Receiving the Holy Spirit: John 20:19-23

Focus Passage: John 20:19-23 (GNT)

 19 It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them.
         Peace be with you, he said. 20 After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again,
         Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. 22 Then he breathed on them and said,
         Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

Read John 20:19-23 in context and/or in other translations on!

In today’s journal entry, we will be looking at one of the last passages in the gospels, and uncovering an idea that I have not heard discussed before. In this passage, we read the following words, “Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (verse 22).

Jesus “breathed on them”. This is one idea that we don’t find included in too many sermons. We like to focus on Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), and we like to focus on the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples (Acts 2:1-13), but we often gloss over or ignore this key idea between the promise and the fulfillment of the promise.

In Jesus’ breath, I believe He is singling out the disciples for receiving the Holy Spirit. We may think of this as God placing His mark on each of them, and preparing them for when they receive the gift.

Also, Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is both a promise and a command. It is a promise because the Holy Spirit is coming to them, and it is also a command for them to receive the Holy Spirit when He comes.

This brings a number of other thoughts into my mind:

  • If we consciously receive the Spirit, we can consciously reject the Spirit.
  • Also, we must be ready to receive the Spirit for Him to come. In this promise, we have the command to “be ready”. This means that we may miss the Spirit if we are not ready to receive Him.
  • The Spirit was promised to ALL the disciples, and not just a select few. Was this only something for the eleven remaining disciples? No, because the Holy Spirit came to Paul, the apostle, who was not in the room and didn’t have Jesus’ breath on Him.

Paul is the clearest example that we, as followers of Jesus today, can also receive the Holy Spirit. However, we must remember Jesus’ words in this focus text: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Be conscious, be willing, and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Be in places that the Holy Spirit is more likely to be, and be available to be used by God to bring about His purposes and plan in the situation you are in.

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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