What did I learn about Jesus?
- Mary Magdalene appears in all four gospels as the first person to see Jesus after the resurrection.
- We are especially blessed because we believe in Jesus even though we haven’t seen him!
What did I learn about disciple-making?
- Jesus is gracious in how he handles Thomas’ doubts about his resurrection
- Because the Holy Spirit resides in me I have authority to forgive sins in Jesus’ name.
Extended thoughts and observations from Pastor Mark:
I love the drama of the Johannine resurrection. First, the appearance of faithful Mary. The unanimous report of all gospel writers that Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection…at a time when women’s testimony was considered second-rate…is a powerful affirmation of the role of women in Jesus’ ministry. This chapter, particularly, with Mary’s run to inform the disciples of the resurrection, gave rise to one of Mary’s most famous appellations: “The Apostle to the Apostles!”
I want to turn to Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples (19-23.) This is John’s version of Pentecost. Notice that Jesus “breathes” on them (v 22) and instructs them to “receive the Holy Spirit.” You will note elements of the Great Commission “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” as well as the Caesarea Philippi story where Jesus called Peter “the Rock” and gave him the keys of heaven, including the authority to forgive sin.
Please note the power of absolution in this story. Just imagine…because the Holy Spirit lives within us, we are granted the authority to forgive sins…(as well as the prophetic authority to confirm a person in their continued sin). As you think about disciple-making, one of the most powerful tools in ministry is to be able to declare to someone wracked with guilt, “In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven!”
Another disciple-making note: Jesus’ gracious treatment toward the sincere but disillusioned doubter. Thomas…who earlier was ready to go with Jesus and die with him (the Lazarus story in 11)…was for some reason not present at the first appearing of Jesus. Perhaps he was particularly disillusioned since he had believed enough in Jesus to die for him. But Jesus meets him with such grace…and welcomes him to touch and see and believe. What kindness.
Also notice the blessing upon US: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” WE are the ones who have believed without seeing….and that brings God’s special blessing.
So…you have the authority of absolution, you have permission to honestly doubt and to treat doubt with gentle grace…and you have a special blessing in your believing. Not a bad chapter!