Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
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Note: All Scripture quotations in the written sermon are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ESV Text Edition: 2016. Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
The sermon text for the second Sunday of Easter is the Gospel reading from John 20:19-31:
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 any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, 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; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Introduction: Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness that is real, that is from God, is not the product of some virtue or way of thinking, no, forgivingness comes only by sins being answered for. Jesus has done that: vicariousness atonement on the cross, the big death He died, the hell, the forsakenness of God He endured that is ours by our sin. He was there for you on Calvary in your place. The cup His Father gave Him to drink He has drunk. The wrath of God upon your sin: He took it all in your place. It did not do Him in, for He cried from the cross, “It is finished.” Then for us also He did the little death, when we stop breathing; through that also He made the way for us through the grave. Good Friday, it is finished. Easter Sunday, He has risen. And He speaks now the other side of Easter: “Peace be with you.” His words are an absolution. The wounds of the Lord Jesus tell us what Jesus is speaking: it is the Jesus who has died for our sins and risen to announce good news. The Good News He announces is He has answered for our sins to God the Father. We are forgiven, and now and always we have life in Him. This is His message.
- The Shalom and the Breath come all the way from Creation
The greeting Jesus greets the disciples with on Easter when He says, “Peace be with you,” (John 20:19b) is in one word the Hebrew, “Shalom,” which means a deep peace, a peace that comes from God. It is a greeting not only from Jesus but from the Father. God the Father also sends the disciples His greeting of peace which comes because He is at peace with them.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” (Jn 20:21b) Jesus said.
The disciples receive a sending that is of the same sending as the prophets, John the Baptist and Jesus: ultimately it comes from God the Father Himself. It is a sending out to share the Good News of God’s love for the world, now shown in the Resurrected Jesus.
“And when he had said this, 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.” (Jn 20:22-23)
This breath, Jesus’ shalom, gives peace all the way through creation, breathing with the same breath that gave the first man life in the beginning.
After the Fall into sin and Good Friday, Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who comes with Jesus’ breath is the breath that breathes the announcement of God’s forgiveness of sin. It is the breath of everlasting life. The disciples are now to share that announcement and forgive all who trust in the Resurrected Christ as God and Saviour. We share that big forgiveness in smaller acts of forgiving each other.
The forgiven are always the repentant, those that despair of their sin and rejoice in Christ’s blessed death for them.
Now God’s servants, the pastors, fulfill this absolving role for the Lord: the repentant are forgiven and the unrepentant keep their sins because they do not acknowledge their sin and want to ignore them or deal with them themselves.
Don’t be one who shields your sin from Christ, let the light shine on it and confess it, give it over to Christ for that is what He went to Calvary for, to take it from You and deposit it there.
But how can men forgive sins, you might ask? They themselves can’t, not on their own. Only God can forgive sins. But God the Father has sent His disciples and now pastors with a mandate as His messengers to announce and deliver His forgiveness: The Father sends the Son who sends the disciples and today who sends pastors. Ultimately we are forgiven by Him who sent His Son to this world to give us Easter forgiveness and Easter peace!
As we cannot receive the Holy Absolution from the pastor or receive the forgiveness that comes in Holy Communion right now from our homes, we rejoice that God gives forgiveness in so many ways: through Holy Baptism, through faith in His Word, and also through the mutual consolation of the brethren as our Lord explains in Matthew chapter 18:15-20, and St. James explains in his epistle, chapter 5, verse 16. Thus even outside the Divine Service we continue to receive God’s forgiveness in Christ in these Easter days. And when the Divine Service begins once more, we will rejoice in receiving God’s forgiveness in every way.
2) The Proofs He Gives Thomas We Cannot See but We Believe
The Ten disciples in the upper room saw the Lord Jesus who died on Good Friday now alive, still bearing His Good Friday wounds, and they believed the Lord. He is the Lord. He is the long promised Messiah of Israel. He is their Redeemer. They rejoiced. They were convinced Jesus rose from the dead. Immediately, they became Jesus’ ready and willing witnesses.
But Thomas was not there; and he would not believe. He demanded meticulous proof: he wanted to see the imprint of the nails in Jesus’ hands, and place his hand into Jesus’ side where the spear went, and he said, unless I see this I will never believe (John 20:25). Thomas knew Jesus died and now he wanted proof to believe Jesus was alive.
“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.’ 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.’” (John 20:26-27)
Jesus gave Thomas all the proof he needed. Thomas could double-check everything he said he wanted to see and feel, investigate everything he wanted about the resurrected Jesus.
The proofs Jesus gives to Thomas we cannot see with our eyes but we receive the eyewitness testimony of the Evangelist St. John. We don’t have a video recording or a hand drawing of the incident but we have something just as good, John’s personal testimony of the event.
Ultimately, our Easter joy and our Christian faith rests not on seeing but believing the first-person testimony of the evangelists which God gives us in His Holy Word.
Is this enough for us? Yes. Most certainly it is. In 2020, when videos are being airbrushed and digitally altered, nobody would trust a video of Christ’s resurrection even if they saw it because they’d say it could have been faked. We have what is most trustworthy, the witness of four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who share with us the joy and the wonder and the good news of Christ’s resurrection.
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas ascribes divinity to Jesus, he says Jesus is his Lord and God. Finally he believes! “Have you believed because you have seen me?” (John 20:29a). Yes, this is what happened for Thomas.
Jesus’ words for us are “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b) Blessed are you now and always because you believe in God’s work. You believe His Son Jesus, the son of Mary, is Your Lord and Saviour too. You believe, though you did not see Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. Blessed are you with all the full blessings of the Beatitudes through your faith in Jesus, your Lord and your God.
3) Jesus Blesses Us With Life
The blessings we have from Jesus this Easter season and always are blessings of forgiveness and life.
Forgiven in Christ God has cleansed and continues to cleanse you from all sin. You have peace which the world cannot fathom. Through that forgiveness you have fellowship with God as you pray to Him and as you worship Him. He hears and answers you in His grace.
At His resurrection Jesus announces another great blessing you have in Him: life. The life you have is connected to and comes from your risen Lord. He is the author of life, beginning from Creation, and as such all life is in Him to give. His Easter gift to you at His resurrection is life, the life that is forever from Him, through believing the He is who He says He is, Your Lord and Saviour.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
Conc: Jesus’ name means “he saves.” And that is what he did, He has saved us His people from our sins. There is no other salvation for sinners than by the forgiveness of our sins: not by what we do by the Law or by achieving in any other way. There is no other salvation for sinners than by the forgiveness of our sins. And that Jesus has won for us in His Easter resurrection. Faith in Christ rejoices in this. And with our salvation achieved, now Christ appears to His disciples to bestow it. “Peace be with you.” “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Your sins are forgiven. “Blessed are you.” Through the Shalom, and through the Spirit, we have peace, every blessing and eternal life. Allelulia! Thanks be to God! Jesus is risen! Allelulia! Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in faith in Christ Jesus in life everlasting. Amen.