The Passion Narrative, 18:1-20:31

2. The resurrection of Jesus, 20:1-31

iii] Jesus appears to his disciples


On Sunday evening the disciples are gathered esw, "inside", somewhere, with the doors shut, when Jesus appears. After revealing his injuries he provides the disciples with their mission directive, equipping them for service and giving them the authority to forgive sins. Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared, and so doubts the account of his fellow disciples, but eight days later Jesus appears again, dispelling any doubts that Thomas may have had. In the final verses of this chapter our author records his editorial intention.


Blessed are those who believe without seeing.


i] Context: See 18:1-11.


ii] Structure: Jesus appears to his disciples:

A Monday evening appearance, v19-23:

"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you";

"Receive the Holy Spirit";

"If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven."

Doubting Thomas, v24-25:

"Unless I see the marks in his hands."

A second appearance to the disciples and Thomas, v26-29:

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Editorial intention, v30-31:

"That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,

the Son of God, and that by believing,

you may have life in his name."


iii] Interpretation:

All the gospels, other than Mark, recount Jesus' resurrection appearances. John's resurrection stories are particular to his gospel, but still align with the accounts of the other gospel writers. In the passage before us John records two resurrection appearances, both in a locked room. The first with ten disciples; obviously Judas is missing, but also Thomas is not present. The second, a week later, with Thomas present. Luke records a meeting of the disciples with Jesus on the Sunday evening in the upper room, but other than Jesus showing them his wounds, the stories have little in common.


Jesus' appearance to the disciples is miraculous. They are inside a building somewhere in Jerusalem, possibly the upper room, with the doors locked, and Jesus appears in their midst. Although this is the Jesus they know, given his appearance and the wounds from his crucifixion, his spiritual presence is not restrained by solid walls.

Jesus' greeting is traditional, although carries weight, given that Jesus repeats it. On repeating it, Jesus gives the disciples their mission directive. In the same way Jesus was sent by the Father to save broken humanity from inevitable destruction, so Jesus sends his disciples out into the darkness to provide the light of life. By breathing on the disciples Jesus enacts Genesis 2:7, of the breathing of life into the first man, Adam. This act serves as a preemptive filling of the Spirit realized at Pentecost; it is the breath of life equipping the Christian community to fulfill its mission directive. To this Jesus provides the authority to deal with sinful humanity; he gives the disciples the authority to declare God's forgiveness to the penitent. So, v19-23, record both "a symbolic promise of the soon-to-be-given gift of the Spirit", Kostenberger, and a gospel authorization of the disciples. In so doing, John emphasizes the fulfillment of promises made earlier to the disciples:

"I am coming back", 14:18;

The gift of peace, 14:27;

Renewed joy, 16:22;

The commission - to be sent as Jesus was sent, 17:18;

The promise of the Spirit, 16:7.

Moving on to the Thomas narrative, a man who 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 harshly rebuking Thomas. All who follow will have to believe without seeing, and blessed are they when they do. So, in the second narrative, v24-29, John uses the account of Thomas' journey to faith as the journey required of all those who have never seen Jesus. Our confession should mimic the confession of Thomas; "my Lord and my God." "Blessed are those who have never seen me and yet believe."

Finally, John's editorial intention, v30-31, establishes the purpose of the gospel, identifying selectivity with regard Jesus' signs / significant acts in order to prompt belief and the present appropriation of life eternal.

These final verses do present like a conclusion, leaving chapter 21 as a kind of afterthought, but it is very unlikely that this is John's intention, cf. 1Jn.5:13, for a similar stylistic move. There is certainly no textual evidence that chapter 21 is a later inclusion. Yes, John is winding up his gospel, and so takes time out to explain its purpose, but at the same time there are some important issues to tie off. First, John wants to underline the commissioning of the disciples to mission - they are to be fishers of men. Second, the restoration of Peter to his position of authority. Third, there is the issue of authorship and how that relates to the beloved disciple and the urban myth that he would not die before Jesus returns.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 20:19

Jesus' upper-room appearances, v19-31: i] The appearance of Jesus to his disciples, v19-23.

oun "-" - therefore. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

oushV (eimi) part. gen. "-" - being [early evening]. The genitive participle of the verb to-be with the genitive noun "evening" form a genitive absolute construction, temporal; "when it was evening."

