This I command you…
In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus teaches that if we do not produce good works, we will be separated from him and thrown into the fire. And, that if we do bear fruit, we will be pruned in order to bear more fruit. Check out the video above with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more about this topic and the implications of what Jesus is teaching.
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
As the Father sent me, so I send you
Gospel: John 20:19-23
- The Gospel reading portrays the timeless events of Jesus’ resurrection and the descent of the Spirit.
- Jesus breathes on the disciples, creating them anew, and proclaims the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Filled with the Spirit, the disciples continue to spread new life and remedy the separation caused by sin as they forgive sins.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
AGAPE CATHOLIC Bible Study
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I sent you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
SOURCE: All content below is from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added. follow link above to go to original page.
Jesus greets the Apostles
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
It is the afternoon of the first day of the week (Sunday). For the Jews whose day ended at sundown, “evening” is in the mid-to-late afternoon. The time is probably about 3 PM, the hour of afternoon prayer and the afternoon liturgical worship service of the Tamid in the Temple (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8; see the e-book “Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice”). It was the same hour Jesus gave up His life on the altar of the Cross three days earlier (as the ancients counted), and it is the afternoon of Resurrection Sunday. The disciples are afraid because the Sanhedrin may arrest them and try them for blasphemy just as they condemned Jesus. The resurrected Christ came to them supernaturally. Locked doors cannot stop Him. His greeting to the disciples is the customary greeting of the Jews: “Shalom/peace be with you.” The greeting should be familiar to us because these are the very words the priest uses, as he stands in “persona Christi,” in the Person of Christ, as he greets the congregation and says, “Peace be with you.”
They are overjoyed at seeing the Lord (verse 20). In His greeting, Jesus reassures the Apostles, who must have been feeling ashamed of their conduct after His arrest as He lovingly reestablishes the intimacy they had previously enjoyed with Him. He shows them His wounded hands and His pierced side. Showing them His wounds dispels any impression that they are seeing a ghost or imposter. They truly see the risen, glorified body of Jesus Himself.
“Recieve the Holy Spirit”
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I sent you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
This remarkable moment in salvation history is the ordination and mission statement of the Magisterium of the Church. Jesus is sending the Apostles out into the world to proclaim His kingdom with the power and the authority of God the Father.
Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (in the Greek text the article is missing). Some scholars suggest the missing article indicates that, in this case, Jesus’ breath was not the giving of God the Holy Spirit as they would receive Him with the rest of the New Covenant Church at the Feast of Pentecost 50 days later. They suggest it was only an “effusion” of His spirit. However, do not miss the symbolic significance of Jesus breathing on the Apostles. In Hebrew and Greek, the word for “breath” is the same word as the word for “spirit.” God first breathed His spirit into Adam to give him physical life (Gen 2:7). Now Christ breathes on the Apostles to provide them with supernatural spiritual life and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit,” the “Spirit of Truth” He promised to them at the Last Supper Discourse who will guide them in all truth (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). He is sending them forth as his emissaries (Apostle means “one who is sent”), in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will make all things “new” again just as He did in the first creation (see Genesis 1:2).
The prophet Ezekiel envisioned this day when he wrote of the Messianic restoration of Israel:
He said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD [Yahweh]: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came to alive and stood upright, a vast army (Ez 37:9-10).
Man, formally dead to sin, is now resurrected in Christ, and this faithful remnant of the Old Israel has become the nucleus of the New Israel, the New Covenant Universal [Catholic] Church that will become an immense army of disciples converting the world through the spread of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness of Sins
23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.
The Sacraments of the Church are visible signs instituted by Christ to confer grace. Jesus is instituting the Sacrament of Penance [Reconciliation]. Under the Old Covenant, the sinner placed his hands on the animal offered in sacrifice, confessed his sins before the priest, and the animal died in his place. Now Christ is the Lamb of sacrifice, but we still must have confession and repentance before the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of friendship and communion.
