Our Gospel this week is John 20:19-31, taken today from the Common English Bible (CEB).
It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God! Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto the disciples and gives them an important instruction – “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” This sounds like the disciples are to judge who is or is not worthy of Christ’s mercy. I don’t believe that is what Jesus had in mind at all.
I see this as His commandment to go to all the world, the Gospel of John’s version of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Jesus wants us to tell everyone they can know His love and forgiveness. If we don’t share this, how will they hear? They can’t be forgiven unless we make the effort to share the Good News.
Jesus gives us the power to go in His name to testify to the joy we know in Him. He doesn’t send us to decide who’s in or out. That is between Him and each of us individually. Our task is to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near and invite everyone to take part.
Loving Lord, we are humbled that You choose us to be part of Your kingdom and Your ministry. Help us to share faithfully that all may come to You. Amen.