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Second Sunday of Easter/Easter I – John 20:19-31

by pastorjuhl ~ April 13th, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            The first word the disciples hear from the mouth of their resurrected Savior is His Easter greeting: Peace be with you. Jesus’ greeting encompasses the whole result of His Easter message: PEACE. On the evening of the day of resurrection, the disciples were together. Their hearts were still full of sadness. They had probably heard the Easter message from different perspectives. Nevertheless, they still did not believe that their Lord was risen. Fear of the Jews moved their hearts, for the doors to the room were locked. Above all a bad conscience remained because they had forsaken the Lord.

Then suddenly the Lord is in their midst. He says His greeting to them: Peace be with you. He also shows them His hands and side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. All fear had now disappeared. Peace moved into their hearts. Peace came to them not due to the mere appearance of the Lord, but because Jesus came to them with such a friendly greeting.

The disciples have reason to rejoice. Christ’s greeting to them is precious. This was no ordinary “How ya doin’?” Christ’s words to them are spirit and life. He imparts peace to His disciples with these words: peace with God and forgiveness of sins. The fruit of the resurrection is peace with God. When Jesus shows His hands and side, He reminds them of His suffering and death. There is forgiveness of sins in these wounds. There is also satisfaction of God’s wrath over sin and reconciliation between God and mankind. Jesus administers this purchased peace to His disciples and to us as well.

The resurrection of Christ makes us especially certain that the work of our redemption is accomplished. It is finished indeed! We are reconciled to God because of Jesus. We have peace with God because of Jesus. Christ’s resurrection is the absolution of the whole sinful world that God Himself has pronounced. This is why our blessed Lord’s Easter greeting has precious meaning. He pledges peace with God. In this peace is forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Is this greeting really for us? We know it is for the disciples, because they saw Him in the flesh, felt His hands and side, and heard Him say, peace be with you. The Lord no longer dwells among us in bodily form as He did then. It is not possible for Him to walk into our midst and greet us as He did then.

Believe that the Lord greets us even now as He did His disciples. Although Jesus is no longer visible to us, He is visible through His Word. In the precious greeting to His disciples that Easter evening, Jesus institutes the office of the Word, the Holy Preaching Office, the Ministry of the Gospel. He sends His disciples as the Father has sent Him. The disciples are sent to proclaim to the world the purchased peace through Jesus Christ.

Hear again those comforting words of the institution of the Preaching Office to His disciples: 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.” We could summarize this institution in four familiar words, peace be with you. What ministers preach is as certain as if the Lord Himself spoke it. What comfort this office brings to sinners broken under the weight of condemnation! Remember that it is not the person in the office that makes it so. It is Who and what ministers are sent to proclaim that gives this office its authority.

The Who of the Preaching Office is Jesus Christ. The what of the Preaching Office is His forgiveness, His absolution, brought to us in the Word. It is so certain, even before God in heaven, as if our dear Lord Christ Himself dealt with us. This is why pastors say in the general absolution, “I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word…in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ…” Pastors are Christ’s errand boys sent to proclaim peace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, not in their own person. That is comfort not only for you in the pew, but also for the pastor. He speaks Christ’s Words, not His own. There can be no doubt when Christ’s word of peace is spoken in His stead.

Forgiveness of sins is offered, administered, and given to us through the Word of the Gospel. However, we must receive forgiveness in repentant faith. Otherwise, the forgiveness of sins is cheap grace, a rabbit’s foot of sorts. We can cling to Christ’s forgiveness, but still go on sinning, loving our sin rather than Christ’s forgiveness. This is why Jesus tells His disciples, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. Consider Saint Paul’s words in Romans chapter six: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? The sins of the unrepentant shall be retained. Even this harsh word is sure and certain because Jesus Himself spoke it. When we simply believe that Jesus has taken away our sin, for faith goes alongside repentance, we have what Jesus says in His Easter greeting: PEACE. God will grant us all true faith in the Easter greeting of our Savior: Peace be with you. As He says it, it is so, even for the chief of sinners.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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