Quasimodogeniti, The First Sunday after Easter, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Daylight Savings Time
The Hymn # 199 Jesus Christ is Risen 1:83
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #200 I Know that My Redeemer 1:80
Faith Comes from Hearing the Word Preached
The Communion Hymn #187 Christ Is Arisen 1:45
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 195 (Luther) Christ Jesus 1:46
First Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that of Thine ineffable grace, for the sake of Thy Son, Thou hast given us the holy gospel, and hast instituted the holy sacraments, that through the same we may have comfort and forgiveness of sin: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that we may heartily believe Thy word; and through the holy sacraments day by day establish our faith, until we at last obtain salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
KJV 1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
KJV John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Faith Comes from Hearing the Word Preached
John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
In his risen and glorified state time, space, the rock of the tomb, the walls and the doors of buildings no longer hamper the body of Jesus. He appears where he desires to appear, and his visible presence disappears when he desires to have it so. This is wholly supernatural, wholly incomprehensible to our minds. Nor may we ask or seek to comprehend where Jesus stayed during the intervals between his appearances during the forty days. When our bodies shall eventually enter the heavenly mode of existence, we may know something of these supreme mysteries, but we doubt if even then we shall really comprehend the profundities of the divine omnipresence of which the human nature of Jesus partakes and which he exercised since his vivification in the tomb as in these wondrous appearances. “He came and stood in their midst” is all that human thought and language can say. He did not walk through anything. The disciples did not see him take so many steps from the door or the wall to their midst. He was there, and that was all.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1365.
KJV John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
The text begins with a miracle, one that is denied for various bad reasons. Calvin did not allow for Jesus appearing in the locked room, unless He came in a secret way. Calvin believed the human nature of Christ limited His divine nature, but there were already several examples of the same kind of movement before in the Gospels. Two times an angry crowd surrounded Jesus but He passed through them. Another example would be His walking on the water.
We do not question God’s presence or ability when we pray. We normally pray in the Name of Christ, which is what He commanded and urged. Does anyone think Jesus left His humanity behind so He could hear us through His divine nature? That runs into all kinds of absurdities. That is why human reason is destructive when the Word of God is subordinated to it. Or, to put it another way – If the Word of God must be reasonable, eventually it will be nothing more that what human reason can accept. That is the path to Unitarianism and atheism.
Instead, we use all our God-given abilities to understand and appreciate what God reveals in His Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. That Word is so powerful that we know and experience it. We know it is true and we experience its truth at the same time.
In contrast, those who subject the Word of God to the test of their human reason and experience will find themselves blinded by their own vanity. Countless false teachers have bragged about their new insights and promoted them as unique bits of wisdom hidden from everyone else. One man in New England decided the Trinity did not exist. He began services in the name of the One God and people remained with him. That was the birth of Unitarianism in New England. It was not exactly new. In the Reformation it was called Socianism, but he thought it was special.
New England today is deeply affected by this Unitarianism. One LCA pastor told me decades ago, “We stand outside church on Sunday and beg people to visit.” He was joking, but it was bleak there. Fitting in meant being as Unitarian as the natives, and that naturally happened.
I asked one LCA group, as I was leaving, “What is our message? Join our church and help burn down the bank on the corner?” The moderator looked at his watch and said, “It’s time for lunch.” Everyone emptied the room.
The doors (plural) were locked because of fear. This is a lesson where fear and faith are contrasted. The plural suggests that the outside door was locked, and the room door was also locked. If I thought a mob might kill me too, I would lock every door, too.
Their fears were reasonable, and that is worth considering. They had every right, apart from faith, to be afraid. And yet they were the chosen disciples who had been told what would happen. The passion of Christ did take place as predicted, so they should have been full of faith.
The disciples often make very good stand-ins for us, because we should not be afraid but full of faith. We know as much as they did and also have their examples of timidity, but we still lock all the doors instead of trusting Christ. We can look back on their histories and say, “Christ was not going to let them die. Instead He planned to send them across the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel.”
This is what we can overlook about evil. If evil happens, it is because of man’s sinfulness. But God lets evil take place in a limited form. He also transforms that evil for those who believe in Him. Thus the hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt was subjected to a lifetime of tragic and painful experiences, but God transformed those events into beautiful poetry, the best hymns (along with Luther’s) in the Christian faith. When I hear a newer classic Christian hymn, I often think, “Which Gerhardt hymn is he trying to emulate?”
