The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

The First Sunday after Easter - Quasimodo Geniti. John 20:19-31.
The Two Natures in Christ

 Thomas Caravaggio - The Incredulity of  St.Thomas

Quasimodogeniti, The First Sunday after Easter, 2016
  
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn #192                          Awake My Soul - Gerhardt
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
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       
The Gospel               
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22 
    
The Sermon Hymn #
208               Ye Sons and Daughters      
       

The Two Natures in Christ


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 #
187                               Christ Is Arisen            


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.

The Two Natures in Christ

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.

This Gospel lesson is special for many reasons. One is that Thomas is especially significant in the Fourth Gospel. He stands out as fearful and pessimistic, before the raising of Lazarus, and still pessimistic and doubtful after Jesus appeared to the others. Finally he expresses his faith in the simplest possible confession - My Lord and my God, and yet rebuked in the statement, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing."

This faith was not something developed on their own by the disciples, but created through the Word and engraved in their hearts by their own experiences. This Gospel lesson shows how the disciples went from nothingness to faith through the resurrection of Christ. That was clearly established as the requirement of being an apostle - they saw and heard the risen Lord. For Paul to join them later, he also need that experience - to see and be trained by the risen Lord.

We should not overlook this singular detail, that Jesus displayed the Two Natures in Him, so that apostolic preaching was firmly rooted in His human and His divine nature. First, the divine nature is established in Jesus' appearance in a locked room. The disciples thought one thing - "We will lock out all intruders." That was a thought based on fear of retribution. The door would have been locked with a heavy  bar, not one of those toy locks we see on so many doors today.

Their fears were not unfounded, because they had witnessed the complete destruction of all their hopes. When the military government and religious leaders cooperate, and the formerly cheering mobs offer nothing but insults, optimism is impossible. And their faith was pummeled and crushed anyway as they approached Jerusalem. 

Their natural reaction is the backdrop of this clear teaching message. The divine nature of the Lord was not hindered by His human nature. In one Gospel lesson, this is made abundantly clear, with Thomas as the central figure in discovering the truth of Luther's words below.

2. Faith, as we have often said, is of the nature, that every one appropriates to himself the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which we have already said enough; namely, that it is not sufficient simply to believe Christ rose from the dead, for this produces neither peace nor joy, neither power nor authority; but you must believe that he rose for your sake, for your benefit, and was not glorified for his own sake; but that he might help you and all who believe in him, and that through his resurrection sin, death and hell are vanquished and the victory given to you.

3. This is signified by Christ entering through closed doors, and standing in the midst of his disciples. For this standing denotes nothing else than that he is standing in our hearts; there he is in the midst of us, so that he is ours, as he stands there and they have him among them. And when he thus stands within our hearts, we at once hear his loving voice saying to the troubled consciences: Peace, there is no danger; your sins are forgiven and blotted out, and they shall harm you no more.

4. And this entrance the Lord made here through barred doors, going through wood and stone, and still leaving everything whole, breaking nothing, yet getting in among his disciples. This illustrates how the Lord comes into our hearts and stands in us, namely, through the office of the ministry. Therefore, since God has commanded men to preach his Word, one should in no wise despise a mortal man into whose mouth he has put his Word; lest we get the idea that every one must expect a special message from heaven, and that God should speak to him by the word of his mouth. For if he imparts faith to any one, he does it by means of the preaching of man and the external word of man.

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.

Such now is the power of the Word of God. 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 stands before our eyes and ears; he must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace.

Many ministers today want to impress everyone with their arts and crafts, but they do not believe, the primary requirement of being a pastor. They are Thomas during the approach to Jerusalem, filled with fears about opposition  and how to overcome that. Some are so consumed by the opinions of others that they dismiss the power of the Means of Grace and fret about the effects of opponents tearing apart their congregation and scattering the members. As I told one pastor, how can faithful preaching and administering the Sacraments be without effect? And - who are we to judge?

Crystal Cathedral - Now the Roman Catholic Cathedral
Now we have mega-examples of the failure of Church Growth, which is still paraded as the answer, although they fear to name what they really love. Robert Schuller properly calls himself the founder. He was only a short distance from Fuller Seminary and he also trained people to follow his example. The same names come up - Schuller, McGavran, Wagner, etc. And the agenda is the same - avoid real worship, have celebrity guests, create debt to motivate people, and turn the Gospel into Law - about being successful, popular, and admired by everyone but God.

