Reading the Word
John 20:19–23 (ESV)
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Understanding and Applying the Word
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. Understandably, they were surprised and had a difficult time accepting what they were seeing. To convince them, Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side where the nails and the spear had pierced. This brought joy to the disciples as they now realized that Jesus was really alive again.
As Jesus met with his followers, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was preparing to depart from them and ascend to the Father, but they would not be left alone. The Spirit would be with the disciples to equip and empower them for the task of proclaiming the gospel to the world. You can read more about the Spirit’s coming in Acts 2.
Jesus also said to the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” As Jesus’ representatives in the world, the Spirit-empowered disciples were also given the authority of the Lord. This does not mean they could do whatever they wanted, but that as they spoke for Christ their words carried the same force as if Christ himself were saying them. Christians today carry this same authority. When we speak the truths of God’s word to the world, the world is accountable to respond as if God himself were speaking. Christ has called all of his followers to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. This is a great task, but we have not been left alone to do it in our own power. We have been given the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the task.
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