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April 15, 2012 – Second Sunday of Easter. The reading is from Gospel of John 20:19-31.

Appearance to the Disciples – John 20:19-23

Jesus appears to the disciples by William Hole

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Doubting Thomas – John 20:24-31

Doubting Thomas aka Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ’s Wound by Caravaggio, 1602.

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

The risen Jesus reveals his glory and confers the Spirit. This narrative fulfills the basic need for testimony to the resurrection.

The word “disciples” in

  • On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

by implication from

  • Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (John 20:24)

means ten of the Twelve, presumably in Jerusalem.

Although the phrase “Peace be with you” could be an ordinary greeting, John intends here to echo

  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

The theme of rejoicing in

  • When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20)

echoes in John Chapter 16:

  • So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (John 16:22)

In John 20:20 we read “his hands and his side.” While Luke says “hands and feet,”

  • “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:39–40)

based on the following verse in Psalms:

  • Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and my feet (Psalms 22:17)

John writes,

  • [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

By means of this “sending”, the eleven disciples were made apostles, that is, “those sent”.

  • As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. (John 17:18)

though John does not use the noun in reference to them

  • Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:16).

A solemn mission or “sending” is also the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven in

  • Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)
  • and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)
  • He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

John writes,

  • And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23)

This action recalls

  • then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus.

John writes,

  • Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23)

The Council of Trent (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum), the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church defined that this power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of penance.

  • I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
  • Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

The often heard phrase “My Lord and my God” in

  • Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

forms a literary inclusion with the first verse of the gospel of John:

  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
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