“This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.” (John 21:14 NKJV)
John’s three accounts of Jesus appearing to the disciples have three lessons. First Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room after meeting Mary at the tomb. The Scripture says:
“Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”” (John 20:19–23 NKJV)
In this first appearing, Jesus Bestows His Spirit. And in granting the Spirit He is allowing them to participate with Him in the ministry of reconciliation. His words about forgiveness bring to memory His promise regarding the Spirit in John 16:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7–11 NKJV)
The judgment message which the apostles would proclaim would be a message of death to life, and hope for despair. The same Spirit that was instrumental in raising Christ from the dead, would work through the disciples to bring newness of life to generations of believers.
In Christ’s second appears to the disciples He Strengthens their Faith by inviting Thomas to touch the scars in His hands and side. Then He gives this affirmation to every disciple who would follow:
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” (John 20:29 NKJV)
What a blessing to know that not only did Jesus pray for us in John 17, He also speaks to us in John 20 saying, Blessed are you because you have not seen, and yet believed. Hallelujah, we see Jesus not with our physical eyes, but through the eyes of faith. As Paul writes:
“We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV)
By faith, we see the eternal. By faith we see Jesus. And soon, as Chris Tomlin sings, our faith shall be our eyes:
There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
The faith eyes of those who have never seen Christ offer the assurance of things hoped for and bring the conviction of things not yet seen. In appearing to Thomas, Jesus was strengthening the doubters faith, He was opening blind eyes, that after the Savior was ascended on high, Thomas would still be able to see. And the Savior still opens the eyes of blind doubters today.
In his third and epic appearing, Jesus made a breakfast by the sea. His purpose was to Offer Forgiveness and Confirm Calling. In Luke 5 we find the account of Jesus stepping into Simon Peter’s boat and telling him to let down his nets. After hauling in a catch that was so big their net was beginning to break, Peter cried out to the Lord saying, “”Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”” (Luke 5:8 NKJV).
Praise Jesus, He doesn’t leave when we are experiencing the warm wash of shame. Instead of walking away, He invites us to walk with him. More than that, even after we have denied Him, Jesus meets us by the see once again with an offer of forgiveness and an invitation to follow. Three times Peter had denied Christ, and after his belly was full and his heart glad, the burley fisherman was given opportunity to confess His love to Christ three times. More significantly, He had the opportunity to acknowledge that Jesus knew him better than he knew himself: “And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”” (John 21:17 NKJV)
I suppose that if Peter had understood Jesus’ understanding of his own insecurities and fears, the disciple might have found the courage to stand for Christ in the face of inquisition as he stood outside the judgment hall. Nevertheless, his opportunity would come. He would be counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”” (John 21:18 NKJV)
O to go where we do not wish… to have the courage to stare death in the face, and be unshaken because with eyes of faith we see past the portals of the tomb to the coming of Christ in glory. O to say with Job, though He slay me, I will trust in Him. O to know that God is good come what may.
In Bestowing the Spirit, Strengthening the Faith of the Doubter, and Offering Forgiveness and Confirmation of Calling to the one who denied him, Jesus reassures us today that He can prepare us for the end. Dark days lie ahead, but we can know that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Christ of the cross will walk with us. His promise still stands, “I will never leave you, nor forsake You, I am with you to the very end of the age.”
So take courage brother, and dear sister be of good cheer. As Jesus has said, “in this world you will have tribulation,” but we can rejoice in the knowledge that He has overcome the word. He who is the resurrection and the life hold the keys of Hades and of death. We are more than conquerers through His love and the power of His resurrection. Come what may, in Christ we shall be victorious. And because God is for us, none shall stand against us. We shall triumph through suffering because Jesus stands beside us. Praise be to His name!