Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
Text: John 20:19–31
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Each Sunday we confess our faith in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church. On this eighth day after the resurrection of Our Lord we see just how the Christian Church and the Apostolic Church are both one and holy.
Our Lord’s post-resurrection appearances are not just Jesus appearing at a whim to watch the disciples gasp in shock when He appears in the same room where they are hiding behind locked doors. Though I am certain that with the ordeal of the crucifixion behind Him, and knowing that all men have been redeemed and have access through Him to the Father, Jesus’ heart is now continually filled with joy, our Lord does not become some kind of prankster now that He has run the course set before Him by the Father. Throughout His earthly sojourn Jesus acted with purpose. His words were always chosen carefully. He withdrew to certain places at certain times either to rest or to be alone with His disciples. And as we have recently remembered in our observances of Lent and Holy Week, the Son of Man is in complete control as He lays down His life on Calvary.
So then, what is Jesus’ purpose in His visit to His trembling disciples? It is none other than that His mission might continue, in order that all that He has accomplished might be delivered unto you. For on Calvary our dear Lord Jesus Christ has bought back His wayward bride and in His resurrection He opened the grave to show us that there is a way out. Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ, being raised from the dead, never will and never can be subject to death again. But there is more. For Christ is not content to conquer death, but He would have you know it and be confident that because He lives you too shall live forever more.
Thus after revealing Himself to Mary, who goes and tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” Jesus is not content to let the disciples live in fear and misunderstanding. You see, it is not only Thomas who lives in doubt. The disciples are amazed at the empty tomb, but none of them grasps onto the reality of what Christ has accomplished for them until He comes and stands before them and shows them the marks in His own flesh which has accomplished their eternal salvation and says, “Peace be with you.”
Those words bestow what they say. When our Lord speaks peace, peace is given. And that the disciples might know that peace is truly bestowed unto them Jesus shows them His hands and side. It is as though He says, “Here you have proof of what I say to you. For I bear these wounds in your place. The guilt of sin is atoned for. The enmity placed between you and the Father in the Garden of Eden is removed and placed between you and the evil one. I am holy and I make you holy, for it is in your flesh that I died and now have risen.” Thus Christ makes holy those who are His. He puts sin away from His followers and restores even more than was lost in the fall.
And so it is that the Christian church is made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus which atones for her sin. The apostles are made holy not because Jesus miraculously stands in their midst in the locked room, but because He speaks words of peace to them. For the peace that comes from Jesus’ lips is indeed an absolution. It is the eschatological verdict spoken on the first day of the week declaring that there is nothing that God holds against them. For where there is not forgiveness ,there is not peace.
What a joy it is for Jesus’ disciples to have their fear turned to joy as Jesus comes and shows them His holy wounds by which they are healed and speaks peace into their ears and hearts. Christ would have you know this same joy and have this same peace. Which is why He is not content to forgive their sins, but breathes on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; but if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.” With those words He makes His Christian Church an apostolic Church. He takes the authority the Father has given Him and bestows it upon His apostles.
You see, the Church is Christian because Christ is her head. Jesus is the source of life for His people. As Eve was fashioned from the rib of Adam upon whom God made a deep sleep to fall, so also when Christ has entered the sleep of death, His side is pierced and out of it flows the blood of the covenant and living water from which His bride receives life. Yet in order that you might have this life ,Jesus sends the apostles just as He was sent by the Father. And just as Jesus speaks absolving words of peace to them, so also He commissions them to forgive the sins of others that peace and joy may abound to all. And so the Christian Church is an apostolic Church. The church of Jesus is no different from the church of the apostles. For His words are placed into their mouths. His authority is given to them. Therefore where the apostles preach in Jesus’ name, Jesus is heard.
Thus we confess, “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.”
Here is the somber warning that must for the time temper our joy. For Christ has not limited the authority of His disciples to the forgiveness of sins, but also charges them to warn against unrepentance. The Unrepentant are to be warned that they will not have forgiveness, and therefore they will not know God’s peace in eternity. Do not harden your hearts to this call to repentance. For the cure for your sin is nothing more than the blood of Jesus already shed for you. But if you insist on clinging to your sin and will not turn from it, God will let you have it for all eternity.
But the ultimate purpose for which Jesus comes to His disciples is to spare you your guilt and give you faith that He is indeed the Christ, the Son of God ,and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Now God is superabundant in His grace. For not only has He given us the written testimony of the Apostles that Jesus died and rose from the dead, but He has established Baptism and absolution, He encourages us through the words we speak to one another in our daily lives, in addition to the word preached from the pulpit. And let us not forget that He who stood before the apostles and showed them the marks of their redemption in His flesh still comes to us in His Body and blood. That we might hear the glad tidings of great joy: “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” To which we answer with a hearty, “Amen.”
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria