Jesus and Abundant Life

 

 

 

A Bible Study of the Gospel of John

 

 

 

Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection – John 18-20

 

The Resurrection Confirmation of the Cross of Christ – John 20

 

John 18, 19, and 20 comprise the second to last section of the Gospel of John; Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection. We have seen The Cause of the Cross of Christ (18) and The Cost of the Cross of Christ (19). In John 20 we will see The Resurrection Confirmation of the Cross of Christ.

 

The apostle Paul was inspired to write that without the resurrection of Jesus none of His atoning work would have been validated as sufficient and just to redeem the sinner from their sins. The resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on the substitutionary cross work of Jesus. The resurrection proves that death, the final enemy, has been defeated. Because Jesus rose from the dead those who put their faith in Christ will too. Hallelujah!

 

How important is the resurrection? Read what Paul was inspired to write:

 

1 Corinthians 15:13–20, 26, 55-58 (NKJV)

 

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

 

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. . . .

 

26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. . . .

 

55   “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

 

56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 

What we see recounted in John 20 is essential for our Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus is what separates Christianity from every other religion. Christ alone defeated death having risen from the dead and through faith in Him alone can death be conquered by anyone else.

 

John 20 (NKJV)

 

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

 

It’s not accidental that the account of the Resurrection begins “early” in the morning “while it was still dark.” It was early in the morning before the break of day that Mary “saw” (Greek blepo) or perceived and beheld that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. If you want the stone rolled away so you can see more of Jesus, if you want the stone rolled away so you can know more of Jesus and see His miraculous power and revelation, coming early in the morning into His presence devotionally is a good way to start.

 

The Lord honors those who put Him first in their day. Early morning devotions are trade secret of those who have been mightily used by the Lord. If you look at the great people of God who He mightily used almost without exception they practiced the habit of rising early to meet devotionally with the Lord.

 

We see meeting early with the Lord throughout the Bible. Abraham rose early to meet with God (Genesis 19:27; 22:3). Jacob rose early to ponder what God had given him in a dream (Genesis 28:16-18). Moses rose early to meet with God (Exodus 24:4; 34:4). Joshua rose early to meet with God (Joshua 3:1). Gideon rose early in the morning to meet with God (Judges 6:38). Hannah rose early to worship the Lord (1 Samuel 1:19). Job rose early in the morning to worship the Lord (Job 1:5). King Hezekiah rose early to go to the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 29:20). David said, “Early will I seek You” (Psalm 63:1; cf. also Psalm 5:3; 57:8; 119:147). The ideal godly woman rises early to start her day (Proverbs 31:15).

 

When we look beyond the Bible into history we see that nearly all of the Church Fathers practiced early morning devotions. Later in history people like John Calvin, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Francis Asbury, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, William Wilberforce, William Carrey, Hudson Taylor, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, William and Catherine Booth, Hannah Whitehall Smith, R.A. Torrey, A.W. Tozer, Corrie Ten Boom, Billy Graham, Chuck Smith and the list could go on and on. There is something about rising early in the morning to meet with God that He honors and blesses. Are you starting your day with the Lord? Are you rising early to meet with Jesus? He’s waiting to meet with you. Hear Christ’s call to rise and shine and meet Him in His presence.

 

But most importantly, Jesus rose early to meet with His Father. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus rose early for His devotional time, so should we (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6; cf. also John 13:15). How’s your morning devotions?

 

The Lord reveals Himself to those who start their day with Him. Mary loved Jesus. Jesus had delivered Mary Magdalene from seven demons (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She was probably up all night waiting to go to the tomb of Jesus. She didn’t know He would be risen, she hoped He might be, just like He said, but she just wanted to be close to Jesus as much as she could, as soon as she could. Mary Magdalene models that hunger and passion for Jesus that we should all have. And the beginning of that hunger and passion begins with seeking to be close to Him early in the day.

 

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

 

Because Mary Magdalene was the first to the tomb she was the first to receive and be able to bring news related to the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples. She had been rewarded for her diligence and was now acting on what she had perceived.

 

Unless we act on what God reveals to us it serves no purpose and profits us nothing. Can you imagine the opportunity Mary Magdalene would have missed out on if she had just kind of shrugged her shoulders and turned away telling no one of the empty tomb she had seen? It would not have deterred the fact of the resurrection, but it would have eliminated her from the story and delayed the news that Jesus had risen from the dead.

