SCRIPTURES – Ps. 105; Acts 5:29-42; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John20:19-31
On the evening of that day, the first day ofthe 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.” When hehad said this, he showed them his hands and his side. John20
There is much thatwe don’t know about Jesus, including about what He experienced in the hoursbetween His death on the cross on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. Weknow that He was with God the Father in heaven, for His last words before Hedied were, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” He had alsoassured the man who was being crucified next to Him, “Today you will be with Me inparadise.” So, while Jesus’ body rested in a grave His spirit was withGod in heaven. But, what did He experience there? Was He aware of His disciplesand their grief? We often assume that those in heaven are aware of us, for,when thinking of a loved one who has died, we say things like, “He’s looking down on me” or “He sent me a sign to let me know that he’sok.” Is this true? There’s no indication of this from Jesus. When Heappears to His disciples after His resurrection He doesn’t tell them anythingabout heaven or about what life after death is like. He doesn’t encourage themto ask questions about it. He doesn’t bring them some sign or evidence of thelife and world beyond this life.
Instead of comingto satisfy their curiosity about life in heaven, Jesus comes to deal with agreater issue: the burden of their fears and their guilt, which would keep themfrom gaining that life. He comes to silence their fears and forgive their sins;to silence their fears byforgiving their sins. Notice:
- His first words tothem are words of forgiveness: “Shalom alekem”(peace to you).
- His first actionsare to show them His hands and His side, with the wounds by which He purchasedtheir forgiveness.
Forgiveness is whatthe risen Jesus is most concerned about. Forgiveness is what He most desires togive. And so, forgiveness is the gift He gives to His disciples. It is a giftfor them to receive, and it is a gift they are also to give. After Jesusforgave them and showed them His hands and His side, He said to them: “ ‘Asthe Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this,he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgivethe sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone,it is withheld.’ ”
Thanks be to Godthat Jesus’ first and main concern, both before and after He rose, was theforgiveness of our sins! For, sin is very present in our lives. Even on that daywhen Jesus rose from the dead sins were very much in evidence.
- Peter bore muchregret and guilt in his heart, for three times he had denied Jesus when He wason trial for His life. He said that he didn’t even know Him!
- The other discipleshad run away from Jesus.
Over the previoustwo days Peter and the others had probably been alternating between accusingone another and defending and excusing their own actions. That’s what we do!
- And, what aboutThomas? He was not there on the day Jesus rose and showed Himself to Hisdisciples, and he refused to believe the others when they told him they hadseen Him. Oh, the arguments he must have caused! The anger and hard feelings hemust have inspired!
Even in the midstof the joy of Christ’s resurrection sin was very present.
What about in yourlife? What sins are you dealing with on this Sunday after Easter? What sins aretroubling you and your family, and making you afraid of what may come? Do notthink that by not talking about them and hiding them – from yourself, as wellas from others – they are hidden from God. The Lord Jesus heard Thomas’s denialsand his vow that he would never believe unless he saw and touched Jesus’wounds. Your Lord hears you. He knows even the words that you speak only inyour heart.
What your Lordwants you to know and believe is this: He not only died 2,000 years ago to takeyour sins away from you. He rose in victory over their condemnation and death.And the first thing He did after He rose was to give His victory and authorityover sin, over its condemnation and its devastation, to His followers:
- To Peter and theother apostles;
- To the two discipleswho had unknowingly walked with Him to Emmaus earlier that day;
- To the women whohad gone to the tomb that morning and then ran to that locked room to tell theothers of His resurrection.
He breathed on themall on that Easter evening and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If youforgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness fromanyone, it is withheld.” The risen Lord has given His Holy Spirit andthe power and victory of His forgiveness to all of His believers! And so, on thisvery day, Christ has from my mouth as His disciple and your called pastor spokenHis peace upon you and given you of His Holy Spirit. He who knows your sins,even better than you know them, has put them away forever! You are not dead in yoursins but have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christfrom the dead!” (1 Peter 1)
As followers ofChrist; as people of the resurrection; put sins away. Put them away from yourheart and mind. Do not hold onto guilt for sins which Jesus has forgiven! Be atpeace, for your eternal Lord is at peace with you. He remembers your sins nomore! And, as you set aside your own sins, set aside the sins of others, also.Do not hold onto anger for sins committed against you and proclaim guilt, for yourLord does not do this. He who has forgiven you has also forgiven those who sinagainst you. Put sins away with your speech by forgiving them, and then by not continuingto bring them up. Put them away from your conduct by not responding to sins inkind. “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you,” Jesussays. We live to share the peace we have received.
This is what Easteris all about. This is what being a disciple of Jesus, a believer that He diedand rose for you, is all about. Yes, you have been “born again to a living hopethrough the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance thatis imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”Rejoice in this! But then, fix your attention on this life, and on how you canbring His forgiveness, with its peace and hope and joy, to others in this life.To this faith you have been called, and by this faith you will live with yourSavior forever. To Jesus, crucified and risen for our forgiveness, be all gloryand praise! Amen.