So, as here he’s writing to Gentiles. Having said all this, I want to back up and say something slightly different. I will say that there is a Sabbath principle that should be applied. That is to say, we all need rest and leisure. I believe there are different ways in which we do it. Each day should have a Sabbath moment if you stop and think about it because you can have ‘mini-Sabbaths’ at various times during the day. On a weekly basis, you have a longer Sabbath and you want to allocate a longer period of time for reflection and many people will associate that with going to church. You could have a different monthly conviction, or, have a quarterly conviction, or, annually, I think it wise for us to have even a longer time if you want to look back on the year just passed and reflect and anticipate the year ahead. That would be your annual Sabbath. Remember what they did, beyond the annual Sabbath? They went beyond that, didn’t they? Every seven years they were supposed to take an entire year off. They never did it, though, they never once practiced the Sabbatical year. Isn’t that sad? If only they had obeyed God, their lives would have been so much better. They couldn’t trust Him. They could trust Him for one day out of seven, but they couldn’t trust Him to provide for them for a whole year.
Now, is that the Sabbath principle was such that the land enjoyed its Sabbath. For 490 years they were in the land and refused to recognize the ‘one year in seven’. How many does that work out to be? 490 divided by 7 is 70 years. How many years did they spend in Babylonian captivity? 70 years, wasn’t it, and the prophet said, “The land will get its Sabbaths.” You see the point here? They tried to do an end-run around God because they thought God would not provide for them. The irony is that they actually made their lives much more miserable. Had they only listened, how much greater would His gift to them have been? Imagine, every seven years, a whole year off just to enjoy one another and to enjoy and reflect and practice the presence of God. Yes, there are certain numbers, 40 and 7 and 70 that are found throughout Scripture. The 40 days refers to the time Moses and Jesus spent fasting up on the mountain. You have the theme of certain numbers that God uses to show us He’s a sovereign God and He is always the same, we can trust Him.
So, of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It seems to be a decisive period. Very often it can be a testing time. It is supposed to be 40 days of reminding about the grace of God and our reflection upon that. By the way, there originally another period than the 7th year. Every 7 times a 7th year was to be the Jubilee. All land was to revert back to its original ownership. You know they wouldn’t have done that. But, I digress. Going back to our text, in verse 19, Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you,” because He knew they were afraid. I want you to notice something here because it would certainly make me afraid. It says, “It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in their midst”
Now, how did He pull that one off? The doors were locked. He walked right through them. Or, another way of putting is that He just manifested Himself. Please let me propose this concept. The speed of light, it is the fastest speed anything can travel according to scientists, they have not found anything able to travel faster than the speed of light. This happens to be one of the ‘natural laws’ that God Himself has placed on this world, but those laws that God created, He is not subject to, His thoughts are much faster that the speed of light. So, would it surprise you if Jesus would be able to manifest Himself somewhere in less than a twinkling of an eye? Let’s continue.
Suddenly they look up, and there He is. You see the point here? That is why He said, “Peace be with you.” Continuing on, “And when He said this, He showed them both hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” In other words, now they knew. This was not some mere ghost or phantom they were seeing. Elsewhere He says, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” If you recall, in Luke 24, He actually eats some fish and bread with them, so that is pretty specific. A ghost doesn’t eat.
So, there is a lot of specific evidence. He assures them, and then in verse 21, He commissions them, “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you’.” This is parallel to the great commission in Matthew 28.
So, he is giving them a privilege and a responsibility of fulfilling His place in the world, and of Him living in us and through us to accomplish His work through His people. He is entrusting us, then, with His word, and he is entrusting us with His work.
Now, in verse 22, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” Now, not only does He commission them, what does He do? He empowers them to fulfill that which they need to do. Without the Holy Spirit they would not be able to fulfill the commission, but now He empowers them. He does the same thing to you. He reveals Himself to you, He calls you, He commissions you, and then he empowers you. He gives you a particular purpose and function in this world. It is through the gift of the Spirit that empowers us that we are able to accomplish spiritual fruit, bearing spiritual fruit that will abide.
