Easter One Sermon
April 18, 2004
Are Those Who Have Not Seen and Have Believed”
When Jesus provided proof of His
resurrection to Thomas He provided proof to us as well.
“Seeing is believing.” While
Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet
have believed,” He nevertheless did show Thomas precisely what Thomas,
in his unbelief, insisted on seeing.
The resurrection of Jesus is a
real, historical event. It
was not an event that only faith could see.
Christ’s appearance to Thomas makes that crystal clear.
Jesus said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And then, when Thomas confessed Jesus as his Lord and God, Jesus
replied, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.”
This means that before Thomas saw Jesus he did not believe.
Faith was not required to see Jesus after He rose from the dead.
It was not a “faith event” as some confused people imagine.
It was an historical event.
Had you been there with a video
camera, you could have recorded Jesus walking out of the tomb.
You could have taken a picture.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples on the first Easter, the
doors were shut. He did not
open a door to get into the room. He
did not need to open a door. But
this does not mean that He was only a spirit without a body.
He showed to them clear proof that He rose bodily from the dead.
He showed them the wounds that He had suffered in dying.
He showed them the nail marks in His hands and He showed them the
wound in His side where the Roman soldier pierced Him and out of which
water and blood flowed. By
seeing these wounds the disciples could see that Jesus was standing
before them in the same body that had suffered and died for them on the
The risen Lord Jesus is always
the crucified Lord Jesus. The
crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ cannot be separated.
They are bound together historically.
The same people who witnessed His death witnessed His
resurrection. The reason
that the Jews and the Romans could not debunk the resurrection is not
because nobody tried. It
was because there were too many witnesses.
St. Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus appeared to
over five hundred Christians at the same time.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus is an historical event with far
more attestation that the vast majority of historical events that
happened so long ago. Jesus provided to the disciples and through them to us the
historical proof of His resurrection.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday is just
as much an historical fact as is His crucifixion on Good Friday.
The crucifixion and the
resurrection of Christ are bound together historically.
And they are also bound together theologically.
He died for our sins. He
rose for our justification. If
we do not see our need for forgiveness of sins, we will not understand
the death and resurrection of Christ.
He died because God reckoned to Him the guilt of our sins so that
Jesus would pay for them. He
rose because He fully paid for our sins.
Had He failed to do so, He could not have risen from the dead.
The wages of sin is death. If
Jesus, in bearing our sins did not fully page their wages, He would have
remained dead in the grave. The
fact that He rose from the dead proves that He took away the sins for
which He suffered. They are
gone. This is what justification means. God justifies or forgives us for Christ’s sake.
His resurrection declares this to us.
What does Jesus say when He
appears to His disciples? He
says, “Peace be with you.” He
speaks words of peace. The
Old Testament calls the promised Savior “Shiloh” or Man of Peace.
And so He is. He
makes peace on the cross by bearing the cause of all enmity between God
and man. He reconciles us
to God by taking away our sin. He
speaks a real peace. He
isn’t just talking. He is
giving. When Jesus says “Peace be with you” He is giving peace by
saying the words.
Then He goes on to tell the
apostles that even as the Father sent Him, He is now sending them.
They are to speak the words Christ gives them to speak. He breathes on them and gives to them the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.
So the preachers must preach the truth that the Holy Spirit
reveals. This truth is both
law and gospel. The law is
words that retain the sins of those that are not sorry for their sins
and refuse to repent. The
gospel is words that forgive the sins of those that are sorry for their
sins and desire forgiveness from Christ.
The same Jesus who bore all of our sins and rose from the dead
having fully blotted our sins out by His vicarious suffering is the
Jesus who speaks to us today through the preaching of the law and the
The apostles were the first
preachers. Jesus put them
into office by breathing on them the Holy Spirit.
The preachers who came after the apostles were put into office by
means of the laying on of the hands of those who were already in the
office. We call this
ordination. While Jesus
instituted the office into which men are ordained, He didn’t
personally ordain the first incumbents of this office.
He breathed the Holy Spirit directly into them.
