Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
Do you suppose the disciples were more than a little fearful when Jesus suddenly appeared among them? After all, they had all, but one, left Him during His trials and His death. I think that their presence together in that locked room spoke something of their fear, their regret, their uncertainty of what was to come.
Jesus knew all that. His first word to them was possibly the traditional Hebrew greeting: “Shalom!” “Peace to you.” It was an assurance to them that He came not in anger, or to rebuke, but in love. His next words, though, were perhaps more alarming: “as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
I’m certain there were questions in the minds of all those who gathered there. Perhaps, by now, they understood that Jesus had been sent by the Father. But to what was He sending them?
They were just ordinary men, about to be given an extraordinary task. What happened next just gives me goose bumps!
He breathed on them. His breath was the breath of life, the giving of the Spirit. I don’t know how this looked. Did He blow through His mouth, turning in every direction to cover them all? Did He just stand still, and fill the room with the sweet breath of life and the Holy Spirit? Did they feel anything?
The Greek word used here is the same as that used in the Septuagint in Genesis 2:7, ‘the Lord God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath (or The Spirit) of Life’; and Ezekiel 37:9,‘breathe into these slain and they shall live’ (the vision of the Dry Bones).”
There is an important connection with the breath of God that brought Adam to life and the breath of God that gave new life and meaning to the disciples and, in fact, all who were gathered there with them (Luke 24:33). Jesus could have said, “I give you new life, new power, new understanding to enable you to go out and carry on the work I have begun.”
Finally, verse 23, which has given rise to some false teaching, and misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying. It is not, and never has been, within the power of any human being to forgive sin in the sense of complete remission, and entrance into the presence of God. We can–and must–forgive each other for offenses, but we do not have the authority of the Father to know who gains heaven and who does not.
The mission Jesus was giving the disciples here was to become messengers of God, announcing the completed work on Calvary, the resurrection, the freedom from sin and death that God provided through His Son. Jesus has always been central! Not any particular church or hierarchy can presume to take the place of the risen Christ, through Whom all sin is remitted when anyone turns to Him in true repentance and acceptance of the gift of salvation, not to be won by any works that we have done, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:5-7).
The disciples, and all believers, are commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ, announcing the availability of freedom from sin that comes through Him, and only through Him.
The gifting of the Holy Spirit manifests differently in different people. Peter was gifted to preach powerfully to masses of people. Philip was gifted to become a one-on-one soul-winner. God has a special kind of task for each of us, which He will reveal as we seek Him.