This week I am providing the Bible study notes on the Methodist Church’s website at A Word in Time. The overall theme for the week is The Gospel of the Spirit and the studies link to the daily readings and prayers in the Methodist Prayer Handbook.
I will repost each day’s reading and reflection here as well.
John 20:19-31 (NRSVUK)
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then 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.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told 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 in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” (v. 21)
The work of mission doesn’t wait. Resurrection day hasn’t finished and the risen Jesus is already reminding the disciples that this new reality is not served by hiding away in their meeting room.
The writer uses that strange phrase “the doors of the house … were locked for fear of the Jews” (v. 19) when we know that those behind the locked doors were themselves Jews.
Who are they afraid of? The NIVUK Bible renders “fear of the Jews” as “fear of the Jewish leaders” which makes more sense. Mob rule stirred up by those who had engineered the crowd’s chorus of “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:11-15) would have frightened off most people.
But as they hide behind the locked doors the disciples encounter something even more scary. How do you handle a risen Jesus?
The writer of the Gospel doesn’t give us any of the lead-in that Luke has in Acts 1. There the disciples are sent to wait in their room (Acts 1:4-8) for the gift of the Holy Spirit while Jesus ascends to heaven.
In John’s Gospel, the risen Christ appears on the evening of Resurrection Day, breathes the Holy Spirit on his friends (verse 22) and signals the start of the new outreach campaign: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v. 21).
Yet again the battle between dark and light, which has been a constant theme throughout the Gospel, is prominent. The people of God can’t hide away when there’s work to be done.
The disciples are now a sent people: apostles. They are no longer locked away, but released with a new story to tell.
- Can you think of something the Church needs releasing to do but feels ‘locked up’ about? What is it?
- Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples as the work of mission begins after the Resurrection. How can we show resurrection hope in our communities?