The Resurrection of Christ is the single most important doctrine for the Christian faith. But it is also the doctrine that is hardest to believe.
We know that there are many hard core atheists who cannot even begin to wrap their minds around it. But let’s not forget that the early disciples didn’t come to grips with it all that quickly either.
We know that Jesus had repeatedly told them he would rise again from the grave during his life. And the passage before the one we just read we find that a couple of them had seen the empty tomb. And that passage ends with Mary seeing the Lord and running to tell the other disciples
So the disciples had the testimony of the resurrection proclaimed to them numerous times. But it would not come until Jesus proclaimed it to them himself.
Being that this was difficult for the disciples, we should not think that it should be any easier for us. Sure, we Christians might "know" the doctrine of the resurrection--at least it may be an esoteric doctrine floating around in the back of our minds. But in our heart of hearts, it might not be fully confirmed.
If you are ever tempted to doubt the resurrection--or if you waver in its applicability to you, this passage is one that was written for you. For in this passage Jesus proclaims the reality and the availability of his resurrection life.
In the first two verses we read Jesus seeks to solidify the fact that He has brought us eternal life.
I. Jesus proclaims its reality [19-20]
And I want you to see that he proclaims this life to them in three different ways. First of all, Jesus proclaims the reality of his resurrection through his wounds.
A. by his wounds
Verse 20 says that after Jesus appeared he showed them his hands and his side. In other words, he showed them the indelible marks of his crucifixion. And, then, after the disciples witnessed these wounds, it says that they were glad. They were immediately cheered and full of joy.
And it wasn’t just because they had been reunited with an old buddy. These guys now had a full understanding of what was going on. They now understood that Jesus was alive and that he had indeed conquered sin. These wounds were a testimony that his death had taken away the curse that was due to them for sin.
It is interesting to think too that these wounds are eternally etched in Jesus’ body. We don’t know much about what a glorified, resurrected body will be like. The Bible seems to speak in code when it talks about what we’ll be like when we are raised up. But the idea of the resurrection is that there is no more sin and no more accompanying affects of sin.
So, people sometimes ask, "When Christ comes again will we get older? Will we age? When I celebrate my 1 millionth birthday, will I look older?" The answer to that is yes and no. It depends on what you mean. Yes, we will get older. Our bodies might mature and possibly even change, but we won’t go through the process of "aging," at least not as we know it now.
We commonly think of aging as getting wrinkles and gray hair. But when the resurrection comes, all that will be gone. We’ll be older, but we won’t have all the expressions that are common to the process we now know as aging. Our knees won’t ache. Our backs won’t hurt. We won’t limp or need a cane to walk
The resurrection will do away with the effects of the fall that have to do with death and decay.
But its interesting that Jesus, even in his glorified state, still bears the scars he received in his sacrifice. That can only be for one reason. It is to affirm to us the reality of who He is and what He has done.
I like what Matthew Henry says. Henry says, “Conquerors always glory in the marks of their wounds.”
That’s what we did when I used to play football. The day after a game, we would come in for practice and each of us would show off his bruises.
There’s a sense in which Jesus gets to do that for all eternity. And that’s essentially what he did here for these disciples. He rolled up his sleeves and he pulled up his shirt so that his disciples could know the reality of his saving work.
Today we can’t see Jesus. He has ascended into heaven and he is seated at God’s right hand. So we can’t see him, but we can see his wounds.
Every time we celebrate communion, we are able to look at the wounds of Christ. We can hold in our hands this little torn piece of bread and, figuratively, we see the wounds. And that meal is given to us so that we can have our faith affirmed just like it was affirmed to the disciples. So remember that next time you take communion. Remember that Jesus is using that moment to solidify your faith. He’s confirming your faith in that little piece of bread. Just as Christ’s wounds were a visible sermon that declared to his disciples that he had had victory over death, that little piece of bread is a visible sermon to you declaring that you too may participate in the resurrection life he has purchased for you.
But the reality of the resurrection is not just affirmed by Jesus’ wounds, it’s also affirmed in his work.
B. In his work
Look at verse 22. It says that Jesus breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.”
What did Jesus do here? What was the work? Some people think that this is John’s version of Pentecost. I’m not sure that I agree with that. Pentecost happened after Jesus ascended into heaven. I think this is different. This was something of a precursor to Pentecost.
I believe Jesus’ work here is a reference back to the book of Genesis. Do you remember what happened when God first created man? When God first created man, he made him out of the dust of the earth. But he didn’t become a living being until he breathed life into him. He was just a body lying on the ground. But the Scripture says that God breathed life into him and he became a living being.
I think that this is an allusion back to that. Jesus, in this work, reminds them of that first event of creation—that day when man first received life. And he’s basically reiterating the point that He is the author of life and he now is bestowing upon them the reality of new life. They are now new creations. Though they are dead in sin, the Lord has imbued them with new life.
You might say that this is a resuscitation that corresponds to Adam's first day. It is a reminder that, though their bodies may return to dust, they will be brought up once again to live forever.
