“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.””
John 20:22-23 NKJV
This is a powerful verse. Here’s one reason why.
My wife and I moved into a new house a few months ago and one of our prayers for this house was to have neighbours who God wanted to encounter. He did just that. We instantly connected with our neighbours. They are an awesome couple, Peter and Ann (not there real names). Peter was already a Christian, but Ann was not. After a few months of getting to know them, sharing our lives and the gospel, Ann decided to enter into relationship with Jesus. Awesome. But then more amazing stuff happened. Peter now desires to share his faith with others.
He messaged me one night and said that he was talking all things God with a member of his band (the bass player) who professes to be an atheist and was about to pray for healing for him (It’s an amazing story for another time). The following Sunday during worship at church I am thinking about this bass player and how easy it is for us to judge people on what they believe or how they live and how this can sometimes keep us from sharing Gods love with them or even thinking (incorrectly) how much God hates them. So as I am thinking on this, the verse I mentioned above came to mind, so I opened my bible to find it and this is what stood out “He breathed on them, and said to them,” It took my breath away (no pun intended). What kind of a crazy statement is that? He breathed on them? Instantly I thought of Genesis 2 7: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
This is so amazing the position and authority that God has given us in Jesus. Jesus is giving us an extreme gift here that comes with power in John 20:22-23. He breathes on us, giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit and then power to make a choice. The power to bring life through forgiveness. This is a key to entering into a full and abundant life. It’s the key to bringing us back to the original plan, how to make all things new. To have us be fruitful with Him. This is the original plan God had in the beginning for humans; “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1). There is authority given in this statement and power to humans.
As Christians, we have the authority to bring everybody we desire before the throne of God and ask for mercy or judgment for them on their behalf. Jesus said on the cross of those who crucified Him “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” People who don’t know Jesus, don’t know what they are doing. We can’t judge them on that. Ourselves, well, that’s another story (see 1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
Knowing this I took the opportunity to pray for the bass player at church with the congregation. Bringing him before God, desiring God breathes life into him. And to do that, we prayed as a church, asking for forgiveness and mercy over His life, knowing that it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance (being the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering. God holding out on judgment desiring Mercy in other words. See Romans 2).
Judgment is coming one day for all those who do not believe in Jesus (see II Thessalonians 1:6-9, Mark 16:16 more in the gospels, Romans, Revelation,) but this is not that day! It’s Gods desire that all men be saved (Timothy 2:4) so in His goodness with patient and longsuffering while we as Christians do all we can to display God’s grace, mercy, love and forgiveness to ALL MEN AND WOMAN, going throughout all the earth preaching the gospel to all creatures (Mark 16:15-16). If you want to bare fruit and see peoples lives radically transformed, start with forgiveness.