Luke 24:46-49; John 20:19-23
As the resurrected Christ spoke to His disciples in the secret, locked room in Jerusalem, they listened with rapt attention. Finally, His plans for them were being revealed. The Lord Jesus was giving His disciples instructions about the life that lay ahead of them. He was giving marching orders! Somehow, He was going to give them something powerful to help them proclaim the Good News of what He had just accomplished on the cross.
Imagine how the disciples felt when they heard this. The angry crowds, the furious religious leaders who held control over the nation, and the violent strength of the Roman soldiers were still ringing in their memories. How in the world would they ever preach the name of Jesus in that city again? They were just happy to be alive! And what did it mean that they would be clothed with power from on high? What was this mysterious, unpredictable God going to do next?
There were prophecies in the Old Testament that hinted towards the bright thing God was about to do. For you see, Jesus had won the final victory, and there were many ways that victory would bless the world. The prophet Joel said this:
“‘And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days will I pour out my Spirit.’”
God the Father was somehow going to pour His Spirit on His faithful children, and a new era was going to begin in human life! Everyone who put their faith in Jesus would receive the Holy Spirit in their heart. They would become a whole new kind of creature walking the earth…human beings living with Divine life and power…partakers of the divine nature! Jesus had made the way for complete cleansing from sin and complete forgiveness. He made the way to give His chosen ones His own perfect, pure, righteousness. Now was the time of the New Covenant. Now the presence of God would come and live in them through the power of the Holy Spirit! This is how God described it to the prophet Ezekiel:
“‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and to be careful to keep My laws.’”
Wow. Ezekiel was describing new life under the New Covenant, six hundred years ahead of time!
Do you remember the long talk Jesus had with His disciples the night before His arrest? Do you remember how He said that His disciples shouldn’t be sad to learn that He was leaving them? He said they should be glad because He was going to send the Spirit to them. His Spirit would move in power to give them guidance and comfort in all the trials that lay ahead as they proclaimed Jesus’ name!
The power of the Spirit was the same power that Jesus lived in throughout His life on earth. Jesus always was and always will be fully God, but when He came down from Heaven, He became fully man. As He walked the earth, He did not call on His own divine powers to perform the miracles or speak those amazing Truths. Each day He lived in the strength of what a normal man has…but He allowed the Spirit to be His perfect guide.
As a normal man, Jesus grew thirsty and weary. But He also lived in constant nearness with His Father and in perfect obedience to Him. He did it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now that Jesus had purchased men for God, He could give His followers the Spirit as well.
As Jesus finished His words to His disciples on that visit, He said, “‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’”
Now more than ever the disciples were coming to understand that Jesus had been sent from Heaven. And now, they were caught up in God’s amazing plan, too. The Father had a very specific task for each of them to do for the remainder of their life on earth.
Jesus turned to His men and breathed on them, saying, “‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
It was not as if the Spirit of the Living God had not been at work in the lives of Jesus’ disciples before. It was the Spirit that worked in their hearts so they understood His message. It was the Spirit that made them come alive to His love! But now the Spirit was coming in a far more intense, permanent way. This moment with Jesus was the beginning, and there were even greater things to come.
Then Jesus said, “‘If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you do not forgive them, they will not be forgiven.’”
Wow. That was a high and dangerous power to give His men! They were so empowered by God that their judgments would count for God’s judgments in the family of God. What a high and holy role in God’s Kingdom!
One of the disciples was missing that day. For some reason, Thomas wasn’t there. In the days that followed, the other disciples told him what happened. When Thomas heard their stories, he thought they must be crazy! He absolutely refused to believe them. They wanted Jesus back so badly that they had started believing a lie! He said, “‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’”