In verses 22-23, the priests of the New Covenant carry the Son of God’s authority to forgive or retain sins. The concept of private confession of wrong-doings has never been a part of the sacramental system of the Old or New Covenants. Even though it is a healthy spiritual practice to confess our shortcomings to God in our daily prayers, it is necessary to bring those venial sins (unintentional sins) before the Lord in the Penitential Rite of the Mass to receive forgiveness in the Eucharist. We must confess any mortal sins to an ordained priest of the New Covenant Church who is a successor of the first ministerial priesthood in Christ, as though we are confessing to Christ Himself (CCC 1393-95, 1414, 1436, 1457, 1846, 2042).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus is the physician of our souls and our bodies. He healed the sick and forgave their sins, and He has willed His Church, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, to continue His work of healing and salvation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance, the sinner places himself before the merciful judgment of God who heals and purifies hearts and souls. CCC#1422: “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” Also see CCC# 1423-1498.
You may ask the question: “How do we know Jesus meant for us to confess to a human priest and not just to Him?” You will agree that in verse 22, in speaking to the Apostles, Jesus granted the Church the power to forgive individual sins and the power to retain them. How can the Church exercise this power to make decisions about particular sins unless we openly confess those transgressions to Christ through His priesthood?
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) The disciples, when they heard what Mary told them, were obliged either to disbelieve, or, if they believed, to grieve that He did not count them worthy to have the sight of Him. He did not let them however pass a whole day in such reflections, but in the midst of their longing trembling desires to see Him, presented Himself to them: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.
BEDE. Wherein is shewn the infirmity of the Apostles. They assembled with doors shut, through that same fear of the Jews, which had before scattered them: Came Jesus, and stood in the midst. He came in the evening, because they would be the most afraid at that time.
THEOPHYLACT. Or because He waited till all were assembled: and with shut doors, that he might shew how that in the very same way he had risen again, i. e. with the stone lying on the scpulchre.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. cx. et cl. Pasch. aliquid simile.) Some are strongly indisposed to believe this miracle, and argue thus: If the same body rose again, which hung upon the Cross, how could that body enter through shut doors? But if thou comprehendest the mode, it is no miracle: when reason fails, then is faith edified.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) The shut door did not hinder the body, wherein Divinity resided. He could enter without open doors, who was born without a violation of His mother’s virginity.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) It is wonderful that they did not think him a phantom. But Mary had provided against this, by the faith she had wrought in them. And He Himself too shewed Himself so openly, and strengthened their wavering minds by His voice: And saith unto them, Peace he unto you, i. e. Be not disturbed. Wherein too He reminds them of what He had said before His crucifixion; My peace I give to you; (c. 14:27; 16:33) and again, In Me ye shall have peace.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi. in Evang.) And because their faith wavered even with the material body before them, He shewed them His hands and side: And when He had said this, He shewed them His hands and His side.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) The nails had pierced His hands, the lance had pierced His side. For the healing of doubting hearts, the marks of the wounds were still preserved.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) And what He had promised before the crucifixion, I shall see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, is now fulfilled: Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei.) The glory, wherewith the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, i. e. in Christ’s body, we must believe to have been rather veiled than not to have been there at all. He accommodated His presence to man’s weak sight, and presented Himself in such form, as that His disciple could look at and recognise Him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) All these things brought them to a most confident faith. As they were in endless war with the Jews, He says again, Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you.
BEDE. A repetition is a confirmation: whether He repeats it because the grace of love is twofold, or because He it is who made of twain one.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 3) At the same time He shews the efficacy of the cross, by which He undoes all evil things, and gives all good things; which is peace. To the women above there was announced joy; for that sex was in sorrow, and had received the curse, In sorrow shalt thou bring forth. (Gen. 3:16) All hindrances then being removed, and every thing made straight, (πατωρθωται.) he adds, As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxii. in Evang.) The Father sent the Son, appointed Him to the work of redemption. He says therefore, As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you; i. e. I love you, now that I send you to persecution, with the same love wherewith My Father loved Me, when He sent Me to My sufferings.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) We have learnt that the Son is equal to the Father: here He shews Himself Mediator; He Me, and I you.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 2) Having then given them confidence by His own miracles, and appealing to Him who sent Him, He uses a prayer to the Father, but of His own authority gives them power: And when He had said thus, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.
