Home > Easter > The Gates of the City are Always Open–Sermon, Quasimodogeniti 2013.

The Gates of the City are Always Open–Sermon, Quasimodogeniti 2013.


IVNYI_~1Quasimodogeniti

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 20:19-31

April 7, 2013

Jesu juva!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Beloved of our Lord Jesus,

Jerusalem’s gates will never be shut (Rev. 21, Is. 60).  This means they have no fear of attackers.  Jerusalem is the Christian church, Christ’s little flock.

But the doors are shut where the disciples are.  They know there are bad people outside who want to hurt them.

This is not the life Jesus promised the Church.  John says in the Epistle: Everyone who is born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.  Who overcomes the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 

The church didn’t look like it was overcoming the world.  It was in hiding, running from the world for fear.

That’s because to overcome the world is beyond human power.  To be born of God is beyond human power.

People in Jesus’ day thought that they could recognize the truth and choose to follow it.  They think the same today.  Jesus will come in if we just open the door and let Him into our hearts.

Jesus disagreed.  You are not able to do that, He said.

And He is right.  If Jesus only could come to us if we held the door open for Him, the church would have died in the room with the cowering disciples.  In shutting the doors they were keeping the Jews out but also, unwittingly, showing that they didn’t believe Jesus’ word—Don’t be troubled.  I will rise on the third day.

We think, and it really seems true, that we and other people don’t believe because either Jesus has not done enough, or we have not done enough.

Thomas is ready to believe as soon as he can thrust his hand into Jesus’ side.

We don’t hold the door for Jesus.  He doesn’t come into our midst because we let Him in or because we are expecting Him.

He doesn’t carry out His mission in the world because we let Him out.

The stone wasn’t rolled away from the tomb to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in and see that He was not there.

We don’t hold the door open for Jesus.  Our old nature does not allow that.

To open the door to Jesus to our old nature is like the disciples opening the door of that room.  Jesus said He would come in.  But it seems a lot more likely some guards with spears and torches and chains will come.

We don’t expect God to do us good.  We call into question God’s good will toward us.  We act like His power is bound by our willingness or unwillingness.  This is nothing new.  Look at Sarah.  She laughed when she overheard that the Lord would return a year from that time and cause her, an old woman, to bear a child in her old age.  She laughed at God.  And she is one of the examples for Christians.

We do this continually, and even if we overcome it, it is always present with us—resistance, unbelief, calling God a liar.  Looking to another God.

We are truly helpless to save ourselves.  You can’t do anything to make God turn His heart toward you.  Nor can you rid yourself of your resistance toward God.

Even the apostles couldn’t.

What hope is there for us then?

Only this: that God has decided to be open toward us and freely forgive all our sins.

When Jesus was in the room with the disciples, He said, “Take, eat, this is my body…”  He was informing them that He was indeed going to death as He had said, and that they could not come with them.  But they should not be troubled.  It was all for them.  And just as clearly as He showed them that He was open to them and for them—washing their feet, giving them His flesh and blood even as they were about to forsake Him—He also explained to them that His Father was for them.  If you had really known Me, you would have known My Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.

 

And what is the Father like?  The apostles didn’t understand until after Jesus rose.  But they came to see—just as Jesus wanted to keep the disciples from anxiety and sorrow, fear and terror during His passion—He was concerned about them, that they have peace, even as He drank the cup of God’s wrath against them—just so the Father is.

Our flesh and the devil say God doesn’t love us.  He wants to hold good things back from us.  We can’t expect good things from Him, just boring things, useless things, pipe dreams, and worst of all, shame, dishonor and death.

In the Psalms it says God is a sun and a shield.  The Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  (Psalm 84:11)

 

In Jesus we see this.  God bestows favor and honor.  He makes His only Son our brother, sharing our flesh and blood.  Then He honors us by bearing our shame, as though we were worthy of sitting beside Him on thrones in His glory.

But it is surely so.  The Son who bore our shame, our crown of curses, our nakedness and humiliation, also will acknowledge those He shed His blood for on the last day.

And the Father willed it.  When you see Jesus’ passion, you see the profound depths of the Father’s love toward us.

God the Father and the Son are open to us.  They hold nothing back.  They don’t give you false hopes and pipe dreams, but favor and honor.  Not favor and honor with men and the devil, but with God, and His holy angels, and the saints, and their favor and honor is the only favor and honor that matters.

