Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "To be added."
To begin with the end ...
Verses 30-31 (NRSV) state the purpose for which John has written this Gospel.
Note the direct address to YOU, the reader.
But these are written so that YOU ...
John is not writing an abstract treatise for whoever may happen to come upon it. He is writing with a very specific audience in mind. Namely, those second and third generation believers who are under-going severe persecution at the hands of the current Roman Emperor. (And, now, also to you and me.)
Malina and Rohrbaugh make two points about the English NRSV translation. (See footnote below.)
The first is that "believe" in John is better translated as "believe into." In John, "believe" does NOT mean "hold an opinion about." "Believe" means "trust," "bond with," "be loyal to." Think, "I am the vine and you are the branches." That is what "believe" means.
The second is that in this context, "may come to believe" and "may come to have life" could also be translated as: "may continue to believe" and "may continue to have life."
In either case, it is important to note that "believe" is not the end product. The crucial thing is that:
through believing, you may have life in his name.
That is, the questions we must be asking ourselves as we consider the various signs that John has chosen to write down for us are:
How does this help me to have life?
And not just any old sort of life, but the life that is in Jesus - in his name?
These are the questions to ask of the whole Gospel, and today, of Verses 19-23.
But to begin again with a personal aside ... If you feel anxious or uncertain about talking calmly and matter-of-factly about these appearances of Jesus-now-resurrected, try reading this note about why we in the Western world have so much trouble with "spiritual" realities; or this one about not letting current science be the sole arbitrator of what is really real.
And now to begin with the beginning ...
Whereas in his appearance to Mary, Jesus could not be touched because he was in the process of ascending to his Father (John 20:17), this process is completed by the evening, and Jesus-now-resurrected descends from his Father to appear to the disciples.
Verses 19 to 23. The Galilean disciples are behind locked doors in fear that the Judean authorities (not "the Jews") are seeking to have them arrested. The authorities were trying to obliterate Jesus and his "movement." And so the authorities would most certainly act against this group if they were found out.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.