AUGUSTINE. (iv. de Trin. c. xx) That corporeal breath was not the substance of the Holy Ghost, but to shew, by meet symbol, that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father, but the Son. For who would be so mad as to say, that it was one Spirit which He gave by breathing, and another which He sent after His ascension?
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) But why is He first given to the disciples on earth, and afterwards sent from heaven? Because there are two commandments of love, to love God, and to love our neighbour. The spirit to love our neighbour is given on earth, the spirit to love God is given from heaven. As then love is one, and there are two commandments; so the Spirit is one, and there are two gifts of the Spirit. And the first is given by our Lord while yet upon earth, the second from heaven, because by the love of our neighbour we learn how to arrive at the love of God.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) Some say that by breathing He did not give them the Spirit, but made them meet to receive the Spirit. For if Daniel’s senses were so overpowered by the sight of the Angel, how would they have been overwhelmed in receiving that unutterable gift, if He had not first prepared them for it! It would not be wrong however to say that they received then the gift of a certain spiritual power, not to raise the dead and do miracles, but to remit sins: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi. 3) The love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it; but retains the sins of those who do not. Where then He has said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) We must understand that those who first received the Holy Ghost, for innocence of life in themselves, and preaching to a few others, received it openly after the resurrection, that they might profit not a few only, but many. The disciples who were called to such works of humility, to what a height of glory are they led! Lo, not only have they salvation for themselves, but are admitted1 to the powers of the supreme Judgment-seat; so that, in the place of God, they retain some men’s sins, and remit others. Their place in the Church, the Bishops now hold; who receive the authority to bind, when they are admitted to the rank of government. Great the honour, but heavy the burden of the place. It is ill if one who knows not how to govern his own life, shall be judge of another’s.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 4) A priest though he may have ordered well his own life, yet, if he have not exercised proper vigilance over others, is sent to hell with the evil doers. Wherefore, knowing the greatness of their danger, pay them all respect, even though they be not men of notable goodness. For they who are in rule, should not be judged by those who are under them. And their incorrectness of life will not at all invalidate what they do by commission from God. For not only cannot a priest, but not even angel or archangel, do any thing of themselves; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do all. The priest only furnishes the tongue, and the hand. For it were not just that the salvation of those who come to the Sacraments in faith, should be endangered by another’s wickedness. (Hom. lxxxvii. 1). At the assembly of the disciples all were present but Thomas, who probably had not returned from the dispersion: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
ALCUIN. Didymus, double or doubtful, because he doubted in believing: Thomas, depth, because with most sure faith he penetrated into the depth of our Lord’s divinity.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The Divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith, than the belief of the other disciples; for, the touch by which he is brought to believe, confirming our minds in belief, beyond all question.
BEDE. But why does this Evangelist say that Thomas was absent, when Luke writes that two disciples on their return from Emmaus found the eleven assembled? We must understand that Thomas had gone out, and that in the interval of his absence, Jesus came and stood in the midst.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii. 1) As to believe directly, (ἁπλῶς) and any how, is the mark of too easy a mind, so is too much enquiring of a gross one: and this is Thomas’s fault. For when the Apostle said, We have seen the Lord, he did not believe, not because he discredited them, but from an idea of the impossibility of the thing itself: The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. Being the grossest of all, he required the evidence of the grossest sense, viz. the touch, and would not even believe his eyes: for he does not say only, Except I shall see, but adds, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.
A chapter by chapter and verse by verse study of Mark given from a non-Catholic perspective. Paul LeBoutillier is pastor of Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon.
