Roger's Postings

Friday, April 17, 2009

John 20:19-23. Christ appears and sends. 19/4/09

“ On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Here in this reading this morning Jesus has two Easter surprises for his disciples, and that includes us. He appears to them behind closed doors and he sends them out to do his work. What an Easter turn around! This is the man who was strung up to die and buried into the past; who seemingly has lost his chance to have an impact on the world; who was rejected by his own people; punished for all of our wrongs; deserted by all, even though he was innocent. This one bright hope for the future was thought to be gone.

So what do we find; his disciples hiding away behind locked doors: Frightened for their own lives, in case the Jewish leaders should come after them: Frightened to face the outside world for fear of ridicule. Depressed and humiliated because they had let their Lord down. Their whole world had fallen apart with the death of Jesus, and now they were hiding away in fear.

And yet despite the fact that they had let their master down: Despite the fact that their confidence, knowledge and everything else had failed them, and they now really haven’t got anything going for them, either as leaders or even witnesses for God, Jesus comes to them and gives them his peace and sends them out to be his witnesses. What an incredible turn around! What an amazing thing that Jesus has done here. It certainly does not fit our modern approach to the church and peoples involvement in important positions.

But of course, that was history. That was way back in the past. What has that that got to do with us and the here and now situations that we are facing in our lives? Yet, is not that you and me also? Are we so good in our faith and our living out our Christian lives; witnessing for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he gives? No, of course not! So often we fall into the same category as those first disciples: hiding away at home or work, or behind our church walls, or our committee involvement; Hiding behind our claim to be Christian, but not openly: uncertain and feeling bad because we also have let our Lord and others down: not wanting to face our friends and neighbours as Christian witnesses because we are afraid of being ridiculed or whatever. Yes, in many ways we are no different! We also have heard that Word of our Lord and we claim to be Christ’s followers, but too often are hiding away: from God, each other, and our community.

Yet, surprise, surprise! Today again, our Lord Jesus comes to you and me: He is here in this service again revealing himself to us, and pronouncing his peace to us, and sending us out to live and be his witnesses. He is here, sharing his message of forgiveness. To each one of us he says, ‘Peace be with you”. So he is not here to tick us off because we haven’t been to church much lately, or because we have done this or that wrong, or that we haven’t done something that we should have. Sure, it upsets and hurts him that we have done this, and he would certainly like to see more from each one of us.

But no, he is here to extend his peace to our lives: To free us from those guilty fears that we have for letting God, others and ourselves down: To pronounce to us that we are forgiven, for all of our sin: that he did die for each and every one of us. He is here to remind us that we are accepted by God, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and to assure us that he does love us and has something far better in mind for us, and that there is meaning and a purpose to our lives. Even in the midst of the pain, hurt and loneliness that we human beings make for ourselves, that he is there with and for us, and that he does care: that even there he has forgiveness, life and salvation for us.

So yes, in his coming to us again and again he seeks to make us whole human beings again: at peace with our God, with others around us, and with ourselves. That is what he gives to you and me here today. He has come to say, ‘Peace be with you’. And just as there was no barrier to stop Jesus coming to his disciples: no closed doors and windows, or doubting hearts such as Thomas’ that could stop him from appearing to them and bringing that peace; so also for us, no matter who we are or what we have or haven’t done, or how closed off to God and others we are, or anything else: to each one of us he says, ‘Peace be with you’. Assuring us again that that is what he has in mind for each one of us, and that it is now available to us. It is ours. His death and resurrection is our guarantee that he and his forgiveness is for real and that it is for all people.

That brings us to the other reason for his appearance to those first disciples all those years ago, and to us today. The peace that he has for us, is also for all the people out there in the world around us, and he wants them all to know what he has done for them: that there is forgiveness for them also, and there is a new and better way for them in and through our Lord Jesus Christ: that he also has a wholeness of life for them that they will find nowhere else. He wants all of those people out there to know for sure that they also are loved: that Christ took the punishment that they should have received, so that forgiveness is there for them and that there is meaning and purpose to life, and they are a part of it.

So the message he has for us, is also the message he sends us out with. He wants to bring peace to the whole of our broken, hurting world. So in coming to us and pronouncing his peace to us, he is also charging each one of us, and all of us together, with the task of sharing that message of peace. This is now our major role in life. We are not here to simply look after ourselves, and our own pleasures, and to maintain to own faith and nothing else. Jesus has taken care of that for us: we now have everything that is important. So he challenges us to look beyond ourselves, to the people around us. Even our gathering for worship now has that focus of allowing God to serve us, and strengthen and encourage us, so that we can serve the people around us. We study the Scriptures not for our benefit, but for the benefit of those around us. So that they too can know of the peace that God has for them.

And we can and must be diligent in this calling and challenge that Jesus here places before us. Look, we can do it! Remember, Christ has died and risen again for us: He is our living and all-powerful Lord and Saviour. This is a fact! This is not some fancy or wishful thinking. Jesus has risen from the dead. So we can go forward with confidence. On top of that, remember also, that Jesus has given us his Holy Spirit to guide and help us in this task. He is there in our lives to constantly remind us of all that our Lord Jesus has done for us and for the people around us. He is here in our Church reminding, strengthening, and building us up through the Word and the Sacraments for this very task.

So we are not alone in this. There is no need for us to be afraid. No need to hides ourselves and our faith away. We have every reason to go forward with confidence: willing to face everything this world can throw at us: willing to reach out to our friends and neighbours knowing, that we are not on our own, but that the Holy Spirit also goes with us. On top of that, we have a most important message that our world needs to hear: a message that is vital for their wellbeing. Remember also that this message has helped millions and millions of people in the past: it has transformed nations: and it is just as relevant, helpful and powerful today.

The one who was rejected and died on the cross for us all, has risen from the dead. Jesus has risen and has spoken his word of peace to us. He is truly our Lord and Saviour, and so we have every reason to be overjoyed and confident: Every reason to say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’; and every reason to share his message of forgiveness with others. Yes, Easter goes on for us each and every day, because the risen Lord Jesus is for real and he has given us his peace. Let us now share this Good News with others, for he is risen, he is risen indeed. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


Post a Comment

<< Home