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A Fresh Breath

And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22


Dr. Paul Brand was speaking to a medical college in India on Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” In front of the lectern was an oil lamp, with its cotton-wick burning from the shallow dish of oil. As he preached, the lamp ran out of oil, the wick burned dry, and the smoke made him cough. He immediately used the opportunity. “Some of us here are like this wick,” he said. “We’re trying to shine for the glory of God, but we stink. That’s what happens when we use ourselves as the fuel of our witness rather than the Holy Spirit. Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke, if the fuel, the Holy Spirit, is in constant supply.” Source: 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, Craig Brian Larson

In the book of Genesis, the Holy Spirit is known as the breath of God (Ruach). Thus, when God breathed life into humanity in Genesis 2:7, He gave us His Spirit (Ruach). Though that Spirit is in every human being, it is only activated for divine purposes when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ.

The breath of God sustains us physically and spiritually. It equips us for the work of ministry. That breath activates our spiritual gifts and enables us to bear fruits of righteousness for the kingdom of God. The breath of God sensitizes us to the presence of God and helps us to maintain a right relationship with God. “Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without the wind, branches without sap, and like coals without fire, we are useless.”—Charles Spurgeon

In today’s text, Jesus appears to his disciples who were afraid and disillusioned after his crucifixion. Though Mary of Magdalene told them the Savior had resurrected, they did not quite believe. Instead, they stayed in a house with the doors locked out of fear they may be targeted by the religious authorities for their affiliation with Christ. Then the Lord showed up unannounced. He calmed their fears, restored their hope, renewed their faith, and gave them a fresh breath. The text says he breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.

Many believers are battling fear and discouragement. Some are struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression. Indeed, as we have been forced to cope with the Covid pandemic for the past two years we need a fresh breath. Many churches need God to breathe on their membership and their leadership. Some marriages and families need a fresh breath. This country needs a fresh breath.

By breathing on the disciples Jesus was re-creating them. This is what is called the second act of creation. In the first act (Genesis 2:7), God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, and he became a living being. In the second act of creation, Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. The first act was physical. But the second act is completely spiritual.

Jesus re-created the disciples so He can commission them. The disciples were not ready to do the great commission work He intended for them to do. Their spirits were stifled with fear, shame, doubts, despair, and confusion. They needed to be born again. Thus, Jesus gave them a spiritual rebirth by breathing the Holy Spirit into them.

Today’s illustration describes the Holy Spirit as our spiritual fuel. We are the cotton wick that is burning to shine the light of Christ into the world. However, our light cannot shine without the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Brand said, “Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke, if the fuel, the Holy Spirit, is in constant supply.”

Questions for Personal Reflection

How is the Holy Spirit fueling your life and ministry?

What do you do when you run out of spiritual fuel?

Prayer- Most Holy God, please breathe on me anew today. I need your Spirit to fuel my ministry, my marriage, my family, and my life. Without your fresh breath, I am as ships without the wind, branches without sap, and like coals without fire. I surrender my thoughts, desires, motives, and agendas to you so you can give me your fresh breath to sustain me.

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