Feasting on the Word
Behind Closed Doors
A chronic temptation for the church is to stay behind closed doors. In the experience of the Western church since the advent of the modern world, enlightenment pressures have conspired with this perennial temptation to place the church squarely behind the closed door of the private and personal domain. Behind this door are found the personal, spiritual, and familial dilemmas that occupy humans in their private existence. The message of the gospel is taken seriously and with some urgency behind this door, with the prospect of healing and wholeness embraced enthusiastically for this area of life.
On the other side of that door stand the public and social worlds that occupy humans when they venture forth from “home.” Beyond that door are found the economic, political, and civic realities that occupy people most of their waking hours. Here the gospel’s promise is scarcely acknowledged or, if glimpsed, is deemed out of place. Ironically, even in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Western Christians undertook to bear the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, they tended to share a gospel that stays behind these same closed doors.
The commission to contend with sin as it afflicts and affects the world is the wedge that holds the door open to the public domain for the church in the present. Otherwise the church might rest content with its prior history of mission whereby it shared the peace of Christ behind the closed door of the personal and private, even as it reached around the world. But sin that threatens the power of good with the countervailing force of evil operates without deference to the private/public distinction. The missionary people engendered by this peace and this inbreathed Holy Spirit are sent wherever the battle lines are drawn—whether in the midst of family illness and distress or in the turmoil of economic injustice. The missionary people empowered by this peace and this inbreathed Holy Spirit bear the forgiving, transforming love of God into every sphere of human experience.
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
Feasting on the Word
Examples of Christians Today who Hide behind Closed Doors
There are Christians today who also hide behind closed doors in fear. Egyptian Christians routinely experience violence from their neighbors, as do Christians in Iraq. Although most people in North America do not live in fear of religious authorities or reprisals from outsiders for their Christian confessions, there are other fears that haunt them. Some preachers fear telling what they believe to be the truth about ecclesiastical or social controversies because they have reason to think their congregations would fire them. Some church people fear the loss of close friends or family if they do the same. Others fear discovery of their sexual orientations or political or social or theological convictions. In response to the disciples’ fears, Jesus bestows peace. This is not the first time he has done so. In the Farewell Discourse he twice refers to peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (14:27). “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (16:33).
SOURCE: Content taken from Holman New Testament Commentary Series (12 Volume Set); Holman Reference Editorial Staff (Author); Copyright © 2001. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
The Biblical Imagination
Receiving the Holy Spirit
In verse 21 Jesus passes the key of his identity on to his disciples. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has been the One who was sent, the Father was the One who had sent him. Now Jesus tells the Eleven he is sending them. They will be clothed with his authority. They will bear a concealed dignity. They are now the sent ones.
In a symbolic gesture he breathes on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He had spoken so much about the Spirit during their last hours together (Jn 16:5-15). Now he imparts the Spirit by his breath (see Gen 2:7; Ezek 37:5).
Their principal assignment? To forgive sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection has made such forgiveness possible. Now his sent ones must proclaim and offer that forgiveness. He closes with a warning. If they do not forgive, if they refuse to display his forgiveness in their lives, people will not find forgiveness, and it will not be displayed at all.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE BIBLICAL IMAGINATION (4 Volume Series); Michael Card; Copyright © 2011-14. IVP Books. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
John 20:22-23 The risen Christ did as he had promised (see 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7) and breathed his Holy Spirit on his disciples. This life-bringing, truth-revealing, sin-convicting, comfort-giving Spirit is also a Spirit of forgiveness. Just as we receive God’s forgiveness for our sins, so we are exhorted and enabled to forgive those who sin against us. If we refuse to forgive others, we will miss the blessed freedom that God offers. He wants us to experience the emotional healing that comes only from working through our anger and hurt to the point of releasing it to God. By God’s Spirit, recovery from our painful past can be completed.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE
Life in the Breath of God
John 20:22 There is life in the breath of God. Man was created but did not come alive until God breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). God’s first breath made man different from all other forms of creation. Now, through the breath of Jesus, God imparted eternal, spiritual life. With this inbreathing came the power to do God’s will on earth.