Matthew Henry’s Commentary on John 20:19-25
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
20 And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (John 20:19-25 KJV).
On the evening of the day upon which our Lord arose, the apostles and other disciples met together in some room they had procured. Here is a Christian assembly solemnized by the disciples, and expressly owned by the Lord Jesus. The evangelist especially notes that this was the first day of the week, and this day is afterwards frequently mentioned by the sacred writers; for it was evidently set apart as the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. The disciples had shut the doors for fear of the Jews; and when they had no such expectation, Jesus him-self came and stood in the midst of them, having miraculously, though silently, opened the doors. It is comfort to Christ’s disciples, when their assemblies are reduced to privacy, no doors can shut out Christ’s presence.
Christ rose in that natural body which was crucified and laid in the grave, and it is certain that flesh and blood cannot penetrate through a door. Such an idea would destroy not only the end of Christ’s coming among them, but would disregard all that he said or did to convince them that the same body which was crucified appeared to them.
Before his crucifixion, our Lord had promised the disciples his peace, Ch. 14.27, 28; this he now pronounced, and conferred upon them, thus giving assurance that he was entirely reconciled, and forgave their forsaking him. To convince them also of the reality of his resurrection, he showed them his wounded hands and side, which satisfied their doubts, and made them glad. When Christ manifests his love to believers by the comforts of his Spirit, assures them that because he lives, they shall live also, then he shows them his hands and his side. A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at anytime; the more we see of Christ, the more we shall rejoice; and. our joy will never be perfect till we arrive where we shall see him as he is. Having repeated to them the assurance of his peace, he confirmed their commission to declare his truth to the world. And, as an earnest of the approaching descent of the Spirit upon them, he breathed upon them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, thus showing that their spiritual life, as well as all their ability for their work, would be derived from Him, and depended upon Him.
Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith, comes accompanied by this divine breathing; and without this there is neither light nor life, Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt, of God, but through this.
After this he authorized them to declare the only method in which sin would be forgiven, so that, to the end of time, all decisions or declarations concerning any, in respect to their acceptance with God, are correct, provided they accord with the doctrine and rule of the apostles, but not otherwise. God will never alter this rule of judgment, nor vary from it; those whom the gospel acquits, shall be acquitted, and those whom that condemns, shall be condemned. The language of authority used by our Lord on this single occasion, seems exclusively appropriate to the great Head of the church, and marks the immense disparity between him and his most eminent servants.
This authority did not exist at all in the apostles, but only as declaring the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have laid down with the utmost clearness the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a hypocritical professor; according to what they have declared, shall every case be decided in the day of judgment.
The Spirit of the Lord rested upon them to qualify them for all the services that lay before them. Whom Christ employs he will clothe with his Spirit, and furnish with all needful powers. And when we assemble in Christ’s name, especially on his holy day, he will meet with us, and speak peace to us. He will assure us of his forgiveness; allay our fears of enemies, and communicate his sacred Spirit of life, love, holiness, and consolation; according as our services or our difficulties require his special assistance, support, and influences.
Thomas, by his absence, missed the satisfaction of seeing his Master risen, and of sharing with the disciples in their joy upon that occasion. Those who absent themselves from the stated solemn assemblies of Christians, will surely be losers. But it seems though Thomas was then absent from them, he was not long away; absenters for a time must not be condemned as apostates for ever; Thomas was not Judas.
Observe with what exultation and triumph the disciples speak—We have seen the Lord. The disciples of Christ should endeavor to build up one another in their most holy faith, both by repeating what -have heard to those that were absent, as also by communicating what they have experienced. Those who by faith have seen the Lord, and have tasted that he is gracious, should tell others what God has done for their souls; only let boasting be excluded.
Thomas raised objections to justify himself in his unwillingness to believe that his Lord was risen. He either had not heeded, or had not duly regarded what Christ had so often said, according to the Old Testament, that he would rise again the third day. He did not pay a just deference to the testimony of his fellow-disciples. He limited the Holy One of Israel, when he would be convinced by his own method or not at all. The open avowal of this in the presence of the disciples, was an offense and discouragement to them. His proclaiming his unbelief, and that so peremptorily, might be of ill consequence to the rest who were as yet but weak and wavering. He might, therefore, justly have been left in his unbelief, after rejecting such sufficient and abundant proof. The fears and sorrows of the disciples are often prolonged as a chastisement for their negligence.