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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20 : 21 – 22
I am immediately struck by the image of Jesus breathing on His disciples engulfing them in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is interesting to compare the four gospels and the individual commissions that were recorded.
The Gospel commission of Matthew 28: 19 – 20 it says “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”.
Mark also records a similar commission in Mark 16 : 15, 16 - “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”.
Luke 24:26 – 47 says “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem“.
John 20 : 21 – 22 says “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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
I think in order to understand the Gospel commission and message, we have to look at all four commissions. These are the commands that Jesus gave pretty much in the order that He said them.
- Marks says go into all the world – Luke says to start in Jerusalem and go into all nations.
- Marks says preach the gospel – Luke says repentance and remissions of sins should be preached to all nations and John says if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.
- Matthew says make disciples – John says He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Matthew also says to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, as demonstrated by John the Baptist did.
- Matthew says to teach them the commandments that Jesus taught.
If this is the order in which we are to do make disciples, we should be going out preaching a message of forgiveness. We should be asking people to repent and to do their best to eliminate or reduce their sins, but knowing that through the blood of Jesus, all of our sins have been erased (remission can be considered in both contexts meaning to eradicate or decrease). We should then be making disciples of people through baptism, and lastly we should be teaching those disciples in more detail about God’s love. Once those disciples know enough about God’s love, they graduate to become apostles and are given the same commission to go out.
If we look at Jesus’ ministry – that’s exactly what He did. He went to people, forgave them and healed them and told them to sin no more (John 5:14, 8:11). I am sure that many of those that Jesus healed became believers and were baptized. Therefore, we need to be careful to copy the exact method that Christ gave us in order to reach people. Going to people with messages on the wrath of God, fear, everlasting life, how bad they are, what they need to stop doing or even topics on health or a vegetarian lifestyle can never ever be as effective as a message of forgiveness.
Moreover, it is evident in John that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples before they went out to forgive people. If we are to be as empathetic, forgiving and loving, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit before we go out into the world to make disciples of God’s children, leaving our judgments and prejudices at home.
You are indeed worthy to be praised. Thank You for taking us through another week. Thank You for teaching us the Gospel of Forgiveness that we should be spreading to all nations. Teach us to accept and commit to Your ways and to not deviate from them towards our own. There are many people out there who need to hear this Gospel and through forgiveness many people will come to know You. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we can be forgiving as Christ is and draw crowds to You as He did too.
In Jesus’ Name