th/ mia/ sabbatwn "on the first day [of the week]" - on the first [of the week]. The dative is temporal, while the genitive sabbatwn, "week", is adjectival, partitive, as NIV. Does John mean late afternoon, given that once the sun sets it is the next day, Tuesday? He may be using Roman time where the new day begins at midnight. "On the evening of that same Sunday", CEV.

kekleismenwn (klaiw) gen. perf. pas. part. "locked" - [and the doors] having been shut. The genitive participle with the genitive noun "door" forms a genitive absolute construction; "while the doors were bolted so no one could break in."

dia + acc. "for" - because of. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the doors are shut.

twn Ioudaiwn "the Jews" - [the fear] of the jews]. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, objective, fear prompted by the Jews and their murderous intentions. "The Jewish authorities", TEV.

esth eiV to meson "[Jesus came and] stood in the midst / stood among them" - [jesus came and] stood into the middle. The preposition eiV, "into", carries here both a sense of motion toward and at rest in.

autoiV dat. pro. "[said]" - [says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

uJmin dat. pro."[peace be] with you" - [peace] to you. Dative of interest, advantage; "I pray that it may be well for you", although often taken as adverbial, accompaniment; "it may be well with you", TH.


eipwn (legw) aor. part. "after he said [this]" - [and] having said [this]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "[he showed] them" - [he showed the hands and the side] to them. Dative of indirect object. Note that there is no mention of wounds on the feet. The Romans would often tie the feet to the upright, leaving a small platform to stand on, so prolonging the execution for up to a week, cf., Ps.22:16. Luke mentions the feet, cf., 24:39-40.

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "then the disciples were glad", ESV.

ecarhsan (cairw) aor. pas. "were overjoyed" - [the disciples] rejoiced. "The disciples were thrilled with joy", Williams.

idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "when they saw [the Lord]" - having seen [the lord]. The participle is adverbial, probably introducing a temporal clause as NIV, but causal, "because", is possible. Again "Lord" is used in its full Christological sense - Jesus is the risen Lord. "The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord", NJB.


With dependence on the Father, the Son is sent to bring life to the world, so in like manner the disciples are sent to bring life to the world, cf., 17:18. Although, if we limit ourselves to the present text, what we have here is an authorization to go into the world as representative of the new Israel, the messianic community of believers, so Ridderbos.

palin adv. "-" - [therefore jesus said] again [to them, peace to you]. Adverb of manner, sequential. "Jesus said to them again."

kaqwV ...... kagw "as ....." - in like manner, as ....... so also [i send you]. A comparative construction formed by the comparative kaqwV and the adjunctive crasis kagw, "so I in turn", Harris. The manner of the sending of Jesus may be compared with the manner of the sending of the disciples. "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you", ESV

apostalken (apostellw) perf. "has sent" - [the father] has sent [me]. The perfect tense indicating the action is completed with ongoing ramifications.

pempw pres. "I am sending" - i send / am sending you. The present tense indicating ongoing action, as NIV, although some argue that this should not be stressed; "as the Father has sent me so I send you", NAB.


John is possibly alluding to the divine breath in the creation of life, Gen.2:7. The seeming clash with Luke's account of Pentecost may be explained by this event being preparatory, although Phillips tries to handle the problem by translating "receive the Holy Spirit", NIV, with "receive holy spirit", given that there is no definite article. One would expect that this is the appropriate moment for the empowering of the disciples for their ministry of forgiveness though the proclamation of the gospel, but its clash with Luke's Pentecost account is not easily explained. Certainly Pentecost is the moment when we witness the outpouring of divine power and so maybe John's account is preemptive ("a symbolic promise of a soon-to-be-given gift of the Spirit", Kostenberger), while Luke's account fleshes out the historical reality. Commentators within the Pentecostal tradition argue for a separate twofold endowment of the Spirit. Harris, for example, argues that this is both the giving of the Spirit for regeneration, and the private empowerment of those present in the upper room (So Thomas misses out - for the moment??).

eipwn (legw) aor. part. "[and] with that" - [and] having said [this]. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "and when he had said this", ESV.

enefushsen (emfusaw) aor. "he breathed" - he breathed on, blew upon them. A hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT. The sense is not "breathed into", but "breathed on", and the breathing is not discriminatory; Jesus breaths on the whole gathering of disciples = all believers, just as God's breath is on all humanity when he breaths on Adam - God breaths the breath of life onto the face of Adam.

autoiV dat. pro. "[and said]" - [and says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

labete (lambanw) aor. imp. "receive" - take, receive, accept, choose [holy spirit]. The translation "receive" is ingrained, but possibly "accept", even "welcome" makes more sense.