That illusion collapsed first. The Crystal Cathedral is now completely taken over by the Roman Catholic Church. Schuller left his own congregation after people got tired of his family getting royal salaries for being on the staff. The entire campus was falling apart and the bell tower could even be used when the campus was sold. 

Community Church of Joy - ELCA, then LCMC - Now  Dream City - Pentecostal
When we lived in Glendale, Arizona (Phoenix area) and anyone heard we were Lutheran, they said, "We used to belong to the Community of Joy." We even went to one performance (not a real service) where the usual antics were employed. The minister earned his drive-by D.Min. at Fuller Seminary, and Fuller leaders preached there. C. Peter Wagner, who later admitted Church Growth was a failure, often bragged about Community of Joy.

Like the Crystal Cathedral, the Community of Joy campus was run down when Dream City took over the campus. The Joy pastor and his staff will soon leave. It's all Dream City now. Walt Kallestad, the Joy minister, became a burn-out while pursuing members and influence through entertainment from "top performers."

By the way, the ELCA pastors most offended by Kallestad and his circus eventually joined Rome and their circus. In other words, neither group of clergy believed in the power of the Word. They wanted pop music on one side or the blasphemy of the Roman mass on the other (where the priest has the unique power to change the earthly elements).


Luther's Two Parts - Preaching and Believing
This is the clear lesson from the start of Luther's sermon on this Gospel, and it could not be clearer. Luther says more in this section than Luther seminaries offer with their entire faculties braying together. The faculties do not trust in either one, so they see their worlds collapsing around them. They comfort themselves with the thought that the Masonic Lodge is also having hard times and selling off properties. 

There are two parts - preaching and believing. It is possible for faith to continue when the ministers are apostate, as long as the liturgy, hymns, readings, and creeds remain. But lo - they toss those out too, for being "ineffective." 

Believing means not just knowing the facts, but appropriating the work of Christ for ourselves. The believer says, "I know that He is my Savior and died for my sins, and gives me peace. And He will raise me up with His Word just as He planted faith in my heart with His Gospel Word."

Fear, Anxiety, and Timidity
Lack of faith is the cause of fear, anxiety, and timidity. That is the state of Lutherans today. In the past a group would head out to the hinterlands (Iowa) with nothing but a letter of credit to start. They simply trusted in the Word and Sacraments to accomplish God's will. Thomas did not want to head toward Bethany to help Lazarus, because he was afraid of dying. He was sure the trip would mean the death of the entire group. 

The same fears and anxieties plague us today, but this lesson builds faith, because we can see how God enters through the barriers to subdue our fears and lift us up.

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.

Whenever we see and hear Christ in the Gospel, we are encouraged and cheered by the message. As Luther said, justification by faith is fragile - not that doctrine is, but we are. 

In another statement, Luther said we need to be reminded of the Gospel daily because we forget it daily.

Here Jesus displayed His wounds, as if to say, "I am not a ghost. I am not a vision. This body they crucified is raised from the dead." So the resurrection of Christ gladdens us today. Easter is a joyous season because it emphasizes our greatest fears being overcome, gives meaning to life, and shows us how God gives the victory through faith.

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.

This is not the message of today's cheap grace churches, so much that people echo the odd dogma of forgiving the unrepentant. They meet with convicted criminals and say, "I forgive you." Everyone is forgiven - that is a colossal and grievous error that makes horrible crimes minor and easily excused. 

This teaches the 100% forgiveness of absolution and the 100% retention of sins for the unrepentant. Paul commended some to Satan, but only in the hopes they would repent. 

13. 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. Let us lay hold of this, for we must admit it was spoken to us. In this way the Lord desires to say: You have now received enough from me, peace and joy, and all you should have; for your person you need nothing more. Therefore labor now and follow my example, as I have done, so do ye. My Father sent me into the world only for your sake, that I might serve you, not for my own benefit. I have finished the work, have died for you, and given you all that I am and have; remember and do ye also likewise, that henceforth ye may only serve and help everybody, otherwise ye would have nothing to do on earth. For by faith ye have enough of everything. 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.

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. 

Thomas became the symbol of all doubters with this famous statement. The vivid description reminds us of John being there at the time. And this is the perfect backdrop for the message of John's Gospel - These are written that you might believe, and in believing have eternal life.



