John 20:21-23 “Peace Be with You”

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Apr 282019
 

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John 20:21-23

It had been anything but a peaceful day. It had been a mind boggling, mentally tiring day. Report after report kept coming to the disciples that the tomb was empty; that Jesus had appeared to a number of women, and to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Peter and John raced to the tomb and saw that the reports were true. It was empty except for the grave clothes. But Jesus didn’t appear to them there. Physically and mentally exhausted, ten of the disciples gathered Easter evening in an upper room in Jerusalem, a place they thought was safe, but whose doors they had locked just in case.

They were not at peace. Whether or not Jesus was alive, they were filled with guilt. If he really was alive, how could the face him? If were not alive, how could they ever be forgiven? They had all run away when Jesus was arrested. Peter especially was filled with guilt because he had done what he confidently claimed he would never do. He had denied even knowing Jesus to save himself. He had not been willing to die, or even suffer with Jesus, as he claimed. These disciples needed to be at peace.

When Jesus appeared Easter that Sunday evening and then again a week later when Thomas was present he greeted them by saying, peace be with you.

He gave them the peace they needed by giving them absolute proof that he was alive. They could see him. He invited them to touch him, even put their fingers into his wounds if that’s what they needed to do. He even ate food in their presence. He wanted them to have absolutely no doubt that he had risen bodily from the grave because they were going to be witness of his resurrection. He wanted them to be certain that he had risen bodily from the grave so that they would have the courage to face persecution and death because they would know that they too would one day rise bodily from the grave.

As we hear about more and more bombings of churches and persecution of Christians throughout the world, we need to hear Jesus saying to us peace be with you. We need to hear his promise that wherever two or three gather in his name he is with us, not visibly as he was on Easter evening, but present none the less. We need the reminder that Jesus did rise bodily from the grave; that because he lives we too will live. Because he lives we can face any trouble or persecution that may come our way because what can man do to us? All they can do is kill the body which is destined for death anyway. But Jesus will raise our bodies and make them like his glorious body. As we think about bombings and persecutions the fact that Jesus appeared to his disciples in the upper room, not once, but twice, gives us peace.

When Jesus appeared Easter Sunday evening the disciples might have expected that he would be angry, that he would bring on them a just punishment for their sins of denial, lack of trust and doubt. As soon as they saw him in his glorified body they must have felt like Isaiah who cried out, Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips. The guilt of their sins must have terrified them. But Jesus said, peace be with you. “Your sins need not alarm you. You are forgiven. I paid the penalty for all your sins by my suffering and death on the cross. I was delivered over to death for your sins and raised to life for your justification. Because of all I have done in your place God has declared you not guilty.”

We need to hear Jesus say this to us. As we examine ourselves before we take Communion, and hopefully every day, we are filled with fear. We realize that when we see Jesus in his glorified body he should bring a just punishment on us for those sins we see. But, in the absolution, and in the Scripture readings, and in the songs of the liturgy, and in the Supper, we hear Jesus say to us, peace be with you. “Whatever sins you have discovered in your examination, whatever it is that you are beating yourself up for thinking ‘how could I have done such a thing,’ as Peter must have done- whatever it is, it is forgiven. I suffered the punishment you fear so that you don’t have to.” Peace be with you.

Then, when had had given them peace, by removing their fears and doubts and showing that he had not come to punish them for their sins were forgiven, he gave them a mission. As the Father had sent him, he was sending them. They would not be alone in their mission. He breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit. As he had promised them, the Spirit would be with them wherever they would go and remind them of all that he had said and taught. Now that they were at peace their job was to share that peace with others. They would do this by using what we call the ministry of the keys. They would be able to speak on his behalf. And Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

When someone is troubled by their sins they need the peace that only forgiveness can give. The world can’t help them. The world doesn’t have the power to forgive sins, nor do they think it’s a helpful thing. But you have that power, not because of who you are, but because of the words of Jesus. You can give a troubled sinner the peace they need, the peace that the world can never and will never give them. You can tell them that Jesus has paid for the sins that are troubling them. Yes they deserve the punishment they fear and worse, but Jesus took their punishment on himself. They have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Failing to share the peace of sins forgiven in Jesus with a troubled sinner can have terrible consequences. Think of Judas. He came as a troubled sinner to the religious leaders of his day. He confessed that he had betrayed innocent blood. He tried to return the money they had given him to betray Jesus. But instead of giving him the peace of forgiveness, they told him that his sin was his own responsibility. That was a burden he couldn’t bear and he ended up committing suicide.

What a powerful tool Jesus gave to us, his disciples, when he gave us the authority and right to tell people that the sins that trouble them, all their sins, are forgiven by Jesus!