But there’s one more way the resurrection reality is proclaimed. Jesus not only proclaims it by his wounds and his work. He also proclaims it in his words.
C. In his words
Our passage tells us that when Jesus appeared, he preached a mini sermon. He said, “Peace be with you.”
Maybe you thought this was just a way of greeting them. Or perhaps you thought Jesus was just trying to calm his disciples who he has just scared by walking in on them. The doors were locked and they weren't expecting any company. Maybe you thought that Jesus gave them a start and simply tried to calm them down by saying, "Peace be with you."
That might be part of it. But there's more to it than that. These words are pregnant now with redemptive meaning. When Jesus said, “peace be with you,” he was verifying the reality of his resurrection.
Peace in the Hebrew mind has to do with wellness. It has to do with wholeness. When someone greeted you by saying, “Shalom” they were wishing a blessing upon you. They wanted you to experience the fullness of well-being by being completely whole.
Jesus’ greeting is more than just a well wish. As he speaks he is giving his disciples an insight into the present reality of the resurrection. Real peace is now a reality in their lives. Wholeness has been effected because he has risen from the dead. Death is no longer anything you have to fear because Jesus makes you complete again. His resurrection is the reminder that we will be completely restored in body and in soul.
I just said that we don’t know much about the resurrection and what it will be like. Again, it is kind of like the Bible talks in code when it refers to our future state. But I can say this: We know more about the resurrection of those who believe than we do the resurrection of those who don’t. Someone once said that the Bible is “eerily silent when it comes to the resurrection of the wicked.”
We know that those who believe will experience peace. They will be made whole. But those who don’t believe, what is their resurrection be like? Yes they will be resurrected, but their resurrection isn’t a resurrection to wholeness. Those who believe it is a resurrection unto life, but for those who do not believe, it’s a resurrection unto condemnation.
I don’t know exactly what it will be like, but I can’t help but think that the unbeliever’s resurrection will be rather ghoulish. I wonder if all the zombie stuff that is so popular today is something of a parallel to the resurrection of those who don’t fear God.
I can’t say for sure, but I know that their resurrection is not a resurrection unto peace. It is not a resurrection unto wholeness. Yes, they will undergo a physical resurrection. Their bodies will come up from the grave, but from what I can gather, it is not going to be anything to which you can look forward to. It will be a resurrection that is overshadowed by decay and death. There’s not going to be any peace in it.
That’s why I want to extend the invitation to you today that if you do not believe in Christ, that you turn to him and put your trust in him. Today you can know the peace that is spoken of here. You do not have to be condemned for your sins because Jesus has been victorious over death.
And I know that you can enjoy being a part of it because of that our text goes on to talk about. You see, our passage not only confirms the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but it also confirms the availability of his resurrection.
II. Jesus proclaims its availability [21-23]
Look at verse 21. You’ll notice John doesn’t spend a lot of time on the resurrection. The passage quickly moves from Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples. He says, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then verse 22 tells us that he equipped them for the work they were going to do by breathing on them and said to them, “receive the Holy Spirit.”
So you look at this and you think, what’s going on here? Jesus doesn’t even allow time for questions about his resurrection. It’s almost as if he passes right over it.
And I’ll admit, I wanted a little more too. I said, “I have to preach a resurrection sermon. Why isn’t there much here on the resurrection?” But Jesus didn’t want to talk about the resurrection. He wanted to get on with business. He simply shows up, shows himself off, and sends them out.
So what we have here is the most abrupt ordination service that has occurred in the history of man. That’s what this is. It is not so much a resurrection appearance as it is an ordination service. Jesus’ main purpose in coming to that room is to put his disciples in evangelism mode. He’s appeared to them in order to send them out into the world to preach the gospel.
But why is he in such a hurry? I think it’s because Jesus really wants people to know that this new resurrection life are to be made available to everyone in the world.
You know how you sometimes write up an email and you hit send a little too quickly. Maybe you realize you had something else to say or perhaps you should have said something a little differently. (or maybe, as is often the case, you should not have said anything at all!).
Well, Jesus hits the send key pretty fast. Of course, it is not a mistake. He does so purposefully. It is because he’s ready to get this thing going.
It’s almost like he says, “I want you guys to recognize that this life I have, is not just for you. It is for everybody. I’m making eternal life available to everyone who will receive it.” He wants these guys to proclaim it wide and far.
This is the lesson that he wants us to have today. This life—this resurrection life—is available to you. It is available right now. Jesus is sending his word to you today that your sins can be forgiven and you can take part in the resurrection unto life. All you need to do is look to him for it.
You’ll notice that’s the point in the last verse we read. In verse 23 Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now, there is some difficulty in understanding this verse. It kind of makes it sound like you need special recognition from someone in order to be forgiven of your sins. But that’s not what its saying. Only God has the power to forgive you sins.
If anything, it is saying that your sins can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. You don’t have to go to hell and suffer the punishment that is due for your sin because redemption is available. Christ has made it available. All you have to do is receive and rest upon him, and resurrection life is yours.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.