Summary: Year C. Second Sunday of Easter April 22, 2001 John 20: 19-31

Year C. Second Sunday of Easter April 22, 2001 John 20: 19-31

I believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Because I believe in Jesus I will live, even though I die, because whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die. Amen.

Title: “Do not doubt but believe.”

The Risen Jesus appears twice; once to the disciples where he constitutes them as apostles of his Church in verses nineteen to twenty-three, and again, to them and Thomas who confesses faith in him rather than in his resurrected body verses twenty-four to twenty-nine.

John agrees with Luke that Jesus appeared to his disciples on Easter night in Jerusalem. Matthew and Mark 16:1-8 indicate appearances in Galilee. While it is not easy, on the basis of the scant evidence we have, to reconcile the data, neither is it difficult to imagine moments of awareness of the resurrection both in Jerusalem and Galilee at various times. After reporting about the empty tomb chapter twenty verses one and two and the experience of Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who alone comes to belief in the Risen Lord on the basis of signs, John has Magdalene return to the tomb. First she encounters two angels and then Jesus himself, whom she mistakes at first for the gardener. When Jesus calls her by name, Mary like the sheep in 10: 3-4 who hear and know the shepherd’s voice, recognizes Jesus and is sent by him to proclaim the good news to the disciples.

Now in verses nineteen to twenty three, Jesus appears inside a locked room on two occasions. On the first occasion the disciples, absent Thomas, are given the commission to continue Jesus’ mission by exercising power over sin. On the second occasion Thomas, who embodied disbelief, utters the strongest belief in Jesus as “My Lord and my God,” thus ending the gospel as it began with the statement “The Word was God (1:1). Verses thirty and thirty-one, state the purpose in writing this work; to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name.

Verses nineteen to twenty-three Jesus’ appearance to the Disciples.

In verse nineteen, “peace,” this is a statement of fact rather than a mere wish. These first words of Jesus after the resurrection summarize its meaning of restoration of full communion with God and fellowship with one another. The Hebrew shalom, “peace” means much more than the absence of conflict. It means “fullness,” “togetherness,” “well-being,” “salvation” or “wholeness.”

“Doors were locked…Jesus came and stood,” this does not mean that Jesus’ body was like that of a ghost, able to pass through locked doors. Rather it means that Jesus, no longer subject to earthly laws, could make himself present at any time or place.

In verse twenty, “he showed them his hands and his side,” Jesus’ body was quite solid. The stress on the wounds indicates it was the same body as at the crucifixion.

In verse twenty-one, “as the Father has sent me, so…” This mission statement is modeled on “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The Father’s sending of the Son is both the model and the basis for the Son sending the disciples. They are to continue to do Jesus’ work.

In verse twenty-two, “he breathed on them,’ “Breathed” is an Old Testament reference to Genius 2:7, that God formed humans from dust and breathed life into them; and to Ezekiel 37:9, God breathed life into dry bones and raised them up. The verb was used for the first creation. Now it is used to express a new creation, the Church.

Receive the Holy Spirit, the same word “receive” is used for the Eucharist, which anticipated the death and resurrection of Jesus. It now expresses the Spirit of Jesus entering into them. They are consecrated and equipped as Jesus was. The Spirit is Jesus in a new mode of presence and power within his disciples. This is John’s version of their baptism. The gift of the Spirit is the sealing of personal relations between Jesus and his disciples.

In verse twenty-three, “sins forgiven…retained,” in the other gospels Jesus’ appearance specifies the general mission. In Luke it was to preach the forgiveness of sins; in Matthew it was to baptize; in Mark to preach the gospel and baptize; and here in John to forgive sins. They all amount to the same thing. The essence of the Church is to have power over sin. The statement here is a variant of what is found in Matthew 16: 19, the “power of the keys.” There it is applied especially to doctrinal decisions. In Matthew 18:18 it is adapted to all the apostles and applied to the power of church discipline. Here in John it pertains to the discipline of forgiveness. The saying depends on Isaiah 22: 22 “I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.” The Aramaic for “shut” also means “hold, retain” and “open” also means “loose.” It is clear that Matthew and John have variants of the same saying. The meaning here is that the officials of Christ’s Church have a commission to forgive sins and to regulate how that is done. However, the whole Church has a commission to participate in that missionary effort. All are responsible to evangelize. The apostolic office is responsible for how it is done. The “retaining” of sin recognizes that, absent repentance, sins are not forgiven. Lutherans consider pastors to be holders of the office of the keys.

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