“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.’” vss. 22-23
After the resurrection the disciples were amazed and uncertain. They didn’t know what to do with the good news that had exploded into their lives, and they didn’t know if Jerusalem was safe for them. Isolated by their fear, they went into hiding. But the resurrected Jesus found them! No longer bound by space and time, he simply showed up where they were and immediately addressed their fear. Once they were calmed he gave them their instructions–they were to continue his mission of announcing God’s forgiveness of sins. And to energize them he breathed on them his Holy Spirit. And they obeyed–through them, empowered by the Spirit the Good News has spread through the entire world. And there’s only been one hiccup! Some religious leaders began to believe that the gift of forgiveness was too valuable to be given away freely. After a bit of experimenting they in fact discovered that people were actually willing to pay big bucks for blessed assurance. Those leaders hoarded the free gift and used it to extend their own coercive power. What a travesty! Jesus rose from the dead to set us free, not to make us the slaves of a new religious hierarchy. Praise God that his message of grace is actually winning the day!
Thought for the Day: Where is religious coercion most likely to occur?