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Holy Absolution: Forgiveness for Sinners!

April 23, 2017

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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!

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