In the previous chapter, Jesus was crucified on the cross and died. Then, Joseph and Nicodemus retrieved Jesus’s body and gave Him a burial. All seemed lost. The Jewish leaders appeared to have won the political battle. Jesus’s disciples were probably sad and confused.
Fast forward two days later (yes, two and not three because there’s no concept of a day zero back then so when they say first day, they really mean zeroth day), the tomb where Jesus was buried is empty. Mary discovered this and told it to Simon Peter and another disciple.
Jesus appears to Mary, then appears to the disciples (other than Thomas), and Jesus clears doubting Thomas’s doubt.
The author then proceeds to tell us that there were many other signs Jesus performed that were not recorded in this book, and that the purpose of writing these is for us to believe in Jesus.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”John 20:22-23
Even though Jesus is ascending to heaven, He leaves with them the Helper that He has promised—the Holy Spirit. I wonder what it’s like to have heavenly breath breathed onto me.
We have the Holy Spirit as well. I believe that the strength of our faith directly equates to the strength of the Holy Spirit that resides in us. With the Holy Spirit, we can do many things in faith—spiritual discipline, resisting temptations of the flesh, producing fruits of the spirit, etc. It’s very powerful, and all we need to do in order to invoke it is to have faith.
More interesting, however, is the second portion of what Jesus told His disciples. Is Jesus giving His disciples the power to forgive sins? But wait, isn’t God the only one that has the power to judge?
Be careful not to mis-interpret this quote. Only Jesus can forgive. Jesus is telling His disciples to share the Gospel, and if anyone believes, they shall also receive forgiveness.
Jesus Addresses Doubting Thomas
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.John 20:29
Thomas couldn’t believe that Jesus would actually rise from the dead. And honestly, I don’t blame him—if I were in his same shoes, I don’t know if I would believe it either. I would probably have been so overcome with grief and confusion that my mind wouldn’t function properly.
Jesus’s statement reveals a truth about how God’s economy works differently than the world’s economy. The world’s economy is measured by money; God’s economy isn’t as straightforward. But, we do know that faith is valued. The less “proof” required, the greater the blessing.
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20:30-31
The fourth wall is a literary concept referring to the characters in the book talking to the reader. It doesn’t explicitly happen here—the characters aren’t talking to us, but the author is talking directly to us.
However, I think we can imagine many parts of the Bible where Jesus might break the fourth wall. This might happen when His words that He spoke to the disciples directly speak to us as well.
Reading these two verses, I can’t help but wonder what other signs Jesus performed. But to limit my faith until I know about those signs would equate me to doubting Thomas—no, worse, the unbelieving Jewish leaders of the time.
The author gave us plenty of stories already. This should be enough for us to believe. And if we believe that every word in the Bible counts, we should believe that the author recorded the stories that matter most.
I can imagine if anyone were to give a complete account of all the signs Jesus performed, the book would be several thousands—maybe even more—pages long.
Every weekend I write about some thoughts, life lessons, and interesting things I came by for the week. I'd love for you to join.