The Resurrection (20:1–31) - continue

The appearance to the disciples (20:19–23)

On the first Lord’s Day, Jesus transformed the founding Church by replacing their fear with his forgiveness, the true peace of God. He commanded them to participate in the work of God by responding to the mission of God in the Spirit of God.

  1. The peace of God (20:19–20);
  2. The mission of God (20:21);
  3. The Spirit of God (20:22);
  4. The ministerial authority of God (20:23).


From morning the reader is taken to the evening of the same day - “the first day of the week” (20:1). Again, here we find the reason why the earliest Christians were convinced that this day, Sunday, the first day of the week, was the most appropriate day for the gathering of the Church.

Not only was it the day of the resurrected Lord, the day creation itself was reclaimed by God, but according to this pericope it was also the day the “church” met for the first time.

It is interesting to note that the gathered disciples also qualified as a congregational quorum of ten men (no Judas or Thomas) according to Jewish regulations ( - apparently based on the story of ten spies who upon returning from scouting the land issued a report that scared the entire congregation cf. Num 14:27).

The first meeting of the Church, however, was not about the celebration of Easter. The apostles were hiding from the Jewish authorities behind the closed doors.

The irony is stark: on the greatest day in the history of the world, a day when God defeated death itself and inaugurated the restoration of his creation, his closest followers were not celebrating but cowering in fear.

Yet, the closed doors did not prevent the risen Lord to come and stand in their midst. This is a climatic “coming” of the Lord to his people (1:9) and the fulfilment of his words in 14:18, 28.

“Peace to you” - a typical Jewish salutation “shalom” - but in this case it is a blessing, a declaration that the peace of God - that eschatological peace promised in the OT - has now been made accessible through Jesus Christ. Jesus has spoken of this peace in the farewell discourse (14:18, 27; 16:33), and will repeat it twice (20:21, 24).


The display of wounds serves not only as a proof to the disciples that the man standing in their midst is Jesus. The peace of God was entirely dependent on these specific wounds - the scars from the crucifixion declare ‘shalom’ for the world (cf. Is 53:5; Rom 5:1–2).

Jesus had promised to turn their grief into joy (16:20–24; cf. 15:11; 17:13) and that is what happened here - their fear is turned into joy. That transformation occurred in the presence of the resurrected Lord on the evening of the first Lord’s day.


This repetition of the greeting indicates that it is not just a greeting. In this second time, it serves as a preface to the mission. Just as the mission of the Son of God involved peace, so also will the mission of the children of God involved peace - the declaration of Christ’s victory over the power of evil.

Jesus announces to the disciples what earlier he had only prayed to the Father (17:18–21).

But there is a distinction in the mission of the Son and the mission of the disciples. This distinction is underlined by the usage of the two different although related verb “send” : ἀπέσταλκέν for Jesus and πέμπω for the disciples. Moreover, Jesus was sent by the Father and they are sent by Jesus.

The Son was participating in the work of the Father, and was doing what only the Son can do. In a similar way, the disciples are participating in what is ultimately the work of the Son and made possible through the Son.

Here, we encounter the missionary character of God and so the Church has to be missionary also.

The Church received the Spirit not only to be empowered for her mission but primarily to be able to participate in the mission of God to the world.


This passage is called the Johannine Pentecost, but it should not be seen as John’s version (replacement) of the Pentecost in Acts.

The Spirit, as God, is the key component of the mission of God and so of the Church. In 20:21 we have the words of Jesus and here we have the action of Jesus. Notice the sacramental structure of the missionary commission in this Gospel - the word of Christ and the action of Christ.

The action of Christ is ‘breathing or blowing’. In the NT this term occurs only here and in LXX ten times (ἐνεφύσησεν). In LXX Job 4:21 it is used of a hot wind and in Sirach 43:4 of igniting coals of a blazing furnace. Thus, this particular verb is more commonly used to describe a stronger, more powerful breathing than the usual verb for “I breath - πνέω and related to πνεῦμα). Thus, it is better to render is as ”blowing".

The verb does not have direct object. It is easy to see the connection to Gen 2:7 LXX where the same verb is used. Thus, the use of it here is clearly intended to echo the first story of human enlivenment. The reader is to see here an act of creation. This is further confirm by the connection to Ezekiel 37:9 LXX.

Thus, the “blowing” of the Spirit by Jesus is the re-creation of the temple of God and the people of God. Those ten fearful people are being established as a new creation, the Church - a new humanity (Eph 2:15). By giving them the Spirit, Jesus empowers this new humanity to do what Adam and others had failed to do: to be God’s representative and ministers in the world.

The first Adam received life, Jesus’ disciples received the Spirit of Life, so that they may have life to its fulness (20:31; 10:10). Just as in Jesus “was life” (1:4), the Spirit gives life (3:3,5). The giving of the Spirit, therefore, is the inauguration of eternal life (20:31). Moreover, the Church is now truly able to be participants in the work of God.

