April 27, 2014
Sermon Text: John 20:19-31
Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed!) Alleluia!
Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 20th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Our God will not allow His dearly loved children to waste away in a delusion. He will not allow us to continue as though nothing happened when He sent His Son. No, the God of the heavens and the earth loves His children, He loves you and me and the whole world – even though who hate Him. And because He loves He sends. Sending He gives. Both His sending and His giving are for the delivering of His Word. God’s Word washes away the delusion and rattles us to our very core so that we begin to see what is true and what is real.
The disciples were still living the lie; namely that death reigns supreme and not the God of Abraham. With death in control the disciples hide for fear of the Jews. All of them huddle together away from the world, away from their families, away from their neighbors and they keep to themselves, they keep quiet and they keep still. To them the world is ruled by Law, the Law of the Romans and the Law of the Jews. And the Law of men governs with the threat of death, because death is the reigning power in the world.
But then there’s Thomas. With death flexing his muscle Thomas gives up. Even when the disciples find him and try to convince him otherwise, Thomas still “doubts” – which is a nice way of describing his unbelief. You see, with death on top of Jesus, with Jesus still in the tomb, Thomas quits the whole religion thing and forsakes the fellowship of the disciples. He goes off to live his life doing his best to avoid death.
The disciples, Thomas and the rest of the 11 are living this way because they are living a lie. They are living as though what happened that weekend didn’t really happen, as though the Law still reigned, as though death was unconquerable, as though Jesus were still dead and buried.
Living like He’s still in the Tomb
I’m often asked, “pastor, what do people do without the Lord?” Usually, I respond, “they go to hell.” That’s the big picture, isn’t it? People without the Lord go to hell. But what about the “not so big” picture? What do people do without the Lord? Well, many are just like the disciples in our text. If we zoom in a bit from the “big picture” we find Jesus’ disciples hiding for fear of the IRS and losing their tax exempt status. We find so called Christians huddling together but avoiding their neighbors. So, without the Lord, there’s no hospitals, no charity, no alms for the poor, no orphanages –why care about children anyway. Instead there’s euthanasia, high crime rate, increasing violence against women and children, including abortion. Without the Lord, there’s no reason for marriage, there’s plenty of divorces, there’s shacking up, fornicating and sodomy. Without the Lord everyone’s truth is valid, which means no one’s truth has meaning. Without the Lord everything deconstructs, governments, societies, cultures, families, lives. Truth is nothing and a life lived in a world absent of truth and full of nothing is hell. That’s the world we live in, and the world we unfortunately share in.
Like the ten or like Thomas, we count the wrong things as real and therefore live in a delusion. We live like death reigns and chase of things that make us “feel” alive. We avoid fellowship with Christ’s Church. Worship isn’t that important because what happens in worship isn’t that important and the people who are there aren’t that important and when we leave often our “emotional needs” aren’t met. For people living the lie, what is important is whatever makes me happy, makes me “feel” good, like spending time with my family. Yep, going to breakfast on Sundaymornings becomes more important that going to church. What makes me feel good is being able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it, which is why so many Christians wind up looking and sounding a lot like those who aren’t Christians. Which is why we often do what they do and say what they say and live the way they live. And the reality is, such a life, is a life that denies the resurrection of Jesus. Such a life is a life that says God is dead and death is supreme. Such a life is really a dead life and unless repented leads to a “big picture” life without the Lord – in other words, HELL!
The Resurrected Christ
Beloved, your God will not allow you to waste away in a delusion! He will not allow you live a lie, to remain in sin, accepting sin as though sin were okay, or accepting sin’s consequence as if the Law were the Lord and death was his governor. No! Beloved, there is a greater reality to this life. The God of the heavens and the earth, your God, who loves you, sent His Son. Sending His Son, He gave His Son. Giving His Son, He gave Him over to the accusations of the Law and allowed Him to be crucified for you. In Christ crucified the Law pierces hand and foot, brow and side. It does its worst, draws its most, and takes on the Lord of life. Piercing Him and bruising Him and killing Him the Law exerted all of its might and power bringing Jesus into the tomb. But Jesus was more than a common criminal. Jesus was more than a guilty man. Jesus was a righteous man, a man who done no wrong, none at all, not even once. He became sin but He didn’t do any sin. The Law bit Him through and thus the Law was trapped. Jesus’ flesh was the bait. He was a worm and not a man, the cross was a hook and not to be His end. Having hooked the Law and death together in His flesh, Jesus wrestled the agents of our demise into the ground.