I saw the movie, “Unplanned” the other night. It was well done and made very clear what abortion is, what it does, and how it affects those who have one and often all around them. It did a good job of depicting how to show love to those who are considering an abortion, or who have had abortions. But I do have one complaint about the movie. When Abby finally realizes what she has done and is overwhelmed with guilt for being involved in taking the lives of thousands of babies including two of her own, the comfort she is given is very weak. It is stated conditionally. It makes no mention of how her sins are forgiven, no mention of Jesus. What an opportunity was missed by those who wrote and produced the movie! Yes, God is mentioned, and prayer is highlighted, but how wonderful it would have been if, when she is mourning over her sins, they would have had someone tell her, “God has forgiven you because Jesus has paid for all your sins by his life and death in your place.”

Sometimes people have a false peace. They think that their sins don’t matter, or they aren’t serious enough to deserve God’s punishment because there are lots of people doing worse things. They might think that since society doesn’t consider something bad or sinful it must not be sinful in God’s eyes. Their false peace needs to be disrupted before they can experience true peace. That’s why Jesus says, whenever you do not forgive someone, they are not forgiven.

The purpose of telling someone that their sins remain on them is to disrupt their false peace. They need to see that, although they may feel at peace, they are not at peace with God. The hope is that they will realize the seriousness of their sins so that you can have the opportunity to give them real peace in the forgiveness Jesus won for them.

Like the disciples, there are times when we have lacked peace. There are times when we have doubted and when we have been burdened by the guilty of our sin. By God’s grace, when we faced those times we were reminded by a fellow Christian, or through the Absolution, or through the Supper, that our sins have been forgiven because of Jesus. The punishment we deserve has been taken off of us and given to Jesus. By God’s grace we know the peace that the world can’t give, the peace that passes all understanding. Now, as Paul says, we can comfort others with the comfort that we have received from God. What a privilege to be able to say to a troubled sinner “peace be with you, your sins are all forgiven in Jesus!”

2019 Easter Message

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Apr 222019
 

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This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Christ is Risen!

2 Timothy 2:8

Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy as he was on death row in a Roman prison awaiting execution. If you were in that situation, what would you write to your friends and co-workers? Would you complain about the injustice you were suffering? Would you beg them to file all kinds of appeals to try to win at least a stay of execution? Would you ask them to try to help you escape? That’s not what we hear Paul saying to Timothy, is it?

Paul understood his situation. The Roman government had declared the Christian religion illegal. Some of the Roman Emperors saw Jesus as a rival because he was worshiped as King of kings and Lord of lords, a position they wanted to have for themselves. We don’t know the exact charge the Roman government leveled against Paul, but it had to do with his faith and his preaching of the Gospel. Paul understood that if he were to promise to stop preaching the gospel and to agree to accept the emperor as King of kings, he could likely escape execution. But, like Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego before him, he was not willing to deny his faith in order to save his life. In fact, he was doing what we all promise to do at our Confirmation, to remain faithful to the gospel even when threatened with death.

What was Paul’s message to Timothy as he awaited his execution? The same message that continued to give him hope and strength as he knew his days on earth were numbered. Remember. Keep on remembering, always remember, the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Keep on remembering. We all need that reminder because it’s so easy for us to forget. Jesus had told his disciples numerous times exactly what was going to happen when they went up to Jerusalem. He would be arrested, handed over to the Gentiles, be crucified, and on the third day he would rise again. But they didn’t remember, did they? The rapid succession of events on Thursday night and Friday hit them like a cyclone. Their heads were spinning. It seemed like they forgot everything Jesus had told them. When the angel appeared to the women at the empty tomb he told them, remember, remember what Jesus told you.

We understand their situation because we are the same way. Life gets busy. Murphy moves in to one of the bedrooms. An appliance needs to be replaced, the car needs a repair, the kids get in trouble at school, the company you work for gets bought out and you don’t know what the future holds, and that was just your Thursday and Friday! Your head is spinning. You can’t seem to think straight, and you forget. You forget that this world and its troubles won’t last forever. You forget about Jesus and the gospel promises he has made. We need to hear Paul telling us each day remember, keep on remembering.

What is it that we are to keep on remembering? Remember Jesus, a descendant of David. Do you remember why he was given the name Jesus?

When Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the promised messiah he reminded her of many of the promises that God had made, including that fact that he would have the throne of his father David. When he appeared to Joseph, he explained the reason they were to give him the name Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins.

