Faithlife Sermons

Jesus Cares for and Commissions His Disciples (Jn 20:17-29)

Exploring John's Gospel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
I love boneless chicken wings! In Michigan, we lived not far from a Buffalo Wild Wings. We went there on several occasions and many times I ordered wings with a couple different sauces. I always preferred the boneless. They are all meat. Now, you can order bone-in wings, and believe it or not, some people actually order these when boneless are available to them. Bone-in wings are annoying to me. You dump your wing into some amazing sauce and take a bite into the wing and your enjoyment ends as you crunch down on a bunch of bone. It is ridiculous.
At risk of comparing such trivialities to the Bible, bear with me for just a moment. Let me compare some passages to the boneless chicken wings. You bite into just glorious meat. Nothing distracts you or hinders your delight in the meal sitting in front of you. However, there are some Bible passages that may be compared to bone-in wings. They have tremendous taste, but you bite into them and you have got to work around some challenging bones.
Today’s menu offers bone-in wings. John unfolds some amazing statements that feed our longing souls, however, just as you bite into this joyous meat, some bones present themselves. For instance, as we consider the interaction with Mary, we realize that Jesus, for the first time, calls the disciples “brothers.” Oh, what a glorious truth. However, in the same sentence, he tells Mary to stop clinging to him. Yikes! There is a bone that we need to work around. On to another wing. We delight in Jesus’ care and presence to his grieving disciples. There is more great meat. But then, Jesus tells them they can forgive sins. Yikes! There is another bone that we must deal with.
In John 20, there are three plates of wings representing three interactions Jesus has with others. First, Jesus interacts with Mary at the tomb. Secondly, Jesus interacts with ten of the disciples that same evening in an upper room. And finally, and graciously, a boneless plate of wings is delivered as Jesus interacts with Thomas. In this interaction with Thomas, there are no challenging phrases. So then, let us tackle this first plate of bone-in wings. Jesus interacts with Mary Magdalene.

Jesus’ Interaction with His Disciples

Jesus interacts with Mary Magdalene (20:11-18). Last week we considered John’s presentation of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. However, we only addressed a portion of the interaction between Mary and Jesus. We focused our attention on Mary’s weeping at the tomb and her following interaction with two angels and Jesus. John unfolds additional information in verses seventeen and eighteen.
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:17–18).
Ancient and modern readers alike have stumbled over a couple challenges within these two verses. One of the challenges arises from the actual text but appears to have little practical implication. The other challenge, imposed upon the text by mostly modern readers, carries significant practical implications. (1) The first challenge lies in the wording, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn 20:17). (2) The second challenge lies in the potentially precedent setting action by Jesus in sending Mary Magdalene to the disciples as the first preacher of the gospel. Let us quickly address these.
Do not cling to me. Why do you think Jesus forbids Mary from touching him? D.A. Carson offers a helpful overview[1] of four positions on Jesus’ awkward statement. (1) Stop clinging to me. Since I have not yet ascended to the Father, go to my brothers, and tell them that I am going to ascend to My Father. (2) Let go of me because you must go to my brothers with a message. (3) Stop clinging to me because I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go tell my brothers. (4) Stop clinging to me. It is not as if I am ascending to my Father right now. Go tell my brothers I have risen but that I will be ascending to My Father.
Lemke. Some scholars think that Jesus was in the process of ascending, and that after He left Mary He ascended (briefly) before seeing the disciples in the upper room. More likely Jesus was telling Mary to not keep on hanging on Him. He wanted her to go to the disciples and tell them that He would ascend, but that for now He wanted to see them[2]
Of the four positions, the third seems the most unlikely. Matthew reveals in his gospel that the larger group of women “came and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:9). Additionally, shortly after Jesus’ interaction with Mary Magdalene, Jesus encourages Thomas to touch his hands and side to see and feel the evidence of his resurrection (Jn 20:27). Hardly would Jesus allow others to embrace him in worship and touch him out of disbelief but then deny Mary Magdalene the opportunity to express her adoration.
