Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easter 2 Sermon

April 7th – Easter 2 – John 20:19-31
Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen +

          Dear friends in Christ, when we think of Easter, we tend to think of happiness and joy, don’t we?  When we think of Easter, this is what we think of, we think of the empty tomb with joy, we think of Christ our Risen King with that good, Christian Happiness.  So doesn’t it strike you as odd, as it at first strikes me as odd whenever I read our Gospel, that the very evening of Easter – having seen the empty tomb, having been told by Mary Magdalene that Jesus is risen, that the Disciples are huddled in a locked room, hiding for fear of the Jews as Scripture says?  Joy and happiness, hiding and fear.  What bigger clash of ideas and feelings and attitudes and emotions could there be?  Yet this is what we see in our Gospel text.

          I think sometimes we give Thomas a bad rap, Thomas gets the short end of the stick when we call him “doubting Thomas”.  It’s not just Thomas who doubts.  Look, the other disciples are there, hiding out in a room.  Mary, you say Jesus has risen, um. . . we’re not buying that.  Um, we’ll just hole up over here.  The disciples are full of doubt, full of disbelief, and so there they are, holed up and anxiously passing the night away, dreading the knock on the door that would be the soldiers coming to take them away.  The Sabbath is over, the High Priests can start their round up of the rest of that Jesus rabble can begin.  They are afraid, and their fears are quite reasonable, quite rational. 

          And then Jesus is there.  And did you note this. . . He doesn’t knock, He doesn’t ask politely to come in, the disciples don’t have to open the door to Jesus and ask Him in. . . He’s simply there.  In His Body.  Do you see what this shows us about Jesus, what this shows us about our Resurrected Lord?  First, it shows that He has begun His reign; this is Christ Exulted.  He is God, and He will go where He wants. . . yet He is still Man – see His hands, see His side.  Here we get of glimpse of what Jesus is like right now, we see True God and True Man in one Jesus.  But it also shows us something else important about Christ, something that we cannot emphasize enough.  Our salvation isn’t about what we do, what we decide.  We aren’t saved because we are brave and good and do what God wants.  The Disciples certainly weren’t brave and good here.  Nor are we saved because we decided to follow Christ, because we ask Jesus into our hearts – the Disciples don’t ask Jesus in, He simply shows up.  This is the way God works. . . our God isn’t some passive Being who just sits around until we tell Him what to do – our God is active – He is a Living God who comes into our lives, comes in by His most Holy Word.

          Do you see Jesus being active here?  He shows up, and then He speaks.  Peace be with you.  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  This is what Christ is about, this is what His whole life is about.  There, before the Disciples stands God Almighty, the Word of God, the One by Whom all things were made, the One whom we are to Fear, love, and trust in above all others – and He says Peace.  The strife is over, the battle done.  Adam’s sin, Adam’s rebellion that you have made your own by your sin, God Himself has taken care of it.  God comes into the fallen world and makes things right, wins for us salvation, ends the fight we were in with God.  This is what Jesus does, this is what He is about, and this is why He can announce to the Disciples that there is Peace.  There is nothing stronger than Him, not the High Priests, not even death – see, He is risen – Peace be with you.

          And then did you note what Jesus does next?  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”  And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you without forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”  Jesus doesn’t just want the Disciples to be the only ones who knows the Peace that He has established, Jesus want the forgiveness of sins to be something hidden and unknown.  Just as the Father sends the Son to win forgiveness, so the Son sends the Apostles – that’s what Apostle means, it means one who is sent.  The Son sends our His Servants to preach and give out His forgiveness that He won.  God doesn’t want to be hidden, Jesus doesn’t want people to be ignorant of the forgiveness which He won.

          And thus we see the point of why there is a Zion (or Trinity) Lutheran Church.  Everything that goes on in this place, what we do, our reason for existing is this – that the Peace of Christ might be proclaimed, that sinners might come here and hear the forgiveness of their sins preached to them, to receive Peace.  This Church isn’t a country club, it isn’t a resort.  We aren’t here to just get together and congratulate each other on how wonderful we are.  This Church is a hospital, where sick, sick people, people fighting and dealing with the terminal illness of sin, come for the Lord’s cure.  This is where we come to hear God’s Word, to learn it, to inwardly digest it – so that we might have strength to live out our days praising our God and Lord. 