Gerhardt was a man with unique gifts, a mild disposition, and sound doctrine. But the doctrine got him in trouble, and he lost most of his family, his wife and all his children but one. Every one of his hymns expresses love of God, trust in His wisdom, and thankfulness for His blessings.
In the same way, the persecution of the Gospel in New Testament times drove the Christians to the corners of the Roman Empire. The persecutions were sporadic, so Christians were able to settle in, copy Scriptures, and train leaders. Then it would start up again. Thus through the evil of persecution the Word went to the corners of the world.
came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Jesus, after being abandoned by the disciples (except John), just as He predicted, and denied by Peter, as He predicted, came into their midst and said “Peace.” He might have denounced their sinfulness, but He came to show them His risen state and to nurture their faith.
His appearance in the locked room revealed the everlasting union of His divine and human natures. He appeared there - as only God could do, and yet His body showed the dreadful scars of His crucifixion.
John 20:20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw Him. They already believed in His resurrection, because the disciples saw the empty tomb, as the women reported. The Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13) also reported being with Him and eating with Him. Mary Magdalene already spoke with Him (John 20:11), blinded by her own tears until He spoke her name.
We see in the resurrection accounts a building up of the followers’ faith, with repeated and varied appearances, accompanied by teaching them the Word of God.
John 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
This peace greeting is very important to understand and appreciate. It is not only God’s blessing but also a special blessing by itself. Jesus was giving them His peace, meaning that He would preserve their peace even when all the world was raging around them. Peace follows justification by faith and salvation – for all believers – and this peace offered them by Jesus, by His Word, is one that took them through their fiery trials and deaths as martyrs.
Indeed, nothing was so disconcerting to the pagan Romans as seeing the Christians die peacefully in their stadiums, while being torn apart by wild beasts. The luxury loving and slave owning Romans had all the material blessings life could offer, and the Christians were mostly riff-raff, the slaves, the former criminals. They were the bottom of society, but they had the peace that elude the pleasure-loving Romans.
Jesus also taught them the continuity between His mission, from the Father, and theirs, from Him. Just as He spoke the Father’s will, so will they speak the Son’s will. As He said, “When they hear you, they hear Me.” That is just as true for those who reject the Word. “When they reject you, they reject me.”
John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
The continuity also includes the Holy Spirit, which is often overlooked. People have said correctly that the Pentecostal movement began precisely because the work of the Holy Spirit was neglected in the teaching of the visible church. The miraculous element was downplayed, for instance. How many have heard that Holy Communion itself is a miracle of the Holy Spirit?
More importantly, the union of the Holy Spirit and the Word was neglected to the point of total amnesia. We can speak of the Holy Spirit’s work and the effect of the Word interchangeably. They are never independent of each other and never without effect.
The disciples, in receiving the Holy Spirit, would write their works inspired directly by God. They would pray and perform miracles through the Spirit. They would preach through the Spirit. Knowing their limitations, they would recognize and teach that their miraculous results were from God the Spirit, not from their inventory of spiritual gifts (a Fuller gimmick).
John 20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
The ministry of the keys include both loosing (absolving) and binding (not absolving). In the Middle Ages, no one was ever really forgiving, so there was no loosing key. Today we have universal and cheap grace, so everyone is forgiven (no binding key). The purpose of the keys is to discern god repentance and faith from a lack of repentance.
The disciples were given this power to teach the true Church.
John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
No reason is given, but Thomas was not there. Another glimpse of him was fearing that they would all die in Jerusalem when they went to the funeral and raising of Lazarus.
He was called “The Twin” but we remember him as Doubting Thomas.
John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
The testimony of the other disciples was not enough for him, a telling point for each and every one of them. They would soon be preaching to people who never saw Jesus before or after the resurrection. How could they believe, based on the criteria of Thomas – seeing and touching?
His unbelieving boasting is to be contrasted with the actual event, a gap which many fail to see.
Doubting Thomas Sunday, One Week Later, Quasimodo Geniti
John 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
This is an important detail. All the doors were still locked because the disciples were still afraid. And yet Jesus appeared before them and still wished them Peace.
That is why we say “Gracious Lord,” because Jesus is full of forgiveness for our grave weaknesses and timidity. Instead of looking at all our sins and doubts, He builds up our faith to receive His righteousness. He builds us slowly through His Word, as He did the disciples.
