The Word: John 20:19-29
The Holy Spirit is God’s promised presence during times of fear and doubt.
The disciples were consumed by fear and doubt, unable and perhaps unwilling to believe the testimony of the witnesses of the resurrection. Jesus comes to them in their state in compassion not judgment, and extends His peace as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit. The presence of Jesus transforms doubt and fear into trusting obedience.
A. Easter Night (Read John 20:19-20)
The disciples huddled together in fear, behind locked doors. Jesus came to them in their fear and doubt and immediately extended peace to them. Just prior to this Luke tells us about the two men walking to Emmaus. (Luke 24:31a) "Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. Then they ran back to Jerusalem and told the disciples what had just happened to them." (Luke 24:36) "And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. 'Peace be with you,' he said." He then extended His hands and exposed His wounds to offer the disciples the evidence they needed that He was indeed resurrected from the dead. The disciples responded to His presence and His gifts of peace and proof with joy.
The formerly fear-filled disciples were immediately overjoyed when they saw the Lord, as Jesus had predicted (see e.g., 14:29). The Old Testament prophets expected joy to characterize the salvation of the end times and the universal gift of the Spirit (e.g., Isa. 25:9; Zeph. 3:14–17; Zech. 9:9). 9 "Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt." (NLT)
B. Mission and Commission (Read John 20:21-23)
Jesus extended peace to the disciples a second time and, as He had done many times throughout John’s gospel, invited the disciples to join Him in doing the work of God by commissioning them. However, this time His commission would be accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift would empower them to do the task at hand, to communicate and mediate God’s forgiving and redeeming work to the world. This command anticipated what would happen 50 days later on the day of Pentecost. When is Pentecost? TODAY!
The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the church, mediated by the risen Christ.
Jesus immediately moves from extending peace to commissioning the disciples. The disciples are sent out, but will be empowered by the Spirit within and among them.(See John 14:15–17; 14:23–26; 15:26–27; 16:7–11; 16:12–15; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:2.) 15 "If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. 16 I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. 17 The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you." (John 14:15-17 The Voice)
How do we, as disciples of Jesus, join God in God’s forgiving work? (Jesus is saying to them, and to us, that as His disciples we have the privilege of sharing with others the assurance of forgiveness by God for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ. We as believers have the opportunity to model forgiveness to those who cannot imagine God could ever forgive them. By doing so, we point the way to God’s loving forgiveness.)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world (Read John 3:17-18; 12:47). Thus, it is not the church’s mission to withhold forgiveness arbitrarily. However, if the church does not fulfill its mission to make God’s love known, the people of the world will never know that God sent Jesus to save them (Read John 17:20-26).
C. Thomas’s Confession (Read John 20:24-29)
Thomas expressed a desire to experience what Mary and the disciples had experienced: a first-hand encounter with the risen Lord. Jesus graciously responded to Thomas’ need, standing in the midst of the disciples once again, showing His wounds to Thomas in particular, inviting Thomas to leave doubt behind and believe. Thomas’ response surpassed that of his fellow disciples as he declared Jesus to be Lord and God.
Didymus Thomas, whether out of courage or bravado, had urged the other disciples to follow Jesus to Jerusalem: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (11:16). Thomas appears in all the New Testament lists of disciples (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). John mentions “the Twelve” (6:67, 70, 71), but never offers a full list. Only John identifies Thomas as Didymus, “the twin.” Christian tradition reports that Thomas died as a missionary-martyr in India. Curiously, Syriac-Gnostic Christianity identified him as Jesus’ twin.
History has been harsh with Thomas, giving him the name “Doubting Thomas.” But, in what ways does Thomas express the desire of every human heart?
Notice the disciples are still gathered where? behind locked doors. Why might that be? What fears might linger?
Once again, Jesus reminds His disciples that signs-based belief is only the first step. True belief need not see to believe (v. 29 NIV). "Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” To come to resurrection faith, Thomas required no more evidence than the other disciples already had (see v. 20).
Connect to My Life and the World
Believers are not left alone. The Spirit has been poured out and is present with us today, so many generations after the disciples. These gifts of peace and of the eternally present Spirit empower us to partner with God in God’s work of redemption, reconciliation, and forgiveness. As Jesus was sent to us, we are sent to the world.
o Like the disciples, we can become paralyzed by fear and doubt. How does this impact our participation in the work of God’s kingdom?
o How might we posture ourselves both to receive the peace of Christ and to develop awareness of the Spirit’s continual presence in our lives? How might this posture set us free from fear and doubt?
While Jesus does not come to us in the flesh, the Spirit does come to us exactly as we are, even mired in fear and doubt. In love and compassion, the Spirit comes both to heal us and to invite us into a new way of being.
o How could this perspective change your experience of fear and doubt away from condemnation and toward hope?
o Jesus declares us “blessed” as those who have not seen and yet believe. How can we faithfully steward this gift of blessing?
o In what ways do you need to experience the filling of God’s Spirit in your life this week?
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you can.”—John Wesley
"Love will never invoke fear. Perfect love expels fear, particularly the fear of punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been completed through love." 1 John 4:18 (VOICE)
Close in prayer, inviting God to calm the doubt and fear you may be experiencing through the power of His Spirit.
Material for this lesson is found in:
Faith Connections Leaders Guide Spring 20
Illustrated Bible Life Spring 20
Reflecting God Spring 20
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Volume 5)
Holy Bible (various translations)