The Disciples – Nearer My God to Thee
“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews…” (John 20:19-23)
The body of Jesus was gone, the grave clothes folded and left tidily in the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene reported seeing Jesus, speaking with Him, relaying a message from Him. What did it all mean. He told them He would rise again and He had, certainly He had. But now what. Why were their hearts troubled as they sat behind a locked door in silence, minds racing, throbbing.
“Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
He stepped into the room as if the mortared walls were made of smoke. Just days earlier He had told them, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. And now, with the events of the past week replaying through their minds on a continuous loop, the Prince of Peace steps in and calms their troubled minds.
“When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
Jesus’ living presence in their midst replaced their lingering sorrow and confusion with gladness and joy. The unsightly, gruesome reminders of the crucifixion marred the Body of the One who conquered death.
“So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”
Here again is beautiful and unfathomable Trinity. God the Father, Who sent His Son, the Word of God. Jesus Christ, Who has conquered sin, death and now the grave. And the Holy Spirit, the very Breath of God, Who will dwell in and upon the disciples going forward.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus ordains the disciples to bear witness to repentance and confession of sin. Later John confirms that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses a person of sin, and that Jesus, also, as God the Son, is the only One who can forgive our sin.
“…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7,9)
The disciples, now, are uniquely called to bear witness to the confession of repentant people as they ask God for forgiveness.
But notice what Jesus does. He breathed on them. ‘Holy Spirit’ in Greek is ‘Hagios Pneuma’, which is Holy Spirit, or Wind, or Breath. The Holy Spirit then, is truly the Breath of God, even as Christ the Son is the ‘Logos’ or, ‘Word’ of God. So the risen Christ’s lungs were filled with the eternal Wind, God the Holy Spirit, which Jesus intentionally ‘breathed on’ the disciples.
They had to be close. You can only breath on someone who is very near. When I read this passage proximity to Jesus becomes my prayer. I want to be as close to Him as those disciples, huddled in that room on that Sunday night long ago when He appeared with Peace, and calmed their hearts. And then, huddled close, He breathed on them and filled their lives with God the Holy Spirit, their Comfort, Guide and Teacher. Oh to be so near.
Nearer my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee!