Youth Group Lesson: The Power of Forgiveness John 20:19-23

As teenagers, it’s easy to hold on to grudges and let bitterness take root in our hearts. But as followers of Jesus, we are called to a higher standard – forgiveness. In John 20:19-23, we see Jesus appearing to His disciples after His resurrection and commissioning them to go out and forgive others just as He has forgiven them. This is an important topic for teenagers to grow their faith because forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian life. When we forgive others, we reflect God’s love and mercy, and experience the freedom that comes from letting go of resentment and anger.

Bible Reading: John 20:19-23

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Explanation for Teenagers

  • The disciples were afraid and locked themselves behind closed doors when Jesus appeared to them.
  • Jesus greeted them and showed them His wounds, proving that He had risen from the dead.
  • Jesus commissioned them to go out and forgive others, just as He had forgiven them.
  • Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit to empower them to do this.

Youth Group Discussion Questions

1. What does it mean to forgive someone?

2. Why is forgiveness so hard sometimes?

3. How do you feel when someone forgives you?

4. What are some examples of forgiveness in the Bible?

5. How can we forgive others when they hurt us?

Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


  • Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone when they sin against us.
  • Jesus responds by saying we should always forgive, just as God has forgiven us.
  • Jesus tells a parable about a king who forgives a servant’s debt, but that servant does not extend the same forgiveness to another servant who owes him money.
  • The king punishes the servant for not forgiving his fellow servant.

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone?

2. What does Jesus teach us about forgiveness in this passage?

3. How do we know when we have truly forgiven someone?

4. How does unforgiveness hurt us?

5. What are some practical ways we can forgive others when they hurt us?

Youth Group Game: Forgiveness Scavenger Hunt

To reinforce the importance of forgiveness, we can play a scavenger hunt game. Divide the youth group into teams and give each team a list of items to find. Each item on the list represents a way to practice forgiveness. For example:

  • A rock to represent “casting our burdens on Jesus” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • A band-aid to represent “healing relationships” (Matthew 5:23-24)
  • A piece of paper to represent “letting go of grudges” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • A coin to represent “paying it forward” (Luke 6:38)

The first team to find all the items and return to the starting point wins, but make sure they share how each item represents an aspect of forgiveness.

Closing Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for the gift of forgiveness. Help us to show grace and mercy to those who hurt us, just as you have shown us grace and mercy through your Son, Jesus. Empower us with your Holy Spirit to forgive others from our hearts and to live in peace with one another.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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