8 June 2014

John 20:19-23

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you'. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit ... '" (vv. 21-22)


It is evening on the first Easter Sunday. The disciples are frightened because of the events of the past few days and have locked themselves away. Then the risen Jesus comes and stands in the room with them.

In this moment Jesus offers them evidence of the reality of what has happened on the Cross by revealing the crucifixion marks on his hands and in his side - and also evidence of the reality of his risen presence with them.

The words of peace (verses 19 and 21) are in one sense the words of a common greeting - meaning no more than "May all be well with you" - but they have already been given far greater significance by John in earlier sections of his Gospel (John 14:27 and 16:33).

It is in the context of this resurrection encounter and of the giving of peace that Jesus breathes on those who are gathered and invites them to "Receive the Holy Spirit". Here, in John's Gospel there is no waiting for the day of Pentecost (unlike the account inActs 2) - but it is on the evening of the day of resurrection that the Spirit is given.

The final verse challenges those present to look outwards and be involved in offering forgiveness to others. This is a reminder that the Spirit is not given to us simply for our own benefit, but is given to enable us to do the work of the kingdom.

On this day of Pentecost we are invited once again to encounter the risen Jesus. In that encounter we hear his words spoken first to those behind locked doors 2000 years ago, spoken today to each one of us, "Receive the Holy Spirit".

To Ponder

  • How can we daily accept Jesus' invitation to "Receive the Holy Spirit"?
  • What might it mean for us to live the "Life in the Spirit" beyond the walls of our church buildings?
  • Reflect on the similarities and differences between these verses and the account of the day of Pentecost recorded inActs 2. In what ways do these two different accounts speak to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.