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Jesus Resurrection - Disciples

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JOHN 20:19-29

Those familiar with theophanies in the Old Testament will soon recognize the various elements of a theophany/Christophany (an appearance of God or Christ) here but with a slight variation. The basic elements of a theophany are: (1) fear; (2) the calming word of “peace” or “do not be afraid” from God or Christ; and (3) a word of commission for the task to be performed.


1.        The Disciples & Fear

a.        Closed Doors

The disciples were behind closed doors: “when the doors were shut…” [20:19].

§         θυρῶν – “doors” [20:19], ‘entrance’;

§         κεκλεισμένων - “shut” [20:19], perfect passive participle, ‘closed and in some cases locked’;

b.        Fear

They feared what the Jews might do to them after the way in which they had dealt with Jesus: “disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews” [20:19].

§         οἱ μαθηταὶ - “disciples” [20:19], ‘close follower’;

§         ἦσαν - “assembled” [20:19], indicative imperfect active, ‘to be, exist’; ‘to be in a place’;

§         φόβον - “fear” [20:19], ‘flight, dread, terror’; ‘basic to the group is the primary verb φέβομαι ‘to flee’, ‘to run from’;

c.        The Appearance

The appearance: “came Jesus and stood in the midst…” [20:19].

§         ἦλθεν - “came” [20:19], aorist active, ‘to come, go’; ‘move forward or up to’;

§         ἔστη - “stood” [20:19], aorist active, ‘to cause to be in a place’; ‘to stand’;

§         εἰς τὸ μέσον - “midst” [20:19], ‘the middle, centre’;

i.        Fear at His Presence

The disciples feared the presence of Jesus: “they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen spirit” [Luk.24:37].

§         πτοηθέντες - “terrified” [24:37], aorist passive participle, ‘be terrified, frightened’;

§         γενόμενοι – aorist middle participle, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to become’;

§         ἔμφοβοι - “affrighted” [24:37], adjective, from en, ‘in’, and phóbos, ‘fear’;

§         ἐδόκουν - “supposed” [24:37], imperfect active, ‘to be of the opinion’; ‘to seem to be’;

ii.      Theophonic Fear

In most theophonic reports the fear is engendered by an appearance of the divine.

§         The context of a theophany, the divine appearance, was expected to strike terror in the life of a human because of the common Semitic belief that to see God would mean that one would die.

§         Gideon: “when Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! For because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face” [Jdg.6:22].

§         John: “when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead…” [Rev.1:17].


 More than the ten apostles present: “found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them” [Luk.24:33].

2.        The Self-Identification & Continuity  

a.        The Shalom

The calming words of Jesus: “Peace be unto you” [20:19].

§         εἰρήνη - “peace” [20:19], ‘harmony’; ‘shalom well-being and wholesomeness’;

§         ὑμῖν - “be unto you” [20:19],

i.        The Calming Word  

What was necessary in such instances was the calming word of Shalom:  

§         Gideon: “Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” [Jdg.6:23].

§         John: “he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last” [Rev.1:17].

b.        The Evidence

The evidence: “he showed unto them his side…” [20:20].

§         ἔδειξεν - “showed” [20:20], aorist active, ‘to make known’; ‘to demonstrate’;

§         χεῖρας - “hands” [20:20],

§         πλευρὰν αὐτοῖς - “his side” [20:20], ‘side of the human body’;

i.        The Continuity

The self-identification marks the continuity of the resurrected Jesus with the Crucified Jesus: 

§         They needed to be sure that he was the same Jesus who was attached to the cross by nails through his hands and that he was precisely the same Jesus who was pierced in the side by one of the soldiers: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” [19:34].  

§         To prove who he is, Jesus shows them the scars of his suffering and violent death: “showed unto them his hands and his side” [20:20].

ii.      The Victory >>> The Easter Greeting

Jesus shows them the scars of his suffering and violent death, not just as signs to recognize him but also as signs of victory.

§         He shows himself to be the triumphant one, the one “whom they have pierced” [19:37], in keeping with what [19:37] about the prophetic-messianic significance of his pierced side: “a bone of him shall not be broken” [19:36]. 

§         The greeting Shalom is the Easter complement of the cry of the cross: “it is finished” [19:30].

§         The personalized peace: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one…” [Eph.2:14-15].

§         The God of peace: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus…” [Heb.13:20].


Now he returns to them to enable them to share in his victory over death and the grave and thus to give them the sign by which they will be allowed to continue his work on earth as the secret of their power and the content of their message.

§         That clear identification was to become critically important for the Church to maintain; the Crucified is the risen Lord, in the fullest sense of the term, and the risen Lord is the Crucified, the flesh and blood redeemer, whose real death and real resurrection accomplished salvation for the whole person and the whole world’. 

3.        The Promise Fulfilled  

The disciples’ response: “then were the disciples glad…” [20:20].

§         ἐχάρησαν - “glad” [20:20], ‘to rejoice, be glad’;

§         “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you” [16:22];

a.        The Concept of Joy

Words formed from the Gk. root char indicate things which produce wellbeing.

§         charis which is not always clearly distinguished in literature from chara means that which brings wellbeing among men (cf. charma);

§         While chara (Joy) is the individual experience or expression of this wellbeing.

§         Joy is inward, it has a cause, and it finds expression;

b.        Seeing is Believing

The concept of seeing and believing: “when they saw the Lord” [20:20].

§         ἰδόντες - “saw” [20:20], aorist active participle, ‘to see’; ‘to pay attention to’;

§         τὸν κύριον - “Lord” [20:20],

§         And just as he promised before his crucifixion, their weeping and mourning turned to an effervescent experience of joy: “you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” [16:20].


But before detailing the commission, the evangelist wanted to stress for his readers that in this Christophany or appearance the risen Jesus made sure his followers understood that he was the very same Jesus (20:20) who had been their earlier Paraclete, or companion (cf. John 14:16).


1.        The Commission & Continuity

a.        The Son’s Commission

The Son’s commission: “as my Father has sent me…” [20:21].

§         καθὼς - “as” [20:21], ‘just as’;

§         ἀπέσταλκέν - “sent me” [20:21], perfect active indicative, ‘to send someone out implying for a particular purpose’;

§         The use of the perfect tense rather than the aorist in reference to the commission of Jesus should be understood to indicate that the mission of Jesus still continues.

b.        The Disciples’ Commission

The mission of Jesus as the one sent by the Father remains in force in the mission of the disciples: “even so send I you” [20:21].

§         πέμπω - “send you” [20:21], present active, ‘send out’; ‘cause someone to carry something to a destination’;

c.        The Continuity

The mission of Christ continues and is effective in their ministry: “he that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also…” [14:12-14].

§         The apostles were commissioned to carry on Christ’s work: “as you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” [17:18].

§         “He that receives whomsoever I send receives me; he that receives me receives him that sent me” [13:20].


The form of the fulfillment of the Son’s mission was now to be changed, but the mission itself was still continued and still effective.

§         What Jesus has in mind is one single action, the great movement of the missionary heart of God sending forth his Son into the world, initially through the incarnation, subsequently through the church.

§         The one mission of God has two phases: the first, that of the Son in his incarnate life; the second, that of the Son in his risen life through his people.

2.        The Resources & The Commission 

a.        The Incorporation  

The symbolic action of Jesus: “he breathed on them…” [20:22].

§         ἐνεφύσησεν - “breathed” [20:22], aorist active, from en, ‘in, upon’, and phusáō, ‘to breathe on, blow’;

i.        The Son & The First Creation

The parallels with the work of God in the original creation are clear: “the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” [Gen.2:7].

§         The end result of the first: “man became a living soul” [Gen.2:7].

