Breath is crucial to our existence. When it is present, it comes with hope, opportunity, and potential. When that breath is the very breath of God, something even greater happens.
With a look at the very breath Jesus Christ took – both before and after the resurrection – we discover the key to more than existence. We will realize the power of life.
Have you ever had bad breath? I know the answer is, “Yes.” All of us, at certain times, have bad breath. However, if we brush our teeth and floss and use mouthwash, we can have good breath. Sometimes, you know, you’re not really sure if you have good breath or bad breath. And you do the test. You cup your hand, put it in front of your mouth, and you breathe on your hand. Then you smell the breath, and it either smells good or bad. I think the overall goal for mankind is to have nice breath, to have refreshing breath. No one wants bad breath.
Breath is really fascinating. We breathe reflexively. We don’t really think about it. What’s so weird is, when we do start thinking about our breathing, we can get anxious and worry about, “Well, I hope I can breathe next!”
We breathe a lot. Just for a second I want everyone to inhale…and now exhale. One more time. Inhale and exhale.
To breathe means we are alive, we’re functioning. I don’t want to sound morbid, but we only have a certain number of breaths during this life. I did some calculations. And Jesus, for example, lived for 33 years on Earth. And he took around 280 million breaths. If we live long lives, we’ll take right under 1 billion breaths – anywhere between 800-900 million breaths. That’s a lot of breath.
The amount of air we breathe over a lifetime weighs about 300 tons.
We need oxygen to survive. We breathe in oxygen and we breathe out carbon dioxide. We breathe in and we breathe out. We inhale and exhale.
In Luke 23:46 Jesus breathed his last breath. “Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
As we look back on the earthly life of Christ, every breath meant something.
We love breath mints. My favorite? Altoids. They’re curiously strong! When you pop one into your mouth, you know it’s an Altoid.
Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross as he died for the sins of the world. Then, when he burst forth with resurrection power, he breathed the life of newness. In John 20:22 he breathed on the disciples. And the Bible says he breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples. Literally, the resurrected son breathed on them, which is the spirit of Christ.
What happened, though, between the last breath of the crucifixion and the first breath of the resurrection? On the cross, Jesus did what he said what he would do in John 10:17-18. He said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
In John 19:30, “With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
And in Luke 23:46, “Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
Jesus gave his spirit, his breath, his life to the Father on the cross. And the Father gave it back to him better than it was. His resurrected body correlated to the body that hung on the cross. He could be felt. He ate. He had recognizable marks in his resurrected body.
Yet, the resurrected body was made alive by God with his breath. His spirit was better. And Jesus was able to walk through doors and ascend to heaven. Anything we give to God he gives back something better.
Go back to the first Adam. Adam was basically a sand castle made from the dust of the ground until God breathed into his nostrils. All life is from God. What did Adam do? Adam, though, blew off the life God gave him and did what he wanted to do. And we’re basically still paying that because of our broken world.
Jesus, though, the last Adam, took all of the wrongdoings; he took the wages of sin, which is death, on himself. He paid for us. He gave his life, the totality of who he was, his breath. No one took it; he gave it. He gave it to the Father after experiencing the effects of humiliation, pain, and sorrow for our sin on the cross. And God gave it back to him better than ever. Now, he gives us a new life.
God breathed into Adam and gave life. Jesus breathed into his followers and gave them new life. John 20:22, “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
So the first Adam was made alive by the breath of God, and the last Adam makes his followers alive by the breath of God.
Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
There, man’s original creation was completed by this act of God. Who, then, can fail to see that in John 20, on the day of the Savior’s resurrection, that a new creation had begun by the last Adam.
I think when it comes to breath you see the importance of it, the supernatural aspect of it, the gift of it. We have a couple of choice. We either have bad breath or God breath.
A breath mint doesn’t last very long. But a breath meant lasts forever.
A breath mint covers your breath and mind. It disguises it. Where a breath meant takes it totally and completely away. That’s the breath of God.
So check your breath. Do a breathalyzer. The Lord wants to take us to an HNL, a level so high that we’ll need an oxygen tank to breathe.
We either have bad breath or God breath. In Deuteronomy 22:10 it talks about a donkey and an oxen. You would never yoke a donkey and an oxen together, because a donkey fed on poisonous plants. And the breathe of a donkey could actually kill an oxen.
So God breathed breath into man – Adam. Adam chose to do life his way, and he’s given us all bad breath.
The last Adam, Jesus, breathed life and can breathe life into your nostrils and mine; cleansing us and giving us a purpose with our breathing.
So many of us here are on a bike, a treadmill, a Stairmaster. We’re burning calories and we’re out of breath, but we’re not going anywhere. We’re longing for the breath of God.
Test your breath, because we all have bad breath.
