What is going on in John 20 when Jesus breathed on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit? Prior to this event, Jesus told them He could not send the Holy Spirit to them until after He returned to His Father. Then after this event He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. So what happened in John 20, how do we explain this?
In John 20:17, on Resurrection morning, Jesus had Mary go and tell the disciples He was returning to the Father. That night, He appeared to them in the Upper Room and invested them with the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22) During the day He had been to Heaven and returned. I believe He was sprinkling His blood on the altar in Heaven in His final act of atonement as our High Priest (Hebr. 9:11-12). During the next 40 days, He taught them about God’s Kingdom. Then, as He was leaving Earth, He told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them in power. (Acts 1:8) This was a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit that resulted in the birth of the Church, but the Holy Spirit had dwelt within them since the night of the Resurrection.