 

We need to receive revelation from the Lord. But we also need to act on it. If we don’t act on what God reveals to us when we study His word and hear from Him, it will be useless. If we don’t add acts of faith in implementing God’s revelation we’ve received, we will be stunted in our spiritual growth and fruitless. When you rise early and receive something from the Lord, make sure to share it with others.

 

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

 

 

 

As Peter and John received word of the empty tomb from Mary they both immediately responded. John adds that he outran Peter. It was a race of first responders. They’re sense of immediacy, urgency, eagerness, and priority is something we should follow. When was the last time you received word about the Lord and dropped all you were doing to check into it more? Are you interested in the things of the Lord?

 

 

 

If Peter and John would have shrugged off Mary’s news they would have lagged behind in the account of the greatest event of all time. So often we miss out on what God is doing because of our lackadaisical spirit or lack of interest. We miss out on so much because the things of God aren’t a priority for us. What if Peter and John had said to Mary, “Well isn’t that interesting. Humph. We’re going fishing now, but for sure we’ll check this out later”? No, Peter and John immediately put the empty tomb at the TOP of their to do list. What’s on your “to do” list? Are Jesus and the things of God TOP priority for you? If not, you’re probably missing out on some of the greatest life changing experiences of your life.

 

 

 

And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

 

It’s interesting that the scriptural record indicates there are “linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief.” In other words, there wasn’t just one long cloth such as the Shroud of Turin. This would be evidence to contradict the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

 

 

 

Notice also that the cloths were “folded together in a place by itself.” There was no evidence of a hurriedness or clutter. Jesus was not in a hurry when He rose from the dead. The neatness and order of the scene indicates calmness and peace. Jesus rose from the dead in power, but also in peace. Jesus rose in the peaceful confidence of Almighty God!

 

 

 

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

 

 

 

John was first to the tomb. Once there he stooped down and “saw” (Greek blepo) meaning he simply observed the empty linen cloths (20:5). John arrived first at the tomb, but it was Peter that entered the tomb first. Peter entered the tomb and “saw” (Greek theoreo) meaning as a spectator viewing an event; studying the evidence and thinking about it (20:6). We get the word theory from this Greek term used in verse 6 that is translated “saw.”  But in verse 8 it says when John comes into the tomb after Peter “he saw and believed.” “Saw” (Greek eido) here means to experience, to put together facts and get an idea. We get the English word idea from the Greek term translated “saw” in this verse. As John looked at the evidence an idea formed in his mind and the result was he “believed” (Greek pisteou) or was convinced, came to confidence in, trusted, put his faith in, became willing to rely on what the evidence meant.

 

 

 

There is a natural progression seen here of those who come to faith in Christ. First a person is given some information, data or evidence to observe or hear. Second, the person thinks about what they’ve seen and gathers the evidence; they process the evidence or what they’ve seen or heard. And as the observed facts or heard information percolates within finally you come to personally understand and accept and trust in what you’ve heard or seen; you believe what you have heard, read or seen about Jesus.

 

 

 

This is often how we learn and grow in our walk with the Lord too. At first we may only see words on a page. But as we prayerfully take in God’s word it begins to establish a place in us. As we let God’s word ruminate within the Spirit brings the pieces together and helps us make sense of what God’s word is saying.  If at first you don’t understand what you are reading or studying in God’s word, be patient, pray, let it ruminate within. Meditate on God’s word; think about it; ponder God’s word. The Spirit will help you understand. And then act in faith on what you come to know.

 

 

 

For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

 

 

 

The disciples didn’t fully know the scriptures. They didn’t fully know the scriptures that Jesus “must rise again from the dead.” But they knew enough to believe in Jesus. You don’t have to know everything about Jesus to trust in Him as your Savior and Lord. You don’t have to be a theologian to know Jesus personally as your Savior and Lord. You will grow in your faith. You will eventually come to know scripture more and more. The Spirit will help you with that (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9-14). But trust the Lord based on what He has revealed to you. When you come to something you don’t understand, lean on what you do understand. You don’t have to know everything to believe in Jesus. You don’t have to know it all, you just need to know enough to believe in Jesus. Once you put your trust in Jesus, you will grow in your understanding and knowledge of Him.