And if Jesus stays in the tomb we are still in our sins. If Jesus stays in the tomb death wins and the Law reigns. If Jesus stays in the tomb we’re still without the Lord and “going to hell.” But the truth of the matter is, the reality of the situation is, in actuality, Jesus is risen! Jesus has burst the three day tomb. Jesus has come back from the dead. Jesus is alive and not dead. Therefore because Jesus is risen, Jesus wins! Life wins! The Lord wins! And there is no second place for a good effort, a nice try, or even having “heart”. What is real and therefore what is important is that Jesus really and truly walked out of the grave resurrected and alive in His body, with flesh and bone, never to die again! Death is dead. The Law is not the final authority. Jesus is!
Living in the Resurrection
And because Jesus is the final authority everywhere Jesus goes, everywhere Jesus steps, the Law and death lose ground. Therefore Jesus goes to the upper room and Jesus steps on the delusions of the disciples and Jesus breathes peace on those who suffer fear of the law and fear of death. He forgives them. That’s what life in the resurrection is like. Jesus tramples death under his feet and forgives sins. With death no longer having dominion over Jesus, death no longer has dominion of you. And if death no longer has dominion then neither does death’s root – sin. The death Jesus died He died to sin once and for all and that means once for you and for your children and for your neighbors and for your friends and for your co-workers and for everyone in the whole world. This is why Jesus goes to the upper room and this is why Jesus comes here this morning. He is come to announce His triumph over sin, death and hell, and then to give that victory to you and me through the means of His grace.
That’s why Jesus breathes on His apostles. As the Father sent Him, so also does Jesus send His apostles. The Father sends and gives the Son. The Son sends and gives apostles. Today’s apostles are called pastors. Pastors are sent and given to forgive sins. Christians living in the resurrection are a people living in the forgiveness of sins given them from their pastor. A people living in the forgiveness of sins are found gathering with other Christians around the means of grace which deliver the forgiveness of sins. In other words, Christians are found in Church where the resurrected Christ is really and truly present showing mercy to His dearly loved people. In baptism Christ washes away the delusions of our world. In absolution Christ forgives where our delusions have worked their works in our lives. In the Supper Christ feeds us with the resurrection that forgiven of our sins we not only are moved to live life in the resurrection but we actually share in His resurrection today, tomorrow, and forevermore! The reality of the resurrection is placed into our mouths. We eat of it and we drink it down to the very dregs. These things do we now count as real and important and worthy of our time and our attention and our adoration. These things give us Jesus, eternal life and salvation. These things give us reality. These things are something, something real, something true, something eternal and holy. They have meaning because they are full of the Word of Christ and deliver the Word of Christ into our hearts for the saving of both body and soul!
And what do we Christians do once we get these things? Do we return to a life of delusions? Do we go back to the way things were? Do keep on keeping on with our sin? No! Reality is greater than what we see and feel in this world. The reality is that sin and death are still about us and sin and death still have hold over many in our world and sin and death are still behaving as though they are the boss of us. Thus, as Jesus’ disciples we do what was done for Thomas. We go to world with the love of Christ and apostolic confession. Ourselves being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ we no seek to transform the world, to awaken the world from its winter sleep, and to let the light of Christ’s resurrection shine in the darkness. We do not ask, “what do people do without the Lord?” We know what they do – they go to hell. Instead, let us ask, “what do people do with the Lord?” With the Lord we start and maintain hospitals – we care for the sick and we do not euthanize. With the Lord reach out toward the poor and provide as we are able to help them and to love them. We adopt children to love them and we never abort them. We respect women and care for children. We start schools to teach them. We stay married! We honor the marriage bed and keep it from being defiled with adultery. We do not shack up or fornicate or commit sodomy. We have families, even large families, and we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. And we evangelize! We take the gospel to our neighbors, friends, family, strangers, enemies, loving them with the love of Christ, forgiving as we have been forgiven and telling them of the wonders of God in the resurrection of His Son. We transform the world with the Word of God. We change lives with the word of God. We bring down the dominion of the law and death and we exalt the Name of Jesus to the nations! And when we fail – as we are sure to do – we go back to Jesus for more mercy. We do not do any of these things perfectly, nor do we allow our failures to have dominion over us. Christ is risen, not our sin. Christ is risen, not our passions! Christ is risen, not our emotional needs. Christ is risen not our wants and desires. Christ is risen, not death, not devil, not hell. With Christ risen death is destroyed and Jesus reigns! Yes, beloved life incarnate reigns because Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed) Alleluia!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!