POSTED 06 NOVEMBER, 2017
“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Yeshua came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Yeshua said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also 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, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’”
reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I
When Yeshua appeared before various disciples, after being resurrected from the dead, He showed them the wounds that He incurred from His brutal execution by the Romans (John 20:19-20). Yeshua issued peace or shalom to them (John 20:21). By breathing upon these followers, they would receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), likely a preview of what was to transpire later at Shavuot or Pentecost (Acts 2).
One statement which can be confusing for some readers, involves the Messiah’s word of John 20:23, “If you forgive someone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you hold them, they are held” (CJB/CJSB). God Himself is the One to ultimately possesses the authority to forgive all the sins and transgressions of a person (cf. Mark 2:7), and so a few might wonder if created entities, such as human disciples of Yeshua, could possess such power. This could lead to some thinking that Yeshua might be created.
John 20:23 does not include a statement about these disciples having the power to forgive all of the sins of an individual human or mortal needing to be reconciled to his or her Creator. The intention of John 20:23 is properly taken as a restrictive power, concurrent with the Disciples’ authority to determine halachah or orthopraxy for the faith community. Related statements from Yeshua appear in Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven,” and Matthew 18:18, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Yeshua’s direction, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; but if you hold back, they are held back” (John 20:23, TLV), probably involve the power to include or disclude members from the assembly. John 20:23 is an authority granted by the Lord to these followers, to enact or withhold reconciliation to those who have committed an offense.