§         The Son is the Creator: “all things were made by him…” [1:3].

ii.      The Son & The New Creation

The new creation in the resurrection of Christ: “the last Adam was made a life-giving Spirit” [1Cor.15:45].

§         A representation of resurrection in the time of the kingdom: “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live…” [Eze.37:5f].

§         The eschatological hope: “shall put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land…” [37:14].

§         Strictly speaking, one should not view this as the beginning of the new creation but rather as the beginning of the incorporation of man into that creation that came into being in the Christ by his incarnation, death and resurrection.

§         This incorporation is actualized by the Holy Spirit: “if any man is in Christ, new creation…” [2Cor.5:17]. 

iii.    The Resurrection & The New Creation 

The promised new life: “But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” [7:39].

§         The resurrection morning: “on the first day of the week…” [20:1].

§         The resurrection power: “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth…” [Mat.28:19]. 

b.        The Incorporation & The Empowering

The disciples are equipped for the work assigned to them: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” [20:22].

§         λάβετε - “receive” [20:22], aorist active imperative, ‘take hold of’; ‘obtain possession of’;

§         πνεῦμα ἅγιον - “Holy Ghost” [20:22], “the wind (pneu/ma) blows where it lists…” [3:8].

i.        The Promised Continuity

The promise of another Comforter: “he dwells with you and shall be in you” [14:17].

§         The promise not to leave them alone: “I will not leave you as orphans…” [14:18].

§         The Comforter sent by the Son: “I will pray the Father and he will give you another Comforter…” [14:16].

§         The necessity of the Son’s departure: “it is expedient for you that I go away…” [16:7].

§         The promise: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you” [14:17].  

ii.      The Role of the Spirit

The Son sends the Spirit: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me” [15:26];

§         With regard to the message of the kingdom: “when the Comforter is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” [16:8];

§         With regard to the truth: “he will guide you into all truth…” [16:13].

§         With regard to the things that will happen to them: “he will announce things to come” [16:13].

§         With regard to the work of Christ: “he will receive what is mine and show it unto you” [16:14].


So, just as God, who in Gen 2:7 (cf. also Ezek 37:9) breathed into man the breath of life and he became a “living being”, Jesus also breathed into his followers the new breath and let the Spirit loose among his followers so that they might be empowered to do his will.

§         There is only one giving of the Spirit. It can be described from various points of view. Indeed, John described the promise of the coming Spirit in various ways in chaps. 14–16.

§         To view events holistically means that the story is told in such a way that the end is already part of the beginning. That also means that time sequences are not as important as meaning sequences.


Jesus, however, had come not merely to assure them of his conquest of death and the triumph of his kingdom. He has come also to instruct and prepare them for what lies ahead.

1.        The Great Commission  

The presence of the exalted Lord is the authorisation of our mission: “all power is given unto me in heaven and earth…” [Mat.28:19].

a.        The Content of Mission

The missionary work of God takes place through the preached gospel: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” [Luk.24:47].

b.        The Boundary of Mission

The church is to carry the witness to the whole earth: “you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” [Acts 1:8].

2.        The Proclamation

a.        Sin & The Mission

The concept of sin is central to the proclamation of the gospel:

§         The gospel of Jesus Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” [1:29].

§         The promise to faith: “whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life” [3:16].

§         The consequences of unbelief: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” [8:24].

b.        The Disciples & The Mission

i.        The Forgiveness of Sin

There is the declaration of salvation: “whosesoever sins you remit…” [20:22].

§         τινων – “whosesoever” [20:23], used indefinitely ‘something, somebody’; ‘anyone’;

§         Both occurrences of τινων are in the plural; it is the sins of whatever people, not the sins of whatever person, to which this verse refers. Jesus is not speaking of individuals but of classes.

§         ἁμαρτίας - “sins” [20:23], ‘missing the mark’; ‘wrong-doing’;

§         ἀφῆτε - “remit” [20:23], aorist active subjunctive, ‘to dismiss’; ‘depart from’;

§         ἀφέωνται - “are remitted” [20:23], perfect indicative passive, ‘to dismiss’; ‘depart from’;

ii.      The Retention of Sin 

There is the declaration of judgement: “whosesoever sins you retain…” [20:23].

