The Breath of Life
Genesis 2:4–9 (ESV) These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The first words of both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 are “In the beginning…”
wanted his reader to have the creation account in mind when reading about God’s
redemption of the creation from sin and death through the Word made flesh.
John 20:22 says that Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. Without God’s breath of life, the man would not be a living creature, that is, have physical life. Jesus does not make it a habit of breathing on people (on Easter is the only time He does it), and like the creation account, Jesus (who is God) breathes upon man.
But the difference is that in Genesis, God breathes physical life, whereas in John 20, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto His disciples. The reason they receive the Holy Spirit is so that they have the authority to forgive sins—which is the way God bestows eternal life! Just as God breathed physical life into man in Genesis 2, so now does God breathe spiritual life into the Church in John 20, and He continues to give this life to us through Word and Sacrament!
Prayer: Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity. Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.