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Holy Absolution: Forgiveness for Sinners!

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Second Sunday of Easter                                       Trinity Lutheran Church

23 April 2017                                                            Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

John 20:19-23

 

What to do with Peter who denied the Lord not once but THREE TIMES? And he did it with oaths and curses! What to do with all the rest of the disciples that utterly failed Him? That abandoned Him? Bickering men that didn’t believe His promises that He would rise from the dead? That would not trust Jesus in His horrific crucifixion? That didn’t believe Jesus to be reliable?

 

What should you do with these locked up in an upper room scared to death disciples? Hmm? I know what you would do. You would berate them. Chide them. Tell them off. “Don’t let the door hit ya …!” and never have anything to do with them again. You’d invoke God’s Name, not to bless, but to damn those that hurt you – that sin against you! Right? That’s how you should treat sinners, right? Right?

 

Well … NO! Look what Jesus does! Watch Him roll up His sleeves, listen to Him carefully and then you will learn and believe what He gospel-ly and undeservingly does FOR YOU too. Some would call it reckless, irresponsible and careless. I contend just the opposite. I find what Jesus does and says in John 20:19-23 so salvationally delicious! Salvifically delightful. Let’s take another gander. Let’s have ears to hear.

 

He doesn’t knock. However, He doesn’t break down the door. He’s not a CSI swat team reduced to one. Instead, He’s Good-Shepherd-Risen-Victoriously-Over-Death-and-the-Grave-Jesus. He comes to them. He goes after them. He’s Savior Jesus FOR THEM. He’s not there to harm them or to get revenge. It’s not payback time. He’s there to ABSOLVE THEM. Forgive them. Restore them. Church them. “Peace be with you,” he categorically declares. This is high divine pastoral care. It’s what He gives to have a church.

 

His “peace be with you” words do and give what they say: PEACE. Peace with God! He is not angry. He does not hold their sin against them. He refuses to do that. Why? It is because He’s carried all their sin, the world’s sin, your sin, in His Body on the cross and He atoned for it by His Divine Good Friday blood.

 

The peace of the absolution comes from His Good Friday death on the cross. “He showed them His hands and side.” His Good Friday wounds are showing! He doesn’t hide them. The risen Jesus is the crucified Jesus. The crucified Jesus is the risen Jesus. The absolution that flows from His Good Friday scars erases their fear and turns it into joy. “They were glad when they saw the Lord!”

No kidding! That’s a no-brainer! After all, He comes as the Savior! The forgiver of sinners! He restores them around Himself and His Good Friday wounds. This is what Jesus does with His died-for sinners. Where sin is forgiven, death has no power and God’s wrath and hell are closed. There is peace, pure righteousness and life.

 

Jesus gives the same divine high pastoral care FOR YOU. You too are sinners for whom He Good Friday-ly died. He comes to quench all your fears and give you joy. He does it with His Word of absolution, His “peace be with you.” He speaks it through the disciples He sends to absolve sinners just He’s done with them. “As the Father has sent me so I now send you.” As Jesus was sent by the Father to be His authorized representative, to speak on His behalf, so now Jesus authorizes His disciples to speak on His behalf. To speak out / to give out His Good Friday forgiveness to sinners – a whole world full.

 

Jesus breathes on the disciples and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He has good use of these absolved sinners. Now they are His pastors, His sent ones. Put into apostolic ministry. These men are Holy Spirit-ed – ordained, tasked, vocation-ed, office-ed – given to speak the Good Friday peace – the Good Friday absolution with the full confidence that it is by Jesus’ own breath, His words, and His Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit of which St. Paul spoke to Timothy when Paul told him of his own ordination. “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

 

Jesus breathes His words and Spirit into His apostles, His pastors, for this reason: TO FORGIVE SINNERS THEIR SINS! “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven,” Jesus declares. This is the parallel of Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 when Jesus makes this promise: “Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

The Lord Jesus sends pastors for this very purpose. Pastors are to be His ambassadors. His mouth. To speak His Holy Spirit-filled word of absolution to sinners. To church them. To have believers gathered around Jesus – dependent on Him as the Savior. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from any it is withheld.”

 

Jesus hooks His words to their mouths. Connects His forgiveness to their forgiveness. He puts pastors into the office of the ministry to deal decisively with sin by applying the saving forgiveness of His Good Friday death. This is precisely what pastoral care and the church is all about! It’s about dealing decisively with sinners and their sin. The church in which the pastor serves is a MOUTH HOUSE OF FORGIVENESS – to forgive the sins of sinners that want to be rid of their sin and live holy lives according to God’s Word. In addition, the church is a MOUTH HOUSE to retain the sins of sinners that would rather hold on to their sin, not let Jesus have their sin, die and be damned forever.

