Sunday 11 April 2021

Bible Book:

‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (v. 29)

John 20:19-31 Sunday 11 April 2021

Psalm 133


Today’s passage will be familiar to many readers and ‘doubting Thomas’ is a common phrase in the English language. It is interesting to compare the passage with Luke 24:33-49 with which it shares many details.

It is worth beginning at the end with verse 31. John’s Gospel is deliberately selective, focusing on the events and sayings of Jesus that will encourage faith, omitting much else. Thomas’ doubt echoes the doubt of many readers. Some doubters might be inclined to say that the appearances of the risen Jesus are merely a hallucination. Verses 19-23 by themselves could be taken to support that view but verses 26-29 counter it. The risen Jesus was tangible and identifiable as the one who had been nailed to the cross and after death stabbed in the side (John 19:34). Whether Thomas actually took up Jesus’ invitation is not clear; what was important was the invitation itself.

Verses 21-23 are notable on three counts. As with narratives of the Resurrection in other gospels we find the disciples charged to continue Jesus’ work. There is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, which contrasts with the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2. Are these conflicting traditions or different understandings of what the coming of the Spirit means?

Verse 23 is controversial. It has traditionally been taken as the authority for the Church to pronounce absolution and to excommunicate. But alternative interpretations are possible. Does the reference to sins imply all sins committed, or only those injuries which the disciples themselves suffer? Is the authority to retain sins simply a statement that what is not forgiven remains unforgiven?

To Ponder:

  • What would you say to a person who held that the Resurrection appearances were just an illusion?
  • What does verse 21 imply for the context in which you live?
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