“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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 20:19 – 23)
My first inclination was to consider this a transfer of power, similar to when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. But it is not quite that. I do not think it is the ability or authority to judge others either. The disciples are to, based on what they had learned from Jesus, determine what living an authentic Christian life should look like. Jesus retains the right to forgive, and the Lord God determines what the Christian teachings are. The disciples, now apostles, help to translate and apply it to daily living. One strong reason I feel it was not a transfer of Spiritual power is because not all of the disciples were present.
“But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (Verses 24 – 28)
I read somewhere that Thomas’ identification was actually a double identification – I do not remember where. By call Jesus “Lord” Thomas is recognizing the teacher that he had known, acknowledging Jesus’ Divine aspect. But he also identifies Jesus as God – which I assume means the Ultimate Authoritative Deity that first called out Abraham. That is quite an astute insight by Thomas.
“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (Verse 29)
Do you see our (meaning those believers who came after the apostles) prominence and recognition? That we believe on strength of inner faith and insight as opposed to seeing and feeling Jesus with physical sensation.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (Verses 30 – 31)
The writer of the gospel of John is extending to his reader the opportunity to believe in Jesus as Lord God through the written word that speaks to one’s heart and spirit. The gospel of John leans heavily on the spiritual and mystical aspect of Jesus as opposed to the tactile and visual narration that is in the other gospels – so to speak. What we (modern day humanity) have is “only” words and the inspiration that we receive from the Spirit. If that spoken or written testimony brings one to faith, then we have achieved the blessedness that Jesus speaks of. I know that some people desire the type of in-person relationship with the Divine that the disciples/apostles had. And that would be wonderful. But, at least up to the time of this writing (and your reading it), that is not our reality.
If you have been moved and inspired during this season of Lent and Easter, let that be your inspiration for the coming year. And if this Lent/Easter was not a time of insight and revelation, determine in your own self to seek out the Lord through scripture reading, meditation, and prayer – and any other authentic spiritual discipline. Selah! n