Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23
In these three verses there is so much to unpack. The Disciples were were overjoyed at seeing Jesus, so Jesus blessed them with peace, the peace of the Holy Spirit.
Earlier in this book Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit and now he’s imparting the Holy Spirit to them. Verse 23 is intriguing because it seems out of place. They Holy Spirit will help them to forgive; otherwise it would be a very difficult task. Somehow they will have to forgive Judas, and ultimately they’ll have to forgive themselves. Remember, before Jesus hung on the cross that dark afternoon, most of his disciples had scattered and betrayed Him or they flat out denied Him. You better believe they were thinking about those incidents when He appeared to them!
What I mean by “they had to forgive themselves” is that they’d have to stop beating themselves up over their denials and betrayals. It was over; the damage was done, and Jesus still forgave them. What more did they need? Wth that same forgiveness in mind, they’d have to forgive the wrongs that others would commit against them. And from what we know about early Church history, they’d definitely have their work cut out for them.
Unfortunately I think that many of us hold onto our past grievances much longer than is needed. Even though we know that God forgives us and cleanses us when we come to Him, we still can’t erase it from our memory banks. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to help us break the cycle of us not letting go of our sins, and for us to forgive others.