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So Jesus 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.”John 20:21–23
In the last article on this passage from John 20, I looked at the immediate meaning of this passage, but then I dug a little deeper and pointed out the creation context of when Jesus breathed on His followers. The basic conclusion was that Jesus was inducting them into the new creation in the same way that God breathed into Adam in Genesis 2. Jesus was sharing the Spirit (breath/ wind) with the apostles that just resurrected Him. At the end of this article, I’ll post several links to studies I’ve done on water, wind, and Spirit.
Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Dry Bones
As you know, if you have been keeping up with the blog, I have been reading through the Bible as part of a ninety-day challenge given to me by my friend Dallas. I recently finished Ezekiel, and as I was reading through Ezekiel 37, the word breath jumped off the page at me. Hopefully, you will see why.
“Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”Ezekiel 37:5-6
The word translated breath in this passage is the Hebrew word רוּחַ (rûaḥ). This is the word commonly translated as Spirit, breath, and wind in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus breathed on His disciples to call these themes to the disciple’s attention.
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” ’ ” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.Ezekiel 37:7–10
This vision that Ezekiel sees is not about physical resurrection. As he explains, this is a vision of the restoration of Israel.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.’ ”Ezekiel 37:11–14
So, when Jesus breathed on His disciples, He is not only referencing the creation account, but He is signifying that He, through the Cross event, is the one who would reconcile Israel. He is David (Ezekiel 37:24-28).
They Will Come Up Out of their Graves
Jesus said something similar to Ezekiel earlier in His ministry.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.John 5:24–29
Those who believed Jesus’ truth passed from death to life, while those who rejected His message remained in death. I’ve spoken about this in several of my articles, so I won’t do more than point out the similarity. Jesus relied on Ezekiel 37 to frame a lot of His ministry. When He speaks of the Spirit, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and resurrection, one must consider Ezekiel 37 in interpreting those texts.
Jesus breathed on His disciples to make a point about the new creation, and this demonstration also has a strong connection to Ezekiel 37. Jesus is claiming to restore Israel, and this is exactly how Paul, Peter, and the rest of the writers of the New Testament applied this passage and passages like it.