John 20:19-31 (NRSV)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews,
The disciples were full of fear when Jesus appeared in the locked house. They had seen what the Jewish leaders had done to Jesus, and they were afraid they might be next.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
After their cowardly desertion of Jesus on Friday, they may have been expecting a rebuke from him. But our kindly Lord knows our weaknesses, and instead “stood among them” and offered peace. He does the same for us today. Peace be with you!
21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
He showed them His hands and His side: Jesus gives assurance to the disciples about who He is and that He really has risen from the dead.
As the Father has sent Me, I also send you: Jesus gives His disciples a mission, to continue His work on this earth.
Receive the Holy Spirit: Jesus gives His disciples the Holy Spirit, bringing new life and the ability to carry out their mission. Many people see the connection between this breathing on the disciples and when God created man, and breathed the breathe of life in him. This is a work of re-creation, even as God breathed life into the first man. This is where the disciples are born again.
If you forgive the sins of any: Jesus gives His disciples authority to announce forgiveness and to warn of guilt, as authorized by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus and Thomas
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
To Thomas, the Cross was only what he had expected. When Jesus had proposed going to Bethany, after the news of Lazarus’ illness had come, Thomas’ reaction had been: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Thomas never lacked courage, but he was the natural pessimist. There can never be any doubt that he loved Jesus. He loved him enough to be willing to go to Jerusalem and die with him when the other disciples were hesitant and afraid. What he had expected had happened, and when it came, for all that he had expected it, he was broken-hearted, so broken-hearted that he could not meet the eyes of men, but must be alone with his grief.
So it happened that, when Jesus came back again, Thomas was not there; and the news that he had come back seemed to him far too good to be true, and he refused to believe it. Belligerent in his pessimism, he said that he would never believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had seen and handled the print of the nails in his hands and thrust his hand into the wound the spear had made in Jesus’ side.
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Thomas is a good example for us in many ways. He refused to say he understood when he didn’t, he refused to pretend to believe when he didn’t. And when he did understand and believe, he went all the way and properly called Jesus Lord and God.
The Purpose of This Book
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
May we say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God! Yes, I believe!”
HERE is a musical benediction — “May the Peace of God.” Words and music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend and sung by Kristyn Getty.
1) Thomas missed seeing Jesus the first time because he was not meeting with the other believers. What does that say to you about the importance of Christian fellowship? Have you experienced the presence of Christ in the midst of a gathering of those who love the Lord?
2) Lift up your hearts! We lift them up unto the Lord! Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God! Thank God for Christ’s resurrection!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.