 

 

 

The disciples went away “to their own homes.” They separated from each other but they were united in what they had seen at the tomb. They went home no doubt pondering, meditating on what they had seen. And they were no doubt processing all they remembered from Jesus’ teaching and what they had now seen in the empty tomb.

 

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

 

Mary just couldn’t leave. Not only had she seen her Savior Jesus crucified the day before, but now His body was gone. She didn’t understand. All she did know was her heart was broken in grief for Jesus. But when she stooped down into the tomb she saw something amazing.

 

As Mary Magdalene stooped down and looked into the tomb, looking through her teary eyes, she saw “two angels.” The angels were “in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” Now for a Gentile unaware of the Old Testament the imagery might be missed. But for a Jew familiar with the Temple, Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant the imagery of the two angels sitting on either end of where Jesus had been laid would be unmistakable. You see, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant was called the “Mercy Seat” (Exodus 25:17-22, 34; 37:6-9). The Mercy Seat was made of pure gold and had two angels on each end of the cover, facing each other with wings outstretched. The Mercy Seat was where the High Priest once a year made atonement for the nation of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). The empty tomb, with two angels “one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” is a visual confirmation that what the Mercy Seat of old had typified was now fulfilled in Jesus (cf. Hebrews 9).

 

13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

 

Mary was weeping; heartbroken. She had been the first one to the tomb that morning. What was it that drove her, that drew her, early, to the tomb? What was it that kept her there even after the disciples had left? Very simply it was because Jesus was “my Lord.” Jesus was her’s personally. Jesus was all that mattered to Mary. She only cared about Jesus. Jesus was her all in all; the One who took top priority in her life. Who is your all in all? Who or what is your top priority? Is it Jesus? When was the last time you wept for Jesus? When was the last time you stayed for more of Jesus?

 

14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

 

 

 

Mary turned from the angels because, even though they were supernatural beings, they weren’t Jesus. She was interested in merely supernatural phenomena. She missed Jesus. We might have whipped out our IPhone and took some pictures; maybe even some video to post on YouTube or Instagram. But Mary, even if she had an IPhone wouldn’t have cared to take pictures of anyone but Jesus. Are you enthralled with supernatural or curious about the unknown mysteries of supernatural phenomena like ghosts or the occult? None of that superficially tantalizing junk compares to the presence of Jesus. And I think Mary turned from the angels because she sensed in her spirit a Presence.

 

 

 

Sometimes our sorrow keeps us from seeing Jesus. Mary’s eyes were so filled with tears that at first she didn’t recognize Jesus. If you are grieving or sorrowful turn to Jesus. You might not see Him at first. But wait. He will call your name; He will make Himself known to you.

 

 

 

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

 

 

 

Mary knew the voice of Jesus. Jesus had taught that His sheep would know His voice (John 10:4). When Jesus called her name, Mary knew it was Jesus. She had spent time with Jesus. She had been healed by Jesus. Heard Jesus teach and talk. She knew the voice of Jesus. Do you know the voice of Jesus?

 

 

 

The resurrection of Jesus was about to usher Mary into another level of experience with Jesus. When we understand that Jesus is risen from the dead it can usher us into another level of experience with Jesus too.

 

 

 

She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

 

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

 

 

 

A new realization. When Mary realized she was talking to Jesus she evidently put Jesus in a loving bear hug. The word for “cling” (Greek hapto) means adhere to, fasten to, cling to. The grammar of the term meant she was clinging and not letting go (Present/Middle/Imperative). In an instant Mary’s grief was turned to incredible fulfilling joy. That’s what happens when you realize Jesus is with you.

 

 

 

Why did Jesus tell Mary, “Do not cling to Me”? It may have been that she had clung to Him for a prolonged period of time and Jesus wanted her to go and tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want Mary to cling to Him. It was probably because at some point she had to stop clinging to Him. Jesus isn’t being insensitive. Jesus simply has a mission to entrust to Mary.

