John 20:19-23

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 6, 1997


We've been following the life of Jesus, as He was betrayed, run through a mock trial, beaten and mocked, crucified, and now, on the third day, He has risen from the dead.

Last week we went into detail as to the proofs of the resurrection.

It's been said, "There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three."

Billy Graham (1918- )

:19-23 Appearing to the disciples

:19 the same day at evening, being the first day of the week

It's still Sunday, resurrection Sunday.

The Greek word for "evening" (opsios) it apparently refers to the time period from six o'clock to nine o'clock p.m.

Kind of like the time of our Sunday evening service.

There's been a lot of things that have happened that day.

We saw last week how Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene. But when she went back to tell the others ...

(Mark 16:10-13 KJV) And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. {11} And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

Then later that day, Jesus appeared to two guys who were going to a little village called Emmaus, from Jerusalem (Luke 24). Jesus was able to disguise Himself, and He talked with them, explaining from the Scriptures how all these things had been according to God's plan. Finally, as they stopped at an inn for supper, their eyes were opened and they realized they had been talking to Jesus. Then He vanished from their sight, and they went running all the way back to Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35).

But Mark tells us that when these guys made it back to the upper room,

(Mark 16:13 NASB) And they went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.

It's at this point that Jesus appears in the upper room to the group of disciples.

Mark tells us that Jesus had to rebuke them for their unbelief.

(Mark 16:14 NLT) Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief--their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

Jesus got kind of serious with the guys for their unbelief.

After all, these guys have been with Jesus from the beginning.

They've watched Jesus perform all sorts of miracle, even raising people from the dead.

They've heard Him say over and over again that He would rise from the dead.

Yet they wouldn't believe it when the women or the other disciples told them.


Jesus is serious about your unbelief.

We have all kinds of reasons for our unbelief.

a) We live in a society that has us thinking that it's only mentally deficient people who have to have a crutch like God.


Have you ever heard of the Salk Theory?

Jonas Salk, that great doctor of medicine who pioneered polio research and discovered the Salk Polio Vaccine, had a legion of critics he dealt with over the years. At one point, he made an interesting observation about the nature of criticism which seems to hold true for any person who is successfully innovative.

"First," he said, "people will tell you that you are wrong. Then they will tell you that you are right, but what you're doing really isn't important. Finally, they will admit that you are right and that what you are doing is very important; but after all, they knew it all the time."

b) Some of us have been through hard times, and somehow have come to the conclusion that if we don't like what God is doing in our lives, then we just aren't going to believe in Him.

The problem is that we assume we know as much about the situation as God does, that we know what's really best, and that we know that it's not really going to turn out okay at all.

None of which is true.

But the truth is, God values our trust, He values our belief in Him.

Heb 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

It's only through trusting in Him that we enter into the wonderful promises and blessings that He has for us.

Unbelief keeps us from receiving.

Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

With the Israelites in the wilderness, they had a chance to enter into the Promised Land, but because of their fears and unbelief, they wouldn't go.

When Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land, but when they got back, they told the people that there were giants in the land (Num.13)

The people were so fearful about the giants that they wouldn't go into the Promised Land.

Was the report false about the giants?

No. It was true.

But it was also true that forty years later, they were able to conquer the giants with God's help, as they trusted the Lord.

Have you been allowing your unbelief to keep your from the fullness that God has for your life?

Sometimes we need to cry out like the little boy's father:

(Mark 9:24 KJV) ... and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

:19 when the doors were shut

The tense of the verb (the perfect tense) indicates that the doors were shut and stay shut.

He's saying that they had been shut, kind of once and for all shut, and they were still shut when the next events happened.

:19 where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews

It's Sunday evening, and it was only last Thursday night when their leader, Jesus, was arrested by the Jewish leaders.

The disciples aren't sure what's going to happen to them.

Are they next?

To top it off, word has begun to get around that the body is missing, and the chief priests are paying people to say that the disciples stole the body (Matt. 28)

The disciples are afraid.

:19 came Jesus and stood in the midst

stood - A.T. Robertson, the famous Greek scholar, translates it, "stepped into the midst".

Don't let this get by you.

John has just made a point of saying that the doors were shut.

How did Jesus get in?

He could have walked through the wall, just "appearing" before them.

With the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), when He was finished talking with them, He just vanished before them.

J Archaeologists have recently uncovered an ancient recording of this very event <play sound clip>

He could have made the doors unlock and open by themselves, as they did with Peter, letting him out of prison (Acts 12:10). Cool.


Get ready for the new model!


When some computer program I'm using comes out with a new version, I like to read about all the new features, and inevitably I go out and buy the upgrade, because I can hardly wait to try out the new features.

We're going to have resurrection bodies just like His.

(1 John 3:2 KJV) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

See also (1 Cor 15:48-49)


Have you purchased the "upgrade"?

All God asks for is for you to trust Him.

:19 and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

This is considered the usual greeting for people in those days.

We say, "Hi there!"