Remember Jesus, the one who is the Son of the most high God, who was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit so that he is God and man. Remember that’s who he needed to be in order to be the savior of the world. No mere human being could save us because, as descendants of sinful Adam and Eve, mere humans are unable to keep God’s laws perfectly. And, if Jesus were only God pretending to be human, he would not be under the law, able to be tempted as we are, nor would he be able to suffer the punishment we deserve. Only because he is true God and true man in one person was he able to under the law and keep it for us; and to suffer and die, yet have his death be the payment for every sin.

Remember Jesus, the Son of the Most High, a descendant of David, true God and true man, exactly who he needed to be in order to live up to his name – Jesus, Savoir.

Remember Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Christ. The anointed one. The one foreshadowed by those who were anointed in the Old Testament, the prophets, priests and kings. He fills all three of those offices at once.

Remember that he was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power at his baptism as the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove.

He fulfilled his office as prophet by speaking only what the Father had given him to speak. He fulfilled his office as priest by willingly sacrificing himself on the cross. He fulfilled his office as king by battling Satan for us and defeating his every temptation. He established a kingdom that is not if this world, a kingdom that, unlike the kingdoms of this world, is free from all evil and lasts forever.

How do we know this is true? Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.  As Paul told the Corinthians, if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. If Christ has not been raised, we are all wasting our time here today. If Christ has not been raised then Paul is a liar and so am I, because all who proclaim the Gospel are proclaiming that Jesus did rise from the dead. But, Paul says, Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Jesus not only appeared to the eleven disciples on successive Sundays, and to the women at the tomb, he appeared to over 500 people over the 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension. And, after his ascension, he also appeared to Paul.

On Easter morning there was an earthquake, the guards were frightened away and paid by the Jewish leaders to lie about what they saw. The governor’s seal on the tomb was broken. The stone was rolled away by an unseen hand. The tomb was empty. The grave clothes were left behind, and angel announced that Jesus had risen. The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming. His resurrection is proof that he his who he claimed to be, the Son of God, the savior, the Christ. His resurrection is proof that the Father accepted his life as the fulfillment of the law in our place. His resurrection is proof the that Father accepted his suffering, his blood shed on the cross, as payment in full for the sin of the world. His resurrection is proof that everything he said was true, his every promise is 100% trustworthy.

Jesus, risen and ascended, continues to serve as the Christ, our prophet who continues to give us his Holy Word, our priest who continues to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father, and our king who is ruling everything in the universe to make sure we are kept safe until he comes to take us to live in his perfect kingdom that never ends.

The old gospel song says, “because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone.” As he sat in prison on death row Paul was remembering Jesus Christ risen from the dead, a descendant of David. Whenever he was tempted to wonder if this gospel was worth dying for, he remembered that Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, his promise to be with him was true. Whenever the fear of death by execution crept into his heart, he remembered that Jesus rose from the dead, therefore he could say with confidence, The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever.

Paul wanted Timothy, and he wants us, to have that same kind of peace and confident hope, to be able to face each day’s problems and to overcome every fear. We may never sit on death row awaiting execution for our faith, but we experience the times Paul warned Timothy were coming. He told him, there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. He warned them that people would not put up with sound doctrine but would look for those who would tell them what their itching ears want to hear.

We live in these last days. We can expect that we will not only face the normal troubles of this life, things breaking down, murphy moving in, etc. In addition, we can expect hatred and persecution if, like Paul, we refuse to be silent about Jesus and continue to proclaim the gospel, the truth that Jesus Christ risen from the dead, a descendant of David, is the only way, truth and life. Each day we need the encouragement that Paul gave to his friend and co-worker Timothy whom he knew would face such troubles in life. We need what gave Paul peace and hope as he awaited execution. We need the only thing that will give us peace and hope, that enables us to face whatever tomorrow brings, that can remove our fears. Keep on remembering Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, a descendant of David. This is the gospel of your salvation, the proof that all God’s promises are true, that because he lives, you to will rise to live with him in glory forever.

Good Friday Message

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Apr 202019
 

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John 19:28-30

 

“I’m finished!” says the student who has checked over their test and made sure that they answered every question, filled in every bubble, crossed every “t” and dotted every “I”.

“It’s Finished!” says the crafter who has worked for years on a delicate embroidery project and they are sure they haven’t missed a stich.

“It Is Finished!” that’s what Jesus said from the cross moments before he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. What’s finished? Every little detail of the mission the father had given him. No detail, no matter how small, was left unfinished. Every prophecy of Scripture that applied to the Messiah, who he was and what he would do was fulfilled. Not one little detail was left unfulfilled.

