When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23)
“God is in the breath”, a teacher once told me. I breathe without even thinking about it, and when I do I don’t see God in my breath. What does that mean; “God is in the breath”?
The first time we learn of breath in the bible is from Genesis in the Garden of Eden story. “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) The concept of the breath of God is the breath of life, an animating spirit that enlivens us.
The beginning of the bible uses the same word to describe the dawn of creation. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2) The Hebrew word “ruach”, translated as breath in Genesis 2:7, is the same Hebrew word translated as wind in Genesis 1:2.
There is in the breath of God the power to create, to make, and fashion the world. When God created humanity God made us in the divine image. We were made like God. But look at us. We’re all so different. How can we all be made in the image of God when we all look so different? God is in the breath. You can’t see breath unless on a cold day or with heat sensitive cameras. It is our invisible qualities that are made in God’s image. This is who we are from the very beginning. Enlivened by God’s breath we are co-creators with God, caring for the planet and each other.
So if we are created in God’s image and God is good, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? The bible’s answer to that question is sin, the fall of humanity from our graceful origins in God. Adam and Eve listened to the lies of the serpent and sinned against God.
We all do the same. We heed the lies of the serpent, hidden in half-truths and alluring desires. We are fallen from grace. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God within us. And we cannot rescue ourselves from this fallen condition.
That is why God sent Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to die a sacrificial death upon the cross. His death and resurrection from the grave is our freedom from the power of the Liar, the power of sin.
Why does Jesus breathe on the disciples in the story of his resurrection? God is restoring us to our original state of righteousness, through the Holy Spirit. It is through the breath of God, breathed into us, that we have new life and the power of grace to live according to God’s perfect will, freed of sin’s defeated power. That’s the gospel, the good news! Jesus conquered sin and death and shares the victory with you.
In the month of October we are asking ourselves, “What would happen if you reminded yourself of the gospel every day?” We invite you to join in by reading the 30 day devotional book Chosen. Discussion of the book will occur on Sundays in October at 9:30am and also online Tuesdays at 7pm beginning October 9th.
So as we breath in the air today, let us be mindful that God, the immortal and invisible One who gives us new life in Christ, is in the breath. Breathe and rejoice in the good news!