As for the first position, John, in using the word translated since (gar) most likely refers to what precedes not succeeds. However, this position reverses this disconnecting “stop clinging to me” from the rest of the verse. Nicely, no need exists to explain a connection to Jesus’ admonition and his impending ascension. Yet, the Greek language rarely employs gar in this method.
The second and fourth positions find significant similarity, but the second position essentially disconnects Jesus’ statement about his ascension. In so doing, Jesus likely intends to communicate the fourth position. Overcome by her excitement in seeing Jesus, Mary clings to Christ. Jesus, however, needs Mary to go tell the disciples he has risen. So, Jesus lovingly pleads with her to let go so that she can accomplish the important task of proclaiming his resurrection to his beloved disciples.
Michaels. Mary wants to take hold of Jesus (at least if the analogy with Mt 28:9 is in play) as an act of devotion or worship, while Thomas wants to do so (as we will see) for verification (v. 25). While worship is appropriate—even before Jesus’ resurrection (see 9:38)—the time is not right. Jesus has other plans for Mary. The point is not that she is in danger of preventing Jesus from ascending—how could she do so even if she tried?—but that the longer she stayed with Jesus, the later she would be in delivering the message Jesus gave her.[3]
Mary, the first preacher? The second challenge within this interaction arises from those wanting the text to imply more than John (or Jesus) intended. Let me offer an observation which led to some concern. In studying this text, I read fourteen commentaries and not one of them even alluded to a discussion about this interaction between Mary and Jesus setting any type of precedent for women’s roles in the church – beyond every believer’s responsibility to proclaim the gospel to everyone around them. However, my personal experience in social media and through various blog posts indicates that this interaction with Mary and Jesus frequently comes up as a proof text for women serving as pastors. Let me offer just two examples.
Alyssa Pasternak Post. The liturgy would be enriched and God even more authentically worshipped if these women’s…gifts could be welcomed…[The Sunday’s lectionary] simultaneously conceals the historical reality of a woman as the first preacher of the good news of the Risen Christ, and protects the power of men.[4]
J. Lee Grady. Under the curse of sin, the woman—Eve—not only came under the bondage of sin in a general sense, but was placed at a disadvantage in her relationship with men…Through the redemption of Christ, the woman got her voice back. Mary Magdalene was appointed to go and tell. She was commissioned to preach. Jesus did not limit her, restrict her or tell her to stay out of the pulpit. Instead, He ordained her to be a carrier of His glorious Gospel.[5]
Let me acknowledge my concern. The average believer reads social media and internet articles much more than they read bible commentaries. Believers may likely be swayed towards a position that in depth study would quickly subside. While a passing observation may lead one to conclude that this text offers some great liberation to the oppression placed on women by men throughout the church, the text cannot bear such an inference.
With that said, I do believe that women have been unduly set aside and often inappropriately subjugated and publicly maligned within the church. Many other NT passages clearly address these erroneous conclusions. However, this text in John does not.
In bringing up the conversation, I need to minimally address the issue. Thomas Schreiner wrote: "I believe the role of women in the church is the most controversial and sensitive issue within evangelicalism today. Whether this is so or not, there can be little doubt that this topic has generated intense and divisive debates which have resulted in significant changes occurring in women's roles in the church during the last half century.”[6]
Within such a conversation, a few texts rise to the forefront. Paul writes to Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim 2:12). Paul, as well, writes to the Corinthians, “the women should keep silent in the churches” (1 Cor 14:34). Doing an exegetical study of these texts extends beyond the scope of this message, however, the first text rests in a context concerning the church gathering and those who would proclaim the public message in that specific setting. The second text rests in a context of prophecy and a discussion about said prophecy. A thorough discussion on these two texts require much more time, but we can simply conclude that neither of them direct women to speak from the time they enter the church building until they leave.
