The Meaning of John 20:21 Explained

John 20:21

KJV: Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

YLT: Jesus, therefore, said to them again, 'Peace to you; according as the Father hath sent me, I also send you;'

Darby: Jesus said therefore again to them, Peace be to you: as the Father sent me forth, I also send you.

ASV: Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

What does John 20:21 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Jesus repeated His benediction ( John 20:19). He then commissioned His disciples for their mission from then on. [1] He expressed this commission in terms of the relationships that John recorded Jesus teaching extensively in this Gospel. Jesus was sending His disciples on a mission just as His Father had sent Him on a mission (cf. John 17:18). The emphasis here is on the sending and the authoritative person doing the sending. Thus Jesus" disciples became apostles (lit. sent ones) in a new sense. The New Testament writers used the term "apostle" in a technical and in a general sense. In the general sense, it refers to all Christians (cf. Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). In the technical sense, it refers to the original12apostles-Matthias took Judas Iscariot"s place ( Acts 1:26)-plus Paul.
Each Gospel plus Acts records a different version of the Great Commission ( Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8). Jesus apparently gave this commission on at least four separate occasions. The first recorded commission chronologically was evidently the one in John 20:21-23. The second was the one recorded in Mark 16:15-16. Matthew 28:19-20 appears to be another account of a later event. Likewise Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:8 seem to be two versions of one incident, the last giving of the commission. The reader of the Gospels can scarcely escape its crucial importance. Each Gospel closes with a commission from the risen Lord. It expresses God"s will for every believer in the present age.
Some Christians believe that Jesus intended this commission only for His original disciples. They point to the fact that the writers of the New Testament epistles never referred to it. However even though they did not refer to it explicitly they clearly presupposed its validity for the whole church. They simply cast it in different terminology (e.g, 2 Corinthians 5:20). The universal scope of the commission also argues for its continuation. Third, the repetition of this commission five times suggests that Jesus intended all of His disciples to carry it out. Finally, this was the last charge that Jesus gave His disciples before He returned to His Father ( Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8). This fact also suggests that He intended it for all succeeding generations of disciples.
Clearly on this occasion Jesus was presenting His mission as a model for His disciples" mission. Many Christians have concluded, therefore, that what characterized Jesus" ministry must characterize the church"s ministry. They see this mission including healing the sick, casting out demons, and feeding the hungry. They believe that the church"s mission is much broader than just preaching the gospel, baptizing, teaching, and planting churches. I believe this understanding is correct.
However the emphasis on Jesus" mission in John"s Gospel has been primarily that Jesus always carried out God"s will in perfect obedience (cf. John 5:19-30; John 8:29). Even before His crucifixion Jesus stressed the importance of the believer"s obedience as the fulfillment of this paradigm ( John 15:9-10). The purpose of Jesus" incarnation was the spiritual salvation of the world ( John 1:29). That is also the believer"s primary, though not our exclusive, purpose (cf. Galatians 6:10). As Jesus always operated in dependence on the Father with the Spirit"s enablement, so should His disciples (cf. John 1:32; John 3:34; John 4:34; John 5:19; John 6:27; John 10:36; John 17:4). As He was a Son of God, so are His disciples sons of God (cf. John 1:12-13; John 3:3; John 3:5; John 20:17).
Since believers no longer belong to the world ( John 15:19), it was necessary for Jesus to send His disciples back into the world. Our mission does not replace Jesus" mission, however. He carries out His present mission through us. [2] We must consider all the versions of the Great Commission that Jesus gave to understand our mission correctly, not just this one.
". . . what is central to the Son"s mission-that he came as the Father"s gift so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life ( John 3:16), experiencing new life as the children of God ( John 1:12-13) and freedom from the slavery of sin because they have been set free by the Son of God ( John 8:34-36)-must never be lost to view as the church defines her mission." [3]
Jesus and John reminded all disciples of these central issues in the verses that follow (cf. John 20:23; John 20:30-31).

Context Summary

John 20:19-25 - The Risen Christ Brings Peace
Evidently our Lord was clothed in the spiritual body of which the Apostle speaks, not subject to the laws governing physical life. Twice He uttered the salutation, Peace be unto you. The first time He accompanied His words with the indication of His wounds: He showed unto them His hands and His side. This was the peace of forgiveness, falling on conscience-stricken hearts as the dew distils on the parched herbage. "Look at the wounds of Jesus!" cried Staupitz to Luther, and there is, indeed, no other sign which can give rest to the penitent. This is the peace of the evening hour, when we come back from the soil and fret of the world, and need to have our feet washed and our heart quieted.
The second time the message of peace was accompanied by an injunction to go forth into the world, as He was sent from the Father, on the great errand of world evangelization. Then He breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, which shortly after was to descend as a rushing, mighty wind. There is no way of remitting sin but by preaching the gospel of reconciliation, with the Holy Spirit accompanying our message. This is the peace of the morning, when we go forth to our post of duty or danger. [source]

Chapter Summary: John 20

1  Mary comes to the tomb;
3  so do Peter and John, ignorant of the resurrection
11  Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene,
19  and to his disciples
24  The incredulity and confession of Thomas
30  The Scripture is sufficient to salvation

Greek Commentary for John 20:21

Even so send I you [καγω πεμπω υμας]
Jesus has often spoken of the Father‘s sending him using both αποστελλω — apostellō and πεμπω — pempō Here he employs both words in practically the same sense. Jesus still bears the Commission of the Father (perfect active indicative). For this balanced contention (as … so) see John 6:57; John 10:15. This is the first of the three commissions given by the Risen Christ (another on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6), another on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:3-11). [source]
Hath sent [ἀπέσταλκεν]
Note the distinction between this verb and that applied to the sending of the disciples ( πέμπω ). See on John 1:6. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for John 20:21

Mark 16:15 To the whole creation [πασηι τηι κτισει]
This commission in Mark is probably another report of the missionary Magna Charta in Matthew 28:16-20 spoken on the mountain in Galilee. One commission has already been given by Christ (John 20:21-23). The third appears in Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8. [source]
John 4:21 The Father []
This absolute use of the title the Father is characteristic of John. He speaks of God as the Father, and my Father, more commonly the former. On the distinction between the two Canon Westcott observes: “Generally it may be said that the former title expresses the original relation of God to being, and specially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the divine image; and the latter more particularly the relation of the Father to the Son incarnate, and so indirectly to man in virtue of the Incarnation. The former suggests those thoughts which spring from the consideration of the absolute moral connection of man with God; the latter those which spring from what is made known to us, through revelation, of the connection of the Incarnate Son with God and with man.” See John 6:45; John 10:30; John 20:21; John 8:18, John 8:19; John 14:6-10; John 15:8. John never uses our Father; only once your Father (John 20:17), and never Father without the article, except in address. [source]
John 14:27 Peace []
“These are last words, as of one who is about to go away and says 'good-night' or gives his blessing” (Luther). Peace! was the ordinary oriental greeting at parting. Compare John 20:21. [source]
John 1:6 Sent [ἀπεσταλμένος]
See on Matthew 10:2, Matthew 10:16; see on Mark 4:29; see on Luke 4:18. The verb carries the sense of sending an envoy with a special commission. Hence it is used of the mission of the Son of God, and of His apostles; the word apostle being directly derived from it. It is thus distinguished from πέμπω , to send, which denotes simply the relation of the sender to the sent. See on John 20:21, and see on 1 John 3:5. The statement is not merely equivalent to was sent. The finite verb and the participle are to be taken separately, as stating two distinct facts, the appearance and the mission of John. There came a man, and that man was sent from God. [source]
John 14:27 My peace [ειρηνην την εμην]
This is Christ‘s bequest to the disciples before he goes, the μεδη δειλιατω — shalom of the orient for greeting and parting, used by Jesus in his appearances after the resurrection (John 20:19, John 20:21, John 20:26) as in 2 John 1:3; 3 John 1:14, but here and in John 16:33 in the sense of spiritual peace such as only Christ can give and which his Incarnation offers to men (Luke 2:14). Neither let it be fearful Added to the prohibition in John 14:1, only N.T. example of δειλος — deiliaō (rare word in Aristotle, in a papyrus of one condemned to death), common in lxx, like palpitating of the heart (from deilos). [source]
John 17:18 Sent I them [απεστειλα αυτους]
The very verb (αποστελλω — apostellō) used of the original commission of these men (Mark 3:14) and the special commission (Luke 9:2) and the renewal of the commission after the resurrection (John 20:21., both αποστελλω — apostellō and πεμπω — pempō here). [source]
John 20:19 When therefore it was evening on that day [ουσης ουν οπσιας τηι ημεραι εκεινει]
Genitive absolute with οπσια — opsia John often uses this note of time (John 1:39; John 5:9; John 11:53; John 14:20; John 16:23, John 16:26). The addition of τηι μιαι σαββατων — tēi miāi sabbatōn (see John 20:1 for this use of μιαι — miāi like πρωτηι — prōtēi) proves that John is using Roman time, not Jewish, for here evening follows day instead of preceding it. When the doors were shut Genitive absolute again with perfect passive participle of κλειω — kleiō shut to keep the Jews out. News of the empty tomb had already spread (Matthew 28:11). See John 7:13 for the phrase “for fear of the Jews”; cf. John 12:42. Stood in the midst Second aorist (ingressive) active (intransitive) of ιστημι — histēmi “stepped into the midst.” Peace be unto you The usual oriental salutation as in John 20:21, John 20:26; Luke 24:36, here with probable reference to John 14:27 (Christ‘s legacy of peace). [source]
Acts 1:2 Was received up [ανελημπτη]
First aorist passive indicative of αναλαμβανω — analambanō Common verb to lift anything up (Acts 10:16) or person as Paul (Acts 20:13). Several times of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2, Acts 1:11, Acts 1:22; 1 Timothy 3:16) with or without “into heaven” This same verb is used of Elijah‘s translation to heaven in the lxx (2 Kings 2:11). The same idea, though not this word, is in Luke 24:51. See note on Luke 9:51 for αναλημπσις — analēmpsis of the Ascension. Had given commandment (εντειλαμενος — enteilamenos). First aorist middle participle of εντελλω — entellō (from εν — en and τελλω — tellō to accomplish), usually in the middle, old verb, to enjoin. This special commandment refers directly to what we call the commission given the apostles before Christ ascended on high (John 20:21-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:6; Luke 24:44-49). He had given commands to them when they were first chosen and when they were sent out on the tour of Galilee, but the immediate reference is as above. Through the Holy Spirit In his human life Jesus was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This applies to the choice of the apostles (Luke 6:13) and to these special commands before the Ascension. Whom he had chosen (ους εχελεχατο — hous exelexato). Aorist middle indicative, not past perfect. The same verb (εκλεχαμενος — eklexamenos) was used by Luke in describing the choice of the twelve by Jesus (Luke 6:13). But the aorist does not stand “for” our English pluperfect as Hackett says. That is explaining Greek by English. The Western text here adds: “And ordered to proclaim the gospel.” [source]
Acts 1:2 Had given commandment [εντειλαμενος]
First aorist middle participle of εντελλω — entellō (from εν — en and τελλω — tellō to accomplish), usually in the middle, old verb, to enjoin. This special commandment refers directly to what we call the commission given the apostles before Christ ascended on high (John 20:21-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:6; Luke 24:44-49). He had given commands to them when they were first chosen and when they were sent out on the tour of Galilee, but the immediate reference is as above. [source]
Galatians 6:16 Peace be on them [εἰρήνη ἐπ ' αὐτοὺς]
The only instance of this formula in N.T. Commonly εἰρήνη with the simple dative, peace unto you, as John 20:19, John 20:21; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3, etc. In the Catholic Epistles, with πληθυνθείη bemultiplied. See 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; Judges 1:2. [source]
3 John 1:14 Peace to thee [ειρηνη σοι]
Pax tibi like the Jewish greeting οι πιλοι — shalōm (Luke 10:5; Luke 24:36; John 20:19, John 20:21).The friends (κατ ονομα — hoi philoi). Those in Ephesus.By name John knew the friends in the church (at Pergamum or wherever it was) as the good shepherd calls his sheep by name (John 10:3, the only other N.T. example of kat' onoma). The idiom is common in the papyri letters (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 193, note 21). [source]

What do the individual words in John 20:21 mean?

Said therefore to them - Jesus again Peace to you as has sent forth me the Father I also send you
Εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς πάλιν Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με Πατήρ κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς

Εἶπεν  Said 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
αὐτοῖς  to  them 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Masculine 3rd Person Plural
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Ἰησοῦς  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
πάλιν  again 
Parse: Adverb
Root: πάλιν  
Sense: anew, again.
Εἰρήνη  Peace 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: εἰρήνη  
Sense: a state of national tranquillity.
ὑμῖν  to  you 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 2nd Person Plural
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
ἀπέσταλκέν  has  sent  forth 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἀποστέλλω 
Sense: to order (one) to go to a place appointed.
με  me 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Accusative 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
Πατήρ  Father 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: προπάτωρ 
Sense: generator or male ancestor.
κἀγὼ  I  also 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Nominative 1st Person Singular
Root: κἀγώ  
Sense: and I.
πέμπω  send 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Singular
Root: πέμπω  
Sense: to send.