After attending Mass, the vigil on Saturday evening, I decided to attend a local Baptist meeting. Some of the people there are friends of mine and we each attend each others meetings. We have a very ecumenical community!
The Pastor, a very inspiring man, the Rev. Dr. Clifford Hockensmith, gave a sermon on John 20:19-24.
I will focus on the part of the sermon concerning vss. 21-23.
As Rev. Cliff read vs. 21, Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” he expounded on the word “send.” He said that the word “send” is an understatement. A mom can “send” a child to a store for milk. A person can “send” a messenger. A president can “send” a diplomat. The Navy can “send” an officer to captain a ship. This one is large. The officer is in charge of a multimillion dollar vessel with possibly thousands of sailors aboard. In the case of Jesus, even the naval comparison falls short. Jesus said, “*As the father has sent me, so I send you.” *
The Father sent Jesus to be the savior of mankind. Jesus is likewise sending the Apostles, a very profound description. He is sending them to do the same as He, save the world. It is a commissioning, not just an errend.
Verse 22 came with new exposure. "And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ " Rev. Cliff pointed out that the only other place in the Bible where God breaths on anything is in Genesis 2:7 where God breathed life into Adam. The significance being that as the Father created man with His breath, Jesus was also creating, in this case the New Covenant. This creation and giving life was imposed onto the Apostles. In doing so Jesus gave them the responsibility and authority of bearing the New Covenant.
Verse 23 came with another interpretation. “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Rev. Cliff said that most of his fellow pastors skip over this one, but he began to interpret. He said, “Only one Being has the authority to forgive sin, and that is God. But here we see Jesus, who receives His authority to forgive sin from the Father, passing on that authority to the Apostles. Jesus is giving the Apostles HEAVENLY AUTHORITY!”
I almost fell out of my seat! Did he just say what I thought he said? Was he actually denying biblical authority and replacing it with Apostolic authority? Quite honestly, he didn’t go there. He left it ambiguous. But, he caught the congregation off guard with that statement. There were rumbling voices throughout the church.
Many of the congregation came to me at the coffee after the service to ask me about verse 23. They know that I am Catholic and wanted to know about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, though they didn’t know what it is called. I explained it to them charitably.
Please, I invite comment and discussion on this story. Feel free to chime in.
He is RISEN!