1. Jesus appears to the disciples - v. 19-25
Isn’t it absolutely wonderful that Jesus desired to see His disciples first when He rose from the dead. Knowing their condition they were in during the last few days, He enters in their presence speaking “Peace be with you!” Oh, how they needed peace. They had heard the body of Jesus was gone but they had not yet placed their full faith in the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. We know Mary Magdalene did have that faith, but there seems to be no positive evidence that the 11 disciples did, even though Peter and John saw the empty tomb. The reason I say that, John writes in verse 9 something that still shares a doubt. (“They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”)
But now He is there with them. Can you imagine what they were thinking and the joy they had and finally the peace they experienced? Jesus showed them His wounds, making sure there would be no doubt as to who He was.
It looks as if one of the purposes of Jesus appearing to them was to commission them to preach and share the Gospel. But before they could accomplish that, Jesus breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit upon them, with the commission to go, with His blessing. Verse 23 reads, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” It looks like Jesus said that the disciples could forgive sin or not forgive sin. Do you think that is what Jesus was saying here? No, I don’t think so, only God can forgive sin! But what we do see is that Jesus has given them the privilege to preach the Word of God, the life giving Word, and if people believed the WORD of God then they could find forgiveness for their sin. It was the power of the Holy Spirit in them that shared the Word of God and the life giving truth that sins can be forgiven through God and His truth, not by man. Man, the disciples, were the agents God chose to preach, tell others of this truth, and when someone repents of their sin and believes the truth that Jesus Christ forgives sin and died for them, then God has forgiven their sin, not man. Anyone who knows the Lord Jesus Christ can tell others that their sins are forgiven, when they do what the Word of God says to do. We all, you and me, have this same privilege, we can announce to others their sins are forgiven but we don’t forgive those sins only God can do that.
Many times in our lives we hear a statement or someone’s comment about an individual and we make a quick judgment about that person. Many of us have done that when we read the statement that John records about Thomas, when he responded to the fact that Jesus had appeared to the disciples when Thomas was not with them. He quickly responds with doubt and says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas needed the same experience the other disciples had. Jesus had shown His wounds to them and now Thomas needs that personal experience too. You and I probably would have done the same. We just need to see clearly before we can believe.