ISBE. [T]he NT writers draw a distinction between preaching and teaching.…Teaching (didaskein) is in a large majority of cases ethical instruction.… Preaching, on the other hand, is the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world…Thus in the NT “teaching” can include “preaching” without these terms being considered merely synonymous.[7]
Other text would indicate women’s active participation within the gathered church. Paul commands women to engage in corporate singing which he considers to be “teaching” in Colossians 3:16. Additionally, in 1 Corinthians, Paul acknowledges and encourages women publicly praying in the gathered worship service (1 Cor 11:5) and indicates they were part of speaking in tongues (1 Cor 12:4 ff.). The church in Cenchreae considered Phoebe a servant, likely a deacon within the church (Rom 16:1). Paul directs women to teach other women in Titus 2:3-5. Various other passages indicate that women taught men biblical truths outside of the gathered church context [i.e. Priscilla teaching Apollos (Acts 18:24-26)] and are directed to proclaim the gospel at every possible opportunity (John 20:17; Acts 18:26; Matt 28:20). In his sermon entitled “The Whole Machinery of Salvation,” Spurgeon said the following.
Spurgeon. I wish that I could stir up everyone here to become a preacher, women and all; not that I care much for women preaching, but I want them to preach in the sense in which I have laid the matter down; that is, to make known to somebody the wondrous story of the cross. Speak to an individual, if you can. If you cannot do that, write. If you cannot write, send a sermon, or give a tract. Only do keep on making Christ known.[8]
Jesus interacts with ten of the disciples (20:19-23). Peace be with you. Only days before, this group of disciples abandoned Jesus in his darkest hour. Most acutely, during Jesus’ trial, Peter denied Jesus three times resulting in immense shame and Peter going out and weeping bitterly (Mt 16:75; Mk 14:72; Lk 22:62). John unfolds Peter’s full restoration in the next chapter, however, in this interaction, Jesus begins to restore the brokenness brought on by their shame at having abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. Jesus miraculously enters the room and says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus does not hold their failures against them but instead desires to restore a broken relationship.
Once again, in this text, we come to a couple of phrases that have resulted in some confusion and erroneous practice. Once again, one of the challenges appears to have little practical implication, while the other has had some significant practical implications. (1) John tells us that Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). What does this mean? What happened at this point? Did the disciples receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit in this moment? If so, what happened at Pentecost? Maybe more importantly, does it really matter? (2) John as well reveals a second challenging statement. Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (Jn 20:23). That statement seems a bit odd. The Catholic Church has most certainly applied this text in a way that carries serious practical implications. They believe the Church has the power, granted by Jesus, to forgive sins. Is that what this text means?
Receive the Holy Spirit. Following this gracious and meaningful extension of grace to the disciples, John tells us that Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Likely, John intends to allude to God’s breathing life into man formed from the dust of the ground and/or Ezekiel “prophesying to the wind to breathe life into the slain in the valley of dry bones.” [9] Clearly, as we will discuss shortly, this breath of Christ connects to his empowerment of believers to accomplish his task for them.
The statement “Receive the Holy Spirit” stirs up a great deal of discussion. D.A. Carson addresses four potential solutions.[10] (1) First, some commentators propose the spirit mentioned is not the personal Holy Spirit (due the lack of the Greek article) but instead representative of the power of God on the lives of the disciples.[11] Unlikely does John make a distinction between the person and the power of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, Borchert and Beasley-Murray offer instances in which John uses “Spirit” without the article and yet discusses “The Holy Spirit.”[12] (2) Secondly, some scholars believe this moment to be an actual impartation of the Holy Spirit.[13] Many who hold this view still allow for a distinction between this and Pentecost. [14] According to John Calvin the disciples “were sprinkled by his grace, but were not filled with full power” until Acts 2:3 when they “were entirely renewed.”[15] “Bengel viewed the gift as an “earnest” of Pentecost, Westcott as the power of new life anticipating the power for ministry (350–51); Bruce inverts the order, seeing the Easter gift as empowerment for ministry, to be followed by the Spirit’s gift of new life at Pentecost.”[16] However, Beasley-Murray appropriately questions this proposal.
