Monday, April 12, 2010

Second Sunday in Easter 2010

Second Sunday in Easter
John 20:19- 30
Bror Erickson

[19] 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."
[20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [21] Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld."
[24] Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." [27] Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." [28] Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" [29] Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
[30] Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; John 20:19-30 (ESV)

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he said these he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

Perhaps a few of us remember these verses from Catechism class, where we were briefly instructed on Confession and absolution, and probably never again admonished to make use of that great gift of the church. I stand in awe of these verses at times. Jesus forgave sins. Jesus forgave sins in the flesh, as a man, and when he did the Pharisee’s questioned him. “Who but God has the authority to forgive sins?” And Jesus skillfully rebuffs them by telling the man whose sins he has forgiven to get up and walk. And walk he does, carrying his mat off to his house, I dare say skipping all the way. And it is a dumbfounding thing! The forgiveness of sins is dumbfounding. How can man forgive sins? And the answer is we can’t not of our own accord. Some like to think they can forgive others there trespasses against them. And then hope God will forgive them likewise. Me, I dread that thought. When I pray the Lord’s prayer and come to that point, my only thought is Lord, help me get to a point where I can forgive others in the same manner you forgive me! With the same love for them that you have shown to me with your son’s death and resurrection! I pray that because I know my forgiveness is less then perfect. I know what vile contempt lives in my heart for those who have trespassed against me.
And yet have they really? Why should I be so concerned about their sins against me? Have I not done the same to others? Do I not do the same to them when I don’t forgive them? And what do I say thereby about the blood of Christ that was shed for them as much as it was shed for me? Shed that they might be forgiven, as much as it was shed that I may be forgiven. When you contemplate this you can understand David. You can understand how after committing adultery with the wife of his most faithful brother in Arms, and then murdering that same man, Uriah the Hittite, The man who elsewhere in the Bible listed among men who single handedly would kill up to 300 Philistines in one day, who spent time with David on the lam sleeping in caves, living off the land for months at a time. The Navy Seals of their time. David all but rapes the man’s wife and then murders him, and then he says, Against you Lord, and you alone, have I sinned?
Really? One might think he had sinned against a few others! But then David, the prophet, realizes that in sinning against these people, people whom God loves, for whom Christ would shed his blood, yes, Christ shed his blood for Bathsheba, and Uriah who was not an Israelite, but a Hittite, He had really sinned against God, He had really sinned against Jesus. Do you understand now? When we sin we sin against God, we sin against ourselves. We sin more against God then anyone else. And God forgives us more sins that we commit against him in the course of a minute, than we will ever be able to cunt as sins against ourselves. So who are we to hold grudges, the grudge itself is a sin that needs forgiveness. We need forgiveness, we need His forgiveness. Do you see that? We need it in every form we can get it.
And for this need Jesus supplies us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, he isn’t about speaking in tongues and grand displays magnifying himself. He isn’t about burning bosoms and making you feel good, or giving you some spiritual high. He is about bring you Christ, and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus here breathes on the disciples. Gives them the Holy Spirit with the command to go out, I am sending you, he says, Just as the father has sent me. And Jesus was sent to die, to die for the world that their sins might be forgiven, So Jesus sends us, He sends the disciples with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. The Same Holy Spirit he gives to his church on earth, with the same mission to forgive sins. To forgive sins in the name of the Jesus Christ, that is on his behalf, as one who has been given authority from Jesus to forgive sins.
And just notice here for a minute that Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit here, even though they had undoubtedly had him already before, and that the Holy Spirit would come again on the day of Pentecost. And So it is with the Christian life, that the Holy Spirit coming to us in the word, preached, coming to us in Baptism, coming to us yet again in the flesh of Christ pierced by nail and spear, and in the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit is constantly coming to us and never leaving us but coming to us over and over again constantly flooding us with the forgiveness of sins, and many and various gifts, because in him and him alone does the Church find life, and that only where sins are being forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and savior who stands before thomas today in a room locked with fear, saying touch me Thomas, see that I am real and not a ghost. Have not fear anymore, your sins are forgiven.
And we have no reason to fear anymore. Our sins are forgiven. No reason to fear the confessing of them. No reason to fear the forgiving of them. For he has set us free from fear, set us free from death. Jesus has forgiven our sins, and continues to forgive them that we might forgive those who trespass against us also.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.


Brigitte said...

This freedom from fear is so palpable in relationships. Kolb calls it the lack of "defensiveness". That's what grace brings, a lack of defensiveness. A softness and a rawness, a touch and a look in the eye, a finger in the wound.

Bror Erickson said...

Sin and fear they go together. Forgiveness banishes fear, if God has forgiven you your sins, what is there left to fear?
I normally preach a little more on doubting Thomas with this text, but I thought to myself, it's a shame, because this bit about the Holy spirit and forgiveness is so important and it only comes up in the texts here with Thomas, and if you don't preach on it now, when will you?
So I preached on the bit about the Holy Spirit and him coming to Forgive our sins so we can forgive others.

Brigitte said...

It is a good text for that. I saw you talk about that somewhere else.

I am always amazed how Jesus says all the right things. Of all the things he could have said, all the missions people might have thought that they are on now, it is the mission to forgive and retain sins.

And that thought comes from right through the OT. All of that blood, all of that forgiving. It is very reassuring to see that continuity. This is really the "program" of the church.