John 20:21-23 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And 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; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Pentecost receives its name because it is 50 days after Easter. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, and appeared to his disciples and to others for 40 days, then he was taken into heaven, which is called the Ascension. Jesus told them that he would send the Holy Spirit, and to remain in Jerusalem until they were clothed on power from on high. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, and Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the church. Today we want to look at why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, and what this means for us.
Jesus sent the Spirit, when his work on earth was done, because one of the great promises of salvation is the promise of God with us. Since Jesus is at the right hand of God, the Spirit was sent to be with us always. This is a good thing. The Spirit working through the Word creates faith. The Spirit opens our mind so that we can understand the Scripture. The Spirit working in us keeps us in faith, enables us to live as the children of God, to do good works, and to live in peace. And as good as all of these things are, for the most part is about our relationship with God - something that's just between us and God - and if that's all salvation is about - then our relationship to the church is irrelevant. And many today believe that they don't need the church, they can believe and even worship God without the church. The problem is that such a view is spiritually blind, it does not see why the Spirit was given, nor does it understand salvation, nor the church.
Now, if you are not a sinner, you do not need the church, or a Savior, or the Spirit. But the scripture tells us that if we think we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. We are all sinners, and as sinners we need the forgiveness of sins that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We need the forgiveness of sins, because otherwise we cannot find peace with God, or come into his presence. Without the forgiveness of sins we are terrified of death, because we know that with death comes the judgement.
Now when Jesus gives the Spirit, our text tells us that first he said - as the father has sent me so I send you - and if we remember what Jesus was sent to do - we remember that he came preaching, Repent, for the kingdom of God is near. Jesus message is all about repentance and forgiveness. Jesus sends us to continue his mission, bringing to all the world a message of repentance and forgiveness. Jesus sends the Spirit as the means by which we can carry out this great commission. Jesus sends the Spirit so that with the Spirit we might bring forgiveness and salvation to all people. And that's what the church is all about, bringing the forgiveness of sins to others.
We would all like to live together in peace, but our sins break the peace. One way to look at this is to look at how children relate to each other. Children sin, just like everyone else, and sin breaks the peace, and often leads to fighting. There is only one thing that can restore the peace, and that is forgiveness. Children learn how to forgiven, by being forgiven. And God gives the Spirit, even to children so that they can forgive each other. They forgive and forget - the forgetting is important, because if you don't forget, the peace is never quite restored. One minute they can be fighting, the next they forgive and are at peace - and it works because they don't keep score, they don't keep a record of wrongs.
Forgiveness between parents and children
Forgiveness among brothers and sisters
Forgiveness between husbands and wives
This living in forgiveness is what the church is all about, and it is fairly simple, because the Spirit makes it possible - and the alternative - if we do not forgive, neither shall we be forgiven is not an alternative that we can live with.