By Sam E. Stone
This month’s study in the Gospel of John comes full circle today. In the first text we considered, the apostle John introduced John the Baptist to his readers (John 1). Authorities from Jerusalem found him baptizing in the Jordan. He pointed them to the Messiah, Jesus, who would one day baptize people in the Holy Spirit. Today’s text focuses on the fulfillment of John’s prophecy of what Jesus would say and do: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
This is the first of three appearances of the resurrected Christ recorded in John’s Gospel. Thomas was not with them on this occasion (John 20:24, 25). Jesus appeared to them a week later, and Thomas was present (vv. 26-29). The third appearance mentioned took place by the Sea of Galilee, with seven disciples present (21:1-14).
Peace and Joy
The New Testament singles out the day of Christ’s resurrection as chief among the days of the week. As the Jews count time, the first day of the week began on Saturday at sunset. The scene described here evidently took place around the end of that first day—or Sunday evening. While the place they are meeting is not specified, many Bible scholars feel it likely was at the home of John Mark’s mother, Mary (Acts 12:12). It may have been the location of the upper room where the Last Supper was held (Mark 14:13-15).
John provided a meaningful insight when he said, The disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. We cannot imagine the fear that gripped their hearts, having watched their leader die in such a terrible way just three days before. Other disciples had seen Jesus earlier that morning as well—Mary Magdalene and other women (Mark 16:1) at the empty tomb, as well as the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Might their reports be true? Could Jesus have returned to life?
When Jesus came into the room, he gave a classic Jewish greeting, “Peace be with you!” Never before had anyone fully understood the complete implications of the peace which he alone can provide. While his remark was obviously intended to help them not be afraid, it provided a unique promise they would never forget!
Peace and Mission
After he showed them his hands and side, they were overjoyed. As J. W. McGarvey put it, “These members not only showed that he was not a disembodied spirit, but they served to identify his body with that which they had seen crucified, and hence the person who now spoke was the Jesus whom they had known and lost.”
Now they were convinced! Jesus then said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” A.T. Robertson wrote, “This is the first of three commissions given by the Risen Christ—another on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6), another on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:3-9).”
Earlier Jesus had told them of the special peace they would share (John 16:33). Now it became a reality. He introduced them to their new assignment—taking the good news of the gospel to a lost world. R. C. Foster wrote, “This was the definite promise given at the ascension as recorded by Luke (Acts 1:4, 5) . . . It would seem, then, that this is another promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That they will have the authority to declare to the world God’s plan of redemption by which man’s sins may either be forgiven or retained, according to his obedience or rejection, is a part of this same promise of the giving of the Spirit. This was fulfilled at Pentecost when the first full gospel sermon was proclaimed.”
A.J. Macleod agreed, adding: “He sends them into the world and breathes upon them the Spirit. This is in anticipation of the real bestowal of the gift at Pentecost.” It took place 50 days later at the feast of Pentecost. There God poured out the Spirit of peace on the apostles so that they could take Christ’s message of salvation to the world. It is that message of the gospel that alone can bring salvation to the sinner. The first full gospel message was preached by the apostle Peter (Acts 2). The same good news about Jesus remains the only hope for the world today.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.