John 20:18-23 :
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her. When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be to you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive anyone’s sins, they have been forgiven them. If you retain anyone’s sins, they have been retained.”
Something was clearly different about Jesus after He resurrected. It wasn’t unusual for him to just appear somewhere. It is worth mentioning that He said “Peace be to you.” When angels appeared supernaturally, they usually said something like “Fear Not.” When, Jesus said “Peace be to you,” I think he was referring to the fact that He had been offered as our sacrifice to God and now there was peace between God and mankind.
This was probably the most important day in the lives of the disciples because on that day, they were saved. When God breathes life happens. We read that in Genesis and on this day, He breathed on the disciples and from that day on, they believed. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we can believe and when we do, we are born again. This was salvation Sunday. Now we know why we go to church on Sunday. It’s because not only did Jesus raise from the dead, but the very first people on earth were born again too.
I believe that when Jesus said that they could choose whether or not to forgive sins, that He was talking about their free agency to share the gospel message. We know by reading Acts that the apostles and believers didn’t go around forgiving sins. We don’t see any examples of the disciples retaining someone’s sins. We do know that they preached salvation through faith in Jesus and when people heard this preaching, it was received by many of them and their sins were forgiven. So, I believe that Jesus was expressing their free choice to preach salvation others. If we don’t share the message, people could die in their sins without forgiveness, and in that sense, we have chosen for them to not be forgiven. If we do share they have a chance to believe and be saved and we have chosen to give those who hear forgiveness of sins. Sharing the message of salvation is a great privilege and responsibility. What a heavy task Jesus has given us to do. May He give us power by the Holy Spirit to do it.