The authority bestowed upon the disciples is the authority of a judge, the authority to "bind" and "loose", to condemn and remit in accordance with the law, cf., Matt.16:19b, 18:18. For the disciples, this judgment is based upon a person's response to the gospel - the sins of those who repent are forgiven, but the sins of those who reject the gospel are retained, "they are not forgiven." Although the authority to forgive sins is given to the apostles, it is not unreasonable to argue that it extends to all believers. Of course, it is often argued that this authority is only given to the apostles and therefore ultimately to the church and its priestly class, although the text does not support this view. Barclay argues that the authority is not to forgive sins as such, but rather to proclaim the offer of forgiveness - a reasonable observation. It could be argued that some sins are not capable of forgiveness and are therefore retained in the sense of not forgiven, although the Bible does not support the idea of mortal sins. The only "unforgivable" sin is the sin of rejecting the gospel of God's grace (the sin against the Holy Spirit entails rejecting Jesus). Where there is no repentance there is only judgment, and a believer has the authority to declare this fact.

an tinwn + subj. "if" - if of certain ones = of whoever [you forgive the sins, then they have been forgiven to them]. Introducing an indefinite relative clause which is also conditional. It is not likely to be a conditional clause, 3rd class, where the proposed condition stated in the "if" clause (protasis) has only the possibility of coming true, as NIV. The genitive tinwn, "of a certain one", is adjectival, possessive / verbal, subjective, "the sins that certain people have committed", Novakovic. "Whoever's sins you forgive they stand forgiven them", Beasley-Murray.

afhte (afihmi) aor. subj. "you forgive" - you release. The word "forgive" is emphatic by position. To release a person of the consequence of their sins.

afewntai (afihmi) perf. pas. "they are forgiven / their sins are forgiven" - they have been forgiven. Possibly a proleptic (futuristic) perfect tense, but gnomic, even extensive (where the completion of the past act is emphasized) is more likely; "they have already been forgiven."

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of interest, advantage.

krathte (kratew) pres. subj. "do not forgive" - [if of certain ones = of whoever] you hold, retain, take hold of [ the sins, then they have been held]. The present tense is durative indicating a continued state of holding / binding the sins of the unrepentant. Such results in a "having already been held / bound = not forgiven." Such remains the state of a person unless they repent. "Whoever's sins you hold back, they remain held back", Beasley-Murray.


ii] The appearance of Jesus to Thomas, v24-29. Thomas is mentioned by John at 11:16, 14:5 and 21:2.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, as NIV, introducing a new literary unit.

oJ legomenoV (legw) pres. pas. part. "called [Didymus] / known as [Didymus]" - [thomas, one of the twelve] being called [twin]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Thomas", "who was called Twin." As a nickname, "Twin", seems a bit far fetched, but I knew a person who was called "brother", a nickname given by his older siblings and picked up by all his friends. "His nickname was 'Twin.'"

ek + gen. "[one] of [the twelve]" - out of, from. The preposition here stands in the place of a partitive genitive.

met (meta) + gen. "[was not] with [the disciples]" - [was not] with [them]. Expressing association / accompaniment.

o{te adv. "when [Jesus came]" - Temporal.


It's not unreasonable for Thomas to doubt the disciple's testimony, just as we have reservations when a brother or sister tells us that Jesus spoke to them. One young fellow assured me once that Jesus told him to marry the girl of his dreams. His leading on this matter put the girl in a rather invidious position! So, Thomas has doubts regarding the facts of the matter, a not necessarily unreasonable stance, so Lee in Partnership in Easter Faith, 1995, contra most commentators, eg., Kostenberger. Whatever Thomas was thinking, our author seems to compare him unfavorably with the beloved disciple who believes that Jesus is risen without the physical evidence of his living person.

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "so, consequently, ..."

elegon (legw) imperf. "[the other disciples] told" - [the other disciples] were saying. The imperfect may express ongoing action, "they kept saying to him", Morris, although possibly conative, "attempted to tell him", so Beasley-Murray.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

eJwrakamen (oJraw) perf. "we have seen" - we have seen [the lord]. They, as with Mary, have seen the Lord, cf. v18.

oJ de "but" - but/and the = he [said to them]. Transitional, indicating a step to a new speaker.

ean hm + subj. "unless [I see]" - if not = unless, as the case may be, [i see the mark of the nails in the hands of him ........, then i will not not believe.] Introducing a negated conditional clause, 3rd class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming true.

twn h{lwn (oV) gen. "[the] nail [marks]" - [the marks, image, pattern] of the nails. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "marks"; "the nail scars", CEV.

en + dat. "in [his hands]" - in, on [the hands of him]. Expressing space; "unless I see on his hands the imprint of the nails."

balw (ballw) aor. subj. "put [my finger .... hand]" - [and] i throw, cast = put [the finger of me into the place of the nails and] i put [my hand into the side of him. A strong word, so "thrust."

ou mh + subj. "[I will] not [believe it]" - [i will] not not = never [believe]. The double negative with the subjunctive produces a subjunctive of emphatic negation, "I will never believe"; "I refuse to believe", NJB.


iii] A second appearance to the disciples, v26-29. The next Sunday, a further visit by the risen Lord in the same house, and again, the doors are locked, not just closed. In a miraculous manifestation, Jesus appears in their midst. Barrett suggests that John may be making a point by recording another Sunday appearance; "the day of the church's regular assembly."

meq (meta) + acc. "[a week later]" - [and] after [eight days]. Temporal use of the preposition. This form of inclusive counting means the following Sunday, rather than Monday.

esw "in the house" - [the disciples of him were again] inside. "Were indoors together again", Barclay.

met (meta) + gen. "[Thomas was] with [them]" - [and thomas] with [them]. Expressing association.

kekleismenwn (lkeiw) gen. perf. part. "though [the doors] were locked" - [jesus comes, the doors] having been locked, closed, shut. The genitive participle with the genitive noun "doors" forms a genitive absolute construction. Such would normally be temporal, but concessive makes more sense here. None-the-less, temporal is possible; "When the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them", Barclay.

eiV meson "among them" - [and stood] into [the middle]. Spacial, here arrival at.

uJmin dat. pro. "[peace] be with you" - [and said, peace] to you. Dative of advantage; cf., v19.


Jesus virtually repeat's Thomas' words back to him. John doesn't tell us whether Thomas does touch Jesus, but the implication is that he could have done so if he wished.

ei\ta adv. "then" - Sequential adverb serving to introduce a temporal clause.

tw/ Qwma/ (a aV) "[he said] to Thomas" - [he says] to thomas, [bring the finger of you here and see the hands of me, and bring the hand of you and put into the side of me]. Dative of indirect object.

mh ginou apistoV "stop doubting" - do not be unbelieving. The command takes a present imperative. The distinction often drawn between an aorist and present imperative is questioned by some commentators, but many argue that the present imperative relates to ongoing action, here the cessation of that action, so "stop doubting"; "be unbelieving no longer, but believe", REB. As for the use of pistoV here, Beasley-Murray suggests "Stop being unbelieving and show yourself a believer."

alla "but [believe]" - but [believing]. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction, "not .... but ....", as NIV.


Seeing is enough for Thomas; "You are my Lord and my God", Bruce. Clearly "Lord" is not being used as "Sir", but rather, Thomas recognizes Jesus as God incarnate, so Ridderbos, Morris, ...... Yes, seeing is believing, but ......

oJ kurioV (oV) "[My] Lord" - [thomas answered and said to him] the lord [of me and the god of me]. Although nominative, it is usually taken as a vocative; "you are the one who rules over me, and you are the God whom I worship", TH.


John has made it clear throughout his gospel that faith based on sight (a miracle based faith) has little going for it; God's blessing is upon those who believe the apostolic testimony without seeing; it is only this faith which serves as "the pathway to eternal life, a faith which transcends living merely in terms of physical presence and earthly relationships", Kostenberger.

oJti "because" - [jesus says to him] because [you have seen me you have believed]. Here probably causal, introducing a causal clause. The NIV takes the clause as a statement, "because you have seen me you have found faith", NEB, but a question is possible, "Have you believed because you have seen me?", NRSV. Either a question or a statement is possible, given that Greek manuscripts at this time did not use a semicolon to indicate a question. Either way, Jesus' words are a gentle rebuke to Thomas; he was unwilling to believe the apostolic testimony that Jesus lives, and would only believe if he could see the evidence for himself. For this reason, he stands apart from all who believe without seeing.

makarioi adj. "blessed" - blessed, happy. Referring to a state of joy in response to benefiting from God's favor; "happy are those who find faith without seeing me", REB.

