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John Chapters 18 to 20, Part 6
by Karl Kemp 
12/10/12
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We will finish this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 18-20 here in Part 6, starting with John 20:19.

(19) So ["Then" KJV, NKJV] when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week [This was Sunday evening. Jesus had been resurrected early Sunday morning, on the third day (He was crucified on Friday).], and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews [[Compare John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42; and 19:38. The Jewish leaders had powerfully manifested their hatred for Jesus by planning and then clamoring for His crucifixion a couple of days earlier. His disciples understood that the Jewish leaders' hatred for Jesus could lead to substantial trouble for them. Furthermore, the reality of Christ's resurrection had not sunk in yet, at least not for most of the disciples (cf. Mark 16:9-14; Luke 24:36-43; and John 20:20, 24, 25).]], Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you [cf. John 14:27; 20:21, 26].' (20) And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands [[I had a footnote: I'll quote what Craig S. Keener says regarding "hands" here ("Bible Background Commentary - New Testament" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1993], page 317). " 'Hands' includes one's wrists, which was where the spikes would have been driven; a nail through the palm would not have secured the person in place on the cross, since the victims weight would have ripped the hand open." D. A. Carson ("Gospel According to John," page 656) points out that "both the Hebrew word for hand (yad) and the Greek word (cheir) can include the wrist and forearm."]] and His side [[Showing them His hands and His side (Luke 24:39 mentions that Jesus also showed them His feet) confirmed that He was Jesus, their Master, who had been crucified a couple of days earlier, and that He was more than a spirit (cf. Luke 24:36-43). He had been resurrected bodily; His resurrected body could be touched, and He could eat (cf. Luke 24:41-43). But His resurrected body was not at all limited to the physical dimension: His resurrection body could pass through grave clothes; He could appear in a closed room (or disappear) as He willed (cf. John 20:19, 26); etc.

Adam's physical body (even before the fall) was created of the elements of this world for life in this temporary physical world. Jesus' resurrection body (and our glorified resurrection bodies) were designed for life in the glorified, heavenly dimension (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-57). I don't believe we have enough information to understand all the details, but it is clear that Jesus had not yet entered His fully glorified state at that time (cf. Acts 1:2, 9-11, 33).]] The disciples [The ten apostles, excluding Thomas, were there. Luke 24:36-43 (with Luke 24:13-35) indicate that other disciples were there too.] then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (21) So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you [cf. verse 19]; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' [[Compare John 15:16-16:4; 17:18. I'll quote John 17:18, "As You [Father] sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world." In John 20:21-23 the Lord Jesus Christ, on the evening of the day of His resurrection, commissioned His disciples to take the gospel of new-covenant salvation to the world ((cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-49 [I'll quote Luke 24:46, 47, "and He [Jesus] said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."]; and Acts 1:8 [Acts 1:8 refers to the time after Jesus has been taken up in glory and the Holy Spirit has been poured out on them, starting on the Day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-33).])). As verse 23 shows, the Christian church, which was built on the foundational ministry of the twelve (cf. Acts 1:26) apostles, was given the authority to forgive. They were given the authority to say to those who submitted to the gospel in faith (those who met the terms for conversion set down in the new covenant) that God forgave their sins. ((I had a footnote: See Matt. 18:15-18, which is an important cross-reference regarding the church's authority to forgive or to retain sin, but the context is different there, for one thing, in that those verses dealt only with the sin of those who were already disciples of Christ. For another thing, Jesus spoke those words to the disciples in the days before He had died for their sins and before the Holy Spirit was given to them. However, what Jesus said in Matt. 18:15-18 is applicable to the church of our day. With those verses, as with John 20:23, it must be understood that God backs up the decision of the church only to the extent that the church gets it right. To get it right Christians must be led by the Word of God and by Spirit of God; our motives must be right; and we must come to know the true facts (the balanced truth).))

