EASTER 2, B – April 12, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; John 20:19-31

 

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side… He said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the 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 forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

 

Last Sunday – Easter – was such a joyous day! The sun was shining brightly; the breakfast went very well, and everyone enjoyed it; the kids had a fun Easter egg hunt; and the singing in the Services was wonderful. It was such a good day!

 

The early days of the Church, the days after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, were even better. The book of Acts tells us: “Now those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” If only it could have remained like that. It sounds like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden all over again, with peace and joy filling all!

 

Yea, the Garden of Eden. What happened? What ruined everything, brought an end to the peace and happiness Adam and Eve enjoyed there with God? You know:

  • How Eve was tempted by the devil to eat the fruit that God had forbidden.

  • And Adam, who was there with her, kept his mouth shut and remained silent. He spoke no word to defend her and help her as she was tempted.

    Eve then ate of the fruit and shared it with Adam. And, how things changed! Their joy and contentment was replaced by shame; they looked upon God with doubt and fear; and, they would not speak the truth to Him. Instead, they dodged and blamed each other, and even God Himself, for their sin. What happened? The mouth happened. With their mouths they denied God and ruined everything! This denial continues to this day.

     

    Jesus is the end of this ruin. From the cross He opened His mouth and spoke seven times, as God in the beginning spoke over seven days and brought forth all of creation. The cross was a re-creation event. Jesus was making all things new! On Easter Sunday He rose to bring His new creation to this fallen world. Jesus showed Himself and His wounds to His disciples. Then He opened His mouth to give them the Holy Spirit and renew their mouths. He put His victory over sin into their mouths, thereby restoring that which had brought about the fall of God’s creation.

     

    Your mouth is now an instrument of the risen Christ and His Holy Spirit which can bring forth the new creation! Or, it can promote sin and death and spread ruin. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” says Prov. 18:21. Which will it be?

     

    Sin and death were in the mouth of Thomas. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” [that Jesus has risen]. Now, I doubt that any of you are Thomases who doubt that Jesus truly rose from the dead. But, how do you handle sins: your own, and those committed against you?

     

    To doubt your forgiveness and so deny your sin is to handle them poorly. We do this when, instead of readily admitting and confessing our sins:

  • We offer up excuses for sin, to make it understandable and not sinful.

  • We dodge and blame others, and lay it to their account.

    “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” Scripture says – and only ourselves. God is not deceived! He knows the truth about you and your sin. But in Christ we see that He is a faithful God who wishes to forgive! You confess this with your mouth when you confess your sins to Him.

     

    But, what about those who sin against you? Don’t open your mouth to speak harsh and angry words to get back at them. This only promotes sin. Don’t be silent, either, and not speak up to forgive and help, for then you are like Adam. The mouth that will not speak forgiveness is an instrument of death, and not of life; of unclean spirits, not the Holy Spirit; of Satan, and not Christ.

     

    God’s Word says (1 John 1), “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.” Do you realize what this is saying? Jesus is your advocate; your lawyer; your “mouth” in heaven. And, what a mouth! He, the eternal Son of God who is one with the Father, is speaking into the Father’s ears for you! He shows Him His wounds and speaks of how He purchased your forgiveness with them. God listens to Him and forgives your sins.

     

    But, Jesus is also speaking into your ears and proclaiming to you the forgiveness of your sins. He made His Apostles, and then also the pastors He places into the Apostolic Ministry after them, His mouths: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” Pastors are the mouths of Christ, and the forgiveness they pronounce upon you is from Christ Himself. Don’t ever doubt that your sins are forgiven when you hear me say to you, “I forgive you your sins.” You are hearing the voice of Christ!

     

    Listen, and believe your sins are forgiven. Then, go forth to yourself be the voice of Christ by forgiving those who sin against you. God has made you this! Remember that the Jesus who speaks to the Father for the forgiveness of your sins offered His life to forgive the sins of the world. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world,” John says. How can you hold onto sins which Christ has forgiven? How dare you hold onto sins which Christ has forgiven! This would be to deny His wounds and deny His resurrection!

     

    “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” Jesus has taught us to pray. He bore the sins of all people and died for them on the cross, filling that prayer with the power of His forgiveness. He rose from the dead and breathed His Spirit into us, putting that forgiveness into our mouths. Jesus Christ – crucified and risen for our forgiveness, speaking to you through His pastors and then through you to those who sin against you – is the peace and joy that renews our lives. With His voice ringing in our ears and filling our hearts, every day is a good day! It is His day, a day in which He is bringing forth His new creation.

     

    We say, then, this day and every day: “This is the day which the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24)