John 20:19-23

John 20:19-23 … Only four verses are before us, but what verses they are! Throughout the Gospel of John we’re given selected events and sequences ( John 20:30); John never set out to record a comprehensive account. We’re given those sequences important to faith and new life in Christ (20:31), which, we’d all agree is the vital thing. In the account of Resurrection Day (Sunday), John has given us events in the early morning (20:1-18) and now he’ll relate events from the evening. He leaves out events that the other Gospel writers have chronicled in the mid-day such as the meeting on the road to Emmaus. But in the evening, behind a locked door, Jesus came in the midst of His disciples with a greeting of peace. He had previously told them (John 14:7) that His use of the word “peace” wasn’t the world’s ordinary use, it meant much more. Then He showed them the evidence of His resurrection (v.20): the fresh wounds of crucifixion. John records that they all “saw”; using the Greek word “eido,” meaning to see in comprehension and understanding. They now understood and rejoiced: Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Immediately Jesus commissioned them to service with His Great Commission, beginning with the imparting of “peace.” Many don’t recognize that the natural man is at war with God (James 4:4). The natural man is that person who has not acknowledged Christ as Savior and who is occupied with self-realization and all that goes with it. But in Christ we’re given“peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Specifically, the commission is to follow His model: “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (v.21). God the Father sent the Son “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10); He came not “to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

Next came the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. Some indicate that John 20:22, “Receive the Holy Spirit” is an indication that the Holy Spirit would come fifty days later on Pentecost. I think the better reading is that the Holy Spirit was imparted to the disciples right then, as the text indicates. The Holy Spirit has been in evidence throughout the Gospel account, and there’s no reason to indicate that He is withheld here. In fact, the boldness the disciples later demonstrated, moving from the fear of verse 19 to the empowerment of Pentecost, is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit in them. By the way, this imparting of the Holy Spirit through the breath of God the Son is the only instance in Scripture of life being breathed into man apart from the Genesis account (Genesis 2:7).

Finally, to these enabled disciples, Jesus says: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Faith traditions differ on this subject, but the important thing is that forgiveness of sins and peace with God is found in Christ Jesus and in Him alone.

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