A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 20:19-29 for Sunday, May 21, 2023 with the title, “Reach Out Your Hand.”
A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: ??? Can you share a time when you were surprised to see someone, somewhere???
(— When my father passed away in 2009, my Associate Pastor and a couple of our deacons from Louisiana showed up at the church in central Oklahoma for the funeral. I was very grateful to see them, but also very surprised because of the sacrifice they had made to be there that day.
Then = today we’re going to see how Jesus surprised His disciples by suddenly appearing in the room with them after His resurrection. What He said to them, and how they responded to Him, have some great lessons for us today.
This is right after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which we looked at on Easter Sunday morning. Mary has just told the disciples that she has seen Jesus alive. Verse 19 takes up the story:
I. The Word of Peace
II. The Great Commission
III. The Questioning Disciple
IV. The Profession of Faith
I. The Needed Peace
:19 “that day, the first day of the week” — Sunday. This starts the first of a series of appearances of Jesus to His disciples on “the first day of the week,” which is Sunday — which caused Christians to begin to call it “the Lord’s Day,” and for Jesus’ followers to gather for worship on that day, so that by Revelation 1:10 John is calling it “The LORD’S Day.”
It says “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them: “Peace to you.”
??? Why do you think THAT would be what He would say to them???
(They NEEDED peace! :19 says “The doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews;” They were afraid; everything was in turmoil. They needed peace. And Jesus said over them just what they needed: “Peace.”
Peace is one of the biggest things that people are looking for today. And peace is one of the biggest things that Jesus has to give us when He comes into our lives.
A. He gives us peace with GOD (Rom. 5:1 “Having been justified by faith, we have PEACE WITH GOD through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
B. He gives us peace with OTHERS (Eph. 2:14-15 “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”)
C. And He gives us peace in our own HEART as we walk with Him and trust Him. Philippians 4:7 says “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Back in the 1700s, Jonathan Edwards daughter Esther’s husband died. She had several children, and the loss of a spouse in those days, without government assistance, etc. was very great; and could make a person very anxious. But she wrote to her mother that “God has seemed sensibly near” — she could just “sensibly feel” His presence, and that gave her peace, even in that very difficult situation. (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life p. 428-9)
??? Can anyone share a time when you had an unusual peace in your life, despite some difficult circumstances???
(Once I lost control of my car in an ice storm, and I could have died in a head-on collision, but I noticed at that moment that I was not afraid to die; I had peace.
Also back in 2012 when I had lost my health, losing my job/ministry/home, on my back I told Cheryl: “I have a real peace about this …”)
You/others can share testimonies of how God gave you peace at some difficult times in your lives …
This is what Jesus came for, to give us peace, in many different areas of our lives, especially with God, others, and in our own hearts.
:20 “When He had said this, He showed them both His hands and his side.”
??? WHY would He do this???
(Because they had the prints of the nails, and the mark from the spear in His side. It showed that it was really HIM. They weren’t just seeing a “ghost” or an imposter or whatever.
:21 “So Jesus said to them AGAIN, “Peace be with you.” They must have really needed it! And we do too!
II. The Commission
THEN He said something very important: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send YOU”
??? What do you think this means???
— as God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth to reach/save people, so He is sending US from our comfort zones to reach/save people! Doing this will inevitably cost us something in the process.
ILLUSTRATION: The Babylon Bee (a Christian satire site) posted this the other day:
Like most of their stuff, this is so funny because it hits too close to home! This really IS the atttitude most of us have. We kind of “want” to do what Jesus wants us to, but is there a way to do it with as little effort as possible?
But what Jesus shows us with His whole life and ministry is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING! Ministry/mission COSTS.
It cost Jesus big time: leaving the love and glory of heaven, humbling Himself from being infinite God, to becoming a man, with all the limitations that involves; then all that He endured to come to earth for us.
And so Jesus says, “as the Father sent ME, so send I YOU”! That means that we will inevitably have to sacrifice some things, just like He did.
??? WHO IS SOMEBODY YOU KNOW WHO IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT JESUS DID IN THE INCARNATION???
(— My sister Erin, who is serving in an unreached people group in Southeast Asia. She left the comfort of the U.S., her family, much of what we take for granted here, specifically for the purpose of going to reach unreached people there. Her last time home, she said something like: “I like going to the mall like everyone else; I like going to Panda Express like everyone else” — but she has left these things to be sent like Jesus was sent for us.
— Ernie, Ernie, Kyle, & Johnny Mc, going to the Port Ministry to witness each week.
— Darlene Ramsey, one of our church members, who has started visiting members who are homebound/in the nursing home.
