International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday March 22, 2015
Purpose: To understand that Christ gives the Holy Spirit as the power for forgiveness
Bible Lesson: John 20:19-23
Background Scripture: Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4
John 20:19-23 19 (CEB)
(19) It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” (20) After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. (21) Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” (22) Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (23) If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”
Key Verse: Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
If you follow the events of resurrection day through the gospels, Jesus leaves those he met and ate supper with, on the road to Emmaus. He then appears before those hiding behind closed, locked doors in this text.
The disciples knowing that the authorities had just crucified Jesus were naturally afraid of what might happen to themselves. They cannot be faulted for their fear.
At Jesus’ appearing he immediately puts them at ease by his greeting and by showing the wounds inflicted by the crucifixion. In case you ever wondered why we share the “peace of Christ” in worship service, this is where it started.
After the greeting and assurance of who he was, Jesus then commissions the disciples to go into the world. But just prior to sending them forth, He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. Just as God, in the creation story breathed life into Adam, Jesus breathes life into His disciples.
It is through the Holy Spirit being breathed into each of us that allows us to have the power of forgiveness within us. The world does not naturally possess the power to forgive. The gift of the Holy Spirit allows us that power. The power to forgive or not to forgive rest with each of us that have received Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
All the while remembering that God first forgave us while we were yet sinners. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If God has done this, then we, through the Holy Spirit, can also do this.
Receiving and giving the “Peace of Christ” is part of the act of forgiving and receiving forgiveness. We can never have the “Peace of Christ” in our lives unless we learn to forgive, not just those in our community, but also ourselves. When Jesus appeared through the locked door the disciples for frightened, scared, and probably felt guilty. Jesus offers them “peace” twice.
Receiving the “Peace of Christ” means we have accepted the wounds, acknowledged who Christ is and are willing to follow the example set by Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.