19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
- On Easter evening, Jesus himself appears, walking through a closed door (v.19).
- The doors were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. The psychological state of the disciples is depressed. They seem to have lost hope. What can explain the metamorphosis in the apostles? (See Acts 4:13.) The resurrection of Christ from the dead explains it perfectly.
- Jesus, in his resurrection body, walks through closed doors.
- He wishes them peace (shalom); on the cross he had cried out "It is finished!" (tetelestai); the two are connected. Now there is peace between God and man, as a result of his atoning death. See Romans 5:1ff.
- Jesus shows them his wounds (v.20).
- Again he wishes them shalom (v.21), and commissions them -- or reminds them of their commission -- as apostles (sent ones).
- He breathes on them (v.22), giving them the Holy Spirit.
- The breathing in to them is reminiscent of Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9-10. They are being created anew.
- This can also be read as a prophetic action, illustrating that they will receive the Spirit (at Pentecost).
- In verse 23 he also gives the apostles the right to grant or refuse remission of sins (in baptism).
- The verb is perfect: the sins have been forgiven or possibly will have been forgiven. That is, the apostles are not forgiving sins themselves, but ratifying the action of God in forgiving others through Christ.
- There is a similar passage in Matthew 18:18, in the context of church discipline.
- He breathes on them (v.22), giving them the Holy Spirit.
- Thomas (Didymus, the Greek word for twin) was absent Easter evening, and expresses his skepticism (vv.24-25). But one week later (Sunday night) he is present when Jesus appears. Again Jesus walks through closed doors (v.26).
- His doubt confronted and overturned, Thomas sees the wounds and confesses his faith. (Despite the depictions of several famous paintings, it seems doubtful that he put hand into Jesus' wounds.)
- Thomas realizes that Jesus is Lord and God. He is the same Deity who appears in all of scripture. Notice that Jesus makes no effort to correct this perception, for he is God (1:1,14,18; 10:30).
- This passage shows us that God understands our need for evidence, for proof. Doubt can be constructive, and can be an important element in building genuine faith.
- Once our questions have been answered, God expects us to respond in faith and obedience.
- "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (v.29).
- Most persons, like the readers of John -- and us -- will believe in Christ without seeing any signs. Such faith is highly commended. See 2 Corinthians 5:7.
- Here we also find the second beatitude in John.
- The other is in 13:17.
- More beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:3ff (and parallels in Luke 6:20ff), 11:6; 13:16; 24:46; Acts 20:35; Revelation 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14. But this by no means exhausts the list.
- Jesus' signs are intended to lead us to and reinforce our faith (vv.30-31).
- The writer has selected only a few signs for our benefit. The actual number of miracles Jesus did is much greater.
- It is not necessary to personally witness miracles in order to believe. Reading about them is enough. (For more on this, see Luke 16:31 and another dozen passages in the N.T. stressing the point.)
- Only by faith (believing) can we have life in Jesus' name.
- Faith is a major theme in John. The Greek nouns and verbs appear nearly 90 times in this gospel!
- Do you believe?
- For more on vv.22-23, click here.
- "After eight days" (v.26) is inclusive reckoning (common usage). Thus the events of two consecutive Sundays are recounted.
- Thomas' confession of faith (v.28) stands over against the confession the evil emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) required of his subjects: Dominus et deus noster ("Our Lord and God"). The readers of this gospel would thus have been strengthened to resist temptation to cave in to pressure to join in emperor worship. Emperor worship was especially prevalent at the end of the first century in western Asia Minor -- the location of John's ministry.
- Further to verse 31, there is a similar saying by Rabbi Simeon ben Laqish (c.250 AD): "The proselyte is dearer to God than all the Israelites who stood by Mount Sinai. For if all the Israelites had not seen the thunder, and the flames, and the lightnings, and the quaking mountain, and the sound of the trumpet, they would not have accepted the Law and taken upon themselves the kingdom of God. Yet this man has seen none of all these things, yet comes and gives himself to God. Is there any who is dearer than this man?" (Tanh. 6, 32a.)
- The Greek verb in verse 31 appears in two forms in surviving manuscripts: pisteusete and pisteuete. Though both mean "believe," the first is an aorist, meaning to believe in the sense of coming to faith. The second means to believe or continue to believe. Perhaps we do not have to choose what the writer had in mind, since both are valid responses to the evidence for Christ.
- Most scholars believe that the original gospel ended at verse 31. There are reasons to view chapter 21 as an appendix.
- Can you think of any better explanation than Jesus' resurrection for the stunning transformation in his disciples?
- How much do you relate to Thomas? Do doubt and questioning function in a positive way to build your faith?
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