So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.” 26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Diane and I usually Facetime with our son Evan and his family every Sunday evening. Last week while on the phone our grandson, Spencer, was playing outside and got a small cut on his finger. He didn’t even notice it until his mom wanted to bring him inside, clean the tiny wound and put a band aid on it. As soon as he realized what had happened the waterworks started. This went on for several minutes. About the time we were ending the call Spencer continued the drama. His dad told him to calm down because he wouldn’t die. Spencer replied, “I’m already dead!” Dad’s offer to apply another band aid seemed to pacify little Spencer’s trauma.
The human need for assurance that everything will be alright begins very early in life. In our transparency we must admit the desire for it never really passes. I remember that as dad lay on his death bed, what he wanted most was the reassurance of heaven and eternal life. From cradle to grave assurance is essential. That’s what this passage is about, blessed assurance.
The resurrected Christ comes to his disciples who are huddled in fear, to assure them that He is alive. What we’ll see in the text are the ways He inspires their confidence. We’ll also come to understand that His assurances are available to us too. They’re available because we need them. We need them when we fully follow Jesus by faith. You see, this is when the Lord’s blessed assurance becomes most precious to us, most necessary. The assurance of His approval that what we’re doing aligns with the Lord’s will isn’t needed when we go our own way. All we need then is self-confidence, not Christ’s confidence.
Jesus called His first disciples to acts requiring monumental faith. So, He gives them monumental assurance. He calls us to acts of monumental faith. And He offers us His monumental, blessed assurance too.
The Assurance of Presence
The first way Jesus assures His disciples is by His presence. He was there; in their midst. The resurrected Christ was fully present. They weren’t seeing a ghost; an aberration of Jesus. Have you ever attended a program or event when you weren’t there there? You were in the room but you weren’t fully present.
- You got distracted and your mind wandered
- Some of you may be having that experience right now
- And you didn’t notice what I just said
There are times when we can be physically present and mentally distant. There’re also occasions when we’re physically distant but mentally present. When I’ve traveled great distances over extended periods away from Diane, her presence could still be strongly felt.
- Often thinking of her
- Seeing something that reminded me of her
This is how we experience the assurance of Jesus’ presence even though we don’t see Him. Because we are always in His view; in His presence. When Jesus said, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you,” He wasn’t commenting on our capacity to be with Him. Jesus was talking about His ability to be with us. I find this very reassuring. Knowing that whatever I’m going through, My Lord is fully present. He’s not distracted or deterred in any way. Just as Jesus did with His disciples, Jesus came and met them right where they were. In their fears and confusion about what comes next, the Lord meets us right where we are. We have the assurance of His presence.
The Assurance of Peace
Jesus says, “Peace be with you” three times in this passage. (19, 21, 26) As I read this, I’m confident Jesus meant His words as more than just a greeting. While His disciples are deeply troubled by the possibility of persecution for their devotion to the Lord, His presence commanded peace. Here, peace is both a greeting and the gift of Jesus’ presence.
Philippians 4:7 reads, And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Lord’s assurance of inner tranquility isn’t an absence of external tensions. His peace surpasses comprehension because it’s present even as problems abound. His peace isn’t determined by circumstances. It’s an act of grace. His peace is, however, influenced by our activity. Look at Jesus’ second invocation of peace.
- (21) So, Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
The Lord connects His divine peace with His divine purpose. This is the assurance of purpose which cultivates His peace. In other words, we are at peace with God, one another, and ourselves when we live in His sending purpose. When a person clearly knows his or her God-ordered purpose in life, they acquire a distinct assurance about everything they do. They’re not easily dissuaded or discouraged. They’re able to run with endurance the race that is set before them. Are you living your divine purpose? It doesn’t look the same for everybody.
This is the message of Ephesians 4:11-13…
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
This isn’t an exhaustive listing of sending purposes, but we’re all sent to do a work of service. Find your work of service and you’ll find the assurance of God’s peace. The assurance of peace is in the assurance of His purpose.
[Assurance of Presence, Peace]
The Assurance of Power (22-23)
And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
This passage needs some explanation to avoid confusion. Its meaning has been distorted over the years.Verses 22 and 23 must be viewed in light of their context for proper understanding. The resurrected Jesus has just told the disciples He’s sending them for a purpose. What’s the purpose? Well, we know from Luke 24, Matthew 28, and Acts 1, their (our) sending purpose is to give the gospel and make disciples. Again, the way we do this isn’t the same for all believers, but the message never changes. Well, for the disciples to carry out their divine purpose they would need the power of the Holy Spirit. They needed the assurance of His power. Since the huddled disciples are Jesus’ first to be sent with the message of His resurrection, Jesus endows them with the Holy Spirit first.
