Believe, Receive, Forgive

BIBLE INSIGHTS in 500 words


John 20:19-31

Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.

In the Gospel of John, faith is a living experience, a choice made new in every situation.  Notice that the last “convert” in the John’s Gospel is Thomas who was already a disciple.  Thomas faced a new situation and needed to believe anew. 

Let me make three observations from our text.

First, THOMAS.  He is courageous (11:6) and theologically alert (14:5) earlier in the Gospel.  Nonetheless, this story in John 20 has given him an unkind and unfair moniker – “Doubting Thomas.”  Notice in John 20:

  • The Beloved Disciple believed with no more evidence than an empty tomb (v. 8).
  • Mary believed when she heard his voice and recognized Jesus (vv. 16-18).
  • The disciples believed when Jesus appeared to them in the upper room (v. 20).

Thomas had missed all these events.  His faith would come to life only after physical contact (v. 25).  For some faith is as gentle as a child on grandmother’s lap, but for others, it is continual wrestling with doubt.

Second, JESUS. Notice how Jesus responds to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (v. 29).  John wants us to know that the same faith of the disciples is possible for us.  Faith is available for everyone.  Faith is always a blessing. 

  • Notice that the Gospel opens with John the Baptist leading people to believe, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe” (1:7). 
  • Now, the task of leading people to believe has passed to the disciples, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (17:20).
  • The Gospel concludes with an invitation for all who read it to believe, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (vs. 31).

Jesus shared a short description of beliefexpresses what he means by “belief.”  Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (6:27-29).

Third, HOLY SPIRIT.  Jesus repeats the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit many times in his farewell address (chapters 14-16).  In chapter 20, the promise is fulfilled.  “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (vs. 22).

The brief event is a reminder and a recreation of the beginning where we read, Then the Lord God formed a human being from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

With the gift of the Holy Spirit came the responsibility and authority to forgive sin, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (vs. 22-23).

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