When Christians tell those who submit to the gospel in faith that they are forgiven, they are speaking for God, who is the One who must forgive. God confirms and backs up the words of forgiveness spoken by His representatives, since He commissioned and sent them to offer and to declare this forgiveness. God (unlike His disciples) knows the hearts of all people, and He knows whether faith is genuine, or not. They are not forgiven if their repentance and faith are not genuine. It should also be said that there are times when God enables His disciples, and especially His ministers, starting with the apostles, to know the hearts of people (cf. Acts 5:1-11; 8:9-24). This ability comes, in large part, through receiving the Holy Spirit (mentioned in verse 22). The words and actions of prospective converts (and of those who have already become Christians) often make it easy to discern that their hearts are not right with God.]] (22) And when He had said this, He breathed on them [The KJV; NKJV have the word "them" in italics; this word is not included in the Greek.] and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. [[Many believe the disciples received the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them. ((I had a footnote: Some say that they received the Spirit in His fullness when Jesus breathed on them, but the majority say that they received the Spirit in part, as a down-payment of what they would receive on the day of Pentecost (many equate this down-payment with the new birth).)) It has seemed clear to me for a long time that the disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit at that time. For one thing, Jesus couldn't give the life-giving, sanctifying, gift-dispensing Spirit until after He had been crucified, resurrected, and been (taken up in glory). I'll read John 7:37-39 (Also see John 14:17. John 7:37-39 are discussed in my paper on John chapters 5-8.), "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to Me and drink. (38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water." ' (39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Jesus didn't receive the life-giving, sanctifying, gift-dispensing Spirit from the Father to give to His disciples until after He had been taken up in glory forty days after His resurrection, and He didn't pour forth the Spirit until ten days after His ascension, on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:33). I'll quote Acts 2:33. "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear."

((I had a lengthy footnote that goes on for three paragraphs: "Then 'He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.' That, of course, was a prophetic breathing, symbolic and suggestive. They did not receive the Holy Spirit then. Did He not tell them in the course of these days that they were to wait until they received the Spirit? [See Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-8.] ..." (G. Campbell Morgan, "Gospel According to John," sixth edition (Revell, no date given), page 320).

"... Is it the gift of the Spirit that is being imparted even as Jesus speaks, or is it the gift of the Spirit that has long been promised and that is now imminent? In short, are there contextual reasons for thinking that this is a symbolic act that anticipates the future imminent bestowal? ... There is too slight a demonstration within the Gospel of John that this alleged bestowal of the Spirit made the slightest bit of difference in the lives of Jesus' followers. ... The episode in 20:22, which most will agree is in some sense symbolic, is best understood as symbolic of the enduement that is still to come. ... Jesus' 'exhalation' and command Receive the Holy Spirit are best understood as a kind of acted parable pointing forward to the full enduement still to come (though in the past for John's readers). ..." (D. A. Carson, "Gospel According to John," pages 653, 655).

"Jesus breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' The present reference represents a symbolic promise of the soon-to-be-given gift of the Spirit, not the actual giving of it fifty days later at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2; see Carson 1991: 649-55; cf. Witherington 1995: 340-41). Otherwise, it is hard to see how John would not be found to stand in actual conflict with Luke's Pentecost narrative in Acts 2, not to mention his own disclaimers earlier in the narrative that the Spirit would be given only subsequent to Jesus' glorification which entailed His return to the Father. The disciples' behavior subsequent to the present incident would also be rather puzzling had they already received the Spirit. ..." (Andreas J. Kostenberger, "John," pages 574, 575).))

What the Father had promised in the Old Testament (cf., e.g., Isa. 32:15-18; 44:3-5; Ezek. 36:25-27; 37:14; Joel 2:28-32 [cf. Acts 2:16-21]) and through John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ was that He would pour out His Spirit on His people, that He would baptize/immerse them in His Spirit, that He would give them (and they would receive) the new-covenant gift of the Holy Spirit (see, for example Acts 1:4-8; 2:33, 38, 39; 10:44-47; and 11:15-18). The promised outpouring of the life-giving, sanctifying, gift-dispensing Spirit includes the new birth; the being made righteous and holy by the Righteous and Holy Spirit; and the widespread distribution of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. I have discussed these things in some detail. Start with the discussion of John 1:33, which speaks of Jesus baptizing in the Holy Spirit, in my paper on John 1:19-4:54. Other references are cited there.

