John 20:17-23

In John 20:17-23 Jesus has risen and just revealed Himself to Mary.  He gives her the task of going and telling the rest of His Followers that He has come alive. “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’” Jesus is pointing out a difference between His relationship with God and the disciples’ relationship with God. We can have a direct and meaningful relationship with God, but it isn’t anything like being God’s Son.  So Mary goes and tells the rest what she experienced. “Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.”

The fact that Jesus makes a woman the first witness of His resurrection is significant. The law courts of that day would not recognize the testimony of a woman, but Jesus did. This was a significant opportunity for her to shout it from the mountaintop. “Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.” The disciples were very gun shy of the religious leaders, fearing they would come after them next since they had successfully gotten rid of Jesus (at least they thought they had).

How did Jesus enter the room? We can’t explain it, but apparently resurrection bodies are not subject to the same limitations as our present bodies. We are told of five appearances in scripture of Jesus on the resurrection day:

  • to Mary Magdalene
  • to the women
  • to two on the road to Emmaus
  • to Peter
  • and here to ten of the disciples, Thomas being absent.

The Gospel of John tells of two of these five appearances. But the cat is out of the bag and Jesus is resurrected and now communicating with His Followers.  “The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Jesus is reconnecting with His people, and they are finally getting it.

Jesus quickly goes beyond the simple greetings.  After their desertion of Jesus on Friday, the disciples were probably expecting words of rebuke or blame. Instead, Jesus brought a word of peace and offered reconciliation to Himself. “Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” Jesus offers His Followers the gift that was promised – the Holy Spirit.  And equally important He tells them the power that comes with the Holy Spirit at work in them – that they are empowered to even forgive sins.  A new life is ahead for the disciples, and Jesus is getting them started!

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