Was he born of a virgin? Yes. Was he born in Bethlehem? Yes. Did he spend some time in Egypt? Yes. Was he called a Nazarene? Yes. Was his way prepared by a prophet like Elijah? Yes. Did his zeal for the Lord’s house consume him? Yes, he cleared the sellers from the temple courts twice. Was he a prophet like Moses, speaking messages from God and performing miracles? Yes. Was he betrayed by one of his own? Yes. Did his disciples flee when he, the Shepherd, was arrested? Yes. Did they pierce his hands and his feet? Yes. Did someone cast lots for his clothing? Yes. Did his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth because of thirst so that he asked for a drink? Yes. Were any of his bones broken? No. Was he with the rich in his death? He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who was rich. Need I go on?

It’s really amazing, isn’t it? Look at all the prophecies that were made about the Messiah. Look at how many little details were given. Think about the fact that some of these prophecies were given 700, even 1000 years before Jesus was ever born. Some of them were things that, humanly speaking, he had no control over, like the place of his birth. No mere human, even if they had studied and memorized every detail of every prophecy about the Messiah, could have arranged to fulfill each and every detail perfectly the way Jesus did. What mere human being, suffering the torment of crucifixion, would have the presence of mind to remember a little detail of prophecy like asking for a drink?

Jesus made sure that every little detail of every prophecy about the Messiah was perfectly fulfilled in his birth, life, and death. He wanted us to consider these things, even calling our attention to the prophecies of Psalm 22 by reciting the first verse of that Psalm from the cross, so that we would have no doubt that he is the promised Messiah who was to come. We need not look for another. It is finished. The prophecies of Scripture regarding the Messiah are all perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.

It is Finished! The work that the Father gave him to accomplish is complete. He doesn’t have to suffer any longer. He can say, “father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

What was that work the Father had given him? God requires the perfect keeping of his law. He requires that everyone love him, the one who gave them life and breath and all their possessions, more than anyone or anything else. He requires that everyone love their neighbor, including those who persecute them, as unselfishly and completely as God loves us. He requires that we not just avoid sin, but that we have pure hearts and motives, and that we never say anything that is unkind or untrue.

Obviously, we fail to do this. We lack the perfection that God demands. But how did Jesus fare? At his baptism, and again at his transfiguration the Father declared that he was well pleased with Jesus. Jesus challenged anyone to prove that he was guilty of sin. Even when people made up lies about him they couldn’t do that. The lies didn’t stick. When he could have lied and saved himself the torment of scourging and crucifixion, he told the truth. When the high priest put him under oath and asked him if he was the Son of God he said Yes!

Paul tells us that Jesus was born under the law to redeem us. He took on flesh and blood so that he could be subject to God’s demand for perfection, and, though tempted in every way, just as we are, he remained without sin. It is Finished! Mission accomplished.

But there was another part of the mission that the Father gave Jesus. Once his demand for perfection had been satisfied, there still remained his demand for justice. God’s laws were broken. Someone had to pay. The law demands it.

What does God say is the just punishment for sin? The wages of sin is death. The Bible defines death in a number of ways. It talks about physical death, and it talks about the second death. Because there is sin, there is physical death. God told Adam and Eve that if they sinned, they would die. The Devil said, “no you won’t”. But they did die, and so has every person who has ever lived, because all have sinned. But as bad as physical death is, the greater consequence of sin is the second death. John describes the Second Death as a lake of burning sulfur. Jesus describes it as outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It’s suffering that comes from being separated from God. That’s the punishment we should receive, and which we justly deserve for our sins.

Jesus’ mission was to take on himself that punishment as our substitute. The Bible says that God laid on him the iniquity of us all. It says that Jesus was delivered over to death for, or because of our sins. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. As he called out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” an eerie darkness covered the land. Jesus was suffering the forsakenness, the darkness, the hell that we deserve for our sins.

Then, when Jesus realized that his suffering for the sins of the world was complete, that he had endured the punishment due for every sin, past, present and future, he declared “It is Finished!

It is Finished! God is not and will not punish you for your sins because he has already given your punishment to Jesus. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It is Finished! There is nothing left for you to suffer or to do to earn your salvation. Jesus did it all for you. It is Finished! Satan can accuse you all he wants, God is not listening to him because his laws have been kept and his justice has been satisfied by Jesus.

As we look at Jesus on the cross through the eyes of faith, we are at first filled with sorrow. We realize that he is suffering because of us. He is there on the cross because of our sins. But, when we hear him say “It is Finished!” We rejoice because we know what it means. It’s not just that his suffering has come to an end. It means that his mission is accomplished. God’s law has been kept in our place. God’s justice has been satisfied. Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world, which means, because I’m part of the world, my sins are paid for in full. There’s nothing left for me to do when it comes to my salvation, but to say, “Thank you Jesus for living and dying in my place!” It Is Finished!

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