So, recall the breath of God in the first Creation, and what did that mean? By the way, keep in mind that in both Hebrew and Greek, the word for ‘breath’ also means ‘spirit’. In Hebrew, it is ‘ruwach’ and in the Greek, it is ‘pneuma’. The breath of God in the first Creation, what did it mean? What form of life was it? It was a biological life, a life that all people have until they die. But then, the believers would receive the baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost, and be empowered for ministry, and the breath of Christ in the new Creation means spiritual life. The spirit had dwelt with them in the person of Christ, but now He would be in them. John 14:17 talks about that. Looking at verse 23, Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Now, this is a complex verb structure and in reality, it should be translated in the following way; If you forgive the sins of any, their sins shall have been forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they shall have been retained. It is not to say that they provide forgiveness, because they don’t have that authority, but they can proclaim God’s forgiveness. There is a difference. They are not actually providing forgiveness, but they are proclaiming God’s forgiveness. They are still being given an authoritative position. Meaning they still will answer for what they have done on judgement day. Jesus said on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Since those who were killing him were deceived and did not understand what they were doing, Jesus asked God to forgive their sin. This implies very strongly that someday all will know the full extent of what they did. It will be at that time that repentance will come because no one will be able to deny their sin any longer. It says in Scripture that “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
In verses 24 and 25 we see “Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord’. But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe’.”
Now, doubt is often an intellectual problem, isn’t it? But, unbelief, unlike doubt, is a moral issue. Unbelief is simply that you will not believe. Now it is more a matter of the will. Doubt relates more to the mind; unbelief relates more to the will. Doubt says I can’t believe, there are too many problems. Unbelief says I will not believe unless you give me the evidence I want, and on my terms. You see the difference? I have to say, in verses 26 and 27, I am amazed at what happens. “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’. Then He said to Thomas, ‘reach here with your finger and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing’.”
Jesus graciously stoops to our level of experience to lift us up to where we need to be. As a principle in life, He will often, in His grace, stoop down to raise us up. He doesn’t have to. He does the same thing with Gideon. Remember Gideon wanted to have it both ways, in Judges chapter six? I have actually heard people promote this as a good way of discerning God’s will. I don’t think the fleece idea is a good way of discerning God’s will. Gideon says to God, “If you deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken. And it was so. When he arose the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.” But that wasn’t enough for him. “Then Gideon said to God, ‘Don’t let You anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, now let it be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground’. God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.” Don’t lay out a fleece.
Now, God was gracious to him. He should have whacked him for that. He already said one was enough. He is much more patient and the older I get the more impressed I am with the patience of God. Two of the things that have really grown in my understanding is God’s sovereignty and His patience. I am truly amazed at that, I also have to learn from that.
Now, in verse 28 we see, “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God’. Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed’.”
So, He accepts that worship. Finally, as we conclude our text, I want to suggest something about this. Everyone ultimately lives by faith. The issue is the object of your faith. Even the atheist walks by faith. Do you understand that? They cannot demonstrate their first principles. The issue is not how much faith you have, but what the object of that faith is. That is what makes the difference. That is why I use the analogy of the person who is terrified of flying and yet still gets on the plane; another person is quite used to it. One is fearful throughout the whole flight, and the other pays no attention. But, what happens to them? One had much faith and one had little faith. What is the outcome? They both get to the same destination. It wasn’t the amount of faith they had, it was the object of their faith. I recently saw Rain Man again, and I had forgotten how he refused to fly on a plane. The only plane he would fly on was Quantas because they had never had an accident. But, there was no Quantas going where he needed to go. You see the point here?
So, Tom Cruise, as his brother, Charlie, is forced to drive him across the country. Now he won’t get on the interstate because of the accidents there. They go on side roads all the way and stay in fleabag motels for days and days. The point is the issue of faith. You don’t have to have a lot of faith, but you have to have some if you are going to put it in a particular object. Anyway, to verses 30 and 31, “Therefore any other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” This is the purpose and this is the theme of this book. Faith comes from hearing, and from hearing the word of Christ. Salvation comes from faith, not seeing, and there are at least a hundred references in John alone on what it means to believe in Christ. The point is this, as we look at this concept, we see in John’s Gospel that in His word, His works, and His walk, He is who He claimed to be. He was either a deluded madman, or He was who He claimed to be. You have this marvelous exploration, where He offers the gift of eternal life. This is not a quantity of time, but a quality of life. That is what He is offering us. Lord willing soon we will complete our study of John.