Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed

Sunday, April 05, 2015

We were late for church service today, not realizing that being Easter Sunday, it was an hour earlier. We were half an hour "early" and so we just missed half an hour of the service. I'm sad to miss the praise and worship part, but glad we were there nonetheless.

The sermon today was on John 20:19-31 on "Doubt: Good or Bad?"

I remember blogging about Doubting Thomas before, here.

Back then I was crazily into chiasms. I still am but I don't do it much anymore.

John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."
28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

I noted then that the passage can be divided into 2 parts: firstly, when Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was not around (v.19-25) and secondly, Jesus appeared to the disciples again and this time Thomas was with them (v.26-29). I came out with this chiastic structure:

Disciples, in fear inside with doors were locked
    Jesus came and stood with them
          Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being
                Disciples overjoyed!
          Jesus proclaimed peace and breathed on them
    Jesus commanded them to receive the Spirit for mission
Thomas was not there, was told, did not believe

Disciples were inside, with Thomas, doors locked
    Jesus came and stood with them
          Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being to Thomas
                Thomas believed – my Lord, my God!
          Jesus proclaimed Thomas’ belief because he has seen him
    (No command given)
Those who have not seen but believe will be blessed

Right now, I don't think this I structure would carry much water. The second chiasm is broken with Part B' missing. But the first one holds. So what's the difference between the two sections?

I think that's where the focus of the passage is--where it diverted from the structure is where the emphasis of the message is. If you compare the two parts of the passage:


Part 1 v.19-25Part 2 v.26-29
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."
Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


I find 20:23 very interesting. Apparently it has to do with the receiving of the Good News of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit in the preceding verse. Colin G. Kruse says, "The non-forgiveness of sins is always related to refusal to believe in Jesus, suggesting that forgiveness of sins comes through belief in him. It is noteworthy that Jesus’ statement ‘If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’ is intimately connected with the (symbolic) bestowal of the Spirit (22–23), which is in turn related to the disciples’ being sent into the world as his witnesses (21–22; cf. 15:26–27). This supports the view that the way in which the disciples forgive sins and retain sins is by preaching the good news and declaring the effects of believing it (forgiveness) and rejecting it (no forgiveness)."1

I would the interpret the emphasis of the passage as this:
1. Jesus is risen and he is sending us to preach the Good News
2. So receive the Holy Spirit, and preach the forgiveness of God
3. To those who have yet to believe, believe even though you have not seen
4. Because though you have not seen, the word is given to you that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing you will have life in him

pearlie
1 Colin G. Kruse, John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, IVP, 2003

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