“Live from Bossier City”
April 12, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
INI + AMEN.
Jesus shows us very simply and plainly what we should take away from our Gospel text today. He shows us where He wishes to strengthen our faith. We also need to take our cue from what St. John says in our Epistle today, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…we proclaim to you.” We see here that God wanted to be touchable, graspable, tangible. He wanted to be seeable. The One who was and is and will be forever came and suddenly He could be seen and touched. He could have thorns pushed into His head and nails into His hands and feet—a spear into His side. He could die but could also rise. But most importantly, and this is where Jesus Himself points us to in the Gospel lesson, He wanted to be hearable. Jesus turns us to what our ears can hear. Jesus wants to be heard.
(3. We’ve turned faith into a mental exercise.)
Jesus’ conversation with Thomas at the end of our reading today has to do with faith. Faith is nothing other than the trust that Jesus died and rose FOR YOU. It’s not enough to agree to the facts of the resurrection: the the Jewish religious leaders had that. They knew Jesus rose but paid off the guards to lie about it. Faith is to trust that Jesus is who He said He is: God Himself come in the flesh to die and rise FOR SINNERS, to save YOU. This faith in turn confesses Jesus to be “Lord and God” like Thomas, to say that Jesus didn’t just die and rise FOR YOU but that He died and rose FOR ALL. This is the simplest and truest definition of faith from Scripture: Faith is trust. Faith is confidence in Jesus. Faith lays hold of Christ, grasps hold of Him and won’t let go. It’s trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection count FOR YOU.
We like things to be mental and logical instead. We turn faith into a mental exercise. Something that we do with our brains only. We give our approval and acceptance of Christian teachings and doctrines and we count that as faith. Since I agree with the Bible, because it fits with what I think God is like, what I think God does, therefore I believe it. Because it makes sense to me, I believe it. We want mental and logical proofs. We want verifiable proof that fits with our own understanding, thoughts, meditations, and nowadays especially feelings.
This really becomes clear when we consider what I said first about faith. Faith is trust that Jesus died and rose FOR YOU. So, we start working it out in our own minds. We think about Calvary. We think about Easter. We count this active meditation as our faith. But faith isn’t meditation. Faith is trust. We try and get back to Calvary and Easter by our own meditations and feelings, and this is how we try and turn our faith into a work, something we do. Don’t get me wrong faith is strengthened by meditation upon God’s Word, but not because we do it—the Holy Spirit does it. We can’t get back to the cross and empty tomb. Our thoughts don’t transcend time and reach back to Good Friday and Easter Morning and bring them forward to us. Those moments are gone and past. Jesus died. Jesus rose. Both past tense. Faith isn’t about going backward to get to Jesus. We can’t do that. Faith is present tense. Faith actively clings to and trusts in Jesus and what He’s done to save us.
(2. Faith is about hearing Jesus’ voice.)
We don’t go to Jesus. He comes to us. That’s what He did for the disciples hiding in that room that first Easter Evening. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” He did it again a week later. “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.” Jesus comes to us because we can’t and don’t go to Him. The disciples were hiding. Thomas was off who knows where. Jesus comes to us. It’s a faith issue. Jesus comes to give and strengthen faith. Faith that’s trust and confidence in Him, but that trust in Jesus means you also listen to Jesus’ voice. Faith makes it so we listen to Jesus when He comes to us. We have faith, faith that trusts Jesus’ Word that He speaks to us, and, when Jesus speaks, He brings the fruits of Calvary and Easter. This is why there’s no need to go back to Golgotha and the tomb. Jesus brings what He won for us: Peace.
This is how it was for the Apostles. Jesus didn’t just show up. He spoke. He said, “Peace be with you!” Three times He said it! That’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection give us with God our heavenly Father, and Jesus brings that very peace in the Word that He speaks. Jesus’ speaking brings Calvary and Easter, what those two days mean, to the disciples. It strengthens their faith, and He says it to Thomas too. Jesus also says, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” “Be not unbelieving, but believing.” “Have faith,” Jesus says. And in those words He gives Thomas that very thing. Jesus gives Thomas faith.
(1. Jesus’ voice can still be heard.)
Faith is given by Jesus. It’s how it was for the disciples. Jesus shows that He had died and risen, and then He says what this means, “Peace!” Faith trusts that we have peace. Jesus doesn’t just have peace that we need to search for and find. The very peace won by His cross and empty tomb Jesus delivers. He doesn’t just deliver that peace to the disciples. Jesus delivers it to us too. There’s no need to go back to Calvary. That hill is far away, and the cross long since decayed and turned to dust. The tomb also is far away. But Jesus shows up with His Word of peace, giving what Good Friday and Easter won. The cross means sin is over, we are at peace with God. The empty tomb means death is over, we can die at peace. Jesus delivers it with His voice, and Jesus’ voice can still be heard.
When I say, “Jesus’ voice can still be heard,” I’m not speaking just in a poetic way. It’s not metaphor. It’s not abstract. It’s concrete. It’s not like saying that we hear Jesus’ Word when we read the bible. It’s true that we do. It’s more profound than that. Jesus, like I pointed out from first John—Jesus wants to be hearable. Jesus’ living voice causes your eardrums and my eardrums to vibrate with the sound of Him saying “Peace!” like He did in that room. Jesus lays out simply and plainly where we can hear it.
Jesus said, “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.” Jesus sends His apostles and pastors to vibrate eardrums so that people hear His voice. It’s why Jesus was sent. Isaiah tells us about Jesus, “The LORD has anointed me to BRING GOOD NEWS to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to PROCLAIM liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to PROCLAIM the year of the Yahweh’s favor.” This all comes through speaking. Jesus sends His apostles and pastors to do the same. “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”
Jesus says “Peace be with you.” It vibrates His disciples’ eardrums. When His apostles and pastors say, “I forgive you your sins,” our eardrums vibrate, and we hear Jesus’ voice bringing us the peace He won for us. No need to search for it. It’s right here, and we know that when pastors speak the absolution that“this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” Because He is. This is what Jesus wants. He gives His apostles and pastors the authority to do it. This is how Jesus’ living voice comes to us. Jesus lays this out simply, clearly, and plainly. It’s how He wants to strengthen and give us faith. It’s how it was for the disciples. It’s that way for you and me too. There’s one fact we can take away from John’s Gospel today, and it’s something that builds up and strengthens our faith, our trust in Jesus. This is it:
WE HEAR JESUS’ OWN VOICE IN THE ABSOLUTION.
That’s what Jesus wants us to believe and trust today. Why do we try and find excuses to avoid this gift of confessing and receiving forgiveness? I know I do. But Jesus wants our eardrums to ring and vibrate with His Word of peace and forgiveness. He delivers into our ears with His pastors what we need the most: peace, forgiveness. It was won by cross and empty tomb. It’s delivered with voice boxes, received with ears.
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
INI + AMEN.