The Gospel today contains three lessons:
The authority of the Church to pronounce absolution of sins, the call to trust in God through Jesus, and the sufficiency of the biblical records as containing all things necessary for salvation.
In the evening of the Sunday that our Lord resurrected, He appeared to his 11 disciples and ‘others that were with them’ (Luke 24:33), and after proving to them his physical resurrection, He told them that they would go to announce ‘that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his Name’ to all nations (Luke 24:47).
Following this, Jesus proceeded to blow on them, not only the 11 apostles, but also all the ‘others who stayed with them’ and after telling them that He will send them with the same command He received from the Father, He also told them:
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The Church of Jesus Christ on Earth, all of us as a group, not only our Leaders, have the right, through Jesus’s authority, to announce official forgiveness of sins, to all those who listen to the Gospel, repent, confess their sinfulness before God and the congregation, and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. In the same way, it also has the authority in the Name of Christ, to hold someone responsible and in guilt, who refuses to repent or holds to heresy.
In history, this authority has traditionally been expressed through Absolution and Excommunication respectively and controlled by the Presbytery. However, even though in practice it could be that way, theologically, it is an authority Jesus gave the whole Church, ordained and non-ordained, to pronounce forgiveness of sins, officially to all those JESUS has already forgiven, and to announce guilt and retaining of sinfulness, to all those who refuse to accept their sin or persist in professing a heresy. Also, it is important to notice that Apostle Thomas was not present in that occasion (John 20:24).
The story also mentions that apostle Thomas, who was not there when our Lord appeared resurrected, refused to believe that others had seen the Lord alive again. Eight days later, Jesus appeared and granted Thomas the desire to confirm this reality by touching the Lord’s body and wounds.
Thomas was overwhelmed and did not get to touch the Lord, but humbly declared: “My Lord and my God”.
Jesus forgave his disbelief, but He also said: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET HAVE BELIEVED.” (John 20:29).
Thomas is recorded as saying “Ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου.”. “Lord of mine, God of mine”.
Taking this passage into context, the fact that he was speaking to Jesus, right after He invited Thomas to confirm his belief in Him; it can only logically mean that the exclamation was referring to Jesus, and that was not a double exclamation, calling ‘Lord’ to Jesus and “God” to the Father; but a single exclamation where Thomas acknowledged the lordship and divinity of Jesus.
SUFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
The last lesson of the reading has to do with the sufficiency of the NT as containing all things necessary to salvation.
The author of the gospel of John openly declares that Jesus did many miracles which are not written in this record (John 20:30-31), and in the next chapter he says that “if they were all written, the whole world could not hold the books written about them” (John 21:25).
The word translated as ‘did’ comes from the Greek ποιέω, which means to ‘construct, build, manufacture’, which indicates a physical reality that comes as consequence of a deliberate physical action.
This is important because in that case, John is referring only to actions, and not words, meaning all the teaching of Jesus, that He transmitted orally, they were written down, even when not all his actions and miracles were.
Moreover, the author also says that these were writtenin order that the reader may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).
In other words, John says that whatever it is written in the book, is there to confirm us in our belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah and Son of God, which will be enough to save us.
Since salvation is the goal of the whole work of Jesus; this declaration clearly states that the book contains all necessary things to bring us into this salvation that Jesus intended for all humans. Any other requirement outside the written records of the gospels, and in general, all apostolic writings, should not be considered as necessary for our salvation, and if presented that way to us, to know we are before a heresy.