16. April 2023
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the door is being locked.” This is Sunday, and for the disciples, it’s not Sabbath, and it’s no longer the Holy Passover Day. The doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Why lock the doors? There was sin out in the world! Enemies are after them. Death might seize them as it did Jesus. And not only do we lock our door to keep out sin, but strangely enough, we lock ourselves in with it. You’ll remember that we all went through a society-wide experiment with this the last couple of years. We’re talking about what it means to preserve yourself from the evil of the outside world. But then, of course, you end up precisely in prison itself.
That’s the best that the Law can do for you. This is as far as it can get you as far as protecting your holiness. The Law is there to preserve your life, but it can’t even do that in the end. You’re still stuck with its accusing, damning Word on your conscience. They are imprisoned; they have imprisoned themselves. They are trying to protect themselves from sin. And what happens is they have just entombed themselves in sin. Thus, the Law will take your life and leave you for dead.
Then suddenly, Jesus came and stood among them. We know that when Jesus comes in, it should be with good news. The presence of Jesus is what we want. However, the disciples are not happy about the arrival of Jesus Christ. When it says they feared the Jews, not only are they fearful of the scribes, the Pharisees, the high priest, and those Jews working with the Romans, who worked for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. They’re afraid of those Jews, but they fear the big Jew, and that big Jew is Jesus Christ himself. The one that they are more fearful of than any other is Jesus himself.
We have this earlier when John is going to the tomb, and John sees the empty tomb and then runs for his life. He’s as scared as he can be and afraid of Jesus. What they’re terrified of is not an attribute of Jesus, whether Jesus is a mild man or Jesus is a forceful, strong man. The thing about Christ that the apostles are terrified of is that he has died on the cross with their sins, and they are implicated in his death. So they don’t stay at the cross; they run away. They are directly implicated. Not only did they run away, but Peter, in particular, betrayed not once but three times rather than go to that cross.
So, they were afraid as they sat in their little cubicle, hiding behind closed doors. They probably talked about how terrible Judas was to betray Jesus. Meanwhile, they were all the big betrayers, Peter being the biggest one sitting right there. And Peter is more afraid than anybody else because not only did he betray, but Jesus told him he would betray ahead of time. And Peter continued to deny this over and over again. Jesus out of the tomb is a scary Jesus to them. It is Jesus who is going to come. And of course, when He comes, He not only knows their sin, He knows their fault, and He knows their betrayal.
What is going to become of them? Not only does He know their sin, but He uses the law to make His judgment. Jesus is the one who judges at the end. And what is His verdict? And the only conclusion they can come to is that He will use the Law. And when He uses the Law, He will judge them as betrayers. So they’re afraid He will come and unleash the final judgment on them. And they will be revealed as betrayers, and He will condemn them for it.
They’re in a funny position, hoping that Jesus stays dead. If He stayed dead, then at least they’d have some time, and the final judgment would not come for some time. And maybe, in the meantime, they can sort of plot their way out of their predicament, their little prison that they’ve made, and that is that as long as they are alive, and as long as they are not crucified themselves, they have time for amendment of life. So they have time to make up for something like this. And they’re scheming, figuring out what that might be and how they will escape this predicament.
But then suddenly, Jesus comes in, and he stands among them. And then he says to them, peace be with you. He gives them the shalom. He’s not just giving a general shalom. He’s giving this with the proper preposition, “for you,” “with you.” Your warfare is over, and peace has now come. He’s not just saying, “I hope you have peace.” He’s providing it and giving it. This is what we call absolution. It is the forgiveness of their betrayal. And Jesus now has come and announced it. They were hiding, and they were afraid of the Jews. Then suddenly, the big Jew comes in and “peaces” them, “shaloms” them, rather than condemns them.
Jesus has given them the Word, the promise of forgiveness. “Peace be with you.” Then He shows them His hand and His side. And then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. You don’t know anything about the gladness, even right after He says, “Peace be with you,” until He has done the show-and-tell showing the hands and the side. So if the promise is correct that I’ve peace-d you, I just shalom-ed you, who were at war with me, and I brought this peace, I now have absolved you of the sin. If I’ve forgiven you of the sin, then the issue is, what happened to that sin?
Because if Jesus can just come in and forgive this sin, the sin against Him, the betrayal of Him, the crucifixion of Him, the Son of God, if He can forgive that sin, then of course, any and all sin is forgiven, and now the question that they have is where did the sin go? Where is it now? And how do I know for sure that you can forgive it since that sin is supposedly mine, and if anything really belongs to me, it’s my sin? So, he shows them His hands and side.
Thomas does not believe Jesus Christ when Christ forgives him until Christ says go ahead and put your finger in my side. What Thomas is doing when he’s wiggling his finger in the side of Jesus Christ is touching his sin. Thomas knows his sin very well. You know this stuff, and you can; you know it immediately when you touch it and can feel it. So Thomas puts his finger in, wiggles it around, and behold, he’s touching his sin there. Then Peter, same thing. And when they feel it, this is sacramental. This is incarnational. This is what it means to be the body of Christ and not just an idea of Christ. The sin that belonged to them doesn’t belong to them any longer. It’s actually on Jesus Christ.
Now you learn what the resurrection is doing, why it’s there, why you can’t simply tell people Jesus died for your sins on the cross and there contemplate that. The resurrection is the power of the cross, which is the power of the Word. And the power of the Word is giving forgiveness. And forgiveness means that the sin you had has been placed on Christ. He took it, and He died with it. He was also raised, which now means that the sin that crucified Christ, your sin that went upon Him and crucified Him, is now conquered sin. Not only is that the sin that was yours is now Christ, but Christ conquered the sin, which you could not do.
And watch what He does next. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. And Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” He is giving absolution again! The absolution itself is not sticking the finger into Jesus’ side. But the Word is the power of His absolution, which is the Word He’s speaking. So he says not once. He speaks it twice. And He breathes His Holy Spirit on them. And He gives them to forgive one another and proclaim forgiveness into the world!
And, of course, here is finally the Office of the Keys. This is the central matter of the Gospel. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you withhold the forgiveness of any, it is withheld.” The office of preaching is established here as the power to forgive sins. That’s what it’s all about, the only power. It’s the entire work given to Christ’s preachers. It’s what you came here for today, to have your sins forgiven. It is the incredible power of the resurrection—the power to create a new life and the power to create faith where there was no faith.
Therefore, in the stead and by the command of my LORD Jesus Christ, I forgive you of all your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Peace be with you!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin