Easter 1, Low Sunday John 20:19
Have you ever watched the television programme called the “Apprentice”?
In which a group of people compete against each other for a job that is being offered by Sir Alan Sugar and each week he tells one of them that “they are fired” as they are eliminated.
Towards the end of the series the last few of you that are left have been called to the Board Room to see who is going out this week and you are told that you have been fired.
So you get up and make your way to the door, but he calls out and ask you were you are going, the first time that this has happened to any one.
You go back to see what he wants and he tells you that he does not want you for the job you are competing for, but he wants you for a far more important role in his Company and he will give you the support that you need to do it.
In the last verse of today’s Gospel reading Jesus gives the Disciples a far more important role then they had ever expected as, He tells them.
”If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven”, how do you think the Disciples felt when Jesus said this to them.
But worse was to come for them, as Jesus then tells them, “If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained!”
If anyone imagines they are ready and willing to take on a task like this, they need to think again.
But Jesus knows that the Disciples can do it.
Indeed, Jesus is not asking them if they would like to do this; He is giving them a direct command.
They are to go and do it.
But of course that is not the whole story.
They could have come back at Jesus, and say, “But we thought only God could forgive sins!”
And they would be right.
God is going to forgive sins, Through Them.
This command comes after the crucial promise and gift that Jesus gives them “Receive the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit that Jesus has said so much already about, His own Spirit, the Spirit which is the Father’s special gift to His people.
Now the time has come.
The point of receiving the Holy Spirit, is not to give the Disciples a new ‘spiritual experiences’, though to be sure they will have plenty experiences in the years to come, but to help them with the great task ahead.
Or was it to set them apart from ordinary people, though they have been called to live a richer, fuller live of devotion and dedication that is modelled on Jesus’ own life.
They had been called to do for the whole world, what Jesus had been doing in Israel. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” John 20:21
How does the unique achievement of Jesus, in one time and place, affect all other times and places?
How does the message that Jesus preached, which made so much sense in first century Palestine, spread to other cultures and peoples who are not even thinking about God’s kingdom, who are not waiting for a Messiah, who do not look at the world like the Jews.
The long story of God and Israel has reached its climax in Jesus.
Now the salvation that Jesus has brought to Israel, is to now come from the Jewish world, out to the far wider world of the Gentiles, and the Disciples are to start the process of taking it there.
There is all the difference in the world between something being achieved and something being implemented.
The composer achieves the writing of the music, the performers implement it.
The clockmaker designs and builds the wonderful clock.
The owner now has to set it to the right time and keep it wound up.
Jesus’ mission to Israel, which reached its climax in His death and resurrection, is now to be implemented by the Disciples’ to the rest of the world.
The Disciples do not have to start again but just carry on with what Jesus had started.
That’s why they need the help of the Holy Spirit: Jesus’ breath, God’s breath, to enable them to do the job they could not otherwise ever dream of doing.
In the book of Genesis (2:7) we read about God breathing in to Adam nostrils the breath of life and Adam become a living being.
Now we have Jesus’ breathing over the Disciples and making new men of them, so that they have the help they need to go out in to the world and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
They are to pronounce, in God’s name and with the help of His Sprit, the message of forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus Christ.
They are also to retain sins, to warn the world that sin is a serious deadly disease and that to remain in it will bring death.
They are to rebuke and warn, not because they do not like people or because they are seeking power or prestige for themselves, but because this is God’s message to a muddled confused and still rebellious world.
Paul twenty years later asked, “Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Paul, like John gave the right answer.
None of us, but God enables us to do it with the help of His Holy Spirit.