About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Appears To His Disciples (ch. 20:19-23)


In verse 19 We note that this section of John took place on the first day of the week.  That is out Sunday.  


Also in verse 19 we now see Jesus appearing to the disciples behind locked doors, as in more than one door.  They were afraid that the Jews would soon come after them for being followers of Jesus.  It is clear by the context that Jesus did not nock on the door and wait to be invited in.  He just appeared out of thin air.


At this point we know that Jesus appears in what has been called His resurrected body.  There has been much discussion about what Jesus' resurrected body looked like, but we just don't know for sure.  We saw in the last section that Mary did not recognize Jesus until He said her name.  From other accounts we know that others did not recognize Jesus at first.  There had to be something different about the way Jesus looked after His resurrection than what He looked like before.  Obviously, as we will see, He still had the nail prints in His hands, feet, and the scar where the sword pierced His side. It appears to me that we will always see the nail prints in His glorified body throughout eternity.  This might be suggested in Revelation 5 where John is told to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah , but when he turns around, he actually sees the Lamb of God as if He had been slain.  The fact that John saw a lamb as if it has been slain and not a ferocious looking lion tells me that Jesus, throughout eternity, will be seen with the scars from His execution on the cross.  Jesus' love is so great for us that our eternal bodies, that will be free from scars, will not be exactly like Jesus' glorified body who will have scars visible for all to see.    


Some Bible teachers suggest, as I once did, that because Jesus could simply appear behind locked doors that He was in His glorified body.  He might well have been in His glorified body but simply appearing in a room does not prove that.  Philip, in Acts 8, experienced something similar and he was not living in his glorified body.  
Besides that, Jesus Himself made such an appearance in John 6:16 to 21.  The disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose.  Suddenly, out of nowhere Jesus just appeared.  So, there He is appearing out of thin air prior to His resurrection.  Then, after He calmed the storm, the boat, Himself, and the disciples suddenly appeared in Capernaum , out of thin air.  There you have the same thing again.  So, as I've said, Jesus appearing behind closed and locked doors alone doesn't prove He was in His glorified body.           

Jesus' first words were "peace to you."  They were already in fear of their lives because of the Jews, and now an appearance of Jesus out of thin air in itself could have been quite fearful.  These words of peace were very much needed at this point in time.


Remember, in the last section Jesus told Mary that He had not yet been to His Father so she was not to touch Him, but now, as we will see later, Thomas touches Jesus.  He has obviously been back to His Father and now just appears from Heaven at will and to whom He wishes.     


In verse 20 Jesus showed the men His hands and His side to prove that it was Him.  He had the nail scars in His hands and the scar from the sword in His side. We, therefore, know that Jesusí body retained something from His humanity, at least in the way it looked, and, at least to a degree.  Again, to what degree Jesus' glorified body looked like his old earthly body, we just don't know. 


Jesus may have been in a glorified body but it appears that the scars from His human death for our sins will remain with Him throughout eternity as a reminder to us of His act of love on the cross.  Yes, Jesus did return to His Father, but He was in a different state of being than what He was before His incarnation.  This is why Iíve always thought that Jesus has eternally changed His being on our account.  What Jesus is now is not what He was before the incarnation.  He is still the same in person, but not in appearance.  As John 1:1 states, prior to His incarnation Jesus was the "logos", the "word' of God.  That in one very real sense of the word means that Jesus was in fact the mind of God, but now, after His resurrection He is more than the mind of God. There is a distinct and separate distinction between He and God.  


In verse 21 Jesus says, "Peace be with you."   This is the second time He has said this.  He is saying that they can receive His peace, a peace that will keep them through the doubts, through the difficult times that lay ahead of them.  They can now be confident in the fact that He is alive.  His peace can sustain them in all things.


Jesus goes onto say, "As the Father has sent me, so send I you."   These men were in the process of being sent out into the world to represent Jesus to mankind, just as Jesus represented His Father in the world.  This is one very important calling these men have just received.  If you understand the nature of God's calling on the life of Jesus, you will realize that Jesus' calling on these men's lives was a very serious matter.  In the exact same way Jesus obeyed His Father's will, so these men were to obey Jesus' will as they represented Him to the world.  This is a major thing for us to consider.  I suggest that in many instances, if not most instances, the church has not represented Jesus as Jesus represented His Father.         


Then Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  The question needs to be asked here.  Did these men receive the Holy Spirit at this particular time?  If so, what did they receive in Acts 2?  Without going into too much detail, I strongly believe that this was merely a symbolic gesture on the part of Jesus.  They did not receive the Holy Spirit at this time.


In John 7:39 John makes clear that the Spirit would not be given to believers until Jesus was fully glorified.  As we saw in the prayer of Jesus in John 17, Jesusí understanding of Him being glorified was at the ascension when He returned to the Father for good.  At this point in time, He has not returned to the Father for good.  He was going back and forth from Heaven to earth.  Yes, Jesus had a glorified body, but He Himself was not yet glorified and honoured as He would be at the ascension, as He implied in His John 17 prayer, which I suggest you read again. 


Also, in Acts 1:4 Jesus told these men to wait in Jerusalem until they received "The gift that the Father promised."  This gift is clearly the Holy Spirit; although some have confused this point by saying the gift is the Baptism in the Spirit. The gift of God is the Holy Spirit.  The way in which the gift was given was like a baptism.  We should not confuse the gift and the way the gift was given.  The important thing is the gift, not the way in which the gift is given.


It is thus clear that the believers received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, and not here in John 20.  This fact has great implications in the Pentecostal doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that would make this experience not a second work of grace as Pentecostal teaching claims.


Verse 23 needs some thought.  Jesus says to these men that if they forgive men their sins, they are forgiven, and if they donít forgive men their sins, they are not forgiven.  To make a long story short, this means that as Christians, we represent Jesus on earth. We represent Him to the degree that we can actually proclaim forgiveness of sins to the repentant person. We can actually say, "As a representative of Jesus on earth, your sins have been forgiven." 


In one sense of the word Catholics come closer to this Scriptural truth than Protestants, except for the fact that only priests can forgive sins in the Catholic system.  I believe that we are all representatives of Jesus, if we are born again of the Spirit of God, and therefore we all have the authority to announce to a person that their sins have been forgiven.    


The verb tense is important here.  The verbs "are forgiven" or "are not forgiven" in the Greek text are in the perfect tense.  I suggest we understand it this way.  "Their sins have been forgiven or have not been forgiven."  The point here is that we are not actually forgiving the sin.  We are simply announcing that God has or has not already forgiven the sin.  


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