I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: John 20:19-31
B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …
C. Other texts for Year A for 2nd Sunday in Easter
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
19 From whom do we have fear of now that we must keep our doors locked?
Is the doors being locked a metaphor for the minds of the disciples being shut to the possibility of Jesus rising from the grave? Mary just announced it to them!
20 The other 10, had also seen Jesus’ hands and feet.
21a Repetition of blessing after the disciples recognized Jesus and rejoiced.
21b Christians are sent!!! A different verb is used for Christ being sent vs. disciples being sent. The difference is demonstrated when the other disciples try to tell Thomas about the resurrection versus Jesus showing Thomas the resurrection.
22 Christ breathes the Holy Spirit upon us, yet we still have to receive it. N.B. parallel with God breathing a breath into Adam in Gen 2. In Gen 2, Adam had no choice but to receive the breath. In John 20, the disciples are commanded to receive the breath. It is up to the disciples to choose whether or not to receive it.
23 What an awesome responsibility! Forgiving sins and retaining sins. While our actions of forgiving/holding is in the future/present (present tense verb), the Jesus’ has completed this in the past (perfect tense verb).
24 – 25 What is our unbelief? What must we see/hear/feel/taste/… to experience the reality of Christ with us?
26 The doors are still shut, yet Jesus breaks in and can be touched, more than just a spirit!
27 Jesus meets Thomas in his unbelief.
28 Confession of faith or statement of recognition? Are they not the same?
29 We cannot physically touch Jesus, yet Jesus has provided enough reassurance to meet our unbelief. The seed of faith has been planted so that we can come to the community of faith for nurturing and growing this seed and aiding the growth of the seed in others.
30 – 31 First Ending?
Purpose of this Gospel is so that we may believe and in believing come to know Christ and live.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- This is part II of the Easter Sunday story. Mary had seen Jesus that morning. In the preceding passage, Mary Magdalene had told the disciples that she had seen Jesus, yet the ten appear to have been as dumb founded as Thomas when Jesus appears to them.
- The Johanine community added John 21 which contains the testing of Peter and the call to John.
- This contains the second and third post resurrection revelations of Christ to the believers. It marks the first end of the Gospel. The second ending is similar an appearance of the risen Lord, a recognition, a demonstration of physicality (eating and breaking bread), a test of faith (“Feed my lambs.”), a declaration of faith, and a giving of mission (“Follow me!”).
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
- v.31 Some variants have present active subjunctive, /pisteuhte/, you may continue to believe, rather than the aorist active subjunctive, /pisteushte/, you might believe. The latter is the preferred reading. Was this written to strengthen the faith of believers or to make new believers?
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Last Gospel written, about AD 95, after expulsion of Christians from Jewish synagogues. Hence, v 19 “for fear of the Jews” even though the disciples were all Jews. Written as a spiritual/philosophical rather than factual/with parables exposition, by the “beloved disciple”. It has the purpose of shifting the reader from learning about Christ to telling about Christ. John lacks a prophecy of the Second Coming, substituting the presence of the Paraclete. Hence, v 22 “he breathed on them and says to them receive the Holy Spirit/Breath (/pneuma agion/).” Is this John’s version of Pentecost?
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Luke records a parallel scene after the revelation on the road to Emmaus. These two ran back to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered in the upper room. Jesus came and stood among them. They were troubled and thought they saw a ghost. Jesus showed them his hands and feet and offers to allow them to “handle” him and he eats with them. Luke allows us to see more of the Apostles feelings of fear of seeing Jesus. In John they are awe-struck in wonder and amazement and disbelief.
- Attested to in 1 Cor 15:5 and Acts 10:41-44.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
- 19 How does Jesus enter the room? Does that matter? Since they had to see Jesus’ hands and side, presumably he had entered in an ordinary manner. Could the verb for “he came” include the meaning “he entered?” For example the phrase he came to church presumes entrance in the normal way. Why not here?
- 21 Christ is sent (/apestalken/) differently than how he sends (/pempw/) us. A few variants use the same verb (/apestalken/) in both locations. G. Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes that elsewhere the terms are used interchangeably. But the TNDT notes: “/apestellw/ is a strengthening compound of /stello/ and is common in Greek for “to send forth,” differing from /pempw/, which stresses the fact of sending, by its relating of sender and sent and its consequent implication of a commission, especially in Hellenistic Greek.” Subsequent discussion in TNDT notes both the interchangeability and a difference which links /apestellw/ more closely with commissioning or sending forth. Thus the disciples’ sending is subordinate to Jesus’ commissioning by the Father.
- 22. “Jesus breathed on them (/enefuhsen/) and says to them receive the Holy Spirit (/pneuma/).” /Pneuma/ is used widely for breath and for wind as well as for spirit. But there is also a word for natural wind (/anemos/) and a verb related to pneuma (/penw/) that could have been used to make the distinction between breathing and Spirit less clear.
- 24. John refers to the twelve as disciples (/maqhtai/) rather than apostles, this may relate to their only being sent at the end of this Gospel.
- 25. Thomas wishes to thrust (/balw/) his finger and hand into Jesus.
- 26. The whole pericope is related in past tenses, perfect and imperfect, EXCEPT when Jesus “comes” and “says” to Thomas. Even Thomas’ reply is past tense. ==> Is this not the eternal presence of God?
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- Prose. Functions as a factual account of what happened.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Christ is present in the sending of the apostles (and all those who believe yet have not seen).
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Jesus expects Thomas to believe having heard, rather than demanding seeing.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Fred B. Cradock (Knox Preaching Guides: John) traces the post Easter drop in attendance to the return of the disciples to their old tasks (John 21).
G. Sloyan (Interpretation: John) reminds the preacher that belief is a gift of God. John would associate the failure to believe with an absence of grace from God.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Christ bursts through locked doors to send believers to be the Church with the authority of the Holy Spirit, in spite of human doubts.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
Despite our doubts that keep us from believing that Christ lives, the risen Christ assures us of Divine presence as we are sent out with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?