 

 

 

Jesus added, “for I have not yet ascended to My Father” meaning He was still there. He would ascend to the Father, but not immediately. It was as though Jesus was telling Mary, “Don’t worry, I’m not leaving yet.” And the glorious new realization that Mary and the other disciples would come to know was that Jesus would never leave them again; He would remain with them by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

A new relationship. Jesus wanted Mary to go and tell “My brethren” or “My brothers” that He was alive. The disciples had been Jesus’ servants. He then said they were His “friends” (John 15:15). Now they were His brothers. When you trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord he welcomes you as brethren (Romans 8:15-17, 29; Galatians 3:26; Hebrews 2:11-12)

 

 

 

A new reconciliation. By referring to His disciples as His brothers He was subtly saying He held no grudge about their having forsaken Him. Jesus could have said, “Go tell those weakling spiritual ignorant disciples that I’ve raised from the dead and they better watch out!” He would have been justified in saying that. But Jesus didn’t tell Mary to say that. Jesus is all about reconciliation and He begins the reconciliation of the cross with addressing His disciples as brothers.

 

 

 

A next revelation. Mary was instructed by Jesus to go and tell the disciples the glorious truth that “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Jesus had completed the first leg of His ascension; the resurrection from the dead. With these words Jesus alludes to a revealing next revelation. He would ascend to the Father and the Holy Spirit would descend to them (Acts 1-2).

 

 

 

A new responsibility. The Rabbinical teaching of the day was, “It is better that the words of the law be burned than to be entrusted to a woman.” There are restrictions in scripture about women pastors and teachers (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8-15). But that doesn’t mean woman can’t share the gospel! Here Jesus chooses to send the woman Mary Magdalene with the first gospel message. Her love for Jesus qualified her for the mission. [1] And Mary was indeed faithful to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and she had spoken to them.

 

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

 

Apparently the resurrection body of Jesus enabled Him to pass through the walls of the room where the disciples were assembled. The disciples were in seclusion fearing what the Jews who had crucified Jesus might also do to them. We should take note of such fear because after Pentecost fears will be replaced with boldness of faith by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2 – Peter preaches in the presence of those who crucified Jesus).

 

The first words of Jesus to His disciples post-resurrection are, “Peace be with you.” Jesus’ first words to the disciples weren’t “I told you so!” or “Where were you guys?” Jesus didn’t berate the disciples or harshly rebuke them for their failures. No, Jesus pronounced peace to them.

 

Peace” (Greek eirene) is a word meaning tranquility, harmony, health as well as peace. It is equivalent to shalom in Hebrew. With these words Jesus calms the emotional storm the disciples had been experiencing due to the cross and perceived loss of Jesus. Jesus has a way of calming the storms of our life with His word. When storms hit the presence of Jesus brings peace.

 

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

 

There was no mysteriousness about Jesus here. He wasn’t a “ghost” as the disciples had supposed when He had walked on water (e.g. Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49). Jesus offered to His disciples to see for themselves the wounds in His hands and in His side. He wanted them to know for sure that He was the One who had been crucified brutally and that He was the One who had risen from the dead.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses try to explain away Jesus resurrection by saying Jesus only “appeared” to His disciples; that he was only an apparition. Islam teaches that someone other than Jesus (i.e. Judas) was crucified instead of Jesus. In both cases Jesus presenting Himself in the resurrection flesh for His disciples to SEE contradicts any idea that it wasn’t Jesus in the resurrection flesh that had risen from the dead.

 

The disciples were “glad when they saw the Lord.” “Saw” (Greek eidon) as in verse 8 means to put together facts and come to an idea and having seen Jesus like this in the flesh they understood that Jesus had risen from the dead and they were glad and rejoicing for that (“glad” is Greek chairo).

 

Certainly the disciples were joyful that Jesus was alive. They were joyful that He had proven true to His prophetic word that He would die and three days later rise from the dead (e.g. Matthew 16:21; 20:19; Mark 8:31; Luke 18:31-33; John 2:18-22; 10:17-18). And they were also probably happy that the One who could feed them from mere morsels of food, heal them, teach them and be with them and even raise them from the dead if need be, was back from the dead.

 

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to 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.

 

 

 

Jesus pronounces peace on the disciples once again and then mentions His Father having sent Him. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And then as the Father had breathed life into the first man Adam (Genesis 2:7); Jesus breathes spiritual life into His disciples regenerating them with the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

When Jesus breathes on the disciples and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” they received the Holy Spirit and were born again. Jesus did not speak to them in future tense saying, “You will receive the Holy Spirit.” He said “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The grammatical tense of the verb “receive” here (i.e. Aorist tense) conveys the idea of a completed action. When Jesus said this to the disciples it was a here and now experience He was providing them. 