20:23 - cf. Mt 16:19, 18:18

Jesus speaks about the authority given to the disciples. By this statement Jesus shares his authority (5:22–29; Mark 2:10) with his disciples.

The two passives - “they are remitted” and “they are retained” - imply divine agency.

The meaning and significance of the state of forgiveness must be defined by the preceding context, which includes “peace”, the mission of the disciples, and the giving of the Spirit.

The mission of the Church is specifically connected to the forgiveness of sins. For everything the Church does is a prolongation in time and space the victory of the Lamb over the world’s sin by making it victory over our sins.

The message of the Church is the forgiveness of sins through Christ, and the mission of the Church is to liberate the world from the power of sin.

Thus, the total mission of the Church could be summarised by forgiving and retaining of sins. The old covenant actually looked forward to this day (Jer 31:31) - God would be known and sin would be removed.

The appearance to Thomas and the purpose of the Gospel (20:24–31)

The Gospel of John is an apostolic testimony of the gospel entrusted to the disciples of Jesus who are the eyewitnesses of his person and work and the approved witness for the Church. The Gospel was written to serve as a textually mediated encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the reader may come to believe in Jesus and participate in the life of God.

  1. The “absent Thomas” (20:24);
  2. The witness of the disciples (20:25);
  3. Not unbelieving but believing (20:26–27);
  4. Belief in testimony (20:28–29);
  5. The purpose of the Gospel (20:30–31).

Note regarding two conclusions of the Gospel of John

As the Prologue sketches the prehistory of the Gospel’s story, so the Epilogue (chapter 21) foresees its post-history. Just as the Prologue goes back in time to creation, so the Epilogue previews the future mission of the disciples.

It is important to understand the role of the first stage of the conclusion (20:30–31) and its relation to the second stage (21:24–25). There is a progression from the first to the second stage.

  1. From “many other signs” (20:30) to “many other things” or deeds in general (21:25).

  2. From focusing on the disciples in general (20:30; cf. 15:27), to focusing on just one particular disciple - the Beloved Disciple - the one who wrote these things (21:24).

  3. The first conclusion presents the purpose of the entire Gospel - so that you - the reader/the future disciples - may believe. The second conclusion indicates how the future disciples shall believe - through the testimony of the apostles.

So, the first conclusion focuses on the future disciples, the second conclusion focuses on the author and his identity.

20:24 - cf. 11:16; 14:5

Thomas is the main character in this part of the Gospel, and what is important - he was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them.

The reason for Thomas’ absence - although the member of the Twelve - is not provided.


The witness of the ten disciples, “we have seen the Lord”, is not accepted by Thomas. Their first attempt at proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus to one of their own failed.

Thomas demands shocking evidence.


This time the door were shot but the reader is not told about their fear of the Jews. Jesus comes and speaks exactly like the first time. The appearance also happens on the first day of the week - like the first time (20:19) (seven days after the first appearance). This is significant for all Christians. It is on Sunday while we gather together that we encounter the risen Lord.

What is also significant and which already should be said in the previous pericope that Jesus had already ascended to the Father and came back. That is why He could “blow” on them the Spirit and now he will command Thomas to touch him (cf. 20:17).

Finally, although Jesus was absent while Thomas demands his strange evidence in order to believe, Jesus knew exactly what Thomas said.


Jesus again displays his wounds like in the first time, but this time only to Thomas. He commands him to reach and touch the wounds.

The Evangelist does not tell the reader whether Thomas actually did it - and that is perhaps the point. Even if Thomas did not touch the wounds he saw the risen Christ like the other disciples. It is not the touching but seeing that is important (cf. 20:29).

Then, Jesus gives a further command to Thomas: “do not be unbelieving but believing”. But it could also be rendered as “do not be unbeliever but believer” (1 Cor 6:6; 7:12).

However, nothing suggests in the Gospel that Thomas is an unbeliever but rather that he acts in an unbelieving manner. He is willing to believe but only on his own terms (20:25). Thus, this should be rather seen as a rebellion, not as a doubt. He refuses to believe because it does not fit into his own paradigm of thinking. Thomas does not need a conversion from unbeliever to believer but a transformation from the old to the new covenant, now mediated by the crucified Lord and his Spirit.


Thomas does not extend himself toward Jesus with his touch but with his words.

“My Lord and My God”. Thomas is affirming his new-found faith. It can be rendered as you, Jesus, are “My Lord and My God”.

Thomas’ usage of these two titles to Jesus is a fitting conclusion to the Gospel, which is in agreement with the beginning of the Gospel that declared “the Word was God” (1:1).

The resurrection reveals who Jesus truly is! - the Lord and God. But at the same time, Thomas’ proclamation is not an abstract one but a personal one - My Lord and My God.

By this the uniqueness of the Christian faith is made clear. The Good News is not only universal but also particular - personal. It is for Thomas and therefore also for the individual reader.


Whether the first statement is a question or a sentence cannot be decided - since early manuscripts rarely have punctuation. It is probably better to render is as a sentence.

