4-7-24 Quasimodo Geniti

Bible Text: John 20:19-31 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus

Jesus came to his disciples when the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. The obvious import of these words is that Jesus simply stood in the midst of them, that he miraculously passed through closed and locked doors. I read a commentary that gave 8 reasons why it had to mean that, and I was wondering why this even had to be explained, with 8 reasons, obviously Jesus passed through closed doors, that’s what it says, when finally the commentary said that many think Jesus knocked and the disciples asked who is it and he said Jesus and then they unlocked and opened the door. Or that Jesus climbed in through a window. They refuse to say He just passed through locked doors. Because they say a human body can’t do that. Human reason cannot reign here. The resurrection changes everything. You define what Jesus can do not by what a normal body can do, but by what Jesus Himself says and does after He resurrects Himself. This is what we call sui generis. Of its own kind. There is nothing to compare the resurrected Jesus to. He does what He wishes with His body. What other body has conquered death? What other body has borne the sins of the world? What other body is united to the eternal Son of God? Here reason must stop and do nothing but wonder and praise the God who does marvelous things.

But, they object still, Jesus is trying to show His disciples that He still has a human body, that He has actually resurrected. If He just passed through locked doors they would think He’s a ghost. Now that’s funny, because they do think He’s a ghost. That’s what Luke’s Gospel says, “But they were startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost.” I don’t suppose they would have thought He was a ghost if they caught him sneaking through a window or if they had to open the door to him. I don’t think ghosts have to knock. No, they think he’s a ghost because he just passed through closed doors. Normal bodies can’t do that. So Jesus eats some fish in front of them, tells them to touch him and see that ghosts do not have flesh and blood like Him. And then they are glad because they know this is Jesus, flesh and blood and all, the same Jesus who was crucified for them, and they see, the first thing they see, is what His resurrected body can do.

Jesus came to His disciples when the doors were locked, because He wanted to show them not simply that He had risen from the dead, but what it meant for them. Death could not hold him back from them. Neither could closed doors, literal or metaphorical. The disciples are literally locked in there because they’re afraid of their government, the leaders of the Jews. The government is supposed to promote true worship of God. It’s supposed to be a friend to the Christian Church, because the same God who instituted the government instituted the Church. But Jesus is showing here that even if the government is a terror to the good and persecutes Christians, which happened then and will happen now, Jesus will be with His disciples, with His Church, where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them. Nothing stops Him. Not the laws of physics, not the laws of men. He is with her always. Closed doors or no. Sometimes the Church has the government on its side, protecting our right to preach Christ, sometimes it doesn’t, but the Church continues regardless, Christ is with her always, and so there is never reason for despairing, never reason to be afraid. Jesus is with you. What can man do to you?

Jesus passes through those closed doors too so He can show them the glory of His resurrected body. It isn’t a normal body. Of course it isn’t. It’s the body that conquered death. St. Paul tells us that when our bodies are raised from the dead, they will be raised spiritual bodies. That doesn’t mean they won’t be flesh and blood bodies, they will be, but they will be changed, glorified, the corruptible will put on incorruption. When we think of what God has prepared for those who love Him, what the resurrection will be for us, this is included, that our bodies will be conformed to His glorious body. And Jesus shows us this here. Even then, our bodies will never be the same as Jesus’ body, because our bodies aren’t personally united to the eternal Son of the Father, our bodies are not God’s body. Jesus’ body is, and He will do what He wishes with it.

And what He wishes is to be with His disciples. What He wishes is to speak peace to them and to show them the wounds that earned that peace with God. Not just for the eleven, not just for that night, but for His whole Church, and not for a time, but always.

The end of John’s Gospel can seem anticlimactic. Jesus comes, gives his disciples the Holy Spirit, tells them to forgive sins and retain the sins of the impenitent, Thomas isn’t there, he doesn’t believe it, Jesus comes again and shows Thomas his hands and his side, and says that we are blessed who don’t see and yet believe. But we all know that Thomas is more blessed. Because Thomas got to see. And then John teases us and says that Jesus did all sorts of other things that aren’t contained in this book. And we wonder why John didn’t keep on writing. You give us 18 chapters of what Jesus did and said before He died and then just two of what He did and said after.

But no, John’s Gospel ends perfectly. Because the point is that Jesus doesn’t stop working, doesn’t stop acting. There is no end. And we who believe see it every single Sunday and every day of our lives. What good would it do us to have 50,000 more miracles of Jesus recorded, all done for others, or 50,000 more words of His spoken, all spoken to others? What good would that do us compared to what Jesus speaks to us specifically now, in His Church, what He gives us specifically here in His body and blood?

And why do these words come to us now, why do you hear every single Sunday the forgiveness of your sins, why every single Lord’s Day do you get to take the body and blood of your Lord into your mouth and know that He is not only Thomas’ God and Lord, but yours, that He has conquered not simply the disciples’ death, but yours, that He gives peace with God not only to them, but to you? Because when your Lord rose from the dead, He entered through locked doors and told His disciples to go forgive sins. The words are few, but they are powerful, and the brevity of the words Jesus speaks after His resurrection is meant only to make you treasure them more and cling to the enormous importance they have for your life.

As the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you, Jesus said. The Father sent Jesus for two purposes. The first Jesus gives in His famous words, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The Father sent Him to give His life, to be the Holy One who drinks the cup of God’s wrath against sin to the bitter dregs, to be crushed for our iniquities, the ransom that paid for our release from death. This is what we call objective justification. It is objective. It happened. Jesus spoke it on the cross with His dying breath, “It is finished.” The debt is paid. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and not imputing their trespasses to them, because they were on Jesus.

But the Father sent His Son into this world also to teach, to preach, to make disciples. Because the forgiveness Jesus won, the victory over death He worked, needs to be given to you, preached to you. And this is why Jesus says, as the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you.

Jesus did not win salvation, rise from the dead, and then leave everything else to us. You will actually here people say this. Jesus did all the hard work. Died to take away your sin. Now it’s up to you. Will you believe? Will you accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior? No, it is not all up to you. Thank Jesus. You would ruin it all. You need Jesus to come to you and show you His wounds and speak peace to you. And Jesus does that here in His Church. It’s what He commands the first apostles to do – why St. Paul can say that Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed before the Galatians’ very eyes as crucified. That’s what the preaching of forgiveness is, not some bare “I forgive you,” but the preaching of Jesus’ suffering, His death, His wounds, which won you peace with God, and His resurrection which gives you life. When pastors preach it, Jesus preaches it – whoever hears you hears me.

Jesus told Peter that He would establish His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against her. And here is Jesus establishing His Church. If it doesn’t look impressive, then you are looking for the wrong thing. Jesus doesn’t go to politicians, to powers, to authorities, when He rises from the dead. He doesn’t show Pilate His glory or Herod or Caiaphas or Tiberius. He isn’t obsessed with politics and neither should you be. He established His Church. That’s what He did. He passed through closed doors and told these apostles, His first pastors, to forgive sins and retain the sins of those who refuse to repent. And this command remains to this day and the gates of hell have not prevailed against her.

What Jesus does on the day of His resurrection is the most important consideration there is. What will He do, the One who has just conquered death? What will He say, what will He command? Before His death, He told the crowds, “I have sheep who are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they must listen to my voice.” And when He prays to His Father the night before His crucifixion, He says, “I do not ask for these only, but for those who will believe in Me through their word.”

Jesus’ concern was for you, on the day of His resurrection. That’s the amazing and beautiful reality. He cared for Thomas, but He tells Thomas that you are blessed. He cared for the eleven, but He tells them to forgive your sins. He passed through closed doors then, but He passes through heaven and earth to feed you with the body and blood that gives you peace. When you confess every Sunday, And I believe in one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church, this is what you are confessing, that what Jesus commanded here has lasted and endures, to the present day, to the present hour, and He has raised and felled kingdoms to bring to you today the forgiveness He died to win and rose to give.

The Christian Church is not struggling today. She is not declining. She is not in danger of anything bad. She conquers. She has always conquered. She is the Bride of the resurrected Lord. She is victorious over death. She is cleansed and washed and set before God as spotless and pure. She lives by the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. That is what Christ made sure of on the day of His resurrection. It is what He has given you who believe though you have not seen. But you will see and your joy will be full. Alleluia. Christ is risen.

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