“And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” – John 20:20-23 KJV
This appears to be the first empowerment given to the church: the power to forgive. It’s interesting that this power was imparted pre-Pentecost. Interesting. Is it possible that the ministry of forgiveness is more available to believers than the “believer’s ministry”.
Spirit filled believers tend to see ministry in terms mainly of power, healing, casting out devils as described in Mark chapter 16. Jesus even told believers to wait for the power to carry out this ministry that would take the church all over the world. So what does this blessing at Bethany mean? Is this something else?
Of course this is a separate empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It is the inner working of the Spirit that softens the heart and convicts us of sin. This empowerment is basic to successful Christian living. In fact it is so basic that it is often forgotten. Perhaps that is why God tells us that if we do not forgive others He will not forgive us (Matt. 6:14); to leave our gift at the altar and go make things right with our brother (Matt. 5:23-24).
Perhaps that is why Jesus preceded this commandment by showing them the scars of His atoning work on the cross; as if to say, “this paid for you to obey me in forgiving. It may be a sacrifice for you, but it was a bigger sacrifice for me. My Father sent me into the world to minister forgiveness. I’m sending you to do the same right now… you don’t have to wait for this one.”
The Bethany blessing is essential to make the finished work at Calvary a powerful reality in the lives of all believers. As a matter of fact it is imparted to all believers at the time we repent of our sins. He forgives us and imparts to us the power to forgive. We become ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). This is necessary to maintain fellowship with God and man. Through conviction when this law is violated, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the breach in relationships.
The cross represents the reconciliation of man to God and God to man…. the vertical and horizontal relationship that was stolen through the first Adam’s sin.
The last Adam’s obedience paid to have these relationships restored: the horizontal and the vertical. We honor His work on the cross by obeying His command to forgive and to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness from God when we breach our relationships through anger, jealousy, offense or any of the many manifestations of pride.
That’s why Jesus is phenomenal. He led the way and paid the price. Let’s follow Him. There are many voices in the earth to follow, but none can show you the scars that make the voice authentic. I’ll say it again: Jesus is phenomenal.