Jesus took about 280 million breaths. I don’t know how many breaths you or I have. But our breath should have God all over them. And it only comes when we allow Him to breathe on us.
Go back to the cross. When Christ breathed his last breath, it took the breath out of his followers. Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you?
In essence, we don’t have life until we receive the breath of God. Adam didn’t have life until he received the breath of God. We don’t have life until we receive the breath of God. The moment, though, Jesus breathes on us is the moment we live forever. We receive the Holy Spirit, the resurrected Christ. When Jesus breathed his last and then breathed his first in the resurrection, he passed from death to life. And because of him, we pass from death to life. You’re alive in Christ.
I was with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago in Arizona who has trouble breathing. His breathing is very labored. You know, you don’t really think about breathing until you’re around someone who really struggles to breathe.
When I’m breathing, I’m breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. I inhale; I exhale. In other words, something from the outside comes to the inside. The gospel is on the outside, and Christ wants us to inhale him and to exhale all of the sin and guilt.
Once we allow God to breathe life into us, we breathe in God and we breathe out God. Prayer is like our spiritual breath. We listen to God, to his word, we speak to God, and then we speak for God. The breath of life.
In Job 32:8 says, “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.”
In Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
So we breathe in God. That’s the moment we become Christ followers. But also notice, we breathe out God.
God calls us to speak for him. We are designed to talk about God. We’re to have God breath, to speak words of life, blessing, and healing over others.
John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
We need to say God things to people. Also, said God things about yourself. Don’t waste your breath!
John 20:19-23, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.””
Jesus breathed on the disciples. He exhaled the resurrection power. And this earthly action intended to convey a grander and larger message. He was breathing on them to create an effect. He was breathing the life-giving, spirit-empowering breath of God.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word “ruach” could be translated “spirit, breath, or wind” depending upon the context. The same is true with the New Testament word “pnuema”. Jesus breathed on the apostles to reveal his identity as divine and as a foreshadowing of the Spirit they were to receive on the day of Pentecost.
God’s breath is what brought Adam to life in the garden. So, in a way, Jesus was reenacting that scene from Genesis 2. He was teaching them, the disciples, about the life, the resurrection life he gives.
This demonstration may also have brought to mind the imagery of Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones. When the Scriptures said, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:5)
God’s breath, the Holy Spirit, is as necessary to the spiritual life as physical breath is essential to physical life. We’re never truly alive until we are quickened by the power of the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God is the breath of God. And God’s spirit brings us to life. He empowers us for our purpose and he points us to Jesus. Without the breath of God and the blood of Jesus coursing through the veins of the church, the body dies and the runner falls short of the finish line.
John 20:22 says, “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Here the spirit of life is linked to breath, which is for life. And the Spirit, as breath, was breathed as life into the disciples for their life. By breathing the Spirit into the disciples, the Lord Jesus imparted himself into them as life and everything.
The Holy Spirit is actually nothing less than the resurrected Lord Jesus himself, because the spirit is his breath.
Again, the word “pneuma” is translated and used for “breath, spirit, or wind.” Therefore, this verse can rightly be translated, “Receive the holy breath, the God breath.” So on the day of the resurrection, Jesus breathed himself into his disciples as the Holy Breath.
So Jesus was incarnated, lived as a man on Earth, entered into death, conquering and subduing it, came forth from death in resurrection and became the life-giving spirit.
We all need to see the vision of Jesus becoming the last Adam and the last Adam becoming the life-giving spirit as the consummation of the process of the triune God reaching us. And this is the Spirit symbolized by the breath breathed into the disciples on that resurrection day.
In John 20, you know, it needs to be noted that it was resurrection Sunday. And for most of the disciples, this was the first time they had seen Jesus since his death. He wasn’t dead anymore; he was alive. Yet, he was different. Something seemed to be pulsating in him and flowing out of him. And when he breathed on the disciples, this resurrection life entered into them and they would never ever be the same. This breath, though, is available to all of us today.
How can you experience what the disciples experienced when Jesus breathed on them? Remember what he said as he breathed, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Maybe he’s saying the same to you today. Let down your defenses and open you heart to his love. His breath will heal your broken heart and your ailing body. His breath is life itself. This breath brings a healing touch to our lives. If you are suffering, if you are hurting, if you are broken, it’s the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.
So the story of Easter is about Jesus’ last breath on the cross and the first breath of the resurrection. The story of Easter in your life can be the last breath as a sinner, someone unrighteous, and the first breath as a Christ follower, someone who is righteous.
On Easter morning Jesus took away our bad breath forever as he breathed God’s breath, replacing the bad breath with God breath. God fills us with his life-giving breath, but we have to empty ourselves first. Even if you’ve blown it, when Jesus gave up his last breath, he blew your sins away. God’s breath ends man’s