“‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”
Jesus’ bodily Resurrection is a certainty and one of three foundational beliefs of Christianity; the other two are His virgin birth and His atoning death. Each event, in order, shows the Omniscience of God (Isaiah 53.6, Jeremiah 13.10, John 3.16; ESV), His Omnipotence (Exodus 34.10, Deuteronomy 18.18, Isaiah 7.14 & 9.6-7, Luke 1.35, Hebrews 2.14-15), and His Omnipresence (2 Chronicles 16.9a, Psalm 32.8, John 17.12, John 14.15-18).
Even after He gave up His body (the better reading of John 19.30; see James 2.26a; Ecclesiastes 12.7), Jesus evidenced these qualities of God by taking the ‘good’ thief with Himself to the Paradise of Hades (Luke 23.43) and, I believe likewise, satan to the Pit of Hades (John 12.31 fulfilling Isaiah 14.12-15). Remember that Jesus had illustrated this separation in the story contrasting the deaths of a man named Lazarus (meaning man whom God helps [Easton’s Bible Dictionary; olivetree.com]) and the rich man who did not respond to Lazarus’ plight (Luke 16.19-31, especially verse 26).
Side Bar: Apostle Paul presents several other events of Jesus’ earthly life between His bodily resurrection (John 20.1-9) and ascension (Acts 1.9). Paul, apparently, learned of the events in the order of his presentation in 1 Corinthians 15.3-7. Jesus appeared to Peter (note Peter’s account in Acts 10.41), then to the Apostles, then to 500+ men and women at the same time, then to James (Acts 15.13-21, especially verse 19), and then to the Apostles (Luke 24.50-51; perhaps, as Jesus lifted off from earth; Acts 1.9 is same author). Where was Jesus between these events? Probably in the Paradise of Hades with those who met God’s previous requirements. Perhaps, even in Heaven, depending upon when He may have heard Father God repeat the words of Psalm 110.1 (AMP): “‘”Sit at My right hand
until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet [subjugating them into complete submission].’” Jesus was purposefully busy!
After Jesus repossess His, now glorified, body and reveals Himself to Mary in the Garden near the, empty, Tomb, (John 20.11-16) Jesus appears to the Apostles, minus Thomas, on that same evening. John 20.22 records that He “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. Was Jesus referring to the Third Person of the Trinity, Whom the Father would send (John 14.26), or to Himself? Why does the distinction matter?
We might presume that Jesus is continuing His instruction of them (John 14-16) about the time when the Father would, in fact, send the Holy Spirit. This occurred 50 days later at the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23.16), a celebration of the first fruits called Pentecost in the New Testament (Acts 2.1-4). But, since Jesus knew everything except the end of the Age (Matthew 24.35-37), why would He remind them at this early time to expect the Holy Spirit in fifty days? Dr. Luke reminds us, in Acts 1.4-8, that Jesus repeated this instruction as He was rising from earth.
Let me posit a theorem which, I believe, the Holy Spirit prompted in my reflections before bedtime last Monday night; that Jesus was speaking of Himself in His instruction to “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22). My rationale rests upon the word “receive”. John 1.12 establishes the importance of this word to our faith. The disciples had received, that is believed in, the embodiedJesus (John 1.14). They had walked, literally and figuratively, with Him for three years and felt His hand upon their shoulders and put theirs upon His (1 John 1.1-4).
But, now the Apostles had to receive, that is believe in, Jesus as Spirit, Who suddenly appeared before them, and disappeared the as quickly (John 20.19 & 26). His body had the same visible features as that which had been entombed (John 20.20); these confirmed Jesus’ identify to them. Now, He was the same but different.
The disciples HAD TO receive Jesus as Spirit. Jesus’ discussion with Thomas explains why; John 20.26-29. Jesus’ contrast of seeing with physical eyes versus spiritual eyes is the contrast of believing only in what we can see with the eyes that came with our physical bodies. You and I have believed in the written account of Jesus’ earthly life with the disciples and in the three fundamental tenets of our Christian faith: Jesus’ virgin birth, atoning death, and bodily resurrection. Thus, we have believe in Jesus as a Spirit.
Similarly, we MUST believe that God saves today as effectively as we are convinced He will save us in eternity. Apostle Peter illustrates this in the healing of the paralytic in Acts 3.1-10. When called to explain this, he points to the man’s faith in the unseen person of Jesus by believing in Jesus’ name to produce his healing; verse 16. Then, Peter responds to the Sanhedrin’s question by proclaiming that Jesus continuously heals through faith in His name; see Acts 4.12, which is about temporal salvation and not about eternal life.
So, the answer to my query, was Jesus speaking of Himself or of the coming Third Person of the Trinity (John 20.22), is Jesus speaking about Himself. We must receive Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10.14-24) and continual presence through His powerful Name. Mark’s record of Jesus’ Great Commission (Mark 16.15-18) concludes with the declaration, in verse 20, that Jesus did, in fact, go with the disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons. Mark may be writing about events which are not included in Scripture. These events might have prompted the residents of Antioch to call Christ-followers ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26).
However, after Jesus ascended into Heaven (Acts 1.8, Psalm 110.1) and the Third Person of the Trinity appeared (Acts 2.1-4), we should understand that the Holy Spirit continued the work begun by Jesus, as Jesus states in John 16.13-15. Thus, He still goes with disciples who receive that Jesus saves everyday!
Jesus “breathed” on the Apostles before He told them to “‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20.22). There are several understandings from this. First, God told Ezekiel to bring the dry bones of discouraged Israel to life by calling breath into them; Ezekiel 37.1-14. In verses 4-5, God says that breath He sends will give them life. Ezekiel’s role was to call the breath by speaking. Likewise, Jesus had told Nicodemus the Spirit would deploy him with understanding of his mission and with enlightened eyes once he accepted Jesus as Messiah; John 3.1-8. His acceptance would be the ‘new life’ we speak about. The Hebrew ‘breath’ and Greek ‘wind’ mean spirit! Both Ezekiel and Nicodemus would “call into being that which does not
exist” (Romans 4.17 AMP).
Second, Adam’s earth-suit only came alive after God breathed into him (Genesis 1.26-27, 2.7). So, is the ‘death rattle’ (“terminal respiratory secretions”; google.com) when someone dies the reverse; that is, the spirit giving up the body and returning to God (James 2.26; John 19.30)? Dr. Luke includes Paul’s discussion of this in his speech at Mar’s Hill; see especially Acts 17.24-25, 28. Perhaps, we live within God’s Breath.
Third, God gave the Aaronic Benediction or Blessing in Numbers 6.22-26as a means for putting His name upon the Israelites (verse 27). Jesus conveys the same meaning in John 6.63by speaking words of “‘spirit and life’’ to the people. This context is that which He implies in His continued statement of John 20.23: the sins of people who believe your witness to Jesus are forgiven, but the sins of those who reject are not forgiven (and will be judged at the Great White Throne by God; Revelation 20.11-15).
So, let me tie these together to comment on Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20.22). In addition to emphasizing that the Apostles must
“receive” (John 1.12) Him in Spirit as they had “received” Him in the flesh (John 1.1, 14, 33-34), the Apostles should understand that they would be affirming or offering “life” to any who received their witness about Him (Matthew 28.19, “into”) and would be blessing believers with the Name of God (John 17.12 [AMP, ESV, NASB]; Philippians 2.9-11; Hebrews 13.8).
When you received Jesus as Savior, you received the right to use His Name everyday. This is His encouragement in John 16.24: “‘Until now you have not asked [the Father] for anything in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete.’” You are entitled!
Receive the Holy Spirit
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2019. www.sozoclass.com.