§         κρατῆτε - “retain” [20:23], present active subjunctive, ‘hold on to’; ‘to hold fast to’; ‘cause a state to continue’;

§         κεκράτηνται - “are retained” [20:23], perfect passive indicative, ‘hold on to’; ‘cause a state to continue’;

iii.    The Relationship

The verb “are remitted” and “are retained” are in the perfect tense.

§         The meaning is that the Spirit-filled church can pronounce with authority that the sins of such-and-such people have been forgiven or retained.

§         If the church is really acting under the leadership of the Spirit it will be found that her pronouncements in this matter do but reveal what has already been determined in heaven.

c.        The Binding & Loosing

The teaching here is closely related to the words of Matthew: “and I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth will be bound in heaven…” [Mat.16:19].

§         δήσῃς - “bind” [16:19], ‘to tie, bind together’; ‘to imprison’;

§         λύσῃς - “loose” [16:19], ‘to untie’; ‘to set free, release’;

i.        The Formula

The formula ‘loose and bind’ describes the activity of a judge.

§         The language refers to the judge’s declaration of the guilt or innocence of persons brought before him, who are “bound” or “loosed” from the charges made against them.

§         The “loosing” and the “binding” are the effect of preaching the gospel in the world, which either brings them to repent as they hear of the ready and costly forgiveness of God, or leaves them unresponsive to the offer of forgiveness which is the gospel, and so they are left in their sins.

ii.      Peter’s Authority

In this context the words would denote Peter’s authority to declare people forgiven or condemned according to their response to the message of the kingdom of God.

§         The authority of the messengers includes both the communication of salvation and the imposition of judgement.

d.        The Work of God

i.        Forgiveness of Sin

It is God who effectively forgives or retains sin: “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” [Mar.2:7].

§         The mission of the Son: “that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins…” [Mat.9:6].

ii.      The Presence of the Spirit

The promised Holy Spirit will make the disciples’ mission effective: “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” [16:8].

§         The success of mission: “I have chosen and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” [15:16].


This saying conveys the central content of the disciples’ mission, namely to proclaim with authority, as representatives of the exalted Lord, the remission of sins as the real goal of his mission from the Father and also of their mission from him.

§         John’s message entails the double context of continuance of the mission of Jesus through his disciples in the world, and the continuance of that mission through the Holy Spirit to the world in and with the disciples. This latter aspect is the theme of 15:25-26; 16:8-11].

§         Disciples proclaim forgiveness of sins and so entry into the saving sovereignty of God through the redemption of Christ, and judgement on those who reject the revelation and redemption of Christ.

§         “through his Spirit whom he sends as his authorising messenger, Christ himself is directly at work as the One who forgives”

§         This is consistent with the idea that the disciples are to carry on the ministry of Jesus after he has departed from the world and returned to the Father, a theme which occurred in the Last Discourse (cf. 15:27, 16:1-4, and 17:18).

§         “Whosoever sins you remit [forgive] shall have already been forgiven them, and whosoever sins you retain [do not forgive] shall have already not been forgiven them.” In other words, the disciples did not provide forgiveness; they proclaimed forgiveness on the basis of the message of the Gospel.[1]

Thus one could say that Jesus’ followers are to make the Gospel so clear that it is evident where people stand on the nature of sin. When these texts are understood in this perspective, it should become clear that Jesus’ commission to his followers is not one of privileged judgment but of weighty responsibility to represent the will of God in Christ with extreme faithfulness and to be honest and authentic about their evaluations or judgments.

Moreover, the focus is, as Barclay notes, not on giving individuals the power to forgive sins” but rather on the church’s duty “to proclaim that forgiveness” and “to warn the impenitent that they are forfeiting the mercy of God.”


[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 20:19

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