Even though Jesus did not impart the promised Spirit to His disciples when He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit," His breathing on them and His words were obviously significant: His breathing on them was symbolic of His pouring out the Spirit on them and their receiving the life-giving, sanctifying, gift-dispensing Spirit, starting on the day of Pentecost. And, significantly, His breathing on them was more than symbolism. It was prophetic and preparatory for His imparting and their receiving the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

There is absolutely no evidence that the disciples actually received the Spirit or that they were born again when Jesus breathed on them, or that they began to minister before they actually received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This is very significant. For one example, Thomas wasn't there when Jesus breathed on His disciples that Sunday evening. When the disciples spoke with Thomas afterward they told him that they had seen the Lord, but they didn't tell him that they had received the promised new-covenant Spirit (see John 20:24, 25), which would have been a very big deal if they had actually received the Spirit. Furthermore, when Jesus came to the disciples a week later and Thomas was there, He didn't give Thomas the Spirit (see John 20:26-29). It wasn't quite time for that yet. John chapter 21 confirms that the apostles were not born again (transformed) yet and did not begin to minister in the days before Pentecost. Further confirmation comes from Acts 1:15-26, where we see how the eleven apostles picked a replacement for Judas, who had fallen away from being one of the twelve. They drew lots to choose between Matthias and Joseph, hardly a new-covenant way for apostles to be led by God.]] (23) If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven [[This verb "have been forgiven" and the verb "they have been retained" are passive verbs in the Greek; God is the One who forgives. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: "The two passives - 'they are remitted' and 'they are retained' - imply divine agency: the preachers' role is declaratory, but it is God who effectively remits or retains. The servants of Christ are given no authority independent of his, nor is any assurance of infallibility given to them' (F. F. Bruce, "Gospel of John," page 392).

"God does not forgive men's sins because we decide to do so nor withhold forgiveness because we will not grant it. We announce it; we do not create it. This is the essence of salvation. And all who proclaim the gospel are in effect forgiving or not forgiving sins, depending on whether the hearer accepts or rejects Jesus as the Sin-Bearer" (Merrill C. Tenney, "Expositor's Bible Commentary" - New Testament, Vol. 9, page 193).))]] them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." [See under verse 21, including the footnotes.] (24) But Thomas [cf. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 11:16; 14:5; 20:26-28; and Acts 1:13], one of the twelve, called Didymus ["I.e. the Twin" (margin of NASB); cf. John 11:16; 21:2], was not with them when Jesus came. [See under verse 22.] (25) So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails [cf. John 20:20], and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side [where Jesus was pierced with the Roman spear (John 19:34)], I will not believe.' [[This unbelief is a little hard to explain. For one thing, Thomas knew that the other disciples were reliable witnesses. I suppose he was so caught up in the cloud of gloom and discouragement that had descended on him with the arrest and crucifixion of His Master that he didn't allow himself to fully take their words seriously. If it were true, Thomas said, he would have to see Jesus for himself and verify that it really is Him and that He has been raised from the dead. ((I had a footnote: "Thomas, however, remained stubborn. He was a very devoted disciple. He was also very despondent. Hence, for him the universe collapsed when Jesus was crucified. ..." (William Hendriksen, "Gospel of John," page 463).)) As verses 26-28 show, Thomas was quick to set aside his unbelief and acknowledge and worship the resurrected Christ with the memorable words, "my Lord and my God!" when Jesus appeared to him a week later. And (apparently) Thomas didn't need to verify that it was Jesus by putting his finger into the place of the nails or putting his hand into His side.]] (26) After eight days ["Or A week later" (margin of NASB); "A week later" NIV] His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut [When Jesus came to them a week later, His disciples were inside again, behind the shut doors, as in verse 19.], and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you [See verses 19, 21. Jesus knew what Thomas had said.].' (27) Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side [see verse 25]; and do not be unbelieving [see verse 25], but believing.' [As the next verse shows, Thomas quickly set aside his unbelief regarding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and he worshipped Him.] (28) Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' [[Thomas was right to call Jesus God, God the Son (cf., e.g., John 1:1-4; Rev. 22:12, 13). Thomas was not, of course, denying the existence of God the Father, the One who sent His Son and the One at whose right hand Jesus now sits, or the existence of God the Holy Spirit. See my papers, "More on the Trinity"; Who Do We Pray To?; Who Do We Worship?; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son"; they are all located on this Christian article site.]] (29) Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? ["Because you have seen Me, you have believed" (NIV); The KJV; NKJV are the equivalent of the NIV.] Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.' [[Thomas now believed, but it would have been better if he (and at least most of the other disciples [cf. John 20:8]) had believed in Christ's resurrection before seeing the resurrected Christ. (Thomas' unbelief was somewhat more serious than the other apostles in that he did not accept their testimony that they had seen the resurrected Christ.) Jesus' last words in this verse, which could be translated "Blessed are the ones not having seen but having believed," contain a very important principle regarding faith/believing. From that time on, most of the people who became Christians through faith in the gospel of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended Son of God would have to believe without seeing the resurrected Christ, including most of the Christians who have ever read the Gospel of John.

