The Gospel Of John, Chapter 20
Today we arrive at the most important event in human history. We've commented on how the crucifixion of Jesus is central to the Christian faith, but if Jesus did not come back to life, he was not God as he claimed to be. And if he is not God, then the life he sacrificed isn't worth any more than another person's. And if it has no greater worth, then it could not have paid for our sins and made it possible for us to have a peaceful relationship with God forever. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19) The resurrection proves the identity of Jesus and it is the reason we can believe that our sins really can be forgiven and God can still be absolutely just.
The "disciple whom Jesus loved" is revealed (by comparison to other Gospels) to be John, the author of this Gospel. The Greek word used here for "loved" is Phileo, and means (in its root): "To have common interests with". It has been suggested by secular sources that Jesus and John may have had some form of homosexual relationship. However, a look at the original language makes it clear that their connection was one of close friendship.
It's not clear why Jesus was not immediately recognized by those who knew him. There are at least a couple different theories:
1. Jesus still had the scar tissue from his torture and crucifixion and it was significant enough to change his appearance.
2. His resurrected body was perfected, aside from the scars in his hands, feet and sides that he kept. In his perfected form he looked different. (For more on the changes of Christ's resurrected body and the future resurrected bodies of his followers, see 1 Corinthians 15:20-21 and 35-55.)
When Jesus tells Mary to stop clinging to him in verse 17, he's not being rude, but indicating that his work isn't finished. Soon after, he met with the other disciples and "breathed" on them. This seems to echo the creation account, where God breathed life into Adam. But this time, Jesus was giving them the Holy Spirit, which they would apparantly receive more completely in Acts chapter 2.
We should pause and look at verse 23. Although Jesus says that those the disciples forgive will be forgiven, he does NOT say that they will be forgiven as a result of the disciples forgiveness. The more literal "New American Standard Bible" reads: If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them. The ability and right to forgive or condemn is still God's alone.
Before this day, these men were merely disciples, which means "learners". Today they began their journey as Apostles, a word that means both disciple and representative. Verse 23 indicates that with the unique guidance of the Holy Spirit they would have greater ability to discern truth. (An example of this is found in Acts 5:1-11.)
Jesus' words to Thomas are very meaningful today. "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." (v.29) Consider listing your doubts regarding the truth of the Bible. Then look at that list and ask yourself if you really would believe if those issues could be resolved logically in your mind. Would you be ready to trust in and follow the Jesus of the Bible? Or would you find some other explanation that would require no change or sacrifice in your life?
Having doubts and asking questions can be very good if our aim is to discover the truth. But if the true motivation for our doubts is to avoid a reality that will bring discomfort or change, we'll never find the real answers to life's questions.
The offer of "life" through Christ that John makes (v.30-31) refers not simply to physical life. The word for life here, Zoe, refers to the quality of life that is the highest and best possible. John isn't suggesting that a person that trusts in Jesus will skip around smelling roses every day. John is saying here that his account of Jesus' life and ministry was written to convince readers to trust in Jesus so that they can have a genuinely purposeful life right now and the ultimate realization of their existence in eternity with God.
Coffee House Question:
What do you think is the difference between "Faith" and "Blind Faith"?
Next week we conclude our look at The Gospel Of John and reveal the next book of the Bible we will examine together!
Don't miss out!