Read verses 19-23
Q: This is the second time in this chapter that John notes it is “the first day of the week”. How might what is taking place have a greater meaning because of the Sabbath?
A: The Sabbath commemorates God’s finished work of Creation (Gen. 2:1-3); now it is the day when Christ finishes the work of redemption as a work of “new creation”. God the Father worked for six days and rested; God the Son suffered on the cross for six hours then rested. The former work of creation is here foreshadowed the latter work of new creation.
Q: How might this also be a contrast to the true intention of Sabbath versus what it had become in Israel at that time?
A The Sabbath was the sign of the Old Testament covenant that Israel belonged to God. (Ex. 20:8-11, 31:13-17; Neh. 19:14) The nation was to use that day for rest for both man and beast, but it was not specifically commanded to be a day of assembly and worship. By Jesus’ time religious authorities added a myriad of their own restrictions and observances until it became a day of bondage rather than blessing. Although Jesus deliberately violated such Sabbath traditions, He honored the Sabbath in accordance with its original intention of resting from works.
Q: How, then, did the first day of the week come to be known as “The Lord’s Day”? (Rev. 1:10)
A: Christ made at least five appearances on this first day of the Resurrection: to Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:11-18), the other women (Mt. 28:9-10), Peter (1 Co. 15:5; Lk. 24:34), two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:31-32), and the disciples minus Thomas. (Jn. 20:19-25) The next Sunday all eleven were meeting and visited by Christ. (Jn. 20:26-31) It appears that from the beginning the disciples and the early church met on the first day of the week to worship Christ and to commemorate His death and resurrection. (Acts 20:7; 1 Co. 16:1-2)
Application: For centuries the Jewish Sabbath has been associated with the Law symbolizing six days of work followed by a day of rest; but “The Lord’s Day”, the first day of the week, is associated with grace so that first comes faith in the living Christ, then follow afterward the works which verify that faith. In either case, Paul makes it clear that Believers must not make “special days” a test of fellowship or spirituality. (Rom. 14:5-9; Col. 2:16-23)
Q: Why might it be remarkable to us that they were actually afraid? Had they not already received several credible testimonies of the risen Savior?
A: In Mark’s Gospel it is specified that Jesus “reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen”. (Mk. 16:14) Their fear was not because they were afraid of what others would think about their belief that Christ was resurrected, but from the fact that they did not believe at all.
Q: What is the first step Christ took to transform their fear into courage?
A: He came to them not just supernaturally in a different kind of body so that they could see for themselves the result of the Resurrection, but He came to them personally in order to comfort and reassure them.
Q: What is the second step Christ took to transform their fear into courage?
A: Instead of rebuking them for their unbelief and cowardice, He instead greeted them with, “Peace be with you”. (v.19)
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
— Psalm 103:10
Q: What is the third thing Jesus did?
A: He reassured them by His Word and by showing them His hands and side so they would know this was not a vision or apparition, but to show that He was indeed their Master and Savior.
Q: How did showing them His wounds fit His personal greeting of peace?
A: More than just being a form of identification, His wounds were also the evidence that the price of salvation had been paid so that through Him man could actually have true biblical peace with God.
Application: The basis for true peace is found in the person and work of Christ who died for us, rose from the grave in victory, and now lives for us. He comes to us in grace and reassures us through His Word.
Q: What did the Lord do when their fear was transformed into joy in v.20?
A: He commissioned them by stating, “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you”. (v.21) It was a way of stating that they would now take His place in the world. (Jn. 17:18)
Point: It is important to note both the privileges and responsibilities of Christ’s true followers:
- Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him. (Jn. 15:9; 17:26)
- We are in the Father as Jesus is in the Father. (Jn. 17:21-22)
- He sends us into the world just as the Father sent Him. (v.21)
- As He was about to later ascend to Heaven He again reminded them of their commission to make disciples as He had made disciples. (Mt. 28:18-20)
Q: But Jesus did not stop at reassuring them—what else did He further do?
A: He enabled them through the Holy Spirit. (v.22)
Q: How does this also hearken back to the Creation?
A: God breathed life into the first creation (Gen. 2:7); here He breathes life into the new creation. In both the Greek and Hebrew the word for “breath” also means “spirit”. Although the Spirit had dwelt with them in the person of Christ, now the Spirit would dwell personally within them! (Jn. 14:17)
Q: Are the privileges granted in v.23 exclusively restricted to just those who were literally in that room that day?
A: No. A more correct literal translation into English would be, “Whoever’s sin you forgive shall have already been forgiven (because of what I did on the cross), and whoever’s sins you do not forgive shall have already not been forgiven”. In other words, we do not provide forgiveness but rather proclaim forgiveness on the basis of the message of the Gospel.
Point: All that Believers can do is announce the message of forgiveness; God performs the miracle of forgiveness. It is just like Lazarus: all we can do is roll away the stone so that the “dead” can hear and respond to Christ’s voice. We can authoritatively declare that any sinner who believes on Christ can have their sins forgiven, but we are not the ones providing forgiveness.
Application: The transformation from fear to courage was accomplished first by Christ’s personal visit, in graciously dealing with them not as their sins and behavior deserved, by reassuring them with His Word and proof of authenticity, by further commissioning them to carry on His work in the world, and by enabling them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How might these things relate to our own faith and behavior?