Beasley-Murray. By contrast to these views it is a questionable procedure to distinguish the coming of the Spirit to the disciples from the coming of the Paraclete to the Church. If the Spirit is bestowed, the Paraclete has come. The gift of the Spirit is made to the disciples in the context of the handing to them of the commission; the Paraclete was promised to enable them to fulfill it; accordingly the Spirit who is given is the Paraclete. That the Evangelist has not used the term is of no consequence; the reality without the word is plain.[17]
(3) Third, others consider this to be John’s Pentecost. These proponents do not necessarily attempt to harmonize this event with Pentecost in Acts 2. Some do not try to harmonize the passages because they think Acts has poor historical chronology. Others think John was aware of Pentecost but chose to write the Spirit’s endowment at this point to link it to the resurrection.[18]
Michaels. the Spirit is represented in Acts 2 as “Power” and in John 20 as “Life.” That (aside from the phenomenon of speaking in tongues) is the only real difference between them. Thus when Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive Holy Spirit,” it is not an anticipation of Pentecost, but “Pentecost” itself—the only coming of the Spirit of which this Gospel knows.[19]
(4) Carson proposes the fourth and final solution. Jesus command to receive the Spirit is an “acted parable pointing forward to the full enduement still to come.”[20] Those who posit this view consider Acts as historically reliable and would still consider Pentecost as the true fulfillment of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Borchert. In an extended argument Carson substantially adopts the old view of Theodore of Mopsuestia that the statement concerning the Spirit in 20:22 “is to be regarded as a symbolic promise of the gift of the Spirit later to be given.” Even though Theodore’s view was condemned as heretical by the Council of Constantinople (a.d. 553), Carson argues for this view because it harmonizes John and Acts.[21]
Colin Kruse appropriately addresses this challenge in that he acknowledges insufficient support for two of the views and then concludes the two final views “create the least problems.”[22] While John offers us an intriguing phrase, none of the solutions pose theological dangers or result in any significant practical ramifications. Regardless the solution posed by any commentator, they all acknowledge the primary point of Christ’s divine enablement that accompanies his commission to his people to go.
If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven. Jesus’ words propose a second challenge within verses 20:21-23. The text seems to indicate that the disciples – potentially following believers as well – can forgive sins. The Roman Catholic Church has used verses such as these to hold their erroneous tradition that the church, and its succession of priests, have the authority to forgive sins. [23] The Catholic Church does admit that “only God can forgive sin,” but then conclude that priests are in the line of succession to the apostles who Christ empowered to forgive sins. John did not intend such theology. However, in the same way that it is anachronistic to draw the Catholic doctrine of penance from John 20, protestants draw equally anachronistic conclusions to argue against the Catholic interpretation. The passage must be “read on its own terms, the passage makes good sense as it stands.[24]
Jesus has just commissioned his disciples to go out. We know from other text that Jesus sent the disciples to go and proclaim the gospel to a world in need (Matt 28:18-20). Connected to this going, lies the phrase involving forgiveness. As believers go and proclaim the gospel, they can accurately and boldly declare those who have been forgiven and those who have not been forgiven. These believers do so in the same way Jesus does to the Samaritan woman. Jesus says, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Similarly, the author of Hebrews writes, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb 10:26–27).
On five occasions in his gospel (8:24; 9:41; 15:22, 24; 16:8–9; 19:11), John reveals the “non-forgiveness of sins is always related to refusal to believe in Jesus, suggesting that forgiveness of sins comes through belief in him.”[25] Those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ remain unforgiven. Those who accept the gospel are forgiven. We can, with certainty, declare those realities. In fact, we, as the church, have an immense responsibility to convey the important message that God forgives those who believe; but also we must be willing to convey that God refuses to forgive those who choose not to believe.
