Christ Is Standing

Second Sunday of Easter
John 20:19-31
April 7, 2013
Emmanuel Lutheran Church—Dwight, IL
Revised April 3, 2016
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

V    Alleluia! Christ is risen!
R   He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of + Jesus.

2.

Has anyone ever told you that your faith is unreliable because the Bible is full of contradictions? You might have jumped in to try to defend the Bible, but you probably didn’t even come close to changing his mind. A better way to address “the Bible is full of contradictions” is to say, “Ok. Name ten.” They’ll stumble around for a bit, and then you can help them out: Isaiah writes, Seek the Lord while he may be found (Is 55:6a ESV). St. Paul writes, No one seeks for God (Rom 3:11b ESV).

After chewing on that for a bit, you can then explain how theology is in the contradictions. When St. Paul writes, No one seeks for God, he’s talking about the natural man, the unconverted heart. No one seeks God of their own power. Every spiritual quest, every investigation into the divine is ultimately searching for the self, to find what power is within you to achieve what God has.

You do not seek Jesus, even though you think you might. You do not seek Jesus because even though your heart is converted, your old self still sputters for life, still scratches and claws his way into your heart to mire you in unbelief and fear. Like Jesus’ disciples on the evening of the first day of the week, which was the third day from Jesus’ crucifixion.

You do not seek Jesus, but Jesus comes to you. This is what Isaiah means when he writes, Seek the Lord while he may be found. When you are slogged down in your unbelief and fear, and have shut and locked the door to any hope of help in order to try to fix things on your own, Jesus comes to you. It doesn’t matter how securely you’ve deadbolted yourself away from God. He comes to you. In flesh and blood.

Then during the evening of that day, the first of the week, the doors having been shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, “Peace to you” (v 19). On that first day of the week following His crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t just come to the disciples, but He comes and stands. St. John reiterates that Jesus is standing there. So, what’s the big deal?

You know paschal greeting of the ancient Church: Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. In Greek it sounds like this: Christos anesti, alithos anesti. Literally, it means, “Christ is standing up, truly He is standing up.” That’s what resurrection means. Standing up. A dead man doesn’t stand. When Jesus comes to the disciples, He comes and stands. He is standing indeed. Alleluia!

Jesus comes to you, not in spirit, not in concept, not in remembrance, but standing—standing on nail-pierced feet, holding out His scarred hands. He comes to you and stands as the crucified One and the risen One, in the flesh.

Where does He stand? Not on the fringes, not by the door for an easy escape. He stands in the midst. Front and center. It was a miraculous appearance that first Easter evening. The doors were locked, the disciples huddled together. Then Jesus is there.

Where does He stand? Not on the fringes, not by the door for an easy escape. He stands in the midst. He is front and center in the Divine Service. No one seeks for God, but God makes Himself available to you in Christ in the preached Word. He stretches out His flesh and blood from the center of the altar. Seek the Lord while He may be found in His Word, in the Sacrament.

But isn’t Jesus everywhere? Yes, He is. Though He is truly man, at the same time He’s truly God (how’s that for a contradiction?), so Jesus is everywhere. But He is not everywhere for you. Though Jesus is in the bark of a tree on the golf course on Sunday morning during Church, you can’t start gnawing on the wood at the tee box and be eating Jesus’ body. He hasn’t promised to be there.

Where is Jesus for you? Where He promises to be for you. Where He is present to save. Where He is present with the gifts He freely gives. Where He breathes out the Holy Spirit. Where is Jesus for you? Where He promises to be found for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus comes and stands among you in the Divine Service.

1.

There’s a reason Jesus comes to stand among His disciples. He’s been sent for a particular reason. Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. Just as the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (v 21). Jesus is sent by the Father to speak peace to the disciples. Three times in this reading, Jesus speaks the words, “Peace to you.” If it’s repeated once, it’s important. If it’s repeated more than once, it’s the Holy Spirit’s way of hammering it into your brain.

Peace to you. This night, this most holy night, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to His disciples just a few days earlier: “Peace I am leaving with you; My peace I am giving to you. Not as the world gives am I giving to you” (Jn 14:27). This peace is the Good News that God is reconciled to man in Jesus. All the old baggage of rebellion, of enmity, of sin is buried in Jesus’ grave, left behind on the day of resurrection. This peace is the Gospel.

And as the Father has sent Jesus to preach Good News and peace, so He has sent a preacher to you to preach Good News and peace. The Gospel is never something you go find for yourself; it’s always something that is brought to you by the person whom God sends. The Gospel is always located—in the place where Jesus promises it will be, from the mouth Jesus promises to speak from, in the means Jesus promises to use. The locatedness of the Gospel is so that you would have no doubt that this is the place where Jesus is.

And after saying this He breathed and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they have been forgiven for them; if you withhold from anyone, it has been withheld” (vv 22-23). The Good News is the Holy Absolution—that when your preacher forgives you, he announces to you the judgment rendered by God when Christ breathed His last and gave up His Spirit. Your sins are forgiven, because Christ died to pay your debt, because Christ stands victorious over the enemies of sin, death, and the grave, because Christ sends men with the promise that their word is as good as His.

Dead men don’t breathe, but Jesus breathes His Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Receive the Holy Spirit. There are two ways you can have the Holy Spirit. The disciples—and all called and ordained ministers—have the Holy Spirit according to their office. They are given the duty to use the instruments of the Holy Spirit—preaching, baptism, absolution, supper—to deliver the forgiveness of sins. On the Last Day, there will be no benefit for those of us who have the Holy Spirit according to our office as preacher—saying the words, pouring the water, distributing the food have no merit in them. As a matter of fact, we will be subject to increased scrutiny on the Last Day. We will have to give an account for our preaching and conduct of this office and duty.

The better, and more blessed way to have the Holy Spirit is to have Him according to your person. You are baptized and so the Holy Spirit has descended on you to enlighten you with the light of Christ. You hear the Absolution upon your confession, carried along by the Breath of God. You eat the bread and drink the cup and as the body and blood of Christ fills your belly, the Holy Spirit fills your heart. When you have the Holy Spirit in this way, you have all the gifts of heaven. You are renewed, reconciled, redeemed, justified, sanctified, saved. Today, Jesus still stands and He still breathes, and the breath He breathes is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Comes and Stands Among You to Forgive You through the Holy Absolution

In the name of + Jesus.

V    Alleluia! Christ is risen!
R   He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jacob W Ehrhard
VD+MA