- Before the church…as we read in Acts chapter 2
Scripture continually affirms the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
Acts 10:38, You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Romans 15:13, Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In John 14, 15, and 16 Jesus promised the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and comfort them in His absence. When Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” He endowed them with the assurance of the Spirit’s power to fuel their sending. Does verse 23 mean that the disciples were personally given the ability to forgive or withhold the forgiveness of sins? Did they have a special measure of grace to wield such authority? Once again, the answer must be understood in the greater context of their sending. They are sent by Jesus to bring the gospel, the good news of eternal life to others. As they do, those who receive the gospel are forgiven of their sins by virtue of trusting in Jesus for their salvation. Those who reject the gospel remain in their guilt. If someone accepts the gospel the disciples had the authority to tell them their sins are forgiven. When they neglect it, they can say the guilt of their sins remains. So, yes, the disciples had authority, but it was gospel authority based on how people responded to the gospel. We have the same authority.
In Acts 13:38-39, reads, Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
Folks, if you or I share the gospel with someone, and they receive Christ, we have the gospel authority to declare their sins have been forgiven. And when they reject it, we have the authority to pronounce that the guilt of their sins remains. The assurance of the Holy Spirit’s power gives us that gospel authority. In reality, most believers never use the spiritual power and authority God gives them. Because they’re too intimidated by the power and authority of the ruler of this world to share the gospel. They’re afraid to offend or that they’ll be judged. What good is having the assurance of power and gospel authority if we never use it? Don’t quench the assurance of the His power by hording your gospel authority.
[The Assurance of Presence, Peace, Power]
The Assurance of Proof (24-28)
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.” 26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Of course, this is the part where we get the phrase “doubting Thomas” from. Thomas was skeptical of the other disciple’s claim that Jesus rose from the dead. He wanted the assurance of proof. So, Jesus alters His molecular structure enabling Him to move through the wall, to suddenly appear in their midst. I think this time He said “peace be with you” because everybody was a bit freaked out by His miraculous move. Did He say it to calm them down? Jesus came to give Thomas the proof He desired. Receiving it, he proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”
I can’t tell you how many times Jesus has proven Himself to me over the years. Jesus has never appeared to me in His resurrected form, but the assurance of His proof has been thoroughly convincing. The assurance of proof is evidence that Jesus is alive. Why did Jesus prove Himself resurrected to Thomas? I think it’s because he asked for proof. You know, it’s OK to ask the Lord to show Himself to us. He’s aware of the fragility of our faith. Jesus knows we’re weak and need signs that He’s involved in our lives. This isn’t to say we get to decide how He proves Himself to us. I think we must learn something from Thomas’ inspection of Jesus’ healed wounds.
The clearest evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is found in His power to heal. From early childhood brokenness to the severe pain of a friend’s desertion. The wounds of our own bad choices or the victimizations by hard-hearted manipulators, when we bring our wounds to the One who knows woundedness. We have the assurance that He can both sympathize with our pain.
Hebrews 4:15, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses….
And He can heal us. Sadly, we too often cling to our wounds like cruel old friends. Their so familiar to us that we’re willing to endure the pain of their company. Because the thought of losing them seems worse than the hurt they happily inflict. But listen to the Word of the Lord.
Isaiah 61:3, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So, they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
The Lord desires to heal our wounds because that glorifies Him. We’ll gladly testify to others about how our chiropractor relieved the back pain, or our dentist cured that aching tooth. Jesus wants you to testify how He healed your silent wounds that nobody hears about. Those hidden hurts that’re too dark to mention. Because only Jesus can go there. Only He is able to reach that deep into your soul with the salve of His grace. We Christians tend to frown on doubting Thomas for his lack of faith. I say we aught to be more like Didymus, because when I touch the Lord’s wounds, He truly becomes my Lord and my God. This is our shared experience with Jesus; woundedness. And it’s His healing of our hurts that makes us truly fit for ministry. Because when we’ve felt His compassion, we can then show compassion to others.
I’ll finish with this.
Verse 29, Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Here we have the assurance of place. When we believe in the resurrected Jesus, though we do not see Him, He moves us to a place of blessing.
- Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.
The place of His favor. You’ve often heard the saying, “Seeing is believing.” Faith in Jesus teaches us that believing is seeing. When we believe in Him even though we have not seen Him, He moves us from the place of condemnation to the place of blessing. Do you have blessed assurances?
- The Assurance of Presence
- The Assurance of Peace
- The Assurance of Power
- The Assurance of Proof
If you have the assurance of place, you inherit the others. If you don’t have the assurance of place, you can. Believe in the resurrected Jesus as your Savior and Lord.