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Power and Privilege

John 20

[18] Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

[19] On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" [20] After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

[21] Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." [22] And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Mary was the first to declare that she had a “close encounter of the third kind”, that is, face-to-face contact with the resurrected Jesus. She had seen the Lord and spoken to Him. The disciples were the next to encounter Jesus even though they were behind locked doors.

We begin to learn many things about life after resurrection. Locked doors did not impede the resurrected Jesus. The resurrection body is different and yet the same as the earthly body. There was a definite continuity between the physical body of Jesus' earthly career and the new body since his hands and side still showed the scars that identified him, but the resurrection body has properties quite different from the body of flesh.

Jesus’ greeting of "Peace" and the assurance of His identity calmed their fears as they realized beyond a doubt that He was alive. They were overjoyed, not only to see Him again, but also to realize that He was victorious over death and that His claims were validated.

The power of these moments cannot be underestimated. Had there been no Resurrection, there would have been little motive for the disciples to undertake a mission in His name. But since He had risen, the call of discipleship was even more compelling.

"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus expected the disciples to deliver His message (15:27), and to do greater works than He had done (14:12). Jesus provided both the Holy Spirit and the commission to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in His name.

We must be careful here not to misunderstand. The disciples were not awarded the discretion of forgiving sin but rather the joy of proclaiming that truth. The commission to forgive sins is phrased in an unusual construction. Literally, it is: "Those whose sins you forgive have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive have not been forgiven."

God does not forgive men's sins because we decide to do so, nor withhold forgiveness because we will not grant it. We announce forgiveness; we do not create it. This is the essence of salvation. All who proclaim the gospel share the truth that Jesus has borne our sins upon the cross.

Jesus was giving the apostles (and by extension, the church) the privilege of announcing heaven’s terms by which a person can receive forgiveness that is provided and readily available. If one believes in Jesus, then a Christian has the right to announce that person is forgiven.

As believers in Jesus, we are also empowered by the Holy Spirit and commissioned to proclaim His Gospel and share the precious message of forgiveness. We proclaim the most powerful truth; Jesus died to provide forgiveness of sin. This gift is yours to receive.

Lord, I pray that I may proclaim the truth of the resurrected Jesus today. May my life embody the victory of the cross and resurrection. May my words and actions convey the forgiveness of Jesus. Amen.