Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter (C)
April 7, 2013
Text: John 20:19-31

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            And that is precisely why you can believe Him when He says your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the evidence and substance of His authority to give you these gifts.  For if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then He is who He says He is; namely, the Son of God, God in human flesh, your Savior, who died for your sins, and who has won the victory over death by His resurrection on the third day.  And if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then all that He says is true.  You can believe His Word.  If He’s right about this, that after being crucified, He would be raised, then He’s right about everything else.  And we know on the basis of eyewitness testimony, and more importantly, on the basis of the Holy Spirit’s testimony recorded in Holy Scripture by these same eyewitnesses, that it is absolutely true: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
            It is the night of His resurrection.  The disciples are confused and afraid.  The Lord Jesus has been crucified.  But now some claim to have seen Him, risen and alive.  There are the women.  There are the disciples from Emmaus.  And even Peter claims to have seen the risen Christ.  Now the Ten are together.  Judas has departed to go to his own place (Acts 1:25).  Thomas also is not present.  And they are afraid.  They are afraid of the Jews.  They are afraid of the Romans.  They are afraid of imprisonment and persecution.  They are afraid of God’s judgment.  They are afraid of death.  Most of all, they are afraid because they had placed all their trust in their Teacher, Jesus, and now He’s dead.  Or is He?  It’s all so confusing.  But one thing is for sure: Their world has been turned upside down.  Suddenly, Jesus is standing among them.  The doors are still locked.  He didn’t sneak in through an open window.  He didn’t make a hole in the ceiling and repel down the wall.  He just appears in their midst.  He appears out of thin air, because (and note this very carefully) He’s been with them the whole time!  They couldn’t see Him to begin with.  But now they can.  Either way, seen or unseen, He is with them.  The risen Lord Jesus Christ now always and fully uses His divine powers.  He is present everywhere as God and as Man.  He is with His people at all times, wherever they go, as God and as Man.  He is hidden most of the time, but now in our text He is visible, and can be so whenever and wherever He wills.  But the fact never changes, He is with them. 
            And where Jesus is, there He speaks.  Peace be with you” (John 20:19; ESV).  And when He speaks, it is so.  It’s not just a sentimental wish that the disciples would enjoy peace.  He speaks the reality into their midst to address their fear.  Jesus’ peace dispels fear because it imparts forgiveness of sins and life.  This is Absolution!  This is the Hebrew idea of Shalom, peace with God, wellness, life, on the grand scale of Jesus’ resurrection victory over death.  Sin is done.  Death is done.  No more need for fear.  And so that this Shalom, this peace, doesn’t stay locked up with the disciples, Jesus ordains them to go and proclaim it in the forgiveness of sins.  He creates an office, the Office of the Holy Ministry, the preaching office.  Look at your bulletin cover as I read you this next verse: Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld’” (vv. 22-23).  Now, understand what is happening here.  Jesus breathes on His disciples.  We use breath to speak.  Jesus opens His mouth and breathes out His Words upon the apostles.  But this isn’t just any breath.  These aren’t just any words.  This is the Holy Spirit.  In Hebrew and Greek, the same word can mean spirit, wind, or breath.  We have this somewhat in English, too; for example, you can hear the word “spirit” in “respiration.”  Jesus respires, spirates, spirits upon the Ten as He speaks, and in this way, through His breathing, in His Word, He imparts the Holy Spirit.  It’s the same thing He did, by the way, in the Garden of Eden when He breathed the breath of life into Adam.  Here He is accomplishing the New Creation as He breathes His Spirit into the disciples.  And He gives them a charge.  Go forgive sins.  Go pronounce Absolution.  Go spread the peace that I have pronounced upon you in this room.  This is something all Christians are to do as you confess the risen Lord Jesus in your daily vocation.  But here the Lord charges the disciples to do this in a special sense, as holders of a divinely instituted office, the Office of the Holy Ministry. 
            The apostles, literally the “sent ones,” are sent to go and preach the peace of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life won by His death and resurrection, what we call the Gospel.  And as they do so, Jesus is with them the whole time.  They don’t speak their own words, they speak Jesus’ Word.  Whether it be in Absolution, or in preaching, the apostles as the first Christian pastors are sent to speak the peace of Jesus Christ in the forgiveness of sins to all people.  Now, the apostles themselves have died.  They are with Christ, in heaven, awaiting their own resurrection of the dead.  But their office lives on.  God sends you pastors to continue His speaking of the peace.  Look again at your bulletin cover.  When your pastor pronounces Absolution or preaches God’s Word, what is happening?  Remember, it’s not my words that I am to preach.  It is the Word of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  So what happens in preaching is that Jesus Christ really speaks to you in His own Word.  And in that speaking He breathes out upon you the Holy Spirit to create and sustain in you saving faith in Jesus Christ.  The pastor absolves you: “I forgive you all your sins,” but it’s not really the pastor absolving you, it’s Jesus, and as He speaks you receive the Spirit who proceeds from the mouth of your Savior so that you believe the forgiveness He gives to you.  The pastor preaches, expounding Holy Scripture, and the content is Jesus Christ Himself.  He is really the One preaching to you.  He opens His mouth and imparts His Spirit so that you believe the preaching, so that you believe in Him.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have eternal life.  We often talk about the real presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar, His true body and blood under the bread and wine.  We need to talk more about His real presence in the preaching of His Word, His true voice under the weak speaking of His called and ordained servants.  When the pastor preaches God’s Word, it is really Christ, your Savior, who speaks to you.  Or, as you learned in the Catechism: “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”[1]
            But maybe you still have your doubts.  After all, you know me, and you know my sins and weaknesses.  How could God use a loser like that to do such majestic things as forgive sins and speak forth the reality of eternal life?  Thomas had his doubts, too.  He wasn’t with the Ten the first time Jesus appeared in their midst.  Now, a week later, they are together again behind locked doors, and this time Thomas is with them.  And once again, Jesus is with them, and He proves it by appearing again in their midst.  Again, the same words, “Peace be with you” (v. 26), Absolution, forgiveness.  And now the casting out of doubt.  How can these things be true?  What is the authority for this proclamation of resurrection and forgiveness?  Jesus says, “Poke around in my wounds.  Thrust your fingers in my hands.  Thrust your hand into my side.  It’s really me.  I was crucified for you.  I died.  But behold, I live.”  The authority for this proclamation doesn’t rest with me, a weak and sinful human being.  The authority is the risen Lord Jesus.  He’s the One speaking.  The one who hears you hears me,” Jesus says (Luke 10:16).  He’s hidden in the Words, and in the water, and in the bread and wine.  He’s hidden, but He’s with you the whole time!  As God and as Man, Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior is with you, speaking His peace in Absolution and preaching.  And as He speaks His peace, you receive His Spirit so that you believe Him.  Look again at the picture.  As a matter of fact, all of Holy Scripture is written for this purpose, that Jesus might speak His Spirit into you: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).  So receiving the Spirit in the Word of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, you are led to confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  And you are led to confess with the whole Christian Church on earth and in heaven, “He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!”  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986). 


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