These last two chapters are the conclusion to John’s Gospel. Much of what writes is self-explanatory, such as the events surrounding the Resurrection. However, there are several important teachings that are to be gleaned from the study of these two chapters.
First, keep in mind John’s purpose for writing: John 20:30,31 and he has never deviated from this purpose. These two chapters are part of that purpose. Further, these two chapters are the conclusion as John 1:1-14 is the prologue to begin: these are complimentary and express John’s purpose.
Secondly, John writes this Gospel account 17-35 years after the other three were written. This is important to note because the events John writes about are not in the other three, and he seems to assume that people are pretty familiar with what has already been written. He writes from one who has lived out the teachings, and shows what the early church understood as the true meaning of Jesus’ teachings.
Third, John wants people to believe in the Lord Jesus to salvation, and he wants them to see the necessity to serve and “follow” the Lord Jesus Christ. His final emphasis on “following” is what He wants the readers to remember.
II. John 20
1. Peter, and “the other” disciple
a. The “other” is John – this is how he refers to himself in this Gospel
b. Peter and John see that there is no body, just the clothing
c. John “believes” – What does this mean?
John already believed in Jesus as the Christ, were already made clean (were already saved” according to John 13. So, what is this “believing”? Notice that verse 9 shows that they did not yet understand the Scripture about the Resurrection. Now, John understands and believes the Scripture. Therefore, this is not the belief to salvation, but of what the Scripture said.
a. Sees the angels in the tomb
b. Asked about Jesus, heard Him speak
c. Suddenly recognizes that this is Jesus
d. “Touch me not…” What did He mean?
Several interpretations have been set forth for this. (1) Jesus was fulfilling His role as the Old Testament High Priest and was carrying His blood to the altar in Heaven. So, if Mary touched Him He would be “defiled” and unable to present His blood. (2) Mary should not “cling” to Jesus, but go out as His messenger; (3) “Do not detain Me, I will see you again after I see my “brethren (the disciples – see John 15).
For (1), it may be observed that the Old Testament has been fulfilled already, and that there is no need for this act as High Priest. Further, how is it possible that by being touched Mary could defile the risen Lord? Therefore, this is not an acceptable interpretation.
For (2), it could be possible that Jesus meant to “stop cloning to me”, but this is an interpretation that must be contrived and is not in the context. Therefore, it is probably not correct.
For (3), it is a simple statement, and there “because” is simply many to mean that Jesus still plans to show Himself to the disciples. This is the most plausible and fits the context the best. There is no need to spiritualize or look for a special meaning, it is simply a statement.
B. Jesus and the Disciples
1. Jesus meets them in a closed room
a. Two times says, “Peace be to you”
b. Peace is from the Lord Jesus, see John 16.
2. “So send I you”
a. The theme of these two chapters
b. Two Greek words are used for “send” here
1. Jesus is the One Sent (repeated often in John), the “apostello” or “apostle” . An apostle is one who is sent by one in authority with a special message, on a mission.
2. The disciples are being sent by the Lord Jesus, “pempo” meaning that they are being commissioned by the Apostle (see Hebrews 3:1).
c. These are sent in the same manner as Jesus was sent: that is, with the same message of the Gospel, for the same purpose of bringing forgiveness to the world. They are NOT going to pay for the sins of the world, that was Jesus special mission and has already been accomplished.
d. Remit and retain” sins of others – this does not mean that Peter or the apostles now have divine authority to forgive sins, only God can forgive.
(1) They are commissioned to spread the Gospel
(2) Assurance of forgiveness or condemnation is by the Gospel message
(3) Those who believe are forgiven, those who reject are not forgiven
(4) The apostles are given the task of starting Jesus’ Church
From the Church the message is spread throughout the known world. This is what the book of Acts is about.
There are no humans on earth who have been given divine authority to forgive or not forgive sins in the place of God. Nothing in Scripture gives this authority. Forgiveness is God’s business alone, for it is he who people sin against.
There is nothing to indicate what the Roman Catholic church calls “Apostolic Succession”, it is made up apart from Scripture.
3. Receive the Holy Spirit (v.22)
a. Here it is seen that the Holy Spirit is the power behind being “sent” and the message of assurance of forgiveness
b. The Holy Spirit will empower them and work through them.
c. “breathed” on the disciples
This is somewhat reminiscent of what happened in Genesis 2:7 where the Lord God “breathed” into man the breath of life. There is no real theological implication here, just that God gave a different kind of life to man than what He gave to animals, plants, etc.
Here in John 20:22, this is a symbolic “breathing”, since even Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was yet to come.
The important issue here is that, after Jesus commissions the disciples, He speaks of the Holy Spirit Who will empower them. Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus’ words here.
The Word of God is the Sword of the Holy Spirit, therefore it is through His Word that HE works as His people proclaim His Word
This is a repeated concept throughout the Gospel of John. There are 60 times that the English word” send” or “sent” is used – 8 times it is used in a common context, 4 times of the 12 disciples, 3 times of John the Baptist, 2 times of The Holy Spirit, and 42 times of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. “pempo” – John the Baptist (1:33); John’s disciples (1:22); Jesus’ disciples (13:20; 20:21); The Holy Spirit (15:26; 16:7), Jesus 25 times
2. “apostello” – John the Baptist (1:6; 3:28); the disciples (4:38; 17:18); Jesus 17 times; (others in a common context 7 times)
3. The 11 disciples are commissioned (pempo) by Jesus in 20:21. In 17:18 Jesus is sending the 11 disciples with His authority with a mission (apostello).