The first sentence provides the cause for Thomas’ belief. The comparison is not between seeing and touching (20:27) but between seeing and believing. Or more specifically, between the fact that Thomas was able to see Jesus but later believers will not be given such an opportunity.

But, the statement does not say that sight and faith are not related; the Gospel includes many signs and the last sign - Christ’s resurrection - led the disciples to the fulness of faith in Him.

The problem with Thomas was that he did not believe the testimony of those who saw the risen Christ and proclaimed Him to him. For this refusal Thomas is being rebuked by Jesus. He failed to trust those to whom the mission of God had been entrusted (20:21).

Thomas stands in opposition to the people of Samaria who already believed in Jesus on the testimony of the Samaritan women (cf. 4:42). Thomas, when he only heard about the resurrection of Christ, but himself did not see the risen Christ, did not believe the testimony of other disciples: “we have seen the Lord” (20:25).

Thomas only believed because he has seen Christ for himself (cf. 4:48).

This statement prepares the reader for the second part of Jesus’ statement - the reader’s belief in resurrection of Christ declared to them by the preaching of the apostles (recorded in this Gospel).

The second statement of Jesus uses the disbelieving rebellion of Thomas (20:27) as a platform from which to exhort future believers - the readers.

This is the only beatitude in this Gospel and is related to the well-known beatitudes in Matt 5:3–12.

This beatitude serves as a perfect conclusion to the Gospel proper and transition to the Gospel’s purpose statement.

Jesus’ appearance to Thomas, therefore, is to confirm the original testimony of the disciples. In the providence of God, Thomas’ absence allowed him to function as an example of a future believer, who had to rely on the testimony of the disciples - one of whom wrote this Gospel! - as eyewitnesses to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Although the physical appearance of Jesus to Thomas confirmed his own role as an apostle and personal eyewitness, the repetition of the appearance with all the disciples was intended to rebuke Thomas for disbelieving their witness and to confirm for the disciples that their testimony is both valid and authoritative.

It could be said that just as Jesus is the ‘representative’ of God (1:18), the apostles are the representative of Jesus, and the Church, having been “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20), continues this representation to the world.


These two verses (20:30–31) often considered as the conclusion of the Gospel proper are connected to the preceding scene. Jesus’ appearance to Thomas serves as an illustration of the reception of the testimony of the apostles.

But, there is change in the character being addressed. If in 20:29 it was Thomas, here it is the reader.

By these verses the Evangelist makes clear that the ministry of Jesus was intended from its very ‘beginning’ to be inclusive of the (most contemporary) reader of the Gospel.

This Gospel is an extension of Jesus’ ministry, declared by “those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thess 2:4).

The Evangelist explains that the form of the Gospel was selective in content and that the (seven) signs it presented to the reader were appropriate for the task. There were other signs which could be included in the Gospel that were also performed by Jesus and were “witnessed” by the disciples.


Now the Evangelist explains the Gospel’s intended response from the readers.

The two-fold purpose of the Gospel involves ‘belief’ in the Gospel’s two-fold subject matter: the person (20:31a) and work (20:31b) of Jesus Christ.

The verb “believe” appears in the manuscripts in two different forms:

  1. πιστεύητε - present - which may emphasise the continuous aspect of belief - "that you may hold to faith - that you continue to believe;

  2. πιστεύσητε - aorist (past) - which may emphasise the initiation of belief - “that you may come to believe”.

The first would suggest that the Gospel was written for Christians to direct and encouraged their already existing faith; the second might suggest that the Gospel was written to bring unbelievers to faith.

It is impossible to resolve which version is ‘the original’ one and we should not press the issue. “Belief” has complex sense and we could say that John’s record has the power of both - (1) to sustain our faith and (2) to bring others to faith in Christ.

The purpose of the Gospel was to explain Jesus to the reader. Who is Jesus? The Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mt 16:16).

The “Christ”. It means the Anointed One of God. But, the entire Gospel explains the meaning of the word “Christ” in relation to Jesus. That is what Peter (and the other disciples) had to learn (cf. Mt 16:21–23).

As the “Christ”, Jesus is intimately related to everything that God does.

The “Son of God”. This title refers to the intimate and lofty relationship between Jesus and God, that is, between God the Father and God the Son (1:14). In this Gospel it is the most exalted Christological expression.

As the Son of God, Jesus is intimately related to everything that God is.

But making Jesus the object of belief, the Evangelist proclaims that God can only be accessed and understood through Jesus.

The second of the two-part purpose statement is “that by believing you may have life in his name” (cf. 3:36).

The life that Jesus offers to the reader is eternal life. It is a life beyond our wildest imagination. This life is both provided by Jesus and grounded in him (1:4; 14:6).

This “life” is rooted “in his name” - Jesus’ power, authority, and love.

Thus, the Gospel is never “merely a recollection of things past but a proclamation addressing the present”. The author of the Gospel has witnessed to this reality and the reader is exhorted to believe his testimony. The message of the Gospel has become part of “the gift of God” to the reader (4:10).

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