Monday, October 15, 2012

John 20:19-23

First, I wanted to give you a couple of updates on prayer requests. I spoke to Jodi yesterday, and while her lesions from the shingles are all gone, she still has pain, and apparently she has a form of shingles that basically lays dormant and then rears its ugly head unexpectedly. Please pray for relief from pain! She and Ed had a wonderful visit with their grandchildren (Justin’s family), and precious daughter-in-law, Stephanie. Jodi is resting up now, as she continues to regain strength. Then, continue to pray for Jacob, my former student, who goes in today for a CT scan and PET scan to see how the two rounds of chemo have affected the tumors. The scans will determine how to proceed with round three. Please pray for clear scans and complete healing!

In today’s portion of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples where they are hiding in fear:

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

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

Note that it is still Sunday. Jesus did not keep them in suspense. And even though they were apparently in confusion, sorrow, and great fear - to the point that they had locked the doors - Jesus does not chide them for lack of faith. Instead He calms their fear, saying “Peace be with you!” After He proved His identity, by showing them the nail marks of the crucifixion, they were overjoyed!  I can imagine them whooping and hollering, laughing, crying, jumping up and down and hugging each other, for Jesus had to calm them down with another, “Peace be with you!”

Jesus commissioned them to reach out with the gospel message. They were being sent! And so, He breathes on them, giving them life through the Holy Spirit, even as we saw God breathe life into Adam in Genesis 2:7. Remember that John lproclaimed Jesus as Creator and Life Giver in the first verses of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

I read some other commentaries this morning on this act of breathing into them the Holy Spirit. Jon Courson says this is the point that the disciples were born again and others agree. One commentator said this was when the disciples received the life of the Holy Spirit, but Pentecost was when they received the power.

Then Jesus appears to give them the authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness. However, every commentary I looked at agreed with Jon Courson, that Mark 2:7 makes it clear that only God can forgive (this was one of Jesus’ claims to deity that so outraged the Jewish leaders). So what exactly does this mean? Well, all commentators I looked at believed that this was part of the commissioning to go out with the message of forgiveness. They were to assure people that forgiveness of sins was guaranteed to those who believed in Christ. The disciples were, and ALL of Christ’s followers are ambassadors to the world, who are to proclaim the message of reconciliation to God.

To those who feel completely unworthy, who feel they could never be forgiven, we need to proclaim that Jesus’ death on the cross completely paid the price for their sins IN FULL. And the Resurrection is proof that the sacrifice was fully accepted. This is SUCH good news to a dying world. We need to shout it from the rooftops! And we also need to appropriate it for ourselves. To be burdened with feelings of guilt and worthlessness is to deny what Christ accomplished. We’ve been given a terrific message of hope. We need to believe it, walk in it, and share it!

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