The “sent ones” are not going out of their own authority or choosing, they are not going out with their own version of the message. The “sent ones” are the representatives of the One Sending. Their authority is solely from the Lord Jesus Christ, and their message is solely from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the One Who is active in them with the power to go and proclaim. Never are the “sent ones” allowed to go on their own authority or with their own message.
Remember, these two chapters are the conclusion, are not to be set out separately apart from the context of John; chapters 14-17 provide the more immediate context for chapters 20,21. It is seen, then, that The Lord Jesus Christ has chosen these men, given them a message to proclaim, and commissioned them with His mission.
What does it mean, then, to be “sent”? Who is being represented? What is the message and Who provides the message? What can be altered in the commission or message?
How does one respond to Jesus’ command to “go”? (see Isaiah 6:8 and its context)
How are the people whom Jesus calls to be His pastors, preachers, missionaries to be treated? (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13)
Is every Believer called to be a pastor, preacher, or missionary? Is every Believer called to “go” to others with the message?
Not every Believer is called as a pastor, preacher, missionary. These are callings that are directly from the Lord Jesus Christ and are not to be taken on by anyone who so desires. These are special callings based solely on the purpose, will, and private counsel of God Himself.
However, every Believer is a witness and a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ; every Believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling them; every Believer is commanded to be a True Disciple, though most do not fulfill this command.
D. Seeing and Believing (v.29)
1. “Doubting Thomas” – this is a often used description and title for Thomas. It is unfair to him because there are many, many others who didn’t believe either.
2. Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. He wanted proof
3. Jesus gently corrects Thomas, who immediately believes fully
4. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet Believe”
a. Compare 1 Peter 1:8
b. 2 Peter 1:15-21 shows that a personal experience is less trustworthy than the word God. This is the meaning of Jesus’ statement here.
c. Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 17-20 confirms what He is saying here about “not seeing and yet believing”. It is the Word of God that people need to hear, empowered by the Holy Spirit, properly studied and proclaimed. This is one of John’s main themes (not only in this Gospel, but in 1,2,3 John and Revelation as well).
E. John’s Purpose (vv.30,31)
1. Not everything was written down – why? Answer: because it didn’t fit John’s purpose for writing. Don not allow anyone to make this more than it is.
2. so that people might believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sent One, the Savior, The Risen Lord.
3. To have eternal life thought the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is John’s purpose. Everything he has written is toward this purpose.
III. John 21
A. Jesus and the disciples (vv. 1-14)
1. 7 disciples are fishing
a. They do not recognize Jesus – He knows that they do not
b. Commands them to “cast their net on the right side” – nothing theologically significant here, just a simple instruction
c. Reminiscent of Luke 5:4-6
2. Peter fears the Lord who they realize Who He is
a. All the disciples fear, possibly from shame that they have gone back to their old life
b. The third time Jesus has shown Himself
B. Jesus and Peter
1. Three times Jesus asks Peter about his love for Him
a. First two times uses “agape”, meaning to “love unconditionally and fully devoted’
b. Third time uses “phileo” meaning “friend or friendly toward”
2. Peter answers all three time with “phileo”
a. Peter is afraid because of his three denials of the Lord
b. Peter is “grieved” at the third time he is asked – why?
Imagine the difficulty Peter must be having at this moment. He was commanded to follow the Lord and to become a “fisher of men”. HE said that he would follow Jesus, even to death, yet he denied the Lord three times in public. He is surely ashamed and probably wishes to go back to his obscure life and not be reminded of what he has done. Being in the Lord’s Presence is the last thing he wants.
3. Jesus is restoring and recommissioning Peter
a. He tells Peter to “feed” his lambs, sheep
b. First time “give food to the lambs” – concern for the proper feeding of the ones who are vulnerable
c. Second time “supervise the sheep” – take proper care by oversight, provide direction and supervision to the ones who follow Christ
d. Third time, “Give food to the sheep” – make sure the followers of Christ have the right kind of nourishment for their spiritual growth and health.
Read the book of 1 Peter. Keep in mind this exchange between Peter and the Lord Jesus and see how 1 Peter reflects Peter’s restoration and recommissioning.
1. This is the final theme to which John has been leading
a. The Greek word is “akolouthei”, meaning “to be on the same road, accompany”, and “to promote the case of another”.
b. Jesus spoke often of this in the Gospel records.
c. Often times people wanted to follow Jesus but first go back to take care of something in their current lives – Jesus rebuked people for this.
The decision to “follow” the Lord Jesus does not allow for one to go back and make things easy first. It is a decision to leave everything.
2. Look up these verses in John: 1:37,38,40,43; 6:2; 8:12; 10:4,5,27; 11:31; 12:26; 13:36,37; 18:15; 20:6; 21:19,20,22.
Following is important to John because it was important to the Lord Jesus. It means to puts ones own life behind the Lord Jesus and go where He goes. It is not about going to church, being religious, or having good feelings about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a full commitment without hesitation, trusting in every aspect of living, making the Lord Jesus Master of ones life.
The question each one reading this book must ask: Do I truly believe in the Lord Jesus as The Sent One, and am I following Him?