Sunday 31 May 2020

Bible Book:

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ (v. 22)

John 20:19-23 Sunday 31 May 2020

Psalm: Psalm 104


The season of Pentecost marks the time when the ascended Jesus sends the Spirit upon his followers. While the well-known story of Pentecost is recounted in Acts 2, today’s reading is a kind of preview of Pentecost as the risen Jesus breathes the Spirit upon his disciples and they are sent out in mission.

In John’s Gospel, this passage comes after Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, who rushed to tell the disciples the good news that Jesus had been raised (John 20:11-18). Now, gathered together in a locked room, Jesus appears to the disciples. In the midst of their fear and anxiety, they see Jesus. 

Jesus begins by wishing them peace. While ‘peace be with you’ was a common greeting at the time, its repetition within the text and its close link with the giving of the Spirit suggests that this is more than a greeting; it is the very peace of God that Jesus brings. This echoes the promise of peace that Jesus had earlier given to his followers (John 14:27). Jesus also tells the disciples that just as the Father sent him – a key theme in the Gospel (3:17; 5:36; 17:3) – so now he sends them (verse 21). The disciples are sent out in mission to witness to Jesus.

The commission to the disciples is matched by the promise of the Spirit. Jesus breathes on his disciples, and invites them to receive the Spirit (verse 22). It is the Spirit who will empower and equip them for mission within the world.

The last sentence may seem perplexing, but points to a key part of the Church’s calling. While it is only God who can forgive, Christians know that such forgiveness is found in Jesus and so proclaim its availability to the world. As people respond to the invitation to come to Jesus, so their sins are forgiven – or retained if such an invitation is rejected.


To Ponder:

  • In what ways have you experienced the presence of Jesus in a time of fear or anxiety?
  • How can the Church best proclaim the forgiveness of sins as part of its mission today?
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