**I think a good point of application here for each one of us should be to ask ourselves: ??? HOW/WHERE IN MY LIFE AM I DOING THE KIND OF THING JESUS DID IN THE INCARNATION??? (What we might call “Incarnational ministry”)
Where in my life am I leaving my comfort zone to reach/care for people like Jesus did?
EX: Am I going mission trips. JESUS WAS THE FIRST “MISSIONARY.” When we go on mission, we are following in His footsteps. We are being sent like the Father sent Him. Local outreaches; work with youth/kids — sometimes just “little things” like walking across the street, the aisle at school or/work; opening a conversation with someone; inviting someone to church; any time we get out of our “comfort zone.
We have ALL been giving this commission. Jesus is sending US, just like the Father sent Him. So we should all ask ourselves: HOW in MY OWN LIFE am I doing this? And if we aren’t, where does He want me to be following His example of “incarnation”?
:22 here’s another important point: immediately after He said He was sending them just as He had been sent, He said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
??? Why do you think He would say that right after giving them the Commission to go???
(Because we can only do that incarnational minsitry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
+x Acts 1:8 “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses …”. We MUST have the power of the Holy Spirit to do the ministry that Jesus sends us on.
III. The Questioning Disciple
Then :24 says: “But Thomas, one of the 12, called Didymus (the twin) was not with them when Jesus came.” So Thomas had missed out on Jesus’ first appearance.
So :25 = “So the other disciples were saying to him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nail, and my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
??? WHY do you think Thomas was so adamant about this, that he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus?
(Because he KNEW Jesus was dead. People don’t just come back from the dead — although Jesus had clearly SAID that He would rise from the dead, AND Thomas, as one of Jesus’ disciples, had SEEN people raised from the dead!
??? Does anyone know someone personally who has said, “I’ll believe in God/Jesus if He SHOWS me something ….”???
Because of this incident, Thomas gained a “nickname,” didn’t he? What was it? (“Doubting Thomas”!)
??? Do you think he “deserved” this nickname?
What about US??? Does this apply to US in some way?
??? Are there times when it is hard for US to believe something God has said/promised???
(— Some situations we are in: This is working for my ultimate good? Well it doesn’t “feel” like it; “I’ll believe that good will come out of this when I see it …”
— Some of our prayer requests: maybe we’ve prayed about it for so long, so now we’re like, “I’ll believe that when I see it …”
??? What is the problem with “believing when we see it”???
(God wants us to believe by FAITH, not by sight.)
When Jesus does appear to Thomas, and Thomas worships Him (as we will see in a minute) Jesus says to him: “Because you have SEEN Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did NOT see, and yet believed.”
If you think about it, many of the other disciples weren’t really that much more full of faith than Thomas — they had also SEEN! They were there when He appeared the FIRST time. So it’s not like they were all believing when he wasn’t! Most of them believed because they SAW also!
??? Can you think of one who believed without seeing???
(John in 20:8, when he looked in the tomb, “He saw and believed.” You could still say he “saw” the empty tomb, but he hadn’t seen the Risen Jesus/hands/side, etc.)
But Jesus makes an important point here: He wants us to believe BY FAITH, not by sight. He wants us to believe because His WORD says so, not because we can see/or even always understand.
Sometime we think the person is a great, spiritual person because they had a “vision of Jesus” or something like that. But according to Jesus here, the GREATER person, spiritually, before Him, is the person who has NOT gotten to see any “visions” or angels or anything — but who just believes what His word says. THAT, Jesus says, is the person who is blessed. The one who has NOT seen, and yet believes.
And so this should be a real source of blessing to most of us. Have you not “seen” Jesus; have you never “seen” any great sign or miracle? Then you are in position to be the most blessed person: you have the opportunity to be just the person that Jesus says is most blessed: you can be the one who has NOT seen, and yet believes!
IV. The Profession of Faith
:28 is one of the best verses in the whole Bible: “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord & My God.’”
This is a great confession of faith. I would suggest that there are THREE important elements in it:
— A) First, Thomas calls Jesus “Lord.” The word “kurios” means “Master, Lord.” It means He is the One who is in charge of your life. This is important. When you come to Jesus, you don’t just come to ask Him to forgive your sins, and then go on and live however you want to. No, you come to bow before Him as LORD. He is the Master, the “boss” of your life from that day forward. Jesus said in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not DO what I say?” So “Lord” means the One you obey. Your Lord, your Master, your Boss.
And THE early Christian confession was “Jesus is Lord.”
— Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:3 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” “Jesus is Lord” was the Christian “profession of faith.” So he was saying, a person doesn’t just say that; the Holy Spirit has to work in your life for you to make that profession of faith. But the profession of faith was “Jesus is Lord.”
