Lenten Reflections

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John 20:19-23

April 3, 2024
John 20:19-23

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”


The disciples lock themselves behind closed doors for fear that the authorities may come looking for them given their close association with Jesus. Interestingly, Peter and John have already witnessed the empty tomb and believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Even so, they continue to experience fear and remain in hiding. Despite the fact that the doors are locked, Jesus suddenly appears among them and speaks a word of peace to them. This provides further proof of Jesus’ resurrection, but he understands that it may be hard for the disciples to accept. 

During this encounter, Jesus addresses the disciples’ doubt, gives them a mission, and promises the Holy Spirit. First, Jesus anticipates their doubt and provides evidence of his resurrection by revealing his scars. No other god has scars like these. Jesus’ scars are proof not only of his divinity (he rose from the dead) but also his humanity (he truly suffered). Second, Jesus charges the disciples with the task of carrying on his own mission. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sends his followers to speak and act on Jesus’ behalf. The forgiveness of sins forms the heart of this mission. They will declare the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. Those who receive the apostles’ declaration of the gospel can rest assured that their sins truly are forgiven through the finished work of Jesus. He does not send out on their own power, however. Instead, Jesus sends them in the power of his own Spirit. Jesus breathes on the disciples and exhorts them to receive the Holy Spirit, a sign of what will come on the day of Pentecost.

How does Jesus strengthen us in our weakness and empower us for his mission as he did for his original followers?