John 20:19-31 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 15, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in John 20:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “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. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he 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.”
The sacrifice was complete. Jesus’ blood had been shed on the cross. Jesus won the forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the whole world. “It is finished.” Salvation is secured; victory over sin, death, and the devil is complete. Jesus is risen from the dead! And that’s where we meet up with the Lord in our text.
It is Easter evening, the evening of that first day of the week. It’s the very same day that the women had gone to the tomb when the sun had risen and found the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus “not here.” It was the very same day that Jesus showed Himself to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, calling her by name. Now the wild stories were flying about. The women had seen visions of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. Mary claimed to have touched Him and held Him in worship. Peter and John hadn’t seen Him when they ran to the tomb. None of the other disciples had either, until that evening when the disciples were hiding behind locked doors because they were afraid that they also would be arrested and executed for being follower of Jesus.
But despite the doors being locked, the risen Jesus simply appeared in the room and greeted His followers with Gospel words, “Peace be with you.” He showed them His hands with the nail wounds visible. Jesus showed them His side, the wound of the Roman spear-piercing still visible. This was indeed Jesus who was crucified—alive and glorified—not a spirit, not a ghost, and not a vision. He came and gave the disciples what His wounds merited for them and for the world—peace—peace with God because of the forgiveness of sins, peace which passes all understanding. Proof of this peace was in the marks of the nails in His hands, the wound in His side, and the fact that He was alive and showing Himself resurrected to them.
And so the disciples responded to this greeting of peace from their living Lord and Savior with joy! They were glad when they saw the Lord. That’s how saving faith receives Jesus. Faith is glad and rejoices to receive the Risen Lord and the gift of peace He brings in the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. We read in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation,” the forgiveness of sins. (Romans 5:1, 8, 10-11)
Faith receives the living Lord Jesus and then receives from Him His redeeming work which is then carried out in the world. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘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. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” In other words, Jesus tells His disciples that because there is now peace with God the Father through the forgiveness of sins He is sending them out with that forgiveness to distribute it to the world in His name. “And when he had said this, he 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.’”
The Risen Christ gives His disciples, His Church, a vital mission to accomplish. His winning of forgiveness was not some kind of indifferent ritual that He underwent for the world. Jesus suffered and died, shedding His blood to cover over our sins which are all too real. All of impure thoughts condemn us and prevent us from entering heaven. Each one of our words and actions that are contrary to God’s Word condemn us, separating us from God forever and ever. In this sinful condition we did not have peace with God. We had no hope of reconciliation; we had no hope of eternal life. But God gave up His only Son into death on the cross for us, to pay for our sins, to bring about true peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. The joy the Risen Christ brings to us is the joy of sins forgiven and life forever with God in heaven. The gladness Jesus brings to our bodies and souls is the fact that we are reconciled to God and we have peace with Him.
There are those in our world today who do not know Jesus. They don’t receive Him as the Risen Lord and Savior, just as there were those who did not receive Christ in the days of the first disciples. So the Living Lord Jesus sends those of us who do know Him and have received His forgiveness and peace with God to deliver to the world these life-saving gifts. Your mission, your task, your sending from the Lord Himself is to deliver the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross. This is what the work of the Church, corporately and individually, is all about.
On Easter Sunday, I issued to you a challenge. Do you remember what it was? I challenged you during the 50 days of the Easter Season, until the Day of Pentecost, to share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with one person you know who doesn’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This is our “Easter Challenge,” but it is so much more. It is our life’s mission to tell others about Jesus so that they too should receive forgiveness and everlasting life in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ mission given to us is to give the Gospel of our Crucified and Risen Lord to people. We have freely received forgiveness and peace with God—the fruits of Jesus’ cross and resurrection. We, in turn, freely give forgiveness and peace in His name, to all nations, beginning with our friends and family, our neighbors, as we share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with them.
The sacrifice is complete. His blood had been shed. Jesus died our death and won the forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the whole world. Salvation is secured; victory over sin, death, and the devil is complete. Our Lord is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. Forgiveness, eternal life, and peace with God are ours freely as the gifts of Christ. Complete your Easter challenge! Share the Lord’s forgiveness in Jesus’ name as He empowers you by His Holy Spirit. Amen.