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John 20.19-23 – On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending 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, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus’ first words to his followers are a gift. “Peace be with you” (verses 19, 21) in essence means, his love, his forgiveness, his favor and his blessings are for them.
When Jesus showed them his hands and his side, he was giving them the basis for peace he was offering. He was literally and bodily alive from the dead. Three days earlier he was crucified in the midst of some loving women and John. Now, he stood among them alive from the dead.
We do well to remember that Jesus always wants to stand in the very center of our lives. It is his will to be present with his peace, forgiveness, love, favor and blessing in the midst of all that takes place with us.
Our English word, “glad,” (verse 20) doesn’t begin to express the pure joy of the disciples. They were ecstatic and beyond glad to see their friend and Lord alive from the dead.
The Greatest Opportunity
Each Gospel (Matthew 28.28-20, Mark 16.15-16; Luke 24.48-49) ends, and the Book of Acts (Acts 1.7-8) begins with the greatest opportunity people can imagine. God invites us to continue the work of his Beloved Son.
John wrote this about the opportunity to join Jesus in his work, “he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20.22-23).
Christians sometimes feel that continuing the work of Jesus is a burden and too difficult a task. Others assign the ministry as only for “special,” extra-ordinary followers and don’t participate in it.
I’d like to discourage you from trying to escape joining Jesus in his continued ministry through you. God’s greatest work was and is the redemption of the world. He loved the world so much that he gave his only Son to set us free from sin and death (John 3.16). If we feel we are inconvenienced or too put-upon by God’s plan for our involvement, we are actually missing out on a great privilege. He wants us to experience the joy of helping others experience a full and abundant life.
If I had not been a partner in Jesus’ ministry, my last 50 years would have been quite impoverished. Because I took seriously Jesus’ call to join in his continuing ministry, I was a part of the following stories, and many more.
— Twice, I experienced the baptism of a grandmother, a mother and a granddaughter on the same day.
— A sixty-something Mississippi racist became a friend of Jesus, moderated his racist views, and became a vibrant minister to nursing homes.
— Approximately 35 teenagers living in public housing met Jesus and were mentored by loving believers. Two became pastors, some entered the military, and all but one family were lifted from poverty.
— Maywood Baptist Church people know the stories of multiple miracles of God’s redeeming love.
The greatest privilege any human being can experience is to work beside the Greatest Being of All in the greatest project of all. This ministry is for all of us!
No One Left Behind
John 20.24-31 – Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Thomas is a great example of the need for everyone to have their own personal experience with Jesus. He was not willing to settle for a second-hand knowledge of the resurrected Jesus. I believe Jesus honored Thomas’ desire for personal knowledge of his resurrected life.
Jesus wants people in every generation to know him personally, and he has provided an opportunity for that to happen. His words to Thomas include all of us in the gift of a personal relationship with him: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (verse 29).
Praise God for what has been written in John and the entire Bible. John is absolutely correct that “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (verse 31).
God’s Amazing Offer
Reflect with me as we remember the big themes of John’s Gospel. This is what he has written for us to believe.
(1) Everything written in the book is so that we may trust our lives to Jesus and experience abundant life, what Dallas Willard calls “the Jesus-kind-of-life.” (John 20.31).
(2) Jesus came to reveal to us what God is actually like (John 1.18).
(3) Every page in the Gospel of John contains the story of a personal God in the person of his Son, Jesus, relating to people. God is very personal and desires to have a personal relationship with people like you and me.
(4) Jesus came to bring glory to the Father’s character and nature (John 12.28). He did so by revealing in the most dramatic way possible on the cross God’s love for and personal interest in people.
(5) People like us can begin a new life in a friendship relationship with Father through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (John 3.16). As we trust our lives to Jesus in this friendship relationship, we will live the best life possible (John 10.10b). At the time of our death, we will simply move to a new level of life in heaven (John 11.25-27).
With Paul we say in praise of God, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8.31-32).
Dear Father, Son and Holy Spirit: What can we say, but praise your name! You have done all things well and we praise you for every good and perfect gift that has come to us from you. Amen.