Read John 20:19-31
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)
John gives us three accounts of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection. Two are here at the end of Chapter 20 and involve Thomas as the main part of the story. Next week we will look at the third encounter.
In the initial appearing of Jesus, he commissions the new church and the apostles. We see three things happening. In verse 21, Jesus tells them he is sending them. The church consists of a sent people. This is the point we often forget as we gather on our church sites waiting for people to come. We must remember that we are called to go into the world to seek people.
The second point is the receiving of the Holy Spirit. John looks to Genesis in different parts of his writing. Here, he goes back to the creation of Adam where God breathed into the clay to make it come alive. The church goes as it senses the Holy Spirit’s leading. We have been given a guide and again, we don’t always make use of this gift. It has taken me some time to learn the nudging of the Holy Spirit in my life. It is usually looking back that I realize what I was sensing was truly the Holy Spirit and then when that same feeling came again, I could react in the right way.
The final thing is that the early church was given great responsibility. This is a difficult concept. In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This a similar thought to what is said here. And the thought is that the church is the ultimate teacher of God’s word. Jesus has given authority to the church to keep the faith. Now the debate is was this power given to just the disciples and/or Peter, or was it given to the church. Most churches have taken the view that it is given to the church to decide what is right and wrong. But what we see is that each denomination had its own nuances as to what is right and wrong which leads to confusion and separation. But all churches to believe that a faith in Jesus Christ is all that is needed for salvation. Most of what we argue is who to live this life each day.
John then takes us to Thomas. Most people remember Thomas for this part of the Bible. We don’t remember Thomas from earlier in John’s Gospel when Lazarus died. Jesus wants to go back to Lazarus and the disciples say, don’t go because they want to kill us. It is Thomas who stands us and tells the others, “Let us go so that we might die with Jesus.”
Here Thomas feels like he has missed something or the disciples are trying to play a horrible trick on him because he wasn’t with them. We really don’t know. But what we see here is the purpose of the church, to restore people to God. Jesus comes again to Thomas and addresses his concerns so that he might be restored. Jesus came to restore us to God and to restore God’s image in us. This is foundation to the mission of the church, to point people to this restoration that is offered to us by God. We must be a sent church in order to do that.
As you think about the purpose of the church and its calling, how do you see that affecting your life and your purpose? Do you feel part of this calling and purpose?
Are there questions? Comments?
Blessings and Peace