This also shows what in particular my duty here is.  When you called [/asked] me to be your pastor, this is what you asked me to do.  God has sent me here to preach Christ and Him Crucified, to teach His Word.  Christ describes this task as forgiving the sins of the penitent and preaching the law with its full terror to those who are secure in their sin.  This is the command that God has given me.  This is what I swore to do [in front of you here] at my Ordination, and I would ask that you continually keep me in your prayers that I might be faithful in this task.  What goes on here is serious stuff, when we gather here it’s not a matter of indifference, just something to do on a Sunday morning because that’s what mom and dad did, but when we gather here we gather as sinners who are humble, sinners who recognize their need for forgiveness, sinners who receive God’s forgiveness, who receive God’s peace, peace that the world cannot understand.  Peace that endures even over and beyond and through the fears we face in our earthly days.

And then in our text we get the story of Thomas.  Thomas wasn’t there that night – he must have had an even better hiding spot.  And when the Apostles come to him and say, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas isn’t buying it.  It’s too good to be true, you guys are all delusional and crazy.  Thomas wants more than just to hear what the Apostles say.  Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my finger into His side, I will never believe.  Do you see how physical Thomas is – he wants to see the Body – Thomas wants to touch and feel with his own hands the Body that was dead and lifeless on Good Friday restored to life.  That’s when he will believe.  We shouldn’t call him doubting Thomas, we should call him arrogant Thomas.  Think how bold that is!  Think about how prideful that is – unless I get to poke Jesus I won’t believe.  A student in the ancient world would never, ever claim the right to touch, to poke his teacher – this is utterly disdainful.  It’s one thing to doubt, it’s one thing to be unsure – the struggle that we all go through always – but man, it’s another thing entirely to be a complete and utter jerk.  And that’s what Thomas is being right now.

But Thomas is with them when Jesus shows up. . . and Jesus is just as bold.  Alright Thomas, here I am, come on, put your finger.  Come on Thomas, touch me.  And did you note what happened, and this is fabulous.  Jesus says Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  I will see your arrogance and haughtiness Thomas, and I’ll brush it off, because I am Christ Jesus, Risen from the dead.  Won’t harm Me any, come here and poke and prod if you want – but either way, believe.  Then we hear this: Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and My God!”  Did you see it?  Thomas doesn’t touch Him.  John doesn’t say, “Thomas touches Him and says, “oh, okay, now I will believe.”  No, Christ’s presence, Christ’s love drives away from Thomas Thomas’ pride, his arrogance.  Seeing Christ, Hearing His Word, Thomas is moved to confess Jesus, to call Him Lord and God.

This, dear friends, is what happens to us.  When we enter this place, when we hear God’s Word, when we know His presence in His Word and Sacrament, we abandon our pride, we stop worrying about how wonderful and important we are, and rather we simply come, and beholding our Lord and His love for us we confess Him.  Beholding our Lord, we receive His forgiveness – whether it is spoken in the Absolution – In the stead and by the command I forgive you your sin in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost – or whether it is read from the lectern or proclaimed from the pulpit.  Knowing that Jesus Christ is resurrected, that He reigns forever, we humbly come to this, His Church, we approach His Altar, and we receive from Him His own Body and Blood for our forgiveness.  Again, it’s a beautiful part of the liturgy – I will hold forth the Supper and say – The Peace of the Lord be with you Always.  Behold Christ’s Body and Blood given for you!  God knows what we need, He knows our struggles, our flaws, our faults, our sin – He knows better than we do – and so He calls us to His house over and over, week in and week out, to hear His Word, to receive His forgiveness by hearing, by receiving His Supper.

And this is how we as Christians live.  We receive from God His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Now, this doesn’t mean that because we put in a hour on Sunday everything in life will come up roses.  We are still people who struggle with our own sin, we still live in a sinful world.  Eight days later the Twelve still had their door locked – we still always while we live have this sin to struggle against.  But in the midst of this God comes into our lives, God comes and invites us to His House, and speaks His Peace to us – Always.  Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

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