A Lasting Peace!
The troubled disciples needed peace, and that is what Jesus brought in the first group appearance. He had promised to relieve the disciples’ grief by replacing it with joy (John 16:20), and now he fulfilled that promise. He also gave them a measure of the Holy Spirit, probably to enhance their learning times between the resurrection and the ascension.
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!“Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!
John 20:19-20 (NLT)
The scene now moves from predawn hours to the evening of the same day. The disciples were locked in and riddled with fear in spite of what Peter and John had seen and what Mary had reported.
Miraculously, instantly, the Lord appeared to offer them a warm “Shalom.” Before they could respond, he showed them the nail prints in his hands and the spear scar in his side.
Why such a display?
These fearful believers had to grasp that the same Jesus who died now lived again and stood before them.
In the disciples’ minds the locked doors protected them to some extent against Jewish authorities that might want to do to them what they had done to their Lord. But in John’s view, the locked doors served as a symbolic reminder that nothing can stop or hinder the resurrection body of Jesus.
There is some discussion regarding the number in the group to which Jesus appeared in this chapter. John had used the term the disciples throughout his book to identify the Twelve when it appears with the definite article. In this situation there would have been ten. Judas was dead and Thomas was absent.
Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
John 20:21 (NLT)
Jesus again identified himself with his Father. He told the disciples by whose authority he did his work. Then he passed on to his disciples the job of spreading the Good News of salvation around the world.
Whatever God has asked you to do, remember that your authority comes from God, and Jesus has demonstrated by words and actions how to accomplish the job he has given you. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends his followers … and that includes you.
And when He had said this, 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
John 20:22-23 (NKJV)
Most evangelical scholars believe this reception of the Holy Spirit was temporary – an illumination of their hearts for the next fifty days before Pentecost.
Gromacki notes: “This impartation of the Spirit was not the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer and promise given earlier on the night before his crucifixion (14:16-17, 25; 15:26-27; 16:7-15). That fulfillment occurred on the Day of Pentecost.
Why then did Christ impart the Spirit before His ascension and the actual descent of the spirit?
As John Walvord has suggested, ‘apparently a temporary filling of the Spirit was given to provide for their spiritual needs prior to Pentecost.’ In that sense they received a prechurch age filling of the Spirit in anticipation of the Day of Pentecost so they could fully understand the Savior’s instruction” (Gromacki, pp. 141-42).
Of greater difficulty in this context is verse 23.
On what basis could human beings forgive the sins of others?
Obviously, much has been made of this in some segments of the Christian faith. Perhaps the best interpretation emphasizes the difference between absolution and proclamation. The duty of the disciples was to proclaim the forgiveness of sins; the actual forgiving would take place in heaven by the Lord who paid for those sins. Nevertheless, the claims of the gospel are clear – forgiveness only on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Morris notes, “It should also be borne in mind that, according to the best text, the verbs ‘are forgiven’ and ‘are retained’ are in the perfect tense. The meaning of this is that the Spirit-filled church can pronounce with authority that the sins of such-and-such men have been forgiver or have been retained. If the church is really acting under the leadership of the Spirit it will be found that her pronouncements on this matter do but reveal what has already been determined in heaven” (Morris, p. 849).
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I have the peace of God flowing abundantly within me.
Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, Jesus has sent me into the world. I have received the Holy Spirit into my heart and having received Him, I am continually being lead and directed by Him. If I forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and whomever I resolutely hold on to, is held firm.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name!
Holman New Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible
The Complete Personalized Promise Bible