John 20:19-23: The Disciples Were Glad
December 22, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Somehow, the doors being locked, Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus’ resurrection body is recognizably him, but yet that body is now able to move through a locked door. This resurrection body is a template of the “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44) that those who believe in Christ will all one day receive. Take heart, then, as we all face death: one day we will have this resurrection body!
His first words are “peace” (20:19). The presence of Christ among his disciples bears the fruit of the Spirit of Christ: love, joy, and here especially after the trauma of recent days, peace. The way to find peace in our lives is to have our lives centered on the person of Christ. When Christ rules, peace rules; when Christ is the Master, peace is in the household; when Christ is central, peace is ordered.
But his presence not only grants peace, it also commissions activity. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (20:21): the mission of Christ now becomes the mission of Christ’s followers. Our purpose as Christians is not simply to wait peacefully for the resurrection body. We are now on mission! And the mission is the mission of Christ, that is the mission of the gospel! We are sent into the world to save the world. We are evangelists and disciple makers.
And then, he grants the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22). This gift, which is dramatically furthered at Pentecost, makes the Christian life not merely a this-world, horizontal, prosaic, reductionist life. A Christian life is a supernatural life; we have received the Holy Spirit.
But such power is not only for evangelism, it is also for maintaining the health of that Christian witness. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (20:23). Clearly this is not a mandate for having the actual originating power for forgiveness (otherwise why else would Christ need die?). But it is the investing of the responsibility of the Christian church to reflect the forgiving power of Christ in how it welcomes those who need forgiving, and how it refuses to compromise the health of the body from those who refuse to want to be forgiven.
Church discipline is a topic beyond the scope of this devotional, and only in germinal form and in principle elucidated at the end of this passage; it requires wisdom, skill, humility, strength and, above all, love. But that the church is to be a discipled and disciplined body is not to be doubted. Just as our human bodies need discipline, so does the spiritual body.
Peace, a mission, the power of the Holy Spirit, and discipline. Such is the impact of the presence of Christ. And one thing more: “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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