Gospel Message & Recording
In the Gospel reading taken from John 20:19-31, thedisciples were in hiding. Then, in the place they were hiding, with the door closed, Jesus appeared before them. Jesus doesn’t say, “hello,” or “how have you been,” but He says, “Peace be with you.” Subsequently, Jesus shows them his wounds, both on his hands and side. The disciples, hiding from the Jews, for fear of persecution, were glad to see their teacher once again. But then, after “giving peace” a second time, and giving the directive to go and preach the Gospel, He does something that is very peculiar—He breathes the Holy Spirit on them. Compared with the account in the Acts of Apostles, where the disciples receive the Holy Spirit and begin to go out and preach the Gospel, the account of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit in John 20 seems to be contradictory. Not understanding the context, or the framework of salvation that God is working in and with, one can compare the two accounts of the Holy Spirit and see a contradiction. When read correctly, however, we see that the first breathing of the Holy Spirit is the breath of the resurrected God-Man Himself, that initiates the process of receiving the Holy Spirit, which is finally fulfilled in the descending of the Holy Spirit in the Books of Acts.
When we look back to the beginning, that is, the creation (Genesis 2:7), we see that God created through his breath. He gave life to man by breathing into his nostrils. Again, in Ezekiel 37, we see God conversing with Ezekiel. The dialogue is about the “dry bones” and if they could possibly be brought back to life. God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones that he will make “breath enter into them” to give them life. And indeed they were brought back to life by the supernatural power of God that joins the tendons together and caused flesh to grow. This was accomplished through the breath of God. The same breath of creation, as well as the breath that gave life to the dry bones, is the same breath that breathed on the disciples in John 20. The breathing of the Holy Spirit by Jesus is therefore a sort of “reclaiming” the creation that is now made anew through the death (cross), burial and resurrection of the Son of God. Further, in the beginning, God’s breath brought life, but Adam’s disobedience brought sin (and death), but through Jesus’ breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples, they now are given charge to forgive sins. This is God’s way of restoring humanity. Now, in understanding this, the Pentecost can be seen as the fulfillment of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on his disciples.
This is a reflection of our Christian journey as well. We beginning our journey with the Sacrament of Baptism, but often, as we go through the seasons of life--teenage years, young adulthood, marriage, children, and mature age--our Baptism that was the grace of God given freely for the forgiveness of sins and membership into the kingdom of God, becomes forgotten, or even rejected, because of our behavior. The Sacrament of Baptism can be seen as the initial breath, but a Pentecost is needed to fulfill God’s plan in our life. No Christian can claim that Baptism is enough. He must see it as the initial breath that was breathed on him to bring about a fulfillment of a Pentecost that would give him the power and strength to live a Christian life.
We can recall that after the breathing of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were still afraid, and in hiding. After receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, disciples were ready to fulfill God’s plan in their life. So also, we as Orthodox Christians need a Pentecost, a moment in time, were God presence is felt and experienced like never before. This can be experienced in and through, fasting, prayer, Confession and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, with a true and genuine love for Christ.
My friends, you may have had your initial breath of the Sacrament of Baptism? But, then, where is your Pentecost? If you rely on your Baptism alone, you will always be afraid and hiding from the grace of God. However, if you will be bold and ask God to give you a fulfillment of your Baptism, then He will shower upon you His grace and mercy, afresh and new. This then will become for you the “continuous baptism” that happens every day, that is, you die and rise to Christ daily.
- “No Christian can claim that Baptism is enough. He must see it as the initial breath that was breathed on him to bring about a fulfillment of a Pentecost that would give him the power and strength to live a Christian life.” Comment. Discuss.
- Have you had your own “personal Pentecost?” If not, what’s holding you back? If yes, explain your experience.
- Explain the difference between Baptism (infant) and “continuous baptism.”
- What are some evidences in your life that demonstrate that you are being continuously baptized. Extend this idea of “continuous” to other Sacraments.