The Reading: John 20:19-23
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”(v.23) RSV
One of the areas in which we need healing is in broken relationships and in guilt. Perhaps we are in danger of thinking that healing of physical ailments or deliverance from evil powers is more difficult and more impressive. But we would be wrong. Do you remember when the paralytic man was let down through the roof by his friends? When he lay before Jesus the first thing to be addressed was not his paralysis, but his sins.
His friends had brought him presumably in order for his physical problem(s) to be dealt with. But Jesus tackled the more difficult and the more pressing problem of his sins. It was only by the by, in order to prove that he had the authority to forgive sins that Jesus told the man to stand up.
This is why Jesus gave the disciples, in our passage today, the authority and the commission to deliver people from the bondage of their sins and guilt. He said: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (v.23). We are to do the same today.
The word ‘absolution’ is often misunderstood. Some people think that it means a priest is essential for the forgiveness of sins. But the priest (or indeed any Christian) is only the conveyor of God’s forgiveness. ‘Absolution’ is best illustrated in this way. A man in prison has a pardon issued by the King. However that pardon is only made effective when it is delivered and applied. The prisoner hears the footsteps of one approaching his cell who has the written pardon in his hand. That person unlocks the door and says: “You have been pardoned and I have come to set you free.”
The Church and Christians have the task of announcing forgiveness, speaking as the very mouthpiece of God. This ministry is not usurping God, but bringing his liberating forgiveness to those to whom we speak. We are told to “Say the Word”.
Thank you Lord for those who have assured me of your forgiveness. May I be bold in confirming that forgiveness to others. Amen.
1 Who forgives sins?
2 Who has authority on earth to loose and to bind?