We must have faith in (believe) the Word of God, which is backed up by the infinite integrity, authority, and power of God. We must walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). The apostles had some excuse for not believing in the resurrection before seeing the resurrected Christ, in that they were living in a time of great transition, at the very beginning of the Christian era, before the gospel had been fully revealed (but Jesus had told them on numerous occasions that He would be raised from the dead on the third day), and before the full outpouring of new-covenant salvation.]] (30) Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book [[Compare John 21:25. Apparently the apostle John was speaking of the many other signs that Jesus performed in the presence of His disciples both before and after His resurrection (but before His ascension). His resurrection (and then His ascension and His pouring forth the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost) were super-spectacular signs.]]; (31) but these [referring to the signs that John recorded in this Gospel (cf., e.g., John 2:11, 23; 4:54; 6:2, 14, 26; 7:31; 9:16; 11:47; and 12:18, 37).] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [[Christians must believe more than the facts that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, of course, but these facts are of key importance. And it must also be understood that believing the gospel includes obedience to the gospel. Faith without obedience (by grace through faith) is dead; that is, it isn't real (saving) faith (cf. James 2:14-26).]]; and that believing you may have life in His name." [[Partaking of the very life of God in union with the Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling Spirit of life is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about. This (eternal) life starts with the new birth that Jesus spoke about in John 3:3-8 (cf., e.g., John 1:12, 13; 3:15, 16, 36; 4:13, 14; 5:21-29; 6:33, 35, 40, 47-51, 54, 63, 68; 8:12; 10:10, 28; 11:25, 26; 12:25, 50; 14:6; and 17:2, 3).]]


A Few Comments Regarding John Chapter 21:

The apostle John may have decided (been led by God) to add chapter 21, which contains important information that isn't revealed elsewhere in the New Testament, after apparently concluding his Gospel with the last two verses of chapter 20. Chapter 21 can be considered an appendix to the Gospel of John. As F. F. Bruce ("Gospel of John," page 398) points out, "there is no evidence that the work [the Gospel of John] ever circulated without this chapter." Apparently John wrote chapter 21, with the exception of verses 24, 25. It is clear that John did not write the last words of verse 24, "and we know that his [the apostle John's] testimony is true."

May the will of God be fully accomplished and His people be edified through this paper!

Copyright by Karl Kemp

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