The Breath of Jesus

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artist unknown, but greatly appreciated

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:20-22, ESV

Here we have an eye-witness account of the most amazing event in all of human history!  The risen Jesus, who definitely is not dead flesh, appears in a locked room that the stunned disciples hid out in.  He is now flesh and blood, as real as you or me.  The disciples are pretty much freaked out by all of this.  Fearful mutterings can be heard, “What is this… who is this…who unlocked the door?”

The risen Lord walks in with 22 eyes fixed on him.  He is confident,  and walks with resurrection authority.  He holds out his hands–they see for themselves the wounds the nails made.  He lifts his robe, and they kneel down to see for themselves the holes.  In spite of His brutal wounds, He shows He indeed is the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Savior of the world!

The disciples are ecstatic!  They are spontaneously laughing and crying and leaping around the room.  It’s like they just won the World Series, (but without the champagne!)  Pure joy pulsates through them.  He is very much alive! (Hey, isn’t that Andrew, doing a backflip?)

It’s in this ‘gonzo-intense’ moment, Jesus speaks–and they become very quiet.  He proceeds to impart peace into their hearts and minds with a simple command, “Peace be with you” verse 21.  Peace is a vital ingredient in the humble heart of every faithful disciple.

He then directs them to complete the work that the Father gave him to do.  He now extends the torch of evangelistic work to them. Seeing the resurrection up close like this will drastically alter your life’s trajectory. (They’ll be further fortified by the coming of Holy Spirit at Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-4.)

It’s now the time for the excited emotion of the moment to put on ‘work gloves.’

In this Jesus had does something unprecedented, He leans over each disciple and exhales on them. Now this is more than just a really weird ritual.  You see, His breath is saturated with resurrection life, and they inspire into their lungs the life of a risen man!  They now carry his ‘life essence,’ and in the light of Jesus’ previous statements to them are any indication, they will need it.

When God created Adam, he gave him his breath (Genesis 2:7).  Life is more than existence; it is the energy to “live.” When you really experience the resurrected Jesus, you will need more than good and noble ideas.  You’ll need Him, and you will need to rely on his breath to lead you to wherever you’re sent.

Jesus breathes on all His witnesses–those who have been picked to follow.  His breath fills our lungs, his oxygen enters our blood stream, where it now powers us on a biochemical level.  You can never, ever be the same again.  Never, even if you tried.

“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

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Nothing But the Blood

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“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:7, NIV

At first glance the Old Testament is a collection of extremely bloody books. So many sacrifices were made that the Levitical priesthood had to sacrifice lambs 24 hours a day. People had this desperate need to cover their sins with an offering. This was instilled in them by the Law and their conscience.

Today, not so much. The Jewish people no longer sacrifice lambs, and the Gentiles have never caught on anyway. But sin has never gone out-of-style. Perhaps this is a result of the New Testament teaching that Jesus (the God/man) offered His blood as the payment of every sin committed. His death wiped our slates clean, forever.

Yet, we are still a people of ‘limited options.’ As our sins mount up (and they will) we have an innate need to cover them up. Sin is almost never hidden, and never exalted as a virtue. And yet we try to skate though our accumulation of many sins. We forget many, and try to excuse the more heinous.

The New Testament is obvious on this. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ had enough sufficiency to cover everyone, once, and for everything. It all seems astonishing, beyond belief and possibility. The blood it seems, has never lost its power. This may be why Christians can’t seem to ‘shut-up’ about their faith. They ‘see’ something!

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”

Hebrews 10:19

Simply put, you now have ‘backstage passes,’ because of His death. The cross is far, far beyond a nice religious medallion. The cross of Christ, and more precisely His ‘leaking’ blood is regarded as complete righteousness for anyone (who by faith) receives it as his/her own. A brand-new confidence takes hold. “God loves me, and He forgives me.” The heart expands at this new-found knowledge.

Our sins and our weaknesses, whether they be from our fallenness, or genetic or environmental, are now slathered in the blood of Jesus. That blood makes us ‘white as snow.’ ‘Brokenbelievers’ everywhere are cheering. We know we aren’t quite right, and we understand our sin, but we have become fans of Jesus Christ. After all, His death has brought us eternal life.

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Evaluating Jesus Truly, [CS Lewis]

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“The Difference Jesus Makes,”  from C.S. Lewis

What are we to make of Jesus Christ? This question…has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real reason is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is to make of an elephant has comic elements about it. But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of  “How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man?” This problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of his moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity….

The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of this Man’s theological remarks. You all know what I mean, and I want rather to stress the point that the appalling claim which this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of his career. There is, of course, the one moment which led to His execution. The moment at which the High Priest said to Him, “Who are you?” “I am the Anointed, the Son of the uncreated God, and you shall see Me appearing at the end of all history as the judge of the Universe.”….

On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him “Are you the son of Brahman?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.” If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you Allah?” He would first have rent his clothes and the cut your head off.  If you had asked Confucius, “Are you heaven?” I think he would have probably replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.”

The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you….

Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly…

[Take, for example] the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, “The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.” On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost- survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the Universe.  This is the way you ought to go,” but He says, “I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.” He says, “No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.” He says, “If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.” That is the issue.”

– Asking Them Questions, Third Series, edited by Ronald Selby Wright (OUP, 1050), also reproduced inUndeceptions (Geofffrey Bles, 1971) and God in the Dock, Chapter 9 (Fount, 1979)
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