But it would not help us that Jesus died on the cross unless it was given.  And so because the disciples didn’t understand, Jesus didn’t wait for them to open the door and figure it out.

He came into their midst, through the locked doors.

He proclaimed the word of life and resurrection.  “Peace to you,” showing His hands and His side.

That is what the preaching of the Gospel is.  Christ [is] publicly portrayed before you as crucified before your eyes [Galatians 3:1].  He is pictured before you in the preaching of the Word.  What the apostles saw they proclaim in the Scriptures and in preaching in the Church which is faithful to their witness.

Then they proclaim what Jesus did: “Peace to you.”  This explains what the cross of Jesus has accomplished and who it is for.

It has made peace with God.  The disciples were condemned by abandoning Jesus, condemned by their unbelief.  And it just got worse and worse, compounding itself.  “I’ve failed miserably so now I might as well lock the door, because even if Jesus did come back right now He would come and punish me.”

But no, Jesus says His wounds have made peace with God for all our sins.  God counts none of them against us.

And His preaching is unconditional.  No, “This is all for you if you open the door to me.”  Just God’s announcement, “Peace be with you.”  You have peace with God through my wounds.

And then, just as quickly and unconditionally:  Just as the Father sent me, I am sending you.  Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

 

And note, no hedging, no conditions.  He has just given those who believe in Him the Spirit of God, and with it He has sent them to bring blessing and salvation.  And He has entrusted them with the keys that open and unlock the bonds of sin and death, as well as chain them.

How did Jesus dare to put all that in their hands?

Because He had cleared away their sins.  Just as He has cleared away yours.

We don’t open doors for Jesus.  Rather He tells us in His Word—God is open to you, having forgiven you.

Then this makes us open—first to God, then to the world outside.

Peace be with you means I have peace with God by His work alone.  When this word was preached by the apostles, it was just as if Jesus preached it.  Just as the Father sent me, I send you.  When Jesus spoke, the Father spoke.  When we looked at Jesus, we saw the Father.

So when an apostle or a pastor preaches the Gospel, it comes from the Father and the Son.

Also when a layman pronounces the forgiveness of sins.

Because when you were baptized you overcame the world.  You were born of God.

We have peace with God because Jesus says so.  To the disciples He said it and showed His wounds.

To us He says it and gives us His body and blood.  The peace of the Lord be with you always.  We say “Amen,” not “and also with you.”  The peace of the Lord that is with you always is the peace which is accomplished by Jesus’ body and blood which you are about to receive.

We have peace with God because He says so.  So we also are sent because He says so.

We are sent with the Holy Spirit because He says so, and He will be with us.

We are sent with the keys to bind and to loose sins, exercised when you tell one another “your sins are forgiven” as well as when the pastor pronounces it publicly as the called minister of Christ’s gifts.  Also exercised when we in love tell unrepentant sinners that their sins are not forgiven so that they may not be condemned on the last day, but may turn and be saved.

God is open to you.  He has spoken one big yes, bestowed favor and honor upon us by giving His Son our flesh and our sins and giving us His title—Son of God.

He is not only open to you in theory, but actually present to you. His Spirit resounds in our ears in the word, was poured on us in holy Baptism.  His Son’s own body and blood is given us to eat and drink with mouth and soul.  And in the Son we have the Father and come into His presence.

Long for the pure spiritual milk.  We are like helpless babies, but He feeds us with His lifegiving word.  He makes us strong by giving us everything.  “Your sins are forgiven.  Peace to you.  Receive the Holy Spirit.”

And then we become open, like our Jesus was, to the big nasty world full of evil people who want to kill us.  But unlike the disciples before this, we are not terrified, because the Lord who says “Peace to you” each Sunday also says, “I am sending you.  Fear not, I have overcome the world.”

When Thomas touched Jesus wounds, He came to see what He did not grasp before.  “My Lord and My God!”  The side of His Lord and God was pierced for Thomas.  Blood and water flowed from God’s heart.  Then He came and allowed him to thrust his unbelieving hand into His holy risen body.

God loves you and is for you.  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  He has saved you.  Is it possible for you to undo His Work?  Take the wounds off of His hands and feet?

If God is for you, who can be against you?  Who can condemn you if Jesus justifies you?

Peace be with you.  Amen.

The peace of God…

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