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First Sunday after Easter

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, West LaHave, Vogler’s Cove  April 23, AD 2006

1 John 5:4f      John 20:19-31

 

"Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them,

Peace be unto you. "

 

We will be celebrating and giving special thought to the Resurrection of our Lord, for 40 days, just as those first disciples experienced the appearances of Jesus in different places and in different circumstances over that same period of time.  It gives us opportunity to explore and ponder in depth the significance and benefits of our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead.

 

Last week we beheld in our Gospel the empty tomb and the very beginnings of faith in the Resurrection – the Apostle John being the first to believe as he and Peter viewed the grave cloths lying in the tomb and the napkin that had been about Jesus head lying in a place by itself.  There was Mary Magdalene, whose soul had been swept clean of 7 demons, but was not yet filled with the promised new resurrection life, remaining at the tomb of our Lord.

 

St. Mary Magdalene, remained at the tomb, after Peter and John returned home.  She stood weeping outside the tomb and was consoled by two angels in white who spoke with her in her deep grief.  She turns around and begins to speak with one whom she thinks is the gardener, who then reveals himself to her as the risen Jesus when he speaks her name – Mary!

 

That same day, elsewhere, there were the two men on the Road to Emmaus whom the risen Jesus came alongside to lead them out of their grief and to an understanding of how the Law and the Prophets clearly show that the Messiah must be crucified and rise again.  Their hearts burned within them as Jesus talked with them but only when he broke bread with them did they know him – and he suddenly disappeared.  When they returned to Jerusalem, to tell of their encounter, they learned that the Lord had appeared to Peter.

 

This morning’s Gospel is the next recorded appearance of Jesus – all on that same first day.  We can imagine that all of these specific appearances and their reportings, were the necessary preparations of the hearts of each of the disciples before He could appear to all of them together.  His very appearances a wonderful sign of the Wisdom and the Love of God – God knows each of our hearts and treats each of us as individuals – He brings the knowledge of Himself to us as we can best bear it – and first through the preparation of the witness of others.

 

Jesus appears, after these preparations with individuals, to all of the disciples, except to Thomas, who had to wait another agonizing week, for a special appearance.

 

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.  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 doors were shut and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them.  His body bearing the marks of His crucifixion.  It is that same body, yet somehow strangely and wonderfully transformed – he can appear and disappear, be known or remain unknown, the physical world is no impediment to his movement – He is resurrected, not just resuscitated like Lazarus or the little girl or the son of the widow of Nain.

 

Jesus says to them – Peace be unto you.  His first words to them are words of reconciliation.  The deep peace that we all desire and as Christians know more and more – reconciliation, forgiveness, with God and man – a reconciliation that the disciples knew in the presence of Jesus, they now knew as a certainty from His mouth. 

 

Peace be unto you.  And when Jesus had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.  We can imagine that the disciples had some idea that Jesus was offering himself as a sacrifice for sin - he had told them many times, he had been called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist when first introduced.  We can imagine there was some question in their minds following his brutal crucifixion about that offering.  But now, with his Resurrection appearance to them, the self offering of the Son of God, the willing sacrifice of Himself on the Cross for the sins of the world, the disciples are now assured, has been received by the Father. 

 

Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 

 

They were glad when they saw the Lord because He was their Master and their friend, but it was a far deeper gladness.  It is the gladness we know in our conversions, at the moments of our acceptance of the mercy that the Father would pour upon us when we come to Him with penitent hearts trusting in His Son’s offering.  It is the gladness we know at our justification – our being seen as just through our trusting in Jesus self offering – a moment we first know in our baptism and that we know each time we return to Him in faith after we have strayed.  When the Father looks upon us, who look upon and trust in His Son, we are seen as righteous and are being made righteous by grace. 

 

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

 

As the Father looks upon the Son in perfect love and sends Him to us, so does the Son look upon us in perfect love and sends us to others in the power of that Love.  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.  The very character of this Love is forgiveness and self sacrifice - Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.  And why would we retain the sins of others when we ourselves have received perfect forgiveness from our Lord?  Why would we hold others bound in sin when we have been loosed from the bonds of our own sins? 

 

As St. Paul has said elsewhere:

God… hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.…(2 Cor. 5:18-19)

 

As Christians we have been assured by Christ’s resurrection that His offering on our behalf has been accepted.  Knowing that greatest gift, that new freedom and being filled with that reconciling love, filled with Christ’s Spirit, He asks us to go out and tell others, by word and more importantly, by deed.

 

We are left with two questions to consider this morning:

 

Is there someone you have not forgiven that comes to mind this morning?  pray for the grace to forgive them.  Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

 

Is there someone you know who is despairing because of something they have done and  they don’t know the forgiveness of God possible through the offering of His Son?  pray for grace to speak the word of reconciliation.

 

Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them,

Peace be unto you.

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.

Amen.

 

 

 

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