John 20:19-25 (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
As this first week of the new creation continues to unfold we come to another very significant moment.
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s remember again those first words from this Gospel account: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
Now go with me back to the beginning (Genesis 2) when the Word made man: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v. 7).
One more stop as we develop this biblical theology of breath—Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (vv. 9-10)
Word and Spirit. Body and breath. Death and resurrection.
I remember as a kid the first time I saw an older person wheeling around an oxygen tank behind them. My parents explained to me they had a disease called emphysema, which meant they couldn’t breathe well, necessitating their breathing in oxygen through the tube from the tank. And, yes, it provided the first golden opportunity to instruct us on the perils of smoking cigarettes. I remember how slow and cumbersome it was for these people to get around. It was like they were already on life support.
As I studied this verse about Jesus breathing on his disciples, I discovered the Greek term behind breathe: emphusao (pronounced em-phoo-sah-o.) See the connection? Because of sin, our spiritual breathing has been constricted. We all wheel around our little oxygen tanks to get us through our days, compensating for our perennial shortness of breath, breathing in whatever we think will do the trick. Meanwhile, Jesus stands by ready to breathe into us the very breath of life—the Holy Spirit—filling our lungs with the breath of God.
E. Stanley Jones said it best, “Unless the Holy Spirit fills, the human spirit fails.”
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who breathes into us the breath of life—the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit. Thank you for this inestimable gift of your life into my life like breath. I want to breathe deeper, Jesus. Open up my lung capacity. Make me one who is able to breathe life into others. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
1. What would it have been like to stand before Jesus with the disciples and hear him say, “Receive the Holy Spirit”?
2. Is the Holy Spirit more of a concept to you that you believe or a reality that you experience?
3. Do you have spiritual emphysema? What can be done to let go of the counterfeit breathing tank and begin breathing life from the Spirit of God?
For the Awakening,
This content was originally published here.