JOHN’S VERSION OF THE PENTECOST
(A biblical refection on the PENTECOST SUNDAY [YEAR A], 4 June 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11; Psalms: Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
The Scripture Text
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 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 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, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23 RSV).
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” (John 20:21)
Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fifty days”. It originally referred to a religious feast observed fifty days after Passover, on which the Jews thanked God for the wheat harvest. Today Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter to commemorate the day God sent the Holy Spirit to the early Church.
In today’s Gospel, “Peace” is the first word the resurrected Jesus says to the apostles, a word the Jews used in everyday speech as both a greeting and a farewell. Jesus then shows them His hands and His side to prove that it really is Him. He truly is alive!
During this post-resurrection appearance, Jesus tells His disciples He is sending them out on a mission just as His Father sent Him on one. He then breathes on them and tells them He is giving them the Holy Spirit so they can go out and bring forgiveness to all people.
The word “apostle” comes from a Greek word that means “one who is sent” (John never calls them apostles, but he calls them disciples). In today’s reading, Jesus sends the apostles to tell the world about the forgiveness of sins made possible through His death and resurrection.
Breathing on the apostles like Jesus did may seem a bit crude but this action had much religious meaning. In the book of Genesis, we read that God gave life to the first man by breathing into his nostril (Genesis 2:7) and in the book of Ezekiel the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath of God (Ezekiel 27:1-14) the prophet describes a dream he had in which a valley of dry bones comes to life with the breath with new life, we should understand Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel as Him giving new life to His Church by breathing the Holy Spirit into it.
Finally, today’s reading is the closest the four Gospels come to describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We are accustomed to hearing about the strong wind and the tongues of fire appearing while the apostles and friends of Jesus gathered in prayer, a story we find not in the Gospels but in the Acts of the Apostles. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all end their Gospels with Jesus promising He will soon send the Holy Spirit but only John, in today’s reading, gives us an account of the Holy Spirit actually arriving. However, since John’s story is so simple and uneventful, we often overlook it.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, “Cycling Through the Gospels”, pages 44-45)
PRAYER: Blessed Holy Spirit, come! Stir up faith and hope in me today. Fill me with confidence how You are working through me when I am with my family or while I am working. I pray to You also with the hope that I will become more aware of how You are working in my life. Amen.
Jakarta, 3 June 2017
A Christian Pilgrim