8/31/11 Jesus left Mary and went to heaven to confirm the acceptance of His sacrifice for mankind. We don’t know what it looked like in heaven but it must have been quite the reunion. I imagine a celebration and even a literal ceremony. Whatever it was it was over and Jesus was back to earth by evening.
The disciples were locked indoors because they were afraid that the Jews might come after them now that they had taken Jesus. John, by his own statement, believed that Jesus was alive. Peter must have felt sick, but Mary had said that Jesus specifically mentioned him. He must have had a lot of hope if not outright belief that Jesus was alive. We’re not told about the other disciples specifically, except for Thomas who did not believe.
There, locked in the room, probably talking about where Jesus must be and if He really could be alive, suddenly Jesus appeared right there in the middle of them. His first words were, “Peace to you,” (v. 19). Before saying anything else to them or them speaking to Him Jesus showed them the evidence of His crucifixion in His hands and side. Other gospels mention that He ate something in front of them since this somehow proved to them that He was no apparition. And the disciples then rejoiced, (v. 20).
Then Jesus repeated, “Peace to you.” He obviously wanted them to catch that. Then He commissioned them to go to the world as He had come to the world, (v. 21). This was a critical part of the plan of salvation, that those He had trained should go and make more disciples. Then He breathed on them and gave to them the Holy Spirit as a comfort during Jesus’ absence as well as the driving force behind the work He had given them. Just as He breathed into man the breath of life at creation, once again He did so giving them a new kind of life spiritually speaking, (v. 22).
Jesus’ next words have created a lot of misunderstanding in Christianity about forgiveness of sins. It sounds as though Jesus was giving the disciples the power to forgive or to withhold forgiveness. More consistent with scripture would be to understand that the disciples would have discernment concerning those who had been forgiven by God and those who had not (v. 23).