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It’s All About Jesus (St. John 20.19-31)

Quasimodo Geniti – Second Sunday of Easter

 “It’s All About Jesus”
Paul Norris, Seminarian   

Ezekiel 37.1-14; 1 John 5.4-10; St. John 20.19-31

24 April 2022

 

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20: 21) And so Jesus sent his disciples out to be to minister and to preach. They were to become Apostles, which means “sent ones.” Then Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:23) Jesus has given the Apostles the Office of the Keys. This is the special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

The Gospel reading from John chapter 20 is the scripture that is read at a man’s ordination into the Holy Ministry. As such, it is good to examine what the Pastoral Ministry is. As we examine the scriptures this morning we will learn that the pastoral ministry is not about that man in particular, but it is all about Jesus. The pastoral ministry is Christ’s ministry for the sake of His people and His Church.

On Good Friday our Savior hung on the cross and atoned for the sins of the whole world. On Easter, our Lord victoriously arose from the grave and proclaimed peace. God’s peace is a peace that the world cannot give; a peace between man and God; is a peace knowing that sins are forgiven. On Good Friday Jesus became the curse for mankind and endured God’s judgment and wrath against our sin, but on Easter God freed us from his wrath and for Christ’s sake declares us not guilty. Jesus’ death on Good Friday had to take place because death is the required penalty for sin. The Easter resurrection of our Lord had to take place because our sin has been removed. On Good Friday, Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and sin, but on Easter Jesus was  raised for our Justification.

We are the recipients of God’s divine mercy because of Jesus’ work on the cross. We do not go around saying that Christianity is true because of our works. Rather, Christianity is true because Jesus died and rose again and this truth is attested to in Holy Scripture and the witnesses who saw His death and resurrection. St. John writes, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

The Christian faith is all about Jesus – His perfect life, His atoning death, and His resurrection for us poor sinners. Jesus is both true God and true man. He is the world’s only Savior. Jesus is at the heart and the center of all scripture, the Old and New Testaments. If you do not know this essential truth about who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He gives us in His Word and Sacraments, then you do not know the one true God.

What kind of Jesus do you want? If we examine our hearts, what we want is a powerful Jesus, a Jesus who is popular, not a Jesus who humiliated himself and came to earth as a man and was crucified on a cross. Perhaps you want Jesus to be your life coach, your therapist, buddy Jesus, a political savior, or a moral example. You want Jesus to give you advice for daily living and to help you overcome your earthly problems. You want him to approve of your sin, and tell you it’s ok. You do not want a Jesus who suffered and died.

What kind of pastor do you want? Inside yourself, you would like a pastor who preaches a message that is spiritual, upbeat, emotional, and moving, rather than a message of Law and Gospel. Perhaps you would like a preacher who preaches messages on moral reform and gives you good advice and rules for living rather than a message of repentance and forgiveness.

Deep within yourself, you want to save yourself. You may say “Oh, God’s grace is helpful, but not necessary because I believe that I am good enough.” You want to engage in your private spiritual journey. Inwardly you may ask, “Who needs the church or a pastor?” There are plenty of resources on the internet. Why, I can even watch a church service on YouTube and preside over my communion altar. This voice deep within ourselves is none other than Old Adam. Old Adam does not want to fear, trust and love God above all others. Old Adam wants himself to be the center of Christianity, rather than Jesus Christ.

God has said in his Word, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom 3:10) None of us can reconcile ourselves with God. None of us on our own accord can earn heaven. None of us can appease the wrath of God which demands the price of death for sin. None of us can save ourselves.

During his earthly ministry and life, Jesus perfectly kept the Law. When He spoke, he spoke with authority because he is true God and true man. For three years the disciples watched and learned from Jesus as he shaped them for apostolic office. Finally, Jesus laid down his life for the sin of the whole world, Jesus bore the wrath and judgment of God in our place and on our behalf. Jesus paid the required debt for our sin, defeated the devil, overcame death and hell and opened heaven for us. The message on that first Easter and the message throughout the book of Acts, and the message today, is that Jesus Christ who died upon the cross is risen and He lives forevermore. In Christ, there is forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation. In Christ, mankind is at peace with God.

How can we believe unless there is a preacher to share the Gospel with us? Who will deliver the blessings of the cross and the resurrection to us? Who will baptize our children? Who will forgive our sins and proclaim absolution in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus? Who will teach and preach to us about the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus? Who will administer the Lord’s Supper? Who will come to visit us in the hospital when we are sick or at the hour of our death?

Brother and sisters in Christ, have no fear. So that you might receive all of God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, our Lord instituted the office of the Holy Ministry. The Pastoral office was not created by the early church simply as a means to good order, but our Lord Jesus instituted this office himself as he sent his apostles and pastors to represent Him. And all the pastors who followed the apostles represent Christ for you. They are Jesus’ ambassadors. They stand in the stead and by the command of Jesus himself. They speak on his behalf, they are his co-workers. They are the servants of Christ and the stewards of Word and Sacrament. Jesus is the chief shepherd, and pastors are his under-shepherds. The Office of the Ministry is Christ’s ministry as pastors stand in the stead of Christ.

What are the apostles and the called pastors who follow them to do? They are to baptize and teach all nations. They are to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and retain the sins of the unrepentant. They are to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sin; Law and Gospel. They are to administer the Lord’s Supper. They are to visit and comfort the sick and the dying. They are to speak the truth in love. They are to care for the flock entrusted to their care, not domineering, but leading out of sacrificial love.

Jesus continues to work through the pastor for the sake of his people. The Holy Ministry and the office of the pastor is not about the man who occupies the office. Their daily wear is a black shirt with a tab or a collar to signify that they are servants of Christ. Black is a symbol of penitence and mourning, the daily attire of a pastor is a reminder to him and to all who see him that the pastor lives not for himself, but for the church as her servant and shepherd. The focus is not on the man, but instead on Christ. This is one of the reasons that pastors wear vestments. They cover the sinful man.

Jesus is not visibly with us, but he is present in his Word and Sacraments as the pastor speaks His Word in the stead and by His command. Jesus has not abandoned us, but he works through His Word, water, bread, and wine. The blessing of the cross and resurrection comes from the font, the pulpit, and the altar. Christ uses the mouth of the pastor to teach and preach, correct and forgive, comfort and console. He uses the hands of the pastor to baptize, feed sinners with his precious body and blood at the Supper, and bless his people with His benediction.  The pastor is necessary for Christ to continue to work among His people.

But the pastoral ministry is not drudgery. Sure there are a lot of challenges to the pastoral ministry and the Devil always works hard against them. But the pastor also experiences joy. Joy when a child is baptized. Joy when absolution can be spoken to a penitent sinner. Joy when catechumens finally start to grasp the catechetical teaching. Joy when confirmands receive the Lord’s Supper for the first time. There is Joy when God’s Word is faithfully preached and when adult converts are brought to faith in Christ and join the church. There is joy when hymns are beautifully sung in praise and thanksgiving to God. There is Joy as they pray together and bear each other’s burdens. There is Joy when God’s Word is shared with the dying. There is joy when a Christian dies and faithfully goes before us in the true faith.

Immediately after the resurrection the disciples were scared and hiding. But after Jesus gave them the office of the keys they became bolder and bolder. By the time we hear of the apostle’s actions in the book of Acts, it is clear they were no longer afraid or scared. The Jewish leaders had warned them not to preach in the name of Jesus but they did it anyway. The resurrection of our Lord positively affected them. No longer were they hidden or scared behind locked doors, they boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. Even as the World persecuted the early church, the message of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness spread across the world. God’s Word, his divine message of repentance and forgiveness of sin in Christ, made it to the new world, even here to the German immigrants of Terre Haute.  Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church – Terre Haute, has had 10 faithful pastors since 1858. Several sons of the congregation have gone on to the Holy Ministry, and she has faithfully trained 32 Vicars in preparation for the ministry.

And so Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we gather on this Second Sunday of Easter as God’s Church, glad that we have heard the God’s Word read and preached. We have sung hymns of praise and thanksgiving together, and we will pray together. We pray that God would provide a faithful and Godly man to be the pastor of this congregation who will shepherd His people and bring the Word and the Sacraments to this congregation. We pray for a faithful man who will boldly proclaim Law and Gospel. Above all, we hold fast to the promise of God’s peace which is given to us in Christ’s death and resurrection as we confidently receive the Daily Bread which God has and will provide for His congregation here in Terre Haute.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

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