In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Last Sunday was Easter Sunday. Churches around the world were filled with worshippers who were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many churches had sunrise services or like us a service that began early in the morning.
Perhaps these early morning services started because Christians want to follow the example of the women who went to the tomb at early dawn. Maybe many Christians just can’t wait to rejoice that Jesus won for them the victory over sin and death.
Whether people went to early services or services at regular times, most all the services were completed by noon or so. There was a whole afternoon and evening left when we went home. For many that meant time for family meals.
For families who couldn’t be together, there were phone calls or skype or face time. Maybe there was a nap or two that happened. Unfortunately for some there was only loneliness. Whatever you did last Sunday afternoon and evening I doubt that it compared with what the disciples did on that actual day and the days that followed.
Jesus Confronts Them
Jesus had risen from the dead. Some of the women had seen him in the morning but none of the disciples saw him then. Today’s gospel reading tells us about that first meeting between Jesus and his disciples. It happened on that Sunday evening.
Think about the disciples for a moment. I would call them a rag-tag group of men. Rag-tag, that term has come to mean things like unsophisticated, disorganized, disorderly, and maybe even a group of misfits.
Think about what we have learned about them in the last few months. They confessed that Jesus was the Son of God yet they were afraid to go to Jerusalem with him. If they believed he was the Son of God what should they possibly have feared. Two brothers, James and John were not satisfied being part of the group they wanted to be the greatest in the group. That lead to all of them arguing over who was the greatest. We know about Judas and Peter. All the disciples scattered at the arrest of Jesus. None of them came forward to protest his sentencing or tried to prevent his crucifixion.
Two somewhat strangers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were the ones who cared for the body of Jesus not those closest to him. Peter and John had gone and seen the empty tomb but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
Even before the weeks leading up to Christ’s crucifixion the disciples had shown their self-centeredness when they tried to keep little children and others away from Jesus because they didn’t want to be bothered with them.
Now we find all of them on that Sunday evening gathered in a room behind locked doors. They doubted what the women had told them. It seemed like an idle tale to them, even though it was exactly what Jesus had told them would happen. They were afraid. They were a group of disorganized disorderly misfits.
Three years of training and this is what Jesus gets, a rag-tag group of disciples. These are the ones who were scheduled to be his witnesses. If you and I had gathered such a group, and they had treated us is this way, I can imagine our response.
I think a normal response might be to give up on this group. Yet the Lord does not give up on them. He does not come to them with anger or revenge in mind. Instead, Jesus comes to them with love and forgiveness in mind. Jesus had compassion on them.
“Peace be with you,” he said. Jesus wanted them to know that all of their sins had been taken away. He did not appear to them to rehearse their sins or to make them more anxious but to give them peace. He came to show them his hands and his side as a sign of God’s love for them. Jesus came to take away their fears.
Jesus came to them to explain to them all about his suffering and death on a cross. It happened in order to take away their sins. Jesus came to them to explain the empty tomb and his resurrection. It happened to show them that their sins were forgiven and that they too should look forward to a resurrection.
Jesus came to explain that he had been forsaken by the heavenly Father so that all who believe in him will never be forsaken. Jesus wanted them to know that he had not come to condemn anyone but that he wanted all to come to him including them.
And here we are, one week after Easter Sunday, another group of rag-tag people. How did we sin last Sunday after we left here? How have we sinned this week? Did you doubt that God loves you? Did you fear that God was holding out on you? Did you think that Jesus was angry with you or that he was punishing you with something bad happening in your life?
What were you afraid of this week, afraid that God could not handle? Did your fears lead you to think of others with hate? Did you demand that God prove his love to you by giving you a special blessing?
Worst of all, did you come here today doubting that the death of Jesus was for your sins and the resurrection his promise that you to will rise from the dead?. Did you come here out of fear believing that you must save yourself with good church attendance? Did you come doubting that Jesus can cleanse you from all your sins?
Regardless of how you have came this morning, with doubts, with fears, with failures, with guilt, it matters not. What matters is that the risen Lord Jesus is here with you. He is not angry with you; he is not here to punish you. He came because you need him. Jesus has come to tell you through his word and sacrament what he has done for you.
Jesus came to tell you that he did not fail when he hung on the cross, he did not lose the war against sin, death, and the devil. The message of Easter is that the victory is won. Christ is risen and because he lives your victory is won.
In a few minutes, I will hold a chalice in my hand full wine, Christ is showing you his blood. Over the chalice, I will hold a wafer of bread, Christ is showing you his body. The words I speak at that moment I speak for him, “the peace of the Lord be with you always.”
He is risen and he invites you to do much more than Thomas was invited to do. Jesus, risen from the dead says to you “take and eat this is my body give for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Christ, risen from the dead says to you, “take and drink this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
With this giving of his very body and blood, he wants you to have peace, peace that takes away all fear and doubt. With this meal, he strengthens your faith, faith in the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal life.
It would be wonderful if I could now tell you that you will have a perfect week, that you will have no more fear, no more doubt, and no more sin. However, your sinful nature will not leave you alone, it will continue to place fear and doubt in your mind. You will sin.
So, for your comfort, one of the disciples who was in that locked room, who was afraid, and who had doubt, speaks to you today. The apostle John writes, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
John is telling you not to doubt your risen Savior. Don’t doubt the advocate who every day is interceding on your behalf. Each day Jesus Christ is presenting to the heavenly Father the reason that your sins are forgiven.
The sinless Lamb of God that you will behold when I hold up the cup and the bread shed his blood as your advocate. He presented his sacrifice to the Father, his suffering and death, as the payment for your sins. Fear not, doubt not, the risen Jesus Christ has swallowed up death for you. The victory is yours
Why We’ve Come
“Peace be with you.” That is the message of Easter. That is the message of the Second Sunday after Easter. It is the message for each Sunday to come and for each day in between those Sundays. Jesus has had compassion on us. Our savior has taken us rag-tag group of misfits and made us the heavenly Fathers beloved children. Alleluia. Christ is risen indeed. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria