This is the first appearance of Jesus to His disciples, the original twelve without Judas Iscariot and Thomas, though there may have been others present. Fear gives way to joy when they recognize Jesus (vv. 19-20), and He greets them with the words, ″Peace be with you!″ (v. 19).
″Peace″ is the normal greeting, but this time it carries added significance because the disciples may have expected to be rebuked instead. Reassured that the crucified Christ lives, they are filled with joy. Jesus again reminds them that just as the Father had sent Him, He was sending them (v. 21). He has been sent, He has finished His work, and He now commissions them to go.
When the others told Thomas they had seen the Lord (v. 25), he was sceptical. He knew all about wishful thinking and optical illusions. He wanted the proof that only touch and sight could give (v. 25), otherwise he would not believe.
God’s concern and love for the world is never in the background. The disciples have come to Christ in order to go out into the world. However, they are not to go ill-equipped. Jesus has told them that the Spirit would convict the world of sin (John 16:8) and that their testimony would be matched by the Spirit’s testimony (15:26-27). Jesus reminds those commissioned that they have authority (v. 23) to preach the gospel and that those who embrace the gospel through repentance and faith have their sin forgiven; unbelief will lead to the retention of sin and its judgment.
Throughout Scripture, we see this pattern repeated. Isaiah was cleansed of sin in order to go to the world (Isaiah 6). Paul is converted on the road to Damascus and immediately commissioned as an apostle (Acts 9) to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Now, at the peak of their experience, face-to-face with the risen Lord Jesus, the disciples receive the equipping of the Spirit and are commissioned as gospel-bearers.
The lesson to the disciples here is similar: service is at the heart of worship. Jesus is God’s servant, carrying out the Father’s plan; and now the Christ-exalting Holy Spirit will energise the disciples as they serve the interests of God’s kingdom.
Saved to serve! Being representatives of the new creation in this crumbling old creation, how much does this truth govern your lifestyle?