Unbelief always was and always will be unreasonable. This is glaringly plain in the case of Thomas. For him all this unanimous testimony of all these people, whose character for veracity he knew so Well, amounts to nothing. The fact that all of them, like himself, had never dreamed of Jesus’ resurrection, had thought it impossible, and had then been convinced from this unbelief by overwhelming evidence, affects Thomas in an opposite way: he determines to set himself against them all. The more they speak to him and the more they present the facts, the more stubborn Thomas becomes. He has been called “doubting Thomas,” but he does not doubt, he is openly unbelieving. He challenges the evidence the others present. They have only seen—seeing does not count. If he is to believe he demands two lines of evidence, seeing plus feeling with his own finger and his own hand. And even the feeling must be twofold, that of the holes in Jesus’ hands and that of the gash in his side. Thomas demands what he deems a real test. What the other disciples claim to have is not nearly enough for him. Here the silliness of unbelief comes to view. If sight can be deceived, sight which takes in so much, what assurance has Thomas that feeling, which takes in far less, will not also be deceived?
The disciples had seen Jesus, but think of the wonder of that sight! Recall Luke 24:30, 31 and 35; John 19:19, the locked doors; v. 20, his hands and his side; Luke 24:39, “handle me and see”; v. 41–43, he ate fish and honeycomb. This was seeing indeed. Some had held his feet in worship (Matt. 28:9); Mary Magdalene had clung to him (John 20:17); they all had also heard him speak. Here is the pride, haughtiness, and arrogance of unbelief: it sets up a criterion of its own. It will have what it demands. The unbeliever makes himself a superior person, looking down on believers as credulous fools who cannot be trusted. The wisdom of the unbeliever exceeds that of all other men. Thomas is surely typical of the entire class. But all this action of unbelief reveals that, while it pretends to obey reason and genuine intelligence alone, it does nothing of the kind. It is actuated by an unreasoning and unreasonable will, I secret, stubborn determination, unacknowledged by the unbeliever himself, not to believe (7:17).
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1380
John 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
This address to Thomas is one of confrontation and rebuke. Jesus commanded Thomas to touch His hands and reach His wounded side. Lenski takes the position, which is entirely fitting, that Jesus commanded and Thomas obeyed. Thomas demanded to touch the wounds, and Jesus took him at his word. Jesus also told the Emmaus disciples to handle Him (Luke 24:39).
Lenski: “The decisive factor is the command of Jesus.”
Taking this approach, we have three people at least who touched the risen Lord and could preach about this experience. The early Church was built upon the preaching of the resurrection, and the witness of 500+ people who saw and heard Him.
John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
This is a combination of the Word of Christ and Thomas obeying Him. Three men were crucified and killed. One Man returned to life, and He bore the scars, which Thomas touched.
Thomas the unbeliever became Thomas the believer, through the Word and obedience to Jesus’ command.
John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Jesus moved from the miracle of faith in Thomas to the greater miracle of faith the audiences would experience from preaching the Gospel.
John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
This conclusion to John’s Gospel (there are two conclusions) leads me to think that faith is good, God-pleasing, and the way of salvation.
The entire Gospel was written down to create and sustain faith, to be the power behind justification by faith.
"Thus we have two parts, preaching and believing. His coming to us is preaching; His standing in our hearts is faith. For it is not sufficient that He stand before our eyes and ears; He must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355.
"This is going through closed doors, when He comes into the heart through the Word, not breaking nor displacing anything. For when the Word of God comes, it neither injures the conscience, nor deranges the understanding of the heart and the external senses; as the false teachers do who break all the doors and windows, breaking through like thieves, leaving nothing whole and undamaged, and perverting, falsifying and injuring all life, conscience, reason, and the senses. Christ does not do thus."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 355.
"Hence I send you into the world as my Father hath sent me; namely, that every Christian should instruct and teach his neighbor, that he may also come to Christ. By this, no power is delegated exclusively to popes and bishops, but all Christians are commanded to profess their faith publicly and also to lead others to believe."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for He Himself came with this office and the external Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"Now God drives us to this by holding the law before us, in order that through the law we may come to a knowledge of ourselves. For where there is not this knowledge, one can never be saved. He that is well needs no physician; but if a man is sick and desires to become well, he must know that he is weak and sick, otherwise he cannot be helped."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 370.
"For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 380.
"Reformed theologians, in order to support their denial of the illocalis modus subsistendi of Christ's human nature, have sought, in their exposition of John 20, an opening in the closed doors, or a window, or an aperture in the roof or in the walls, in order to explain the possibility of Christ's appearance in the room where the disciples were assembled."Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, II, p. 127.