Jesus changes everything: John 21

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Today’s reading: John 19-21.

The final chapter of the gospels reveals the resurrected Jesus continuing to dramatically change lives. In a way it’s a short summary of all the things he did during his ministry.

He changes the normal into the miraculous. Once more he tells the fishermen to let down their empty nets, and once more the nets come up full to the bursting. The first time he did this he told them they would become fishers of men. This time he does it again to prove beyond any doubt that he is Lord and that they are still called to disciple the world.

He changes our failures into success. Peter was a broken man, but still a leader. He was the one who told his buddies that he was going back to fishing and they had followed him. Jesus gets him off the boat and back to discipling. His three-fold “Do you love me” questions mirror Peter’s three denials, but are all about restoration. Jesus forces Peter to face his failure, but at the same time reinstates him to the position of feeding and shepherding the flock of believers.

He feeds us. Once more he sets the table and provides the meal. He is the bread of life. He provides for us physically, but more than that he gives us spiritual food, his word, that satisfies us eternally.

He changes death into life. Throughout his time here Jesus pushed back against death. He pushed back against the little death of disease. He showed his authority over physical death by raising Lazarus and others back to life. He showed his dominion over death’s cause, sin, by proving he could forgive our sins. His own resurrection reminds us that if we die with him, we shall also be raised to new life with him.

As the gospels began the world was lost in sin and a prisoner to the Law. Jesus came and preached deliverance to the captives, opened the floodgates of grace, and left behind a group of dedicated disciples who continued his work. He changed everything.

Image by Thomas Hawk on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0

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8 thoughts on “Jesus changes everything: John 21

  1. 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:19-23

    What a stunning series of events: Jesus walks through walls, identifies himself by his crucifixion marks, breathes the Holy Spirit upon them and then…..grants them the power to forgive sins. Right after breathing the spirit of life on them, he gives them the power to forgive sins. Why? Is that not for God alone to do (Matthew 9: 3)? Can we not go to God ourselves for forgiveness? Why would he bother to give the apostles this power?

    This is precisely why Catholics go to confession, because Jesus knew the value of this sacrament, this mystery, this visible sign of his invisible grace, to help us on our troubled path to salvation. The fact that it follows immediately after the breathing forth of the Spirit shows us how important he felt it was. One of the cardinal elements of God’s nature is mercy, and He makes this manifest in the sacrament of reconciliation. Having been both a Protestant, and now a Catholic, I can testify to the tangible power and beauty of this sacrament. By all means, confess your sins to God in prayer, but there is a another way.

    Consider these words also:

    Matthew 18:18: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    2 Corinthians 2:10: “Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.”

    James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

    When you put it all together, it seems Jesus fully intended for us to do more than just confess our sins to God alone.

    “The Catholic religion does not compel indiscriminate confession of sins; it allows us to remain hidden from the sight of all other men, save one to whom she bids us reveal the depths of our heart, and show ourselves as we are…Can anything be imagined more charitable, more tender?”

    Blaise Pascal

    • From gotquestions.org: the New Testament teaches that all believers are priests. First Peter 2:5-9 describes believers as a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.” Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 both describe believers as “a kingdom of priests.” In the Old Covenant, the faithful had to approach God through the priests. The priests were mediators between the people and God. The priests offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. That is no longer necessary. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now approach God’s throne with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). The temple veil tearing in two at Jesus’ death was symbolic of the dividing wall between God and humanity being destroyed. We can approach God directly, ourselves, without the use of a human mediator. Why? Because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15; 10:21) and the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5). The New Testament teaches that there are to be elders (1 Timothy 3), deacons (1 Timothy 3), bishops (Titus 1:6-9), and pastors (Ephesians 4:11).

      There may be benefit in sharing the confession of our sins with another believer, but there is nothing in the Bible that says it has to be with a priest, or that confessing to another is necessary for forgiveness. We receive forgiveness from God (1 John 1:9) and we need to confess to him. Jesus has made that possible.

    • Jesus certainly granted authority to the apostles to forgive or not forgive sins. Does that mean only they had that authority? God still retained it. Does that mean all church leaders have that authority, including elders, overseers, pastors? Those would seem to be the roles these men served since there was no other hierarchy in the beginning.

      • Paul points to the hierarchy when he lays hands upon Timothy. And as well, he gives instruction on how to choose successors. He knew succession was going to be crucial for the success of the Church. They were looking to the future of the Church long before their own deaths. This gives rise to what we now know as Apostolic succession. Scripture also clearly speaks of bishops, presbyters (priests), and deacons. The hierarchy came fast, because without it there would be both chaos and heresy.

        But it all goes back to this moment, when Jesus gives this unique power, not to just any man, but to these men called to his service. He did not give them the power to read minds and know sins, but to forgive or not forgive sins that were confessed to them.

  2. The question to be answered, is why would Jesus give this power to anyone at all, and not to just anyone, but this select few, immediately after he has given them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The power to forgive sins is an attribute of God, and he is giving it to men. The truth lies in the answer to that question.

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Jesus changes everything: John 21 | ChristianBlessings

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