The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father McIntyre’s Commentary on John 20:19-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 6, 2010

Acts of the Apostles, 1 John and the Gospel of John, are used extensively in the Liturgy of the Easter Season. Here you can find a list of resources (books, podcasts, etc) to help you become better acquainted with these writings.

19. When it was late (ουσης ουν οψιας).  The word οψιας is used as a substantive =evening. This may mean either from three to six o clock, or from six o clock to the beginning of night. It was used in both senses. Here it is used in the latter sense (see Thayer-Grimm s Lexicon). A more literal translation would be, When therefore it was evening on that day, the first of the week. It need not have been very late, even though the two disciples who had been that day at Emmaus, had tarried there till towards evening and the day was far spent (Luke xxiv. 29). The day was said to turn towards evening as soon as the sun had begun to decline after midday. When the Levite in Judges (xix. 9) was about to set out from Bethlehem, his father-in-law, wishing to detain him, said, The day is declining, and draweth toward evening. Yet the sun did not set till the Levite, passing by Jerusalem, had arrived at Gabaa a distance from Bethlehem of three hours journey.

The doors were shut. Hence our Lord must have passed through them in virtue of the spiritual qualities of His glorified body. St. John calls attention to this phenomenon both here and in v.

20. the disciples, “the eleven, and those that were with them” (Luke xxiv. 33). Thomas alone of the Apostles was absent (v. 24). By the phrases “the Eleven,” “the Twelve,” is not meant the exact  number specified, but the Apostolic community. They bear the name of the Twelve, although Judas has left them.

20. He shewed them, A glorified body does not cease to be a true human body, although it may supematurally be able to rise superior to the ordinary conditions of matter. The shewing is described more definitely by St. Luke (xxiv. 39): “Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me to have.”  Our Lord s sudden appearance in their midst led the disciples to think it was the apparition of a spirit.

were glad: see on xvi. 22.

21. As the Father hath sent me, Christ had been sent with power and authority by the Father, and now He empowers the Apostles to carry on His work after Him. These words were addressed to the Eleven, not to those that were with them (see Matt, xxviii. 16-20).

I also send you. The present tense here used is what is called the constant present, and it denotes an action of indefinite duration. Cf. I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world (Matt, xxviii. 20). The office thus committed to the Apostles was therefore to be continued through those to whom the Apostles should afterwards entrust it.

22. He breathed on them. The verb here used (ἐμφυσάω) is employed in Genesis (ii. 7) to describe the effective in-breathing of God by which man received a life-principle, raising him above all other living creatures on earth. What inward life-principle is now given to the Apostles is immediately explained.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost, The full and perfect communication of the Holy Ghost, with all its accompanying visible wonders, was re served till the day of Pentecost (see on vii. 39) ; but here our Lord, by an expressive outward rite, inwardly bestows upon the Apostles the power of the Holy Spirit for a definite specific purpose. That specific purpose is plainly declared.

23. Whose sins you shall forgive. In this verse the verbs “are forgiven”, “are retained,” should be, according to the better attested reading, in the perfect tense. Literally, then, the verse runs thus: If you forgive any one”s sins, they have been ( = they are ipso facto) forgiven to them: if you retain any one”s, they have been (=are ipso facto) retained. This wonderful power of forgiving and retaining sin was an element in our Lord s own mission upon earth. Hence, when the Pharisees had judged our Lord guilty of blasphemy, because He had said to the palsied man, Thy sins are forgiven thee, and when they had thought within themselves, Who can forgive sins, but God only? our Lord worked a miracle to convince them that the son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (Mark ii. 1-12; Matt. ix. 2-8). And now our Lord, having appointed the Apostles to continue the mission given Him by the Father (v. 21), expressly declares that He communicates to them, as part of that mission, the power of forgiving and of retaining (i.e. of refusing to forgive) sins. This power, of course, is not an arbitrary power; but just as the Jewish priests judged between leper and leper, and decided who might be admitted to social life, and who was still to be excluded, so the Christian priest judges whom he must absolve, and to whom he must refuse absolution. But as this judgment is not an arbitrary judgment, it requires previous confession as its just and solid basis.

