“Created New in Christ"
As I write this devotional, I think of and pray for the millions of people around the world who are “staying home”, behind closed doors, and afraid of a possibly fatal disease. The situation we are in now reminds us of a similar one that happened over two thousand years ago. It was an evening, when fear filled the hearts of the disciples.
Behind locked doors, the disciples of Jesus were hiding, not from COVID-19, but from the Jewish leaders. Who will take care of them now that their Shepherd is gone? Who will guide them with his wisdom after their Rabbi was crucified? Do the Jewish leaders want to kill them as they did their Master?
As the disciples congregated in fear, suddenly, Jesus stood among them and greeted them with the known greeting, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19). It was, and still is, a familiar daily greeting among people in the Middle East, but for the disciples, it was so different this time. They needed the Peace, and they needed the Lord himself to say it to them. After the disciples recognized the Lord, they were joyful. Jesus filled their hearts with His Peace and Joy.
But Jesus also gave the disciples much more than Peace and Joy. He “breathed on them.” (John 20:22).
What does this phrase “breathed on them” mean?
One correct answer is that Jesus gave the disciples a “deposit” of the Holy Spirit, who was yet to come on the Pentecostal Day. It did happen as He promised them. The disciples received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Not only that, but Jesus gave His disciples something else, when He “breathed on them.” What was it?
To understand together what happened when Jesus “breathed on” the disciples, we need to look at two familiar passages from the Old Testament.
The first passage is about the creation of Adam out of dust. We read “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Gen.2:7). On the sixth day of God’s creation, God breathed and “The first man Adam became a living being” (1Cor.15:45).
The second passage is about the new life or “new creation” of Israel out of the Exile. It was around 592 BC, when the prophet Ezekiel was taken to the Babylonian Exile with some of the people of Israel. From a foreign land, Ezekiel described Israel’s situation away from God. They were away from their land, their homes and, of course, the Temple. The glory of God had already left the Temple (Ez.10:18-22).
God led Ezekiel to see a vision of Israel like dry bones in a valley. Then God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy. Ezekiel prophesied and asked the Spirit of God to come and “breath on” the dead. Then we read, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” (Ez.37:10). The Spirit of God brought life to the “dead” Israelites out of the Exile.
From Gen.2:7 and Ez.37:1-14, God, through His Spirit, created Adam from dust, and gave Israel a new creation after they were dead in sin and slavery.
In Adam everyone, Jews and Gentiles, are sinners. The result of sin is that we all inherited spiritual, physical, and eternal death. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Rom.5:12). And to the Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Eph.2:1). In Adam, we all are totally depraved. The way we think, the way we feel and act is not the way of the Lord. Thus, we all needed a new creation. How can we get the new creation?
Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor.5:17). In Christ alone, we receive new creation through the work of the Holy Spirit that gives us new birth (born again/born from above). When we become new in Christ, we think, we act, and we will as Christ does. When we do anything, we do it for Christ and Christ works through us. People will see Christ in us through our new life.
Now, what is the relationship between a new creation in Christ (2 Cor.5:17) and the phrase, Jesus “breathed on” His disciples (John 20:22)?
Apostle Paul gave us a clear answer to this question. He said “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor.5:15). Thus, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we receive the new creation. The resurrection of Jesus brought us the new creation. In John 20:22, Christ “breathed on” His disciples to give them a new creation. The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of the new creation.
As we all have to “stay home” now, just like the disciples, let’s take the time to reflect on our relationship with the Lord. As He appeared to the disciples in John 20:19-23, He is able to do so for us. He can bring us Peace and the new creation. In Him, like the disciples, we can bring His Peace to a troubled and distressed world. I ask you all to please join me as we pray Psalm 16 together.
Blessings in the Lord,
Dr. Mofid Wasef