This was to teach us that the
office the preachers hold does not belong to the preachers alone.
It belongs to everyone who has the Holy Spirit.
If need be, any Christian can forgive sins by the command of
Christ. And if you had no
preachers to preach God’s word Christians could choose from themselves
qualified Christians to preach because they have the authority to do so. The authority to do so comes from the Holy Spirit.
Those who publicly preach,
teach, and administer the sacraments can do so only because they are
sent to do so. Jesus sent
or called the first preachers directly.
Since then, the pastors have been sent or called by God
indirectly, that is, through the church.
Since the office of forgiving and retaining sins belongs to the
whole church, the call from the church is the call from Christ.
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
He says this not only to the original preachers that He called
directly, but He says this as well to all subsequent preachers that He
calls through the call of His church.
This is how your pastor knows that He has the authority to preach
the law and the gospel to you. God
gave him this authority and God did so through His church.
And that’s the only authority
God gave to the pastor as the pastor.
He cannot teach you what kind of politics you should support or
which presidential candidate to vote for.
He has no business telling you how to do whatever job God has
called you to do. Chances
are you know your job a whole lot better than any pastor you’ve had or
will have. But when Jesus
breathed on His disciples and commanded them to forgive and retain sins,
He was talking to the whole church and that means us.
We must have preachers to preach the law and the gospel and we
must hear their words as if Jesus Himself were speaking them. Jesus is speaking these words.
As He said to seventy preachers He sent out during His earthly
ministry, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me,
and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)
The forgiveness of sins can be
considered in three ways: How it is gained for us; how it is given to
us; and how we receive it. Forgiveness
of sins is gained for us by Christ’s death and resurrection.
Jesus did not give to the disciples an authority that He had not
earned. He earned the right
to forgive sinners by taking upon Himself the sin of all sinners.
When we think of forgiveness as it is gained for us, we must look
to the holy life and innocent death of Jesus where He labored hard and
long for the right to forgive sins.
He purchased the right to forgive us with His own blood.
The forgiveness that Jesus
gained for us is the same forgiveness He gives to us.
He gives it to us in the words that He speaks to us through the
men He puts there to speak those words.
Should there be no pastor to speak the words of Jesus that give
forgiveness to us, we can hear these words from any Christian.
We need to hear the words. Jesus
gives us what He won for us when He speaks to us the words of the
Most Lutherans do not go to
private confession anymore, though they most certainly have the right to
do so. Any member of this congregation may visit the pastor for the
purpose of receiving from him the words of Jesus’ forgiveness.
If there is a sin that bothers your conscience and you want to
hear the words from Jesus that give to you forgiveness for that specific
sin, you may go to your pastor and ask him to speak those words to you
as Christ’s servant. He
may never tell anyone what you confess because you are confessing to
Jesus who took your sins away. You
go to the pastor not because he needs or wants to know of your sins.
You go to the pastor because Jesus has given you your pastor to
speak to you God’s word. That’s
his job. His job is not to
judge you, though God’s law always judges.
His job is to speak God’s word to you.
We need to hear the words that Jesus speaks, and He doesn’t
speak directly to our hearts or through angels.
He speaks through men who are just as sinful as you are, who have
the same doubts, the same weaknesses, and the same need for forgiveness
that every Christian has.
The forgiveness that Jesus
gained for us on Calvary and that He gives to us through His spoken word
benefits no one unless it is received.
It is received by faith alone.
When we believe what the words say we have what the words give.
To believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and to have
life in His name is to believe that Jesus, the Son of God, forgives us
all our sins and promises us eternal life.
Jesus and the forgiveness of sins go together.
You cannot have the one without the other.
The giving of Christ’s forgiveness is for the purpose of the
receiving of that same forgiveness.
We cannot receive what is not given to us to receive.
This is why we need the word spoken to us. None of us can see anyone else’s faith or give faith to
anyone. Only God can.
We cannot see faith any more than we can see Jesus.
But Jesus keeps speaking the words that bring us to faith.
And Christians keep listening.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus