18.01.15 Jn. 20:21-23
APOSTLES RECEIVE AUTHORITY
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them;
If you retain the sins of any,
they are retained.”
“Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, just as He had breathed life into the first Adam in the Garden of Eden. This was the promised Holy Spirit, which would come in a more dynamic manner on the Day of Pentecost. Some scholars have suggested that this Johanine Pentecost was just a “deposit” of a greater outpouring of the Spirit that was to come fifty days later.
To understand the breathing of Jesus in John 20, it is important to refer to the breathing in John 1 where the gospel writer referred to the creation narrative (Gen 2:7). There was a new birth of man on the day of Creation and now there was a new birth for all men (in the New Testament sense of the word) the day Jesus arose from the grave. No longer would they be limited to the old way of understanding the work of the Holy Spirit. It was believed the Spirit had two primary functions.
- To reveal divine truth to men, and
- To enable men to recognize and accept that truth.
Now their understanding increased dramatically, and would be enhanced even more on the Day of Pentecost.
There is no access to God in either the Old or New Testament except in a covenant relationship. The covenant is the relationship in which God welcomes those created in His image. The Old Covenant ceased to be in effect when the thousands of lambs of sacrifice were replaced with the Lamb of God and His shedding of His blood. In essence, the Old Covenant ceased to be in effect when the earthly ministry of Jesus was complete and He spoke those final and famous words on the cross “It is finished.”
Just as John indicated that life was conferred in the first creation, likewise it was conferred in the “re-creation” in Christ Jesus. Just as Jesus breathed into a clay body in Genesis, He willingly gave up His own breath as He died of asphyxiation upon the cross. When He willingly gave up His last breath, He willingly closed out the Old Covenant and ushered in the New.
Believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit, not with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the medium, not the agent. Was the day of Pentecost the day the disciples were “born again?” The disciples who had witnessed the profound miracles of Jesus, heard His teachings, and lived with Him anywhere from three and one-half years to possibly five or six, still did not believe He was the Messiah until after the resurrection, and especially when they gathered in the Upper Room.
Wind, the symbol of God’s presence
Wind is often symbolic of Divine presence. Words such as “breath,” and “wind” found in John 20:22; Acts 2:2; 2 Samuel 5:24 and Josephus attest to this interpretation. In Genesis 2:7 God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath (or wind) of life. In Job 33:4 God gave His faithful servant the breath of life and in Ezekiel (37:5, 10, 14) God breathed life into old bones. Now Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His closest disciples. Yet it is interesting that after this “Pentecost” experience, they did not show any of the profound signs, such as speaking in tongues, as occurred on the evening of Pentecost.
. Barclay, “Mark.” 79-81.
. Mellowes and Cran, Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 1.
. Josephus, Antiquities 3.5.2