In Texas they say, "Howdy"

In Hawaii, they say, "Aloha"

In Jesus' day, they said, "Shalom" (or, "Shalom l'chem", as they do today in Israel as well).

:20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.

Luke fills in a few more details:

(Luke 24:36-43 KJV) And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. {37} But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. {38} And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? {39} Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. {40} And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. {41} And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? {42} And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. {43} And he took it, and did eat before them.

Jesus is showing them that it's really Him.

He's not just some spirit, He's got a real body.


Even though Jesus is now risen from the dead, and even though He apparently has a new, improved body, one that can walk through walls, one that can disguise itself at will, one that can even fly, yet He still bears the wounds from the cross.

Even some 60 years later, John has a vision of heaven, and describes Jesus as "a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6)


We'll see His love forever.

Jesus Himself said,

(John 15:13 KJV) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus loved us so much that He took the penalty for our sins by dying on a cross.

And we'll see the proof of His love forever.

:20 Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

They recognized that it was their Master, it was really Jesus.

:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you:

Now, if this is just a greeting, why does Jesus have to repeat Himself?

I find it interesting that we have no record of Jesus ever saying this to anyone as a greeting until after the resurrection. Then He says it three times. (John 20:19,21,26; Luke 24:36 - parallel reference)

Lesson #1:

Jesus wants you to have His peace!

His disciples are so filled with fear right now.

They're afraid of the Jewish leaders, they're even a little afraid of Jesus right now.

He's not just interested in saying "hi" to the guys, He wants them to have His peace.

Jesus said:

Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

There's certainly a lot to be said about "peace", (found 86 times in the NT), but there's one thread I'd like to tie in with this passage.

Lesson #2:

Peace comes when you're trusting.

To the woman who came and washed His feet with her tears, Jesus said:

Lu 7:50 Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

To the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, and finally got through to touch just the hem of Jesus' garment:

Lu 8:48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Paul wrote:

Ro 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

You can cast your cares on Him because He cares so much for you (1Pet.5:7)

You really can trust Him.

Let Him exchange your anxiety for His peace.

:21 as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Jesus has been preparing the guys for this very thing for the last three years.

And now it's time to send them off.

He'll repeat this again when He meets them in Galilee in a few days. (Mat 28:18-20)

He'll repeat it one last time back in Jerusalem, before He ascends to the Father. (Acts 1:8)


Part of growing up is leaving the nest.

A mother bird doesn't lay an egg, hatch it, then feed her babies, just so they will live forever in the nest.

There comes a time when you have to get out and fly!

So too, as Christians, it isn't all about coming to church and having someone take care of you all the time.

There's going to come a time when you grow up enough to be sent out by the Lord.

Some people think that it's the pastor's job to do all the religious stuff.

(Eph 4:11-12 NLT) He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. {12} Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ,

That's my job, to train you, to equip you, so you can be used by the Lord.

:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

I'm not too sure just how much to make of this event.

But forty days later Jesus is going to tell them to stick around in Jerusalem because they need to wait for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).

It seems to me this is at least a very symbolic event.

After all, the word "Spirit" is pneuma, meaning "air".

Jesus breathing on the guys is a sort of picture of the Holy Spirit coming upon them.

It could be that Jesus is trying to get the point across that if they are going to be sent out as witnesses, they are going to need the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus will reiterate this just before His ascension:

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


We need the Holy Spirit for ministry.

From Chuck Smith's book, Living Water (pg.59):

"The church exists as a result of the Holy Spirit; it was He who gave birth to the body of Christ on the day of Pentecost when He was poured out upon the disciples. Since that day, the Spirit has been as work in the church in a multitude of vital and mighty ways. Without the Spirit in its midst, the church would be nothing more than a social club or a service organization. But when the Spirit is given His proper place, the body of Christ becomes a dynamic force of change in a sick and dying world."

Don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit.

He's God's source of power in our lives.

:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

remit ... retain ... - These are simply opposite words.

We could use the ideas of "forgive" and "not forgive".

So what's this talking about?

It's NOT talking about us having the power to forgive sins.

That's something that only God can do. (Mark 2:7)

There's a little something going on here with the tense of the verbs.

The Greek scholar Dr. Julius R. Mantey (now deceased) translated this verse "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."

The idea here is not that we give people God's forgiveness, but that we are proclaiming what God has already done for a person.

If we're witnessing or counseling with a person, and they ask God for forgiveness, we can have the boldness and authority to say to them, "God has just forgiven all of your sins!"

If on the other hand, if someone refuses to ask God for forgiveness, we can also declare to them, "You are still in your sins."


Offer God's forgiveness.

For some of you coming from a Catholic background, you might think that this is the role of the priest or the pastor. But it's yours as well.

God's desire is that we tell people that God is willing to forgive them, if they will only come and ask for help.

How do we offer God's forgiveness to people?

Start with a Bible verse:

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If you confess your sins to God, I can declare to you that God has forgiven you of your sins.

Are you forgiven?