The disciples and the Spirit

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 20:19-31 (NIVUK): “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.’

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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.”

I found that Selwyn’s discussion on John 20:22 to be very interesting. I’ll leave it to you, to read the entire study and for you to make up your mind on what actually happened in the room behind locked doors.

First off, I’ll talk about my views – the apostles were scared and lacked the spiritual strength to undertake the task to be sent by Jesus to act as His witnesses in a sinful world. Just as God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7), here we see Jesus breathing spiritual life into the apostles to strengthen them for the task ahead and to help them stay around Jerusalem until the time of Pentecost.

In a very real sense, God was giving them the deposit, or guarantee of the Holy Spirit, who was to come after Jesus returned to His Father (which occurred about ten days before Pentecost). It would, I think, be reassuring to the apostles that they had encountered the risen Jesus, who walked and breathed and they were not encountering a ghost of some type.

In Luke 1:15-16, we read; “He (John the Baptist) is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.” There are many examples throughout Scripture  where God’s messengers (prophets) were filled with the Holy Spirit so that they could undertake their role as a prophet. However, the big change to come, in terms of the indwelling of God’s Spirit, was with all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Saviour of the world. After Pentecost, all God’s people are baptised with the Holy Spirit.

In John 16:7-11,13, we find the following: “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. … But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

In summary, I partly agree with Selwyn when he says the Spirit was given to them so that the process of spiritual regeneration could commence and so prepare them for the full indwelling of His power, which would occur so many weeks later, at the time of Pentecost. They needed to come out of the room and not be so scared that they stayed behind locked doors all the time; the apostles – as leaders –  were required  to encourage and strengthen the other disciples. (A group of about 120 – see Acts 1:15).

I tend to think that John wrote his gospel some time after Luke wrote his accounts and that John would have been aware of Luke’s account of Pentecost in Acts. Consequently, John 20:22, is not John’s account of the same spiritual event – it is a symbolic account of the giving of spiritual life.

What are your views?