This blog post originally appeared on EveryCampus partner Disciplemaker’s blog “Knowable Word.”
We tend to think of Jesus’s resurrection as his last act on earth, the final event in the Gospel accounts. But this isn’t so.
While the empty tomb is the last major episode of the Gospels, we must read on to know what Jesus did afterward. The Gospel writers did not end their accounts with the resurrection!
What Jesus spent his time doing and saying after the resurrection was crucial, both for the disciples and for us. In this article we’ll look at the Gospel of John, and we’ll see that Jesus spent his time confirming the resurrection and sending his disciples on their mission.
Jesus Confirms His Resurrection
I will not focus on the resurrection itself, as Peter has already written about the resurrection as Jesus’s final sign in John’s Gospel.
Jesus’s meetings with the disciples after his resurrection take up most of the last two chapters of John. Jesus took care to reveal himself and show that he was the same man who had recently died and been buried.
When Jesus first appeared to the gathering of the fearful, hiding disciples, he showed them his hands and side (John 20:20). Thomas had not been present, and he (famously) wanted to see the proof for himself. Jesus encouraged Thomas to touch his hands and side—something we are not told he did for the other disciples. Thomas believed, and said “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24–29)
John understood that Jesus aimed to persuade. He said that Jesus did many other signs for the disciples beyond those which were recorded (John 20:30). John was on board with this mission—he wrote his Gospel in part so that readers would believe Jesus is the Christ (John 20:31).
Jesus also appeared to seven of the disciples on the sea shore. They recognized Jesus when he told them to fish on the other side of their boat. He invited them to the shore and made them a breakfast of bread and fish. John emphasizes the importance of these appearances: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).
In these encounters, Jesus repeatedly confirmed that he was alive. His disciples could see and touch and eat with him. He was not a ghost or a hallucination; the resurrection really happened, just as he had said.
Jesus Commissions the Disciples
Jesus also took time after his resurrection to send his disciples on their mission.
When Jesus greeted his disciples at that first post-resurrection meeting, he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” He breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:21–22). John connects the power of the Holy Spirit with the sending of the disciples, just as Luke does (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8).
Jesus commissioned the disciples as a group, but he paid special attention to restore and empower Peter. Three separate times Jesus asks Peter if he (Peter) loves him (Jesus). When Peter says that he does, Jesus points him to his work: “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.” Jesus also told Peter directly: “Follow me” (John 21:15–19).
Later, when Peter asked Jesus about John, Jesus cut through the question to remind Peter of what was most important: “You follow me!” (John 21:22)
An Important Connection
After his resurrection, Jesus focused on confirming his resurrection and sending his disciples on their mission. But these are not separate tasks for Jesus.
Jesus’s resurrection confirmed all of his teaching and prophecy. Since the disciples were sent out to proclaim the good news of the Messiah, it was vital that they had this validation for themselves. Because they would face intense persecution and hardship for their message, they needed to be convinced of the truth. Jesus sent them on their mission, emboldened with resurrection hope and power.
What was true for Jesus’s disciples in the first century is true for us today as well. This is, after all, why John’s Gospel was written (John 20:31).
Are you convinced that Jesus rose from the dead? If so, does this give you courage and hope to go on the mission God has for you?
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