John 20:19–31: The Commission of Jesus
What now? At this point, Jesus has finished everything related to his estate of humiliation in his earthly ministry (John 19:30), and he is resurrected from the dead (John 20:9). Jesus insists that he must ascend to his Father (John 20:17), but what about the disciples whom Jesus leaves behind? What comes next for them? How should the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus affect their lives moving forward? After devoting the last few years of their lives to following Jesus, what should they do now?
As we will see in John 20:19–31, Jesus has a specific mission in mind for his disciples. After the ascension, Jesus will not reveal himself to the world visibly, but through the testimony of his disciples. Up to this point, Jesus has borne witness about himself directly (cf. John 8:13–18; 17:6; 18:37). When Jesus ascends to his Father, he will continue to lead his people by his word, he will do so through the power of his Spirit and the his testimony of his church (John 10:14–16; 14:23–24; 16:12–15; 17:11–20). It is not that Jesus will cease to reveal himself to the world after his ascension, but that he will change the way in which he does it: Jesus reveals himself through the proclamation of his word.
1. If we are not allowed to see the resurrected Jesus, then why did Jesus choose to reveal himself to his first disciples? How important is their original testimony? Where do we find that testimony today? Do you need to re-evaluate the time, effort, attention, and devotion you give in studying that testimony?
2. What is the mission of the church? What kind of authority does Jesus give to the church to carry out that mission? In what ways do you think that mission extends beyond the borders of your local congregation of believers into the wider world? Into your neighborhood? Into your schools and workplaces? Into politics and government?
3. Why is the skepticism of Thomas so important for us today? How do his doubts help us when we doubt? In what ways is the method that Jesus revealed himself to Thomas similar to the method by which Jesus reveals himself to us? In what ways are those methods different? How do we encourage ourselves in the midst of doubts?
4. What is the gospel? What does the word of the gospel tell us about Jesus? Why does Jesus choose to reveal himself by his word? What implications does that have for the ministry that we seek to do? What role does the Holy Spirit play in bringing sinners to faith through the proclamation of the word?