Devotional # 159. 10/19/15. John 20:1-31, focusing on vv. 14-31.
Intro. This week we’re hitting “pause” on Colossians for several reasons. A couple weeks ago I gave a sermon titled “The Trinity” (if you want to listen to it go to: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=927151426321 ). I prayed that mature and immature believers would get a lot out of it as well as non-believers. But I also prayed that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons would somehow hear it. Well, God answers prayers because a guy in Arizona, who is a Mormon, not only listened to the message but responded with a four page email. He pointed out things he agreed with and things he didn’t agree with and asked questions. I was researching one of the questions last night and what I saw astounded me! In fact it was so cool that I wanted to share it with all of you.
The guy’s question was: “I know of at least 11 times in the NT where Jesus or the apostles taught that the Father is Jesus’ God, that both we and Jesus have the same God and Father, that is, God the Father (“I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God” etc.) What does that mean? And does this principle fit your view of the Trinity that Jesus is fully God, equal to God the Father?”
Since he referenced John 20:17 (“I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to my God and your God“) I decided to look at that section of Scripture and hence why we’re looking at it now. As I read through it I saw John 20:17-31 divided into three parts so let’s look at those now:
vv. 14-17. Jesus’ command. First, we look at the context: Jesus has just appeared to Mary after rising from the dead, she holds Him (interestingly similar to the women in Matt. 28:9 who worship and hold His feet) and He says “do not cling to Me.” He then tells her this quote with the command to tell the disciples (“brethren“) what He says. You see sometimes people can get so hung up on a word (in this case “God”) that they miss the reason it was said, and therefore they misunderstand the word itself. If we didn’t read the context around what Jesus said here we might miss the fact that Jesus tells Mary to go tell the disciples that He is “ascending to My Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” So this is the first point: that Jesus was giving a command to His disciples. With that in mind, what did He mean?
I agree with Augustine that Jesus is pointing out the difference in His relationship with the Father from the relationship the disciples have with the Father. Augustine explains: Jesus doesn’t say ‘our Father’, instead in one sense “He is mine and in another He is yours; by nature mine, by grace yours…my God, under whom I also am as a man; your God, between whom” I am a mediator (I modernized it a bit) (Source 1).
vv. 18-25. Thomas’ rejection. Here we see the other disciples believing in Jesus but not Thomas. We all know he is called “doubting Thomas” but now we see it’s so much more than that. Not only did Thomas not have faith that Jesus rose form the dead but he also was denying Jesus’ Lordship and Godship. Thomas’ rejection of the nature of Jesus and disobedience to the command of Jesus was a mistake. This is the second point: that one of the disciples did not obey Jesus’ command to recognize the relationship between the Son and the Father, and the Son and the disciples.
vv. 26-31. Thomas’ acceptance. Now Thomas finally sees Jesus and says, “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Be aware there are a lot of theories that Thomas didn’t really mean what he said, that Jesus wasn’t really God. But I’d like to mention a few things: 1. In English format of Greek this is: “mou kyrios kai mou theos“* and I would draw your attention to the word “kai” (Source 2). My Jehovah Witness friends say that this phrase should be read “My Lord” (Thomas looking at Jesus), “my God” (Thomas looking to heaven where the Father is) and yet we have that problematic word “and” noting that the second title applies to the same Person as the first; 2. Jesus’ response indicates that Thomas was not wrong; 3. If Jesus’ words “my God” in 20:17 referred to Jesus becoming a Man, than the same exact words must mean no less when they come from Thomas. So, what the Father is to Jesus in His humanity, Jesus is to Thomas (and therefore to us as well) (Source 3). What a beautiful thing for us to acknowledge: “my Lord” (Adonai i.e. “my Master and foundation”) and “my God” (Elohim i.e. my prince and Judge) (Source 4)! And this is the third point: Thomas disobeyed Jesus but was forgiven and restored, acknowledging that Jesus is God and we need to trust Him with everything. Everything means: what He says, what He does, that He is our Master and our God and that if He promised that He would rise from the dead then we also cling to His promise that we will rise from the dead!
*Technically the Greek format is: “kyrios mou kai o theos mou.”
Conclusion. Doesn’t it makes sense that the author (John) would record a message that Jesus wanted the disciples to know, then tell us indirectly that Thomas didn’t obey and a few verses later give us Thomas’ confirmation that He now did in fact agree with and desire to obey Jesus’ words? I love how God tells a few stories (Jesus appearing to Mary, Thomas not believing, Jesus talking about blessing the people who don’t get to physically see His hands and feet, etc.) and we get to know them. But then even after reading this chapter at least 10 times, I see a more intricate less direct story. But we wouldn’t have seen it if we didn’t look at the context.
It is great to see how God ties things together, answers prayers and most importantly teaches us how we’re supposed to act towards Him, but it’s also important to pray for the guy in Arizona. Will you pray with me for him? His name is Jonathan and we pray that he has a softened heart and that he would be saved by the Word of God!
Source 1: David Guzik quoting Augustine: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Jhn/Jhn_20.cfm?a=1017001
Source 2: Greek for John 20:28: https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/20/1/t_conc_1017028
Source 3: Robert Bowman, Jr., https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/bowman_robert/trinity/trinity.cfm?a=1017028
Source 4: Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jhn/Jhn_020.cfm?a=1017028