In the message this last Sunday from John 20:19-29 we didn’t unpack one of the more interesting and misunderstood statements that Jesus makes. Take a look at verses 21-23 below.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
That last line might cause you to pause a minute and ask a couple of questions.
- Is Jesus saying WE have the power to forgive people of their sins?
- Is Jesus saying WE have the power to not forgive people?
There are two things at play here.
First, we need to remember the context. Those who believe in Jesus are commissioned to spread God’s message on the Earth (v.21). This message is that Jesus is God, who came and died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and free. This connects with what Jesus says earlier in John’s Gospel, I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:23).”
Second, Jesus has made it clear that he is now going to be with us through the Holy Spirit . This mean His presence is with us and empowering us to share this very message.
So in light of this context it’s not that we or the church are forgiving or not forgiving sins it’s that we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are to be messengers of Jesus forgiveness of sin, and in delivering the message we will recognize when people have accepted that message and are forgiven or they have rejected it and are not. This is actually pretty amazing! It means that we get to partner with Jesus in proclaiming the good news. Our response to this should be to ask and pray.
Ask for more opportunities to share the life changing message and pray that those who hear it will respond and receive the forgiveness of Jesus.