John 20:21-23 – 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.”
Jesus had been crucified, but now has returned. As His disciples were gathered together He appeared among them with this message. I imagine they were pretty worried at this time. Earlier in chapter 20 we are told that they had the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus had been arrested and put to death and now they were worried for their own lives as well. Then Jesus, who they thought was dead, appeared among them while the doors were still locked. This would freak me out as well, but Jesus begins by reassuring them, “Peace be with you!”
After that, though, He hands His mission off to them. He says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Think about this for a minute. These men had been around Jesus since He first began His ministry. They had seen Him perform miracles, heard Him speak to the masses and most of all watched as He gave God the glory for everything He did. All that Jesus had done, they had been there to see it. They truly knew how Jesus lived. Now they are charged with the same mission.
Thankfully, Jesus didn't leave it at that. He passes on the Holy Spirit as a helper. Jesus knew that in order to carry on his ministry they would need a helper that could connect them to God so He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This helper and the charge to carry on His mission were not just for the disciples, but for us as well. This is our mission; our purpose in life. We are to walk as Jesus walked and speak His words. The Holy Spirit will be our helper and guide for this mission.
Jesus goes on to tell us, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This is a hard one to wrap my mind around. I say this because even the religious leaders of that day called it blasphemy when Jesus forgave sins and He is the Son of God. Now Jesus says we can do the same. As His disciples and children of God we have authority to forgive sins. This puts a lot of responsibility on us; to walk as Jesus walked and to forgive as He forgave, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us.