Forgiveness Within Reach

John 20:19-31

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 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.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believethat Jesus is the Messiah,the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Maybe it’s just me, but forgiveness is a tough one.  I have to work really hard on forgiving those who I perceive have wronged me.  Now, I’m not talking about forgiving someone for taking my parking place at the mall or for drinking the last diet coke…I’m really thinking about those biggies.  One of the ways to really “get” to me is to misrepresent me.  When someone says, “I heard you said blah blah blah,” or “I heard you did blah blah blah,” and those things not only didn’t happen but are contrary to what I WOULD have said or done, it doesn’t bring out the best in me.

But Jesus is pretty clear about the concept of forgiveness.  He appears to his disciples following his resurrection, breathing on them the Holy Spirit (wondering about the awesomeness of that!!!!) and explained about forgiveness.  He said, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  Talk about empowerment!  Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to gift the disciples with the ultimate power of forgiveness, while chiding them at the same time about what happens if they don’t fully utilize this incredible gift.  Through the building of the wider body of Christ, we all have the same responsibility as Christians.  Forgive others.  Jesus didn’t put any qualifiers on this method of forgiveness.  He gives them the power and through the gift of love we all have the same power.  And when we don’t forgive others?  That’s pretty clear too…the sins are still there. 

That’s pretty discouraging if you think about it terms of just humans.  But the best news of all is that we are forgiven in totality when we ask God.  He will NEVER “retain our sins,” and gives us forgiveness no matter the grievance.  And I can assure you I have some pretty egregious sins, I tell you!  I ask…he forgives.  So why can’t I do that too?

I want to forgive, I really do.  I often have to forgive over and over again until it is gone, because one time forgiveness can still leave me with retention of the hurt and pain that came with the wrong.  That’s why this one is such a tough issue – our humanity stands in the way of forgiveness at times.  But holding on to resentment, pain and the feeling of being wronged gets right between us and God, which no one really wants, especially God!

This joyous Easter season of new life brings new opportunities to grow in our faith.  Let’s commit to work on forgiveness…of ourselves and others, without exception.  It’s the purest form of love – Agape love.

Lord, we ask you to guide our hearts and minds to forgive.  Help us to know and love you and show that love to our brothers and sisters.  When we struggle with this, show us the way to reach out and heal our wounds and those of others.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

 

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