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.’ (John 20:21-22 NIV)
When I grew up in Malaysia, my brother and I shared a bicycle. As it was hot and humid, we did not bike the way people do in the summer in Canada. We biked for recreation and for short distances. When I came to Canada to go to theological college, I bought an old bike so that I could bike to school and save on the bus tickets. There were 4 of us male theological students renting a basement apartment in Vancouver. Arthur had his own bike. He would bike with me to school sometimes. Once for the first time in my life, I had a flat tire. Having had no experience fixing up flat bike tires, I was at a loss. Fortunately, Arthur, who grew up in Canada had a bike repair kit. He took the tire and brought the tube out. He found where the hole was and repaired it. He filled the tire with air again. The tire was as good as new. The air could be pumped into the tire and filled the tire again.
Who is the Holy Spirit? We believe in the triune God of grace; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity.
The 3rd Person in the Trinity is known by Old Testament Hebrew ruach and the New Testament Greek pneuma. In both these testaments, the original word is translated as “Spirit”. By coincidence, both ruach and pneuma have the same meaning in their original languages. They can mean “breath”, “wind” or “breeze”. Therefore, whom we call “the Holy Spirit” can also be called “the Holy Breath” or “the Holy Wind” or “the Holy Breeze” if we want to take the original word seriously.
At one time the tires of cars and bicycles were known as pneumatic tires. This was to confirm that these tires have air (or wind) in them rather than being made of all rubber. The word pneumatic is derived from the very Greek word pneuma which is translated as “Spirit” as in the Holy Spirit. Like the air that fills the bicycle tire, the Holy Spirit “fills” us when we turn our lives to Jesus.
Therefore, in John 20:22 when Jesus breathes upon his followers and says to them “Receive the Holy Spirit”, he is saying that he sends the Holy Spirit upon his followers so that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. As Jesus’ followers, the Holy Spirit is now also in us. This happens when we give our lives over to Jesus. This means that the very Breath of God or the very Wind of God is now in us. As God breathes his breath through us, we utter the life-giving words of God to others. As God breathes his breath through us, the Holy Spirit ministers to others, when we pray forth God blessings on them. As Christians, we are the people of the Holy Spirit.