oi mh idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "are those who have not seen" - the ones not having seen [and having believed]. The participle, as with pisteusanteV, "having believed", serves as a substantive, while the aorist is probably gnomic, expressing a universal truth without reference to time.


iv] An editorial comment regarding the careful selection of Jesus' words and deeds recorded in this gospel, and this for a deliberate purpose, namely, to reveal Jesus as the messiah (or the messiah as Jesus, so Carson) and so provoke saving faith, v30-31. John identifies the content of his testimony concerning Jesus as "the signs" performed by Jesus, only some of which are recorded in this gospel. John may be referring to the signs revealed in chapters 1-12. As far as John's testimony is concerned, "signs" (significant events) come with their own related discourse, so it is unlikely that John is referring to the "significant event" by itself (some have argued that John is referring to a signs source for his gospel, but this seems unlikely). As John rounded off the preliminary record of Jesus' "signs" in chapters 1-12 (cf., 12:37ff), now he rounds off the greatest "sign" of all, namely Jesus' resurrection, the meaning of which he unpacked in the farewell discourse. John's witness / testimony about Jesus has as its intent faith in Jesus as messiah, such that in believing we may have eternal life. Probably in a pastoral sense, namely, to ground the faith of believers, particularly evident in chapters 13 onward, but also to bring doubters to faith (particularly Hellenistic Jews), evident in chapters 1-12.

oun "-" - therefore. Often taken here as transitional, "Now Jesus did many other signs", ESV, but inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, is more likely, so Carson. Divine blessing is upon those who believe without seeing "therefore ......" The men ...., de ... construction covering v30-31 carries the argument forward; "therefore, Jesus having performed many signs ...... but these (the record of Jesus works and words in this book) are written that you may believe ......" A concessive rewrite may carry the meaning more clearly for an English ear; "Given that God's blessing is upon those who believe without seeing, I have therefore provided a limited selection of the works and words of Jesus, although Jesus did and said far more with his disciples than I have recorded in this book, in order that you may believe in Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, and that through believing you may receive, under his authority, eternal life."

men ...... de "- ...... but ......" - This adversative comparative construction covers v30 and 31; "on the one hand Jesus performed many signs not recorded ....... but on the other hand the ones recorded in this book are written down that you may believe ...."

shmeia (on) "miraculous signs" - [many other] signs [jesus and = also did]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to do." "Jesus did many other things .... in which the power of God was demonstrated in action", Barclay.

enwpion + gen. "in the presence of [his disciples]" - before [the disciples of him]. Spacial, but here possibly temporal; "while he was with his disciples."

ouk ... gegrammena (grafw) perf. mid. part. "not recorded" - [which] have not been written [in this book]. With the present tense verb to-be this participle forms a periphrastic perfect construction; "which are not written in this book", ESV.


John's purpose in writing this gospel is to reveal the identity of Jesus, namely that he is the messiah / the messiah is Jesus, and to encourage belief in this fact for the attainment of eternal life.

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "written" - [but/and these things] have been written. Perfect indicating completion of the writing; what is written is written.

iJna + subj. "that" - in order that. Here introducing a purpose clause.

pisteushte (pisteuw) aor. subj. "you may believe" - Variant present tense giving the possible sense "you may continue to believe", a pastoral sense, rather than the aorist "you may decisively believe", an evangelistic sense. Both readings are well supported, but it is unlikely that either can be used to settle the matter. Either tense can "refer to both coming to faith and continuing in the faith", Carson; "That you may believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus."

oJti "that" - that [jesus is the christ, the son of god]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what "you may believe."

iJna + subj. "that [by believing you may have life]" - [and] that. Again possibly introducing a purpose clause, but a consecutive clause expressing result may be a better option; "and so (as a consequence) gain life by believing."

pisteuonteV (pisteuw) pres. part. "by believing" - believing. The participle is adverbial, probably modal, expressing manner, so NIV, although instrumental may be better; "through this faith", REB.

en tw/ onomati autou "in his name" - [you may have life] in the name of him. The preposition en may be expressing space/sphere, with the sense of incorporative union, such that God's gift of eternal life is found in / in union with his Son - "name" = person; "in union with the person of Christ", so "in him", CEV. "The name" can carry the sense "the authority of", such that en would then take an instrumental sense, "by, through, with = by means of the authority of Jesus"; "under his authority."


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