of God's grace and to announce God's forgiveness and eternal acceptance to all those who repent and believe.
v24-25. John goes on to record Jesus' appearance to Thomas. This story reinforces how a disbelieving band of Jesus' disciples came to recognize the fact of the resurrection. Thomas does not believe that Jesus could be alive and so demands proof. He is probably no more disbelieving than the rest of the disciples, but of course, they had now seen for themselves.
v26. "A week later", that is, "eight days", which by inclusive counting means the following Sunday, the disciples are together again in a locked room.
v27. Jesus appears and calls on Thomas to believe.
v28. For Thomas, seeing is believing. His response is to proclaim "my Lord and my God." The word "Lord" was a title of respect like "Sir". It was sometimes used to address Jesus, carrying the same weight as "teacher". It was also used to address the Deity and obviously this is how Thomas is using it here. It soon became the common title of respect used when addressing Jesus. To address Jesus as "God" is a most amazing statement of adoration, especially for a Jew. Clearly, no human can rise from the dead of their own accord; Jesus' resurrection proclaims who he is.
v29. Thomas believed by seeing; blessed are those who believe without seeing. Jesus may be pronouncing a special blessing on those who do better than Thomas, but probably not. Nor is he rebuking Thomas. All who follow will have to believe without seeing, and blessed are they when they do.
When the disciples gathered with Jesus on the Sunday evening of his resurrection, he gave them a word which applies to all believers in every age. As Jesus was sent into the world by the Father, so he sends us into the world. This is a commission for all believers.
The mission is a simple one. As Jesus said at the beginning of his ministry, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God ....... because that is why I was sent", Lk.4:43. Our commission is to make known the free grace of God offered in Jesus Christ. In simple terms, we must communicate the great truth of Jesus' resurrection and its implication, namely that because he lives we can live also. So, we offer eternal life, a gift given to all who ask.
For the Christian church there is great honour in Christ's commission:
i] We are honoured to mission together. We can team up to do it, using our different abilities. Jesus gave the commission to his gathered disciples and so as a church we can together plan our strategy for making the gospel known.
ii] We are honoured with the presence and power of Jesus in the task. Jesus poured the Spirit upon his disciples and we are similarly washed - we are not alone in the task. Jesus is intimately involved with us as we undertake his commission.
iii] We are honoured with the right to offer the forgiveness of sins. When we see a minister give the absolution in a church service we may assume that only he can forgive sins. The truth is he but represents the people of God; together we have the right to offer God's forgiveness and eternal acceptance to anyone who repents and believes the good news.
Like Thomas, doubts will assail us, but Christ is risen, such that his commission rests on his resurrection power. So, let us rest firmly on that power.
What practical implications apply to evangelism with regard the truth that all believers have received the Holy Spirit?
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