24. Thomas: see xi. 16.

one of the twelve. The usual designation is still used, although the actual number has been reduced to eleven by the death of Judas.

25. Except I shall see. Thomas displays a critical tendency of mind, which will not accept the testimony of eye-witnesses as a sufficient ground of belief, and he imperatively demands the evidence of his own senses.

the print (τύπος) of the nails. τύπος (from τύπτω) means the mark of a blow. Hence a figure, pattern, or type.

the place (τύπος] of the nails. This corresponds to the feeling, as the print, or figure, corresponds to the sight. Very many ancient authorities read τύπτω  again here. But this reading seems to be a mere mechanical repetition, carelessly overlooking St. John s thought, and the strong evidence he wished to give evidence both of sight and of touch of our Lord’s resurrection.

I will not (οὐ μή)=The strongest possible negative) believe.

26. Again his disciples were within. On Low Sunday (i.e., the Sunday after Easter), therefore, the disciples were again within, i.e. , in the house already referred to in v. 19. As on the previous occasion, the doors were shut, and our Lord suddenly appeared in the midst of the disciples and saluted them with the customary salutation.

27. Put in thyfinder hither. The invitation presupposes an immediate knowledge of the very words in which St. Thomas had questioned the fact of the resurrection (v. 25). Our Lord s display of Divine knowledge overwhelms the Apostle, who, immediately bursts out into an act of faith.

28. My Lord ( = Master), and my God. That this exclamation is not a mere exclamation of surprise, is shown by the words, Thomas said to him. It was St. Thomas s adoring act of faith in our Lord as his Risen Master and his God, and means “Thou art my Lord and my God.”  It is most unnatural to suppose that the Apostle, after the over whelming confusion caused in him by our Lord s words, should, before making his act of faith, have proceeded critically to examine the Sacred Wounds. St. John s language rather implies a sudden outburst of triumphant faith, which followed immediately upon our Lord s address to Thomas.

29. Blessed are they (i.e., more blessed) that have not seen, and have
(μή εἰδω πιστεύω)-Aorist participles used of an act which is the mark of a class (see on xvi. 2). Sufficient evidence for a reasonable act of faith had been given to St. Thomas by the testimony of the eye-witnesses. To demand the precise evidence of his own senses was an act of obstinate incredulity, and implied that every one might claim the right of demanding, before believing, some similar ocular demonstration. But having seen, St. Thomas went beyond sight. “He saw one thing, and believed another ; for he saw [Christ] a man, and believed Him to be God.” (St. Aug., Tract Ixxix. c. i).

In this sublime act of faith is expressed the doctrine with which the Gospel started (i. 14-18), and which, in various ways, has been constantly exhibited (e. gr. ii. n, iii. 13, v. 18, vi. 70, vii. 29, viii. 58, x. 30, xi. 25, &c).

30. Many other signs also. This verse seems to have been intended as the original conclusion of St. John s Gospel, and the evangelist now looks back upon his writing as a finished whole, and speaks of it as “this book.”  There is thus no ground for restricting the miraculous signs here mentioned to the period after the resurrection. In this concluding summary St. John declares that our Lord did many more signs than the evangelist has recorded signs which were given to prove Christ s Messiahship and divine Sonship (v. 31. See xii. 37). The doctrine of the Sonship has been the theme of the whole Gospel, and not merely of the section which narrates the history of the resurrection; and since the signs were worked “in the sight of his disciples,” St. John, as one of the disciples, could have brought forward many more
miracles which he had himself witnessed. The meaning of the verse, then, is this: Jesus did many more signs which I, as one of the original eye-witnesses, could describe, but I have mentioned enough to prove my point.

31. That (i.e. , in order that) you may believe. In these words St. John
declares what was the object he had in view when making his selection from the miraculous signs by which our Lord proved Himself to be “the Christ”
(i.e., the Messiah) “the Son of God” i.e., in the Johannean
sense. The “you” are the readers for whom St. John wrote his Gospel.

That believing (i.e., through faith) you may have life see on iii. 15,
xvii. 3.

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