 

The Small Catechism confesses the biblical truth of John 20 in the little question the pastor asks the penitent: “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” The response is “Yes.” Then the pastor forgives because of Christ’s mandate from John 20. The absolution the pastor speaks is the Lord’s Word. The absolution is the living voice of Christ. Viva vox Christi! In the absolution Jesus Himself speaks to you and FOR YOU. Giving you, the sinner, His high divine pastoral care.

 

The forgiveness that Peter, James and John, the other disciples and I your pastor speak is not our own. We have no forgiveness of our own to give. We are in constant need of forgiveness ourselves. Forgiveness is the Lord’s. He died. He rose. For you. For all. Absolution is Christ’s and He wills to speak it through the mouths of men that He puts into the office of the holy ministry.

 

There is no doubt about this. It is certain and sure. Jesus says so. He promises. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”

 

In response to the Lord’s high pastoral care what is there left to do? It’s time to rejoice and give thanks. Let’s do that by singing four stanzas of hymn #614. Stanzas 5-8.

 

The words which absolution give

Are His who died that we might live;

The minister whom Christ has sent

Is but His humble instrument.

When ministers lay on their hands

Absolved by Christ the sinner stands;

He who by grace the Word believes

The purchase of His blood receives.

All praise to You, O Christ, shall be

For absolution full and free,

In which You show Your richest grace;

From false indulgence guard our race.

Praise God the Father and the Son

And Holy Spirit, Three in One,

As was, is now, and so shall be

World without end, eternally!

John 20 Part Two

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John 20 Part One

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The Risen Christ Forgives and Restores!

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The Resurrection of Our Lord / 10:30 Service            Trinity Lutheran Church

16 April 2017                                                                       Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

Matthew 28:1-10

 

Matthew doesn’t mince words. The supreme event of the gospel is reported so economically. Yet so wonderfully! Could it be? Did it really happen?

 

Spoiler alert! Yes! It did! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! There’s no doubt about it. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” The tomb is empty! No corpse! Bodily resurrection!

 

This fact of the empty tomb and very physical resurrection of Jesus is to be preached. His resurrection is the best of news! It means that His Good Friday death on the cross truly did atone for every sin and every sinner. It means that He really is the Messiah. He is the Savior of sinners.

 

That’s exactly why the angel tells the two Marys: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples” and when Jesus Himself met them He too instructed the women: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  Did you catch that? It’s salvationally incredible! Salvifically huge!

Jesus calls these sinners “disciples” and “brothers.” Learn and believe this: the risen Jesus remains the Good Friday Jesus. The Good Friday and Easter Jesus is the Forgiver and Restorer!

 

What do you do with sinners? I know what you do. I know what I do. It’s not good. We’re stingy. Tight fisted. Tight wadded. Ham fisted. Self-righteous. Reluctant to say: “I forgive you” or bullish on never verbalizing forgiveness to anyone.  Jesus, however, does just the opposite. He goes after the sinner – diligently! Targets them. Leaves the ninety-nine to find the one lost sheep. Lights the lamp and sweeps the house to find the lost coin. Doesn’t stop until he finds them. Then He’s extravagantly generous. Some would call it reckless, irresponsible, foolish. But He does it anyway. It’s His cup of tea.  He forgives sinners. He restores them. He gains them. Wins them. Just like Jesus Himself mandates in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 or in John 20!

 

Jesus puts into practice what He preached and mandated. Through the angel at the empty grave the very author of the Office of the Keys calls the dismal good for nothing men that had forfeited their right to discipleship “his disciples” still! He who has the authority over both heaven and hell calls these very pathetic men that had forsaken Him and denied Him His “brothers” still!

 

The divine authority and power of Good Friday Jesus fully emerges in the light of Easter Sunday. Part and parcel of the authority of the crucified and risen Jesus is the power to forgive sinners their sins! No matter who! No matter how much! No matter how bad! The whole enchilada of forgiveness comes from Good Friday and easter-ly risen Jesus! Here and now!

 

So, “go quickly and tell his disciples.” “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  They will see the Jesus that died for them. Who gives them salvation. Forgiveness. Restoration.

 

Then the Lord Jesus has good use of these forgiven restored sinners. That’s the second half of Matthew 28. You know it by heart. Jesus meets the disciples on the mountain in Galilee. He comes to them. They too worshiped him; but some doubted. Nonetheless, He sends them – apostles. He apostles them. All authority in heaven and on earth Jesus authorizes these men, to bestow forgiveness and salvation to “all nations,” a whole world full of unworthy and undeserving Gentile sinners through baptism in the Triune Name and teaching everything He has mandated. Yes, these disciples and brothers are sent so that the Lord Jesus would have more “disciples,” more “brothers.” More believers in Him!

 

The Book of Acts describes how Jesus disciples sinners from “all nations” — how the risen Jesus, uses the apostles to baptize and teach and have a church consisting not only of believing Jews but also the goyim – the unclean Gentiles or “nations.” So we find Peter in Acts 10. Apostled by the Lord Peter brings the gospel to the Roman Gentile centurion Cornelius. He preaches Christ crucified and Christ risen. “Hung on a tree but God raised him on the third day.” “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:40-43)

 

The authority of the risen Lord Jesus is the compassionate authority to give forgiveness to sinners. He has given that to you too. He died for you. He rose for you. He has sent me – apostl-ed me too – to tell you that all your sins are forgiven. Jesus still considers you to be His disciples and brothers too. In addition, all authority in heaven and on earth Jesus has sent me to you and authorized me to baptize your children and to help you teach them everything that Jesus has commanded. In all of this the Lord Jesus churches you. He has a church.

 

In this church He, through the Holy Spirit, daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers. He Matthew 16s, Matthew 18s and John 20s you. He comes after you – meets you – not on a Galilean mountaintop but in the divine service Sunday after Sunday. His lavish forgiveness will bear fruit for the long haul. His divine forgiveness given to you in His Word and sacraments will give you the resurrection of the body and life everlasting on the Last Day. The full fruit of His Good Friday forgiveness seen with your eyes. Total restoration.

 

The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory,” (Col. 3:3-4).

 

Can that be? Will that really happen? Yes! Absolutely! After all, you’ve already been raised to new life of faith in Jesus through baptism. You are a new creation already through faith in Jesus. The old has passed away. The new has come. Again, at the moment that’s spelled: F-A-I-T-H. And then all authoritative Jesus gives you this whopper of an Easter promise just FOR YOU: “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mk 16:16).

 

Happy Easter dear “disciples” and “brothers” of the risen Savior Jesus!

EASTER PART TWO

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EASTER PART ONE

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He Is Risen! FOR YOU!

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The Resurrection of Our Lord / Sunrise Service           Trinity Lutheran Church

16 April 2017                                                                          Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

John 20:1-18

 

“They did not yet know from the SCRIPTURES that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

 

Scriptures said it would happen. So did Jesus. Many times. Over and over again. That’s precisely what it meant for Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God – dying but then rising on the third day!

 

Mary saw the massive stone rolled away. Took a peek inside the empty tomb and she guessed that the body had been stolen. Grave robbers! “They have take the LORD out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”    And then when Mary sees the resurrected Jesus with her own eyes she mistakes Him for the gardener.

 

Peter and John take a look too. The strips of linen that covered the corpse and the cloth that was wrapped around Jesus’s head were there. So it wasn’t the work of grave robbers. Something else must have happened. But what?

 

“They did not yet know from the SCRIPTURES that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

The Scriptures are to be heard. Listened to. Believed. As God’s promissory Word. The Scriptures testify to Jesus. So listen to the Scriptures. Listen to Jesus’ Word. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” So, risen from the dead Shepherd Jesus sees her and says, “Mary.” He calls her by name. He reaches out to her in her sorrow and distress with His Word. His voice is His Word. Then she recognizes Him as she, His little sheep, hears His Word!

 

“Rabonni!” she exclaims. Rabonni means “my Teacher.” That’s the specific term reserved by pious Hebrews for God alone! Hearing His Word she believes. He speaks to her personally and tenderly. The living Word of her living, resurrected Lord has its faith-creating-way with her. FAITH! Faith comes by hearing! AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF CHRIST!

 

This morning you are given to hear the Scriptures! They testify to Jesus. He died FOR YOU. On the cross He absorbed your death, your disease, your sin, your sickness, your suffering into His Good Friday body and He nailed them all to death once and for all on the cross. He rose from the grave on the third day FOR YOU. He now reigns to give you all the salvational benefits and salvific gifts that flow from His cross good Friday-ly done through His Word.

 

What word is that? Well, it is the Matthew 28:19 Word combined with the water of your baptism by which He not only called you by name but actually gave you the very saving Name of the Trinity Himself!   In addition, at your baptism Jesus embraced you with His death and life. St. Paul puts the baptismal gift this way: “For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” (Col 3:3). In baptism you are buried with Jesus and He is buried in you!

 

There is more.   To you, the baptized sheep that hear His voice, Jesus buries His crucified, risen and ascended body and blood into you through the bodily eating of bread and wine. At the Lord’s Supper with His promise of forgiveness, Jesus gives you the gifts of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the Last Day,” (Jn 6:54).

 

Well, let me finish this sermon with a flurry. Or how about this? With the good news of the gospel all the more! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! In His resurrection Jesus gives you a preview of the Last Day when He will raise you from your grave and give you resurrected bodies like His that will never die. In Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory! Christ’s! The disorder and darkness of death have been reordered by the light of Christ! “When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory,” (Col 3:4). Jesus is your life. Jesus is your resurrection. Just as the Scriptures say. Just as Jesus promises. Sheep, listen to Him. Sheep, trust Jesus who pledges: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). And: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mk 16:16).

 

Happy Easter Morning!