 

 

 

It’s important to recognize that it is at this point that the disciples are born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This is important because there is some confusion over the process of being empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Jesus sends His disciples out with a Great Commission to disciple and teach His word (Matthew 28:18-20). But His disciples aren’t to go out in their own strength. Going out in our own strength only leads to failure. The denials and forsaking of Jesus by the disciples during the crucifixion are proof of that. Jesus therefore speaks of the need for those who serve Him to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

At the end of the Gospel of Luke the inspired account states Jesus instructs His disciples that before they go out to fulfill the Great Commission, they need to wait in Jerusalem until they are “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).  There is something, according to Jesus, that must precede serving Him. Those who serve Him need empowering from a Source other than themselves. That Other Source is the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

What is the nature of this empowerment? This second work of the Spirit in our lives has a twofold aspect to its nature. The first aspect is power. The second aspect is love.

 

 

 

In Matthew John the Baptist speaks of a baptism the Messiah would bring that is more than mere water baptism but is a baptism of the “Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Fire speaks of purifying. This work of the Spirit would purify the heart of the one who experiences it. Jesus’ heart was pure; without sin. But He still models this baptism for us.

 

 

 

We find details about the empowerment for ministry  and life aspect of this baptism of Jesus in Luke’s gospel account.Luke’s inspired work is a two volume set of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. In Acts Luke continues with his record of Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for an enduement with power. In Acts Jesus speaks of the Promise of the Father for an empowering for ministry. Jesus elaborates on the words of John the Baptist about the “Promise of the Father” and describes it as a “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus goes on to further explain that this “baptism with the Holy Spirit” involves, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The book of Acts then is an inspired account of the Spirit empowered disciples of Jesus and the impact on the lost world they had in the early days of fulfilling the Great commission. In Acts 2 the small group of early disciples are baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and then the rest of the book is an account of the powerful working of the Spirit through the created early church people.

 

 

 

The second aspect and nature of this empowerment of the Spirit is that of love. In Romans 5:5 it states, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Jesus taught the disciples the night before He went to the cross that His disciples would be known and identified by a “New commandment.” This new commandment was, “that you love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35). To love like Jesus is not something we can do in our own strength; we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to love like Jesus. Such Christlike love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us (Galatians 5:22-25). This is a love that “never fails” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). It is the love that should be the compelling force and motivation in all a disciple of Jesus does. When you add love in all you do, you add a overpowering, overcoming, undefeatable, inexhaustible, never failing ingredient to your efforts. Love is the sign of an ambassador of God. Love is how we best represent God. Love is why and how we do what we do with and for Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). This is a work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

 

 

 

The point to be made is that if the disciples are born again, regenerated, indwelled by the Holy Spirit in John 20:22, then when Jesus instructs His disciples to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower them for ministry, He is speaking of a distinct from conversion, second or subsequent work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. That challenges us to ask ourselves, “Have I been empowered by the Holy Spirit? Have I been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” And I pray you will go no further until you know for sure that you are born again of the Holy Spirit and empowered to live and serve the Lord Jesus from this point on.

 

 

 

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 

 

 

The apostles, disciples and we who have followed them by grace through faith in Jesus, “forgive the sins of any” and “retain the sins of any” by sharing the gospel with people. It is God alone who forgives. We are His messengers. We don’t provide forgiveness; we proclaim forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

When we encounter a person who says, “I don’t feel forgiven,” we are able to exhort and encourage them that if they repent of their sins and ask God to forgive them while trusting in the finished work of Jesus and Jesus therefore as their Savior, that they are in fact forgiven. And if we encounter someone who says, “I don’t need Jesus or His forgiveness” then we have the authority to “retain the sins” of that person by telling them that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that sins are forgiven. [2]

 

 

 

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

 

 

 

Earlier we spoke of Mary Magdalene and how she set the example of seeking the Lord early and wholeheartedly. Thomas the twin is an example of the disciple who is always late or who misses the meeting. I like what Jon Courson says in this regard:

 

 

 

I suppose one of the saddest things I see as a pastor are disciples who miss the meeting. They’re out there struggling, while at a Sunday evening service, for example, at some point Jesus begins to appear through the Word or in worship, through prophecy or the washing of feet. “I can worship at home,” they say. But Jesus didn’t go to Thomas’s house. He went where the saints were meeting together. “Don’t forsake assembling together,” Paul would say (see Hebrews 10:25)—because Jesus shows up in the midst of the congregation.[3]

 

 

 

Remember that dear saint. You can lounge at home and try to satisfy your soul by watching a TV preacher or maybe some other “good” program, but there is no substitute for personal face to face fellowship; for the live interaction of the body of believers and ministers. Remember that; remember that because you can’t adequately grow in your walk with the Lord without it.

 

 

 

But let’s not get totally down on Thomas. Listen to what Jon Courson goes on to comment about him:

 

 

 

Thomas missed the meeting. Why? He’s been called Doubting Thomas throughout history—but keep in mind the kind of guy he was. When Jesus announced He was going to Jerusalem, Thomas said, “Let’s go and die with Him” (see John 11:16). Thomas was a guy who went for it. And so now, while the other disciples huddled together behind closed doors, where was Thomas? I suggest he was out on the street saying, “I’m not hiding. I’m out here in public. Anybody want to take me on?”

 

 

 

After catching a cargo ship to India to preach Jesus Christ, Thomas was warned to be quiet. When he kept preaching, his opponents ran a spear through his back. But the church he started in India still flourishes today.[4]

 

 

 

When Thomas showed up to church with his brothers and met Jesus he learned his lesson. Sometimes we lag behind. Sometimes we lunge ahead. But the key is to keep in step with Jesus. Don’t be a Christian couch potato. Don’t let your zeal cause you to be impulsive.  Keep in step with Jesus; walk in the Spirit with your Lord.

 

 

 

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

 

 

 

Thomas had missed out on seeing Jesus! His brothers didn’t berate him. They simply sought to bring him up to speed, to restore him and tell him “We have seen the Lord” (compare with Galatians 6:1).

 

 

 

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

 

 

 

For Thomas the thought that Jesus was alive was too much for him. The resurrection was beyond the grasp of his faith. He wanted proof. He doubted and he wanted proof. There’s a lesson for us to learn here. That lesson is Jesus will always fulfill His word and Jesus is always able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we expect (cf. Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

 

 

For Thomas the resurrection of Jesus was beyond reason. And you know what, it was beyond reason! When we look at the revelation of God’s word and at how God works in the world one of the glorious truths and realities of God, who He is and what He does is that He is not limited by our understanding or expectations – nothing is impossible for God. And for that we should praise Him.

 

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.

 

That must have been a long eight days for Thomas and the disciples. It was long for Thomas who was probably thinking, Could it be true? Could Jesus my Lord really have risen from the dead? And it was long for the disciples because they knew the resurrection of Jesus was true and a fact but they wanted their brother Thomas to know too. I bet the disciples made sure Thomas was with them until they saw Jesus again. And Thomas was with them the next time Jesus appeared.

 

Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

 

Again Jesus comes to the disciples. And right away Jesus addresses the doubt and unbelief of Thomas. Jesus isn’t afraid of those who doubt or disbelieve. He shows them His bodily evidence and then calls them to believe. Look at the word of God. Look at the facts of scripture. Believe!

 

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

 

Peter refused to be worshipped because he was not God (Acts 10:26). Paul and Barnabus refused to be worshipped as gods because they are not gods (Acts 14:15). The angel in Revelation refused to be worshipped by John (Rev. 22:9). But Jesus did not refuse the worship of Thomas when he said, “My Lord and my God!” That’s because JESUS IS GOD!

 

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

 

 

Thomas and those first disciples believed in Jesus because they saw and experienced Him in the flesh. But for those of us “who have not seen and yet have believed” there is an even greater blessing. That is Jesus promise to those beyond the first century and up to today. Faith has eyes that go beyond what is merely seen.

 

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

 

The signs and miracles recorded in the gospels are only representative samples of what Jesus did. But all we need to believe is found in the contents of the word of God. John confirms here that the purpose god called him to fulfill in recording these inspired words was “that believing you may have life in His name.”

 



[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 595–596). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 596). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 596). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 596). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.