No Way. Quasimodogeniti 2014. John 20:19-31
No way. Sorry.
I’ve been with you guys for 3 years now, so I know how you operate.
You’re on fire for Jesus until it might cost you something. Then it’s, “No, I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
You’re all about Jesus as long as you think you stand to gain something.
So you tell me you saw Him. You say you know it wasn’t a hallucination because He showed you the holes in His hands and the slit in His side. You tell me He sent you, He breathed on you, gave you the Spirit.
No way. I’ll believe you when I put my finger through the holes where the nails were and reach my hand into the gash in his side.
Poor Thomas. This wasn’t just about the facts—whether or not Jesus rose from the dead.
This was about jealousy. He rose from the dead, and all the disciples got to see Him except Judas and Thomas.
Poor Thomas could see all the reasons why Jesus shouldn’t send these ten disciples to be His messengers.
He could see their sins, but couldn’t hear the joyful message—“We have seen the Lord!”
If Thomas could have heard that, then he could have heard the grave that was so much bigger than who got to see Jesus and who gets authority and who gets to be first.
Christ is risen! That means—you’re free.
Whether you saw Him or didn’t. It doesn’t matter if you are the one who saw Him or who gets to be in charge. You’re free! Death and hell no longer hold you!
Thomas didn’t hear that. Didn’t see Jesus sending the others with this key of freedom for Thomas. He just saw theses sinners trying to exalt themselves over him again.
Poor Thomas! Look what he almost missed!
Poor us! Look what we are missing!
Jesus releases us from our sins through other people,
Then he sends us to release other people.
We aren’t missing the knowledge that Jesus rose from the dead. But we often miss the application of His resurrection to us. We don’t miss the knowledge of His resurrection; we just miss its application and benefit!
We stay living in cells far longer than we have to, than Jesus wants us to.
Jesus releases us from our sins through other people.
But who are you willing to accept as one good enough to release you?
The truth is that we feel awkward and embarrassed to be released. How any times do you tell another Christian “your sins are forgiven”? At home? At church? Seldom is probably the answer. It feels awkward. We probably think, “Who am I to say that.”
And yet that is what people need when they come to you with complaints about their health. With worry about their children. About money. About their failings. It’s what your kids need when they’re acting out. To be forgiven. The cause of our sins is not that we don’t try hard enough, but that we don’t believe the Gospel. Like Thomas.
But it’s awkward, even annoying, to have those words escape from church into what we call the real world. Your kid, busy disobeying you, might stop and say, “Who said anything about my sins? I didn’t ask to be forgiven.”
No, but it is Christ who looses us from our sins through other people, and sends us to loose other people.
But so often we do what Thomas did. “Hey, wait! You can’t forgive me!”
Jesus sends us to loose other people, but we refuse Him when He comes to loose us.
We don’t see Jesus sending the pastor or the other brother in Christ, giving him keys to unbind us from the temptation and troubles and sins we can’t untie.
Instead we see a sinner. And what do we think? Jesus isn’t going to work through this sinner. Instead I’m just going to get judgment.
Or, “Who is this guy to loose me? I don’t need his help. I’m doing fine.”
You don’t need whose help? The man’s? Or Christ’s, who sent him with the keys to release you?
You’re afraid who’s going to judge you? Jesus? Or the man He sent to forgive you in His name?
Oh, my brothers and sisters, my mothers and fathers! How sad this is, not only for us, but for other sinners!
Because Jesus releases you from your sins through other people, and then sends you to release other people.
And how can we release other people if we refuse to be release through others?
If you refuse to accept the full freedom Jesus sends you, what will you be able to minister to others?
We are willing to accept Jesus’ release from our sins, but so often only in general.
We do need a general, all-encompassing forgiveness, because we have far more sin than we know.
But the troubles of your life are not just general, are they?
It’s the specific troubles and griefs that torment us.
The specific prayers you pray that seem to go unanswered for years, for decades.
It’s specific people we get angry with and struggle to forgive.
It isn’t sin in general that tempts us, but specific sins.
We don’t just have general troubles at work, with our kids, in marriage. There are specific problems; a specific boss or co-worker out to get me. My kid cuts herself. My husband acts like he doesn’t love me anymore.
Is there any help in Christ for my specific woes and torments?
There is specific grace, tailor-made by Jesus to fit you. It is to lay your specific trouble not only in front of Christ in private but also in front of your brother in Christ so that Christ may release you, apply His word to you, apply His death and resurrection to your wounds. Your specific wounds. Through your flesh and blood brother who is specifically called to release you, whether that be the pastor Jesus sent specifically to serve you and keep your confession between you and Christ, or whether it be another Christian.
But right here is where we refuse Jesus’ help. Like Thomas, we say, “No way.”
No way am I going to accept the word of a man—a pastor, or some other Christian brother—as Christ’s word.
When I put my finger in the holes where the nails were, and reach my hand into Jesus’ side, then I’ll believe it’s Jesus speaking to me.
Otherwise I can get by fine on my own.
But Jesus didn’t promise to release you by coming in person. He promises that the church has His keys to unlock death, hell, the shackles of sin. And if those mighty powers release you, then so does any evil that might come to you through your suffering.
The Lord has promised to give all the gifts necessary to comfort the afflicted members of His body. It is the pastor’s job to give those gifts. Jesus gave His Spirit to the apostles for this purpose. And through the prayers of the church the pastors still receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower them to perform the office that has been entrusted to them.
But when you keep your wounds hidden, through fear or through being contemptuous of the gift of forgiveness, you deprive yourself of comfort and freedom which the Lord would give you.
Jesus says, “You lack one thing. You are not willing to be a sinner in the eyes of your brother. That is why when your brother comes to you in my name and pronounces my forgiveness you do not recognize that I am releasing you. It is I.
You fail to see that I made your pastor free, and your brother in the church free, by being bound to the cross with his nails and closed in his tomb. And when I rose from the dead I freed him.
And when I sent him a brother who baptized, taught, absolved him, it was me who unlocked the cell of his sins, loosed his chains, took away his bloody rags, scrubbed his wounds, and put on him a clean white robe—my righteousness.
That was me. And I, the one who loosed Him, am the one who sends him to comfort, loose, and absolve you.”
That grace loosed Peter from his denial. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” The same grace freed Paul from his murder of Christians, his persecution of Christ. The same grace freed Thomas of his hardness of heart and made him a minister of the Gospel he had stubbornly refused to believe.
The same grace made you a congregation of saints. And because that is what you are, your call to a man to be your pastor is not a human election but the call of God.
And the same grace has made me a minister of our Lord Christ, so that when I say, “Your sins are forgiven,” they are, just as surely as if heaven opened and Christ descended and showed you His wounds.
People who receive grace through others minister grace to others
Beloved in Christ, too often sinners don’t come to church. Sometimes it is because they are bound by pride, bitterness, unbelief, and we are unable to minister Christ’s release because we do not allow ourselves to be ministered to by other people.
Other times sinners don’t come to church because they think it isn’t the place for sinners—at least, not sinners like them.
We tell them it is,b ut we are unwilling to be exposed as real sinners before one another.
But Jesus would release you. He would speak to your anger, your fear, and your pain and untie you, saying, “I forgive you all your sins.” And in doing so He would teach you how to serve sinners who won’t come because they are bound, like Thomas was.
He has promised, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” When you uncover your trouble in front of your brother in Christ, seeking help from the Lord, Jesus has promised to be present with His power, with His key that looses you from sin and death.
If only, beloved, we would confess our sins to one another, and be healed, as Scripture says in James!
If only we could be persuaded to do it not out of fear or guilt but because of the unspeakably great promise Christ has given in this gospel! The promise of forgiveness, of peace, of the Holy Spirit; the promise that He will loose us of our sins through me so that we may loose other men of their sins.
Yet, dear brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, though we have been slow of heart to believe in and rejoice in this comforting gift of Christ, the Lord still looses us in whatever form we will accept.
Whatever the reason you have not carried your troubles and sins to me or another Christian, seeking absolution and comfort, Jesus our Savior is still here saying, “Peace be with you.”
We can’ touch His hands and side, but He is here in His word and sacrament, in His preacher and in His believers.
That’s why we say to one another: “The Lord be with you.” “And with your spirit.”
He is with you, in the midst of you as you gather in His name. He is with my spirit as I speak His Word.
Therefore, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ Who is with my spirit:
I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers, let us not despise our Lord Jesus who desires to speak His Word to us through other people, through one another. Don’t say, “No way!” Say, “My Lord and my God, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”
The peace of God that surpasses understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria