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. (John 20:19-31 – NRSV)
As with the Gospel of Mark, John’s Gospel finishes before it finishes. John 20:31 is clearly the ending of the Gospel of John. John 21 is a later edition.
Like the three synoptic Gospels, John also speaks of the empty tomb and the appearances to the disciples.
The reference to ‘locked doors’ has a twofold significance. Firstly, and most obviously, since Jesus had been executed it was reasonable to think the authorities might come looking for his followers. Secondly, Jesus’ entry into the room, despite the locked doors, shows his new state of being.
The greeting, ‘Peace be with you!’ is the conventional šâlōm ‘ālêḵem. “But the repetition of the greeting (vv. 21, 26) would eventually prompt the reflective amongst them to recall that Jesus before the cross had promised to bequeath to them his peace (14:27; 16:33). Though a common word, šâlōm was also the embracing term used to denote the unqualified well-being that would characterize the people of God once the eschatological kingdom had dawned. Jesus ‘ ‘Shalom!’ on Easter evening is the complement of ‘it is finished’ on the cross, for the peace of reconciliation and life from God is now imparted … Not surprisingly it is included, along with ‘grace’, in the greeting of every epistle of Paul in the NT’.” (D A Carson, (1991). The Gospel According to John, W.B. Eerdmans, 1991, 647.)
” …. he showed them his hands and his side.” John affirms that the one who was crucified is indeed the one who stands in their midst. He is risen!
Even a cursory reflection on human existence will tell us that reconciliation is a central task – if not the central task – of our being human.
We could say that we actually become human through the process of reconciliation with God – however we name God – reconciliation with ourselves, reconciliation with other people and reconciliation with the events and things of our world.
St Paul writes to the community in Corinth about his ministry: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
We are to understand John in this sense when he recalls Jesus’ words to the disciples, reminding them their fundamental ministry: “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.” In service of reconciliation, we are to forgive people their sins. If we refuse this ministry – and it belongs to each and every one of us – those people will remain unforgiven.
This is the basis of communion. One of the works of the Holy Spirit is to make us one in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:13). To retain the sins of others is to exclude them from communion.
The fundamental meaning of sin is right there in this division and breakdown of communion. Jesus is ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). And so he prays for the disciples ‘that they may be one, as we are one’ (John 17:11).
“As disciples of Jesus we are called to bear witness to his risen life by breaking the barriers of sin and division in our hearts and communities. Indeed, the real ‘resurrection power’ …. lies here, not merely in the working of spectacular miracles, often without love in the heart(see 1 Corinthains 13; Romans 6:1-11).” (Teresa Okure, “John” in The International Bible Commentary, editor William R Farmer, The Liturgical Press, 1998, 1499.)
“Any failure to make Jesus’ death central leaves us with a decentred theology, which may result in a preaching Jesus, an exemplary Jesus, a Jesus of confrontation, a justice-and-peace Jesus, or a blandly resurrected Jesus. All of these christologies make the mistaken assumption that the Gospel is about some version of the good life rather than life with the living God. In thus distorting and diminishing Jesus we do drastically less than justice to ourselves and to the possibilities of our own vocation. It is a pity to isolate ourselves from our transformation-scene.” (Nicholas Peter Harvey, Morals and the Meaning of Jesus: Reflections on the Hard Sayings, The Pilgrim Press, 1991/1993, 94.)