— We see this in Philippians 2:11, where Paul write that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that “Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father.” Again, “Jesus is Lord” is the Christian profession.
Now, the ROMAN confession of faith was “Caesar is Lord.” To unite all the conquered peoples of their empire, the Romans established the “cult of Caesar,” or worship of Caesar. There was a Temple built to Caesar Augustus in Pergamum about 29 A.D. People would go to the Roman temple, and burn a pinch of incense in Caesar’s name and say, “Caesar is Lord.” (Kaiseros Kurios) But the Christians refused. No, “JESUS is Lord” was their confession. And many of them went to their deaths, saying we have no Lord but Jesus.
So this is THE basic Christian confession of faith: “Jesus is Lord.”
B) Secondly, Thomas calls Jesus “GOD.” This is very important too. Jesus was NOT “just” an earthly teacher or guru. He was GOD Himself who came to earth in the Incarnation.
Now notice something important here: Thomas called Jesus “My Lord & My God.” HOW did Jesus respond to that? This is very important.
Because in other places in scripture, when someone began to worship someone as god, the godly person would not receive that worship:
— In Acts 14, when Paul & Barnabas had healed a man, the people began to worship them, and call Paul Hermes, and Barnabas Zeus. But :14-15 says “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their [k]robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you …”. They STOPPED them from worshiping them like that!
— In Revelation 22, at the very end of the Revelation, John says in 22:8 “And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. (:9) But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. WORSHIP GOD.” This angel was saying the same thing as Paul & Barnabas: Don’t worship me; “WORSHIP GOD.”
So how did JESUS respond to Thomas saying to Him, “My Lord & My God”?
In :29 He says; “Because you have seen me have you believed? Blessed are they who did NOT see, and yet believed.”
He was saying, are you just believing because you SAW? But significantly, He did NOT stop him from worshiping Him. He just said you need to believe by FAITH, not SIGHT, but he was doing the right thing: worshiping Jesus!
AGAIN this points to the Deity of Jesus. That Jesus is not just a good teacher, or “just” a Lord & Savior; He was & is GOD.
And those who make that claim that “Jesus Himself never claimed to be God” just have not looked seriously at passages like this one. Jesus accepted Thomas’ worship as God.
And it’s important for us to understand that He is God as well. That is Who He is! As we saw in the very beginning of this book, John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD”! He is 100% God, and 100% Man.
C) But then notice a 3rd VITAL element in this confession:
Thomas called Jesus “MY Lord & MY God.”
??? What’s important about this???
(He made it PERSONAL.
The demons know that Jesus is Lord & God. James 2 says they believe and shudder! They know the “fact.” But they have not made it PERSONAL. That is what we MUST do in order to be saved. We must make it personal. You must call Jesus “MY Lord & MY God.”
Depending on your class makeup, you may just want to stop at this point and say, “If you have never done it before, why don’t you ask Him to be YOUR Lord & YOUR God, right now …” and give them an opportunity to pray and put their faith in Christ.
But I would definitely emphasize this element of PERSONAL COMMITMENT: you must come to a time in your life when you mkae Jesus YOUR Lord & YOUR God! (And John tells us in :31 here, that is why he wrote this book!)
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Thank you Pastor Shawn!!! I always receive great applications and questions to ask our ladies, and I always appreciate your prayers.
Yes ma’am Lynda; thank you for your encouraging note! And yes I am praying for you this weekend!
Brother Shawn. Thank you for this ministry. It is extremely helpful to me as I prepare to teach my Sunday school class each week.
Thank you for letting me know that it is helpful to you Don; I am so glad! Know that I am praying for you this weekend!
I am struggling with verse 23 of this chapter. How do you interpret it? Any insight you give is appreciated. Thank you.
Angela I think it just means that the Lord is going to use US as His disciples to bring about salvation and forgiveness in people’s lives here on earth. As we go into the world as He commissioned us to do in :21, people will respond to us. Those whom we see repent of their sins and trust Jesus, their sins will be forgiven. If we do not see them repent, they will NOT be forgiven. It is not that “we” have some great power in and of ourselves, that we can use arbitrarily as we wish. But that God will use US through evangelism and missions to bring about forgiveness for those who will be saved. I hope that helps some. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thank you for writing! I will be praying for you and your class this weekend.
Thank you. I did some more reading myself today and that is the only this conclusion I can come to that fits with the rest of Scripture. I am so filled with joy as I study God’s Word and experience the insight of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful that God always meets us in our doubt if we will just reach out to Him!
I am a 50+ year Christian, 1st time Sunday School teacher. I just want to say thank you for the effort and time you put into this. It helps me learn how to research and study in a different way than I’m used to. May God bless you and your efforts.