Jesus Interacts with Thomas (20:24-29). I have always struggled with the “bad rap” Thomas seems to acquire in this narrative. To be regarded “Doubting Thomas” throughout church history because of this moment seems harsh and a tad unfair, especially since the other disciples refused to believe until they saw Jesus. Mark writes, “when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it” (Mark 16:11). Additionally, Luke tells the reader the disciples considered Jesus’ resurrection “an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).
Nevertheless, God divinely inspired John to share this specific interaction between Jesus and Thomas. John alone unfolds this interaction between Jesus and John. Likely, John chooses to include this story because of the truth found in verse twenty-nine. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).
Some offer speculation as to Thomas’ whereabouts during Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples. Maybe Thomas feared more than the other disciples, and he was off brooding some place alone. However, I do wonder if we would speculate so negatively if we had not already been influenced by his negative nickname, “Doubting Thomas.”
John does mention Thomas earlier in his gospel. After Jesus proclaims his impending death, Thomas, rather pessimistically, declares, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). John does portray Thomas as cynical and pessimistic, but we also see a disciple who was willing to die for Christ. And in the immediate passage we find one of the most profound acknowledgments of Christ’s deity by Thomas, “My Lord and my God" (Jn 20:28).
With all that defense offered on behalf of Thomas, Jesus still confronts Him (and all disciples) with what belief ought to really look like. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Points of Application

Jesus cares for those who believe. (1) Jesus shows compassion to Mary Magdalene by caring for her amid her grief. (2) He offers “peace” to the disciples. The disciples likely missed Jesus’ declaration of “peace” amid his arrival into a locked room. Jesus’ declaration, however, is a simple yet profounds statement, which he makes twice. Jesus’ declaration of peace here likely reminds us of His promise to them in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (Jn 14:27). (3) He takes purposeful and special time with Thomas to encourage Him.
This has not changed since Jesus ascended to His Father. He still cares a great deal for those who love Him and follow Him. Jesus knows your insecurities and weaknesses, and He comes along side us and strengthens us.
Jesus as well reveals this care for his disciples in offering sufficient evidence for their belief. Jesus informs the disciples “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” yet he still offers more evidence to those struggling and offers visible reasons for belief.
We should, ideally, believe in Jesus for the simple statements found in Scripture, yet Jesus worked in each of us in such a way to draw us to Himself. Jesus’ uniquely works in each of us. He did what He needed to effectively draw us to Himself.
Jesus commissions and empowers those who believe. In this interaction with the disciples, John offers his form of “The Great Commission,” like what we read in Matthew twenty-eight. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19; cf Mark 16:14-16). Jesus commissioned Mary to go and inform the disciples of the resurrection. Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and proclaim the resurrection to the world. Jesus commissioned all of us to share the great news of the gospel to the world.
And he empowers us to do so. In Matthew, after Jesus sends out the disciples, he encourages them with the fact “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Similarly in John’s gospel, after commissioning the disciples to go out, Jesus empowers them with the power of the Holy Spirit.[26] Jesus never commissions believers to do something that he does not as well empower them to accomplish.
Purpose statement. Do not let good things get in the way of doing the best things.
This purpose statement may seem a stretch from the two concluding points of application. However, in similar fashion to Jesus, when Jesus commissions and empowers us to a specific task, he desires that we are about that task – even though there may be many other good tasks in which we could be engaged.
Luke expresses a similar concept in his gospel. In chapter ten, Luke tells the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha’s house. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and Martha was busy tending to areas of service. Martha asks Jesus to have Mary help her, and Jesus replies, “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
In each of our moments of life, we possess good tasks and the best tasks. In Luke, Mary chose the best in that she chose to sit at Jesus feet. However, in John, Mary Magdalene clung to Christ – which is a wonderful thing – however, Jesus had a more important task in that moment that Mary needed to be about. “Go and tell others of my resurrection.”
