On Pentecost Sunday we are encouraged to look at John chapter 20 verses 19-23. We will have to revisit this reading because I used it as the basis for a previous letter. Then I highlighted that Jesus seemed to be offering a Promise of release and a Plan of attack for his locked in frightened and uncertain followers.
Today I would like to suggest we consider our outlook and terms of engagement.
John 20: 21-23: ‘Again Jesus said “Peace be with you! As the father sent me, I am sending you,” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone’s sin, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
In those three verses are tucked away a clarification, an instruction and a guideline. Jesus explains that they were to be Ambassadors, who needed to Accept the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and he Affirmed the principle they would need to live by.
Ambassadors. Jesus confidently told his followers that he was sending them just as the father had sent him out into the world to continue the role of sharing the gospel. They felt weak and afraid, but Jesus saw beyond that and gave them a challenge to get ready to share the good news that Jesus was alive and the subsequent good news that that meant. At that point I do not think the followers thought they were up to it but thankfully with God’s help they were.
Accept. After Jesus had dropped the bombshell that they were going to represent God he immediately breathed on them and gave a command (it was not optional, it was necessary) “Receive the Holy Spirit” were his words. I could imagine most of the disciples were thinking to themselves there is no way we could be an ambassador – we do not have the ability! Jesus counteracted the problem by providing what was needed to be a successful representative of God. No one is capable in their own strength but by receiving the Holy Spirit all things were possible.
Affirmed. Verse 23 has caused some difficulty; over the years some people have interpreted those words to mean that they had authority to make their own judgement and decide for themselves over other people’s situations. I quote from one of my commentaries ‘The two verbs dedemenon and lelumenon are both perfect passive participles which should have been translated as “having been bound” and as “having been loosed” already in the heavens. Believers on earth can only confirm what has already taken place in heaven’ I believe the principle here is that we are meant to stay close to the teaching and example of Jesus and we step outside of those boundaries at our peril. So much damage has been done by (often sincere) misguided people introducing the gospel according to themselves rather than sticking with the heavenly truths and application.
Now comes the challenge! Ambassadors are envoys that represent the authority who have commissioned them. Do you see yourselves as ambassadors representing God as you go about your daily lives?
Have you accepted the help of the Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen and teach you on your journey of faith?
Can you affirm that you uphold the true Christian values and principles as much as possible or are there any areas of your life or judgements that you have that are of your own making?