Reading for Friday, Jan. 27: John 20
I can’t get over how rich this chapter is. So much that speaks directly to us.
It’s been said that Mary Magdalene was the first evangelist, the first to speak the “good news” of the resurrection. She certainly functions as the evangelist to the disciples, since she’s the first to the tomb that Sunday morning. At first, she doesn’t quite get it: she thinks his body has been taken. But after seeing Jesus, she rushes back to tell the group, “I have seen the Lord! (v18)” With those words, the course of human history changed, as these disciples began to understand the fullness of what had just transpired. I love that Mary recognizes Jesus as soon as He calls her by name. What a beautifully intimate portrait of the relationship Jesus desires with us! It hearkens back to what He said in ch10 about His sheep knowing Him, knowing His voice.
Jesus appears to His disciples on Sunday evening and what a joyous occasion that must’ve been. Actually, I’m sure it scared them to death at first! But Jesus calms them with a word of peace: “Peace be with you!” And the text says, then He showed them his side and his hands. It’s as if we can hear Jesus saying, “Because of the violence I’ve endured and absorbed, you may now know true peace.” These scars remain tangible reminders of the cost of our redemption.
John records something unique to the other Gospel stories: Jesus breathes on them, telling them to receive the Holy Spirit. Luke, of course, locates the gift of the Spirit with Pentecost as a fulfillment of Joel 2. I’m not sure how to understand all of this, but it seems as if what’s going on in John is a unique gift of the Spirit specifically for these disciples. I like what the ESV Study Bible says here: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” it is best understood as a foretaste of what would happen when the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. At any rate, the disciples receive this promised Comforter to equip them for the mission ahead.
Finally, we come to Thomas. As I’ve said before, I’m sympathetic to the guy. (See this article I wrote last year on this episode.) Thomas is actually a man of faith in John’s Gospel. But his lack of faith has caused us to label him “Doubting Thomas”. What’s interesting is that the disciples nor Jesus rejected Thomas because of his unbelief. Surely the disciples spent that week trying to convince Thomas of what they had seen. Yet, even though he remained unconvinced, we find him a week later gathered with the same disciples when Jesus appears. Powerfully, Jesus doesn’t reject Thomas either, but allows him to view and feel the scars if necessary. The bottom line for Jesus seems to be faith. “Look, here they are, Thomas. If this is what it takes, then come and touch these scars. Feel where they drove the nail. It’s okay, Thomas. I did this for you.”
And He did it for me, too.