I pray that you will always pray for discernment to know what is the best and that you won’t allow good things to keep you from the best thing God has for you in each moment. Sometimes, the best may be to sit and meditate in God’s Word and long to commune with Jesus. At other times, the best thing may be to get up from your task and serve your family. At other times, the best may be to set aside your other good tasks and proclaim Jesus to someone else.
[1] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 642–45.
[2] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” Steven L. Cox and Kendell H. Easley, Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 219.
[3] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 2010), 1001.
[4] Alyssa Pasternak Post, “Go and Tell Them: Mary Magdalene and Women Preaching,” (Women in Theology, April 3, 2016). Accessed November 11, 2020.
[5] J. Lee Grady, “Why Was Mary Magdalene the First Witness of the Resurrection?” (, April 3, 2015). Accessed November 11, 2020.
[6] Stanley N. Gundry et al., Two Views on Women in Ministry, ed. James R. Beck, Revised edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005) kindle location 5086-5087.
[7] G. P. Hugenberger, “Preach,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 941.
[8] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Whole Machinery of Salvation,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 39 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1893), 462–463.
[9] Colin G Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Nottingham, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press ; IVP Academic, 2008), 375–76; George R. Beasley-Murray, John, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 380–81; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volumes 1 & 2, Logos Research Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 1204–5.
Kruse. The words ‘on them’ are missing in the Greek text, being supplied by the niv translators. So the text could simply read, ‘he breathed and said …’ However, the word used for ‘breathe’ is emphysaō, which, though found only here in the NT, occurs several times in the lxx, where it refers to God breathing life into the man formed from the dust (Gen. 2:7; cf. Wisdom 15:11), Elijah breathing into the nostrils of the widow’s dead son while calling upon the Lord to restore his life (1 Kgs. 17:21 lxx), and Ezekiel prophesying to the wind to breathe life into the slain in the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:9). It is therefore probably legitimate to add ‘on them’ in 20:22, and perhaps to see in it allusions to the life-giving work of God in creation.
Beasley-Murray. “He breathed in” is perhaps needlessly literal, but it harks back to the unusual term in Gen 2:7 and Ezek 37:9–10. In the former passage God “breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life,” so completing the creation of man. In the latter the prophet calls to the wind to “breathe into these slain that they may live,” after which “breath came into them, they came to life and rose to their feet, a mighty host.”
Keener. Most scholars concur that when Jesus breathes on the disciples, John is alluding to the creative, life-imparting act of God in Gen 2:7Genesis 2:7 was naturally connected with Ezek 37:9 in later midrash and Jewish artwork, and Ezek 37:9 was explicitly understood to refer to the resurrection of the dead.
[10] Carson, The Gospel According to John, 649–51.
[11] George Johnston, “Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John,” Perspective (Pittsburgh) 9, no. 1 (1968): 29–30. “A similar point arises in 20:22 where the original has, "receive holy spirit" or "receive a holy spirit," clearly referring to the life-breath of the risen Christ. Here it might connote "receive my holy spirit," but what could that mean?...Examination of pneuma, spirit, in John shows that it can mean wind or breath or divine power. The most typical sense is the last. God himself can be said to be spirit (4:24). He distributes spirit to the Son (3:34) and the Son hands on spirit to the disciples. We do not find, however, any usage that permits the translation "the Holy Spirit" in a full trinitarian way.”
[12] Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 307; Beasley-Murray, John, 36:380.
Borchert. In John 7:39 the Spirit is also mentioned without using an article in Greek. In fact, “the Holy Spirit” is referred to over fifty times in the New Testament without the article, three of them being in John’s Gospel (1:33; 14:26; 20:22).
Beasley-Murray. Whatever the reason for that in the source, in the Gospel it is not to be interpreted in an impersonal sense, or simply as a gift of the Spirit (contra Westcott, 350). The important saying, 7:39, also has “spirit” without the definite article, following a clause in the same sentence with it.
