Journey into Joy Series – Christ Appears to the Disciples

Number 6 in a devotional series using as a resource the book, Journey Into Joy, by Andrew Walker.

Scripture; John 20:19-21a

What key questions and unusual observations did you note as you read the passage? 

It was Easter evening. It’s the first Sunday evening service.

The feeling among the disciples at the beginning is fear. 

Jesus appears despite locked doors.

Jesus showed them his wounds.

Jesus greets them twice with the salutation, “Peace be with you!” 

Disciples were filled with joy.

What are their implications for understanding the passage?

It was Easter evening. It’s the first Sunday evening service.   This is the first appearance of Jesus to the group of disciples.  The question for us to answer as we think about this appearance of Jesus is, “Why did he choose this time?”   Luke 24:33 indicates that more than just of the 10 disciples were gathered in that room.

The feeling among the disciples at the beginning is fear.  This is the clue we were looking for. This short text tells us that the disciples were gathered behind closed doors and filled with fear because of the Jews, presumably the Jewish leaders. Perhaps the disciples thought about the fact that only a few of them knew of Jesus resurrection. They were perhaps afraid the Jews would try to do away with the witnesses.  Jesus had warned them they would be persecuted too.  Jesus came into the room to address their fear.

Jesus appears despite locked doors.  This act of Jesus gives us information about his resurrected body. His new body was no longer restricted by the physical barriers that confine our normal human bodies. This also means that the tomb did not confine him. His new body did not need for the stone to be rolled away in order for him to exit. The stone needed to be rolled away for us to see that he had exited.  It was a solid body, for He asked them to touch Him – and He even ate some fish (Lk 24:41-43). But it was a different kind of body, one that was not limited by what we call “the laws of nature.” (from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.) The fact that Jesus could just appear in a room, just appear on the Road to Emmaus, just appear as the gardener, all tell us that Jesus’ new body also did not need to physically move in a visible way from place to place as ours does. A new kind of life had been introduced-resurrected human life.   This new life-form that Jesus was now exhibiting probably gives us the best hints as to what our own resurrected bodies will be like.

 

Jesus showed them his wounds.   Wounds were sometimes shown as evidence in court; here their function is to identify that it is the same Jesus who died. In much of Jewish tradition, the dead would be resurrected in the same form in which they died before God healed them, so that everyone would recognize that the person who stood before them was the same one who had died. “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 victim’s weight would have ripped the hand open.   (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)  John 20:19-25    The first effect of this identification is again to calm their fears. It is to assure them that it truly is Jesus standing before them.  A bigger question for us might be why Jesus new body would still have scars.  We can only surmise that they were preserved for the sake of identification and evidence.

Jesus greets them twice with the salutation, “Peace be with you!”   On the one hand, peace be with you was a common Jewish greeting. But the fact that Jesus repeats it, and the rich background of the word peace in the Old Testament both fill it with deeper meaning.

  • §  To begin, Jesus repeated greeting is one key antidote to the fears of the disciples. Certainly, his presence is the biggest reliever of their fears. However his greeting is meant to have a deep effect also.  The greeting gains emphasis and power by repetition.
  • §  There is an interesting Old Testament history for this greeting. It is the greeting given to Gideon by the Angel when he was desperately afraid of the angel’s presence (Judges 6:23).  The angel who spoke to Daniel included these words in his message (Daniel 10:19).
  • §  Jesus had filled this greeting already with powerful meaning. In John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  In John 16:33 after Jesus had finished teaching about the power in prayer that he was promising to them he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • §  Jesus gift of peace to us becomes very important or the New Testament writers (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7; Galatians 5:22).

Disciples were filled with joy.  This represents a great change, from fear to rejoicing. It is interesting to note other places where this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The wise men rejoiced when they saw the star (Matthew 2:10).  The shepherd who finds the one lost sheep rejoices (Matthew 18:13).  The father rejoiced when the prodigal was found (Luke 15:32).  The people had rejoiced but on Palm Sunday as Jesus entered Jerusalem as well (Luke 19:37).    This is also the word used in Philippians 4:4 where we are told to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice.”   It is also used in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 where the translation is simply “Rejoice evermore.” When we stop to think also that joy is one of the fruits of the spirit; we realize that the message of this is that Jesus desires us to be filled with joy. It is not his plan that we will have to suffer through gloom filled days. While life may be difficult, and often is, his Spirit’s presence gives us inner joy and peace.

 

What is the role/significance of this event/passage in the Gospel story?

The primary role of this text is to continue the story of the eyewitnesses. This was the next key appearance of Jesus. Luke summarized this desire of the apostles in the beginning of Acts. “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).  The passage also brings to mind John’s words in 1 John. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). 

This appearance of Jesus is also the setting for one version of his commission to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me I am sending you.”   And it is the setting for the keywords. “Receive the Holy Spirit!,” as well as Jesus saying in verse 23 concerning his church’s power to forgive sins.   These three sayings would make the entire study or more in themselves. 

So overall this is a very important appearance of Jesus and John wanted his readers to remember it. 

What inspirational “take home” impressed me?

Personally I am impressed and comforted greatly by the repeated, “Peace be with you.”  The more we understand from the Old Testament about the whole orbed meaning of the Hebrew word shalom, the more value this saying takes on.   It also connects correctly with Paul’s reminder that peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.   I think also Jesus words about coming to him to find rest, a closely related concept (Matthew 11:28).  And I’m reminded of the Old Testament Psalm 23 and the complementary teaching of Jesus about himself as the good Shepherd whose care for us as his flock leads us into peaceful pastures.

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