St. John’s Gospel (36): The Bodily Presence of Jesus (John 20:19-31)
“Fear of the Jews” . . . Jesus is dead. You saw it. Imagine being among the disciples on Sunday evening. You were not at the tomb in the morning. You did not stoop down and look into it. You did not enter to see the empty grave garments, nor the face-cloth folded neatly by itself. You saw no angels seated like Cherubim. No messenger-angels spoke to you about Jesus. Mary Magdelene and other women have reluctantly shared their weird story. Peter and John, you have been told, saw something, but the something was seeing nothing, an empty tomb. A meeting has been called. You are wondering if the First Century Secret Police (who just had your Master killed) are after you. You have tried hard to avoid any contact with people. You have been grieving over the loss of your Rabbi and friend. He was a hopeful candidate for Messiah. But now this sense of loss has turned to fear of those in power. What do they do to would-be messiah’s? Kill them. What do they do to the disciples of these false messiahs? Well, a disciple is not greater than his master. Now enters Jesus . . .
Two Main Ideas here that are primary human responses: FEAR and DOUBT
What does the Bodily Presence of Jesus Do?
1) Jesus Gives Peace instead of Fear (vv19-23) -
2) Jesus Grants Faith in Place of Doubt (vv24-31)
Jesus Gives Peace instead of Fear (vv19-23) - The disciples were afraid. They cowered in hiding, “for fear of the Jews” (v19). Jesus “came” BODILY in their midst or “appeared” (Acts 1:3). Why did He breath on them? Jesus’s very first action was to confer peace to them (twice to make the point): “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). Through Christ’s victory, the ground of peace was accomplished on the Day of Resurrection. From this we have mission: “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world. From this account we have peace and purpose: a) we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5:1) connected to the forgiveness of sins (v23). This is the reason and the rationale for relational peace with others. b) We have purpose to declare this forgiveness leading to peace in the world, being commissioned by Christ (v21ff).
Jesus Grants Faith in Place of Doubt (vv24-31) - On the next Lord’s Day (2nd Sunday of Eastertide), enter “unbelieving” Thomas, who was not present on Easter 1. He was unbelieving (not merely doubting) in the face of many credentialed and credible witnesses, namely: at least twelve other men (ten original disciples, less Judas and Thomas, plus the two on the road to Emmaus) and several women, especially Mary Magdelene who hugged Him. Jesus had eaten broiled fish in front of ten men (Luke 24:42). Peter testified that Jesus “ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:42). They had all “seen” Him, “heard Him,” and “handled Him” (1 John 1:1). This is a large number of eyewitnesses to Christ’s bodily reality. Jesus, however, met Thomas’s evidentiary demand, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands.” This is the Bodily Presence of Jesus.
Bodily Presence Now:
The Church doing Word and Sacrament is the “Body of Christ.”
The Church being the Incarnate Presence of God in the World.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more