[13] R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 1371–73. “The breath of Jesus was, indeed, no mere symbol of the Spirit, nor was the act of breathing a mere symbolical act that only represented bestowal….It ought to be settled, already linguistically, that, whether we have Πνεῦμα and Πνεῦμα ἅγιον with or without the article, the sense is absolutely the same just as this is the case with Θεός and Κύριος. In the present instance the article is absent just as it is in 1:33; 7:39; Acts 1:2 and 5, and in many other instances. It is wasted effort to seek a special meaning for Πνεῦμα ὅγιον because here the article is absent; no such meaning exists….If this earnest is something other than the Spirit himself, how can Jesus say, “Receive the Spirit”? If this earnest is only a part of the Spirit, “a measure,” as some say, is, then, the Spirit cut into sections, or is he divided like liquid? And even then, why does Jesus say, “Receive the Spirit”? Let us understand once for all that any and every reception of the Spirit means that the Spirit himself, the entire and undivided Third Person of the Trinity, is received.”
[14] Brooke Foss Westcott and Arthur Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: J. Murray, 1908), 294–95. “Or rather, in order to express the absence of the article, a gift of the Holy Ghost (comp. 7:39), even the power of the new life proceeding from the Person of the Risen Christ.…To regard the words and act as a promise only and a symbol of the future gift is wholly arbitrary and unnatural.”
[15] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Gospel According to John (Logos Bible Software, 2010), 268–69. “But if Christ, at that time, bestowed the Spirit on the Apostles by breathing, it may be thought that it was superfluous to send the Holy Spirit afterwards. I reply, the Spirit was given to the Apostles on this occasion in such a manner, that they were only sprinkled by his grace, but were not filled with full power; for, when the Spirit appeared on them in tongues of fire, (Acts 2:3,) they were entirely renewed.”
[16] Beasley-Murray, John, 36:381.
[17] Beasley-Murray, 36:382.
[18] Beasley-Murray, 36:382.
[19] Michaels, The Gospel of John, 1012.
[20] Carson, The Gospel According to John, 655; John MacArthur, John 12-21 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, vol. 2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), 381.
MacArthur. In other words, Christ did not through this puff of breath actually and literally impart the Spirit in His fullness to them; rather, He declared in a visible figure what would happen to them at Pentecost.
[21] Borchert, John 12–21, 25B:307–8.
[22] Kruse, John, 376. “Accordingly, some have identified 20:22 as the Fourth Gospel’s equivalent of Pentecost, but there are problems with such a view. Thomas was not included (20:24), nor was there any great change in the disciples’ behaviour—they were still meeting behind closed doors when Jesus next appeared to them (26). Others have suggested it constituted a lesser bestowal of the Spirit to be supplemented with a greater endowment at Pentecost, or that what Jesus was bestowing was not the personal Holy Spirit (the promised Counsellor) but some impersonal power/breath from God. There is little to support either of these views in the Fourth Gospel. Another view is that there was a real impartation of the personal Spirit on this occasion, but that the Spirit was only experienced as the Counsellor, the one who replaced Jesus’ earthly presence, after Jesus’ final post-resurrection appearance and ascension. Finally, there is the view that Jesus’ action was symbolic, foreshadowing the bestowal of the Spirit to take place on the Day of Pentecost. Either of the last two explanations create the least problems, especially for those who accept the Acts account of Pentecost as historical.”
[23] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 254, 290, 362, 367.
The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins (CC 976, pg 254)
The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person. The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments. (CC 1120, pg 290)
Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name. (CC 1441, pg 362)
Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins (CC 1461, pg 367)
[24] Keener, The Gospel of John, 1206.
[25] Kruse, John, 377.
[26] Michaels, The Gospel of John, 1012; Beasley-Murray, John, 36:380. Michaels.”In both passages the role of the Spirit is to equip the disciples for mission” Beasley Murray. “the accomplishment of the mission is the primary purpose of the giving of the Spirit…. The gift of the Spirit is made to the disciples in the context of the handing to them of the commission; the Paraclete was promised to enable them to fulfill it”
Related Media
Related Sermons