John 20:22–23: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’”


Observation: Mary had been first to arrive at the tomb. Finding it empty, she ran in a panic to tell Peter and John that His body had been taken. Returning again, she first saw two angels where His body had lain, then she saw and recognized the risen Christ Himself; in response, she clung to Him. Later Jesus appeared to the hiding disciples. He simply spoke peace to them, and their fear turned to rejoicing. His next words were these: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and immediately thereafter, He commissioned them to minister forgiveness of sin to those who would turn from it.


Application: What’s going on here? Mary’s rising panic turns to joy when she sees Jesus, and she clings to Him.The disciples’ fear turns to rejoicing when He appears and speaks peace to them. But notice that something more was required if they were to be truly transformed by Jesus Christ: they had to receive the Holy Spirit. 


In her flesh, Mary clung to Christ. Surely this is an easy response to understand, but it was inadequate. And surely His disciples’ fear was understandable. Mary had reported seeing the resurrected Lord, but all the disciples could discern with their five senses was that His body was gone and they surely would be blamed.  But His unexpected appearance in their closed room changed their fear to rejoicing when He said, “Peace be with you.” 


But I must understand this: clinging to Christ, however passionately, is not enough. I can cling to passing flotsam in a raging flood, but that does not by itself deliver me from the torrent, and it will certainly be of no use whatever when the next flood occurs. I may be joy-filled by His command to be at peace, but that alone does not transform me into an effective instrument in His hands. No, something more is needed: to receive the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit authority, the authority to forgive sins or to retain them, was what the Lord knew they had to have to survive the ordeals ahead. Clinging grows tiresome; high emotions wane.  But Holy Spirit life is fundamentally transforming. He carries me beyond clinging, beyond the emotion of the moment, into a profoundly useful future.


Prayer: Father, thank You for the unimaginable love that caused Jesus to give His life for me. And thank You for Holy Spirit’s anointing that empowers me to live life for You. Fill me afresh today, Lord, with Your Holy Spirit, that the fruit You have called me to produce would everywhere be manifest.