Quasimodogeniti (Easter 2) - 2013
Audio
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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
April 7, 2013
Central Passage
John 20:19-31
Description

 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus Christ, after He was raised from the dead, didn’t offer a single word of condemnation against His disciples’ sins. He only condemned their unbelief.

But what is unbelief? That seems easy enough. Unbelief is not believing the promises of Christ our Lord. And what are our Lord’s promises? Forgiveness of sins, mercy, peace, eternal life, resurrection, and so forth. But here is the chief and highest promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Lord: that He will be with you always, even unto the end of the age. That is the greatest promise.

It is the greatest promise because with Jesus comes all of His blessings and mercies. Where Jesus is, there the will of the Father is being done, reconciling sinners to Himself. Where Jesus is, there the Spirit of God is working for the sanctification and purification of men. Where Jesus is, there is life and salvation. He is the way to the Father. He is the resurrection from the dead. He is the anointed one of God. He is the Savior of all men. He is the King of heaven and earth. He is the eternal High Priest. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He is the bread of heaven. He is the well of eternal life. He is our Lord and our God. Where Jesus is, there, too, is the Father and the Holy Spirit. As He said to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

But that’s the trouble, isn’t it? That was Thomas’ trouble. We don’t see Jesus; at least, not with these eyes of flesh. We cannot say, “Look, there He is,” or “Look over there, there He is.” And thanks be to God we cannot say that because our Lord says not to believe those who do say it. For many false christs will come and perform miracles and lead many astray. But the Son of Man is does not come as other men come, according to the flesh. He doesn’t walk in here according to His body of flesh and bone, though He has a body of flesh and bone as Luke tells us in chapter 24(:39). He is ascended and so comes in the clouds of heaven, which is to say that He comes in His Word, the Sacraments. We cannot see Him with our eyes of flesh so we cannot locate Him according to the flesh. But that does not mean we do not know where He is and cannot find Him.

We know precisely where He is because He has told us where He will be. And if we believe one another that when we say, “I’ll be here or there at this or that time,” we will see each other at that place and time, how much more do we believe the One who is raised from the dead and has authority over life and death and heaven and hell? According to Jesus’ own words, if you want to know where He is, where to find Him, then you look to see where His Body is gathered; where the eagles gather. For where the Body is, there the eagles will gather. Where two or three are gathered in His name, that is where He is.

But for some reason we get hung up on this. We don’t deny it, per se, but when we hear that we are with Jesus at the Divine Service, where His word is preached and the sacraments administered, we immediately want to say that He is with us when we’re not with the congregation as much as when we are gathered. And that is true. He does not leave you and forsake you when you leave here and go out into the world. He is with you then, too. He is with you to hear your prayers and lead you in the paths of righteousness.

He is with you out there because you have been with Him here. The Lord’s gathering, just like in the Old Testament, is the locus of the Lord’s presence for His people. When we go out from His gathering, from His congregation – whether it’s in a building such as this or cave as in the old world – He does not cease to be with us but is with us because we are part of His congregation. So He says, “Whoever does not gather to me scatters” and also, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” When you read the Bible in your homes or listen to it in your car, when you pray out there, you do these things because you go through Jesus who is here for you. Your prayers and the hearing of God’s word out there are not apart from the Lord’s gathering but are extensions of it. The Lord is the source of your hearing and praying, so without Him gathering you to speak to you and pray with you, your hearing and prayers grow cold and empty. The devil doesn’t have to convince us that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead for us to be unbelieving. He only has to convince us that the Lord’s gathering is not needed for our good and salvation but only for our education. Then we will more freely stay away and think we are no worse for it.

The Lord has gathered you to impress upon you His mercy and love for you; to give you His promises that you are His and He is yours; that the forgiveness He won on the cross by the shedding of His blood is your forgiveness. Here the Lord gathers you to bless you – which is why the high priestly blessing goes with you out into the world, and why we teach our children to stay until the final benediction, which means, “Good word from God”. The Lord gathers His people to bless them. That’s why you are here, to be blessed by God in the name and for the sake of Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One of God.

Here the blessings of the Lord are upon you and are for you, they surround you and hem you in on every side. Not by your preparations but according to His promise. Which is why we shouldn’t get worked up about fussy children or bulletin mistakes or blown light bulbs or even dirty floors and out of tune organs or less than stellar preaching. We do our best to bring reverence, honor, and dignity to the Lord gathering, but this isn’t a performance to be watched and graded as good or bad, this is the gathering of the Lord … We don’t teach our children to sit still and listen so they won’t interrupt, but so they will learn to hear the Word of God and find rest in the blessing of their Lord.

The Lord gathers us to bless us and to make His face to shine upon us and to give us His peace. Peace with God by the shedding of His blood. Peace in the forgiveness of sins.

And that’s the point: peace with God. God is not angry with you. He doesn’t gather you to condemn you for your sin. He is well pleased with you because He is well pleased with Jesus in whom you are baptized. He is well pleased with you and so gathers you to Himself, Jesus leading the way because He is the way. He fills you with His Spirit, breathing eternal life into your mortal bodies so that like the valley of dry bones, you, too, will rise to stand before the Lord, confident in His mercy toward you, His holy people.

+ In Nomine Iesu +