John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Thomas' statement could not be more absolute, nor could the contrast be any greater. Thomas did not quench his own doubts. Christ did. And so God works this way, not kicking in the door but quietly entering our hearts and leaving the furniture in place while changing our hearts.

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. 

Some debate about whether Thomas immediately made his confession or whether he did touch the wounds of the crucifixion. The overall context says that he did touch the wounds. Christ commanded him to do it, and that was much more than a suggestion. As great as his doubt was, so much greater was the attack on his doubt.

And this rebuke to Thomas is also a blessing for us.

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.
 
The generations that followed did not see the risen Christ, but the entire Apostolic Church was founded upon their experiences with the risen Christ, His many appearances, and His teaching. 

The Two Natures, Holy Communion, and Sound Doctrine

This resurrection appearance is lesson by itself about the Two Natures in Christ. If the Biblical understanding is wrong, then everything that follows is also wrong.

There are several examples of the divine nature in Christ not being hindered by His human nature. On two occasions He was surrounded by crowds (to crown Him, to assault Him) and He passed through them. The early theologians add the Virgin Birth as well. These three examples show the divine nature not being hindered before the resurrection. Jesus did not appear as a spirit, ghost, or vision, but as the man Jesus, the Son of God, risen from the dead, the Word of God incarnate (in the flesh in Latin). 

How did He enter the locked room twice? The rationalists (like Calvin) say He was already there or came in a secret entrance. No text has these alleged facts, facts that display the doubt of the person speculating. Similar excuses could be invented for passing through two different crowds. That is where logic and human reason are inconsistent.

If the Son of God cannot be present when the doors and windows are locked, must we leave a window open? That is solved by claiming a spiritual presence only. But that means He is no long God and Man, but only God and has left His humanity behind somewhere. Or some claim He entered heaven and must stay there until the end, no longer present. 

This becomes very important with Holy Communion, because whatever we say about Christ is also true of Holy Communion and vice verse. If He cannot enter a locked room in both natures, He cannot be in the earthly elements of Holy Communion.

The Two Natures in Christ are a mystery revealed by the Holy Spirit, but man's reason rebels against it, if we place reason above the Word. Notice how that has an effect on everything we believe. That is why the rationalistic spirit starts at the most important doctrines of the Bible, attacking them, because the mysteries are never subject to man's reason.

How logical are the Three Persons, One God of the Holy Trinity? In fact, we can keep moving through the articles of faith until we reach prayer and ask, "How can God hear us praying silently? Or at all? 

The Real Presence is answered by the text - "This is My Body," and confirmed by 1  Corinthians 10:16 as church teaching.

The purpose of Holy Communion is taught by "given for the forgiveness of sin."

Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

When the Real Presence is denied, the forgiveness of sin is also denied. "This is just an ordinance, a law to be obeyed. It does not convey the forgiveness of sin.
It is not a Means of Grace." - That is what they say. When a WELS pastor started a generic "mission" congregation, he wrote about "ordinances" and in a few years, the congregation stopped pretending to be anything related to Lutheran and called itself Covenant, thanking the three WELS pastors who helped them start. (That was erased after I quoted it gleefully several times.)

Pastor Joe at CrossRoads still appreciates the help he got from WELS: "As Crossroads Community Church moves into its sixteenth year of existence, we look back at the people who have led us, the founding families and the Pastors Rick Miller, Kelly Voigt and Mark Freier, and say thanks for getting us here."

So sound doctrine has consequences, and so does false doctrine. When Lutherans give up their trust in what the Bible clearly teaches, they also give up the benefits from that teaching. If grace cannot be found in the Sacraments, and they are just laws or ordinances, there is no grace. 

Similarly, Christ died for the sins of the entire world, but that is not grace for those who obstinately oppose it or change it to mean something else (like Universalism or its apostate pal Unitarianism). God's grace and God's Word do not change. The message of the Word is the same even if no one else believes it, but the Word is given so we do believe and enjoy the fruits of what God has created in us.

If this world needs anything, it is the peace that comes from complete, free, and total forgiveness of sin. Once someone grasps how this is received in faith, apart from all our anxieties, fears, and regrets, the benefits of understanding the rest of God's Word becomes apparent.

This is not only a passage about faith and doubt, from an eye witness, but also a lesson about the Two Natures in Christ. The more we learn about Christ, the more peaceful our lives are, even in the midst of societal turmoil.