St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Church Receives Power From The Risen Christ

Sermon on John 20:19-31

Text: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In order to make something go or work, you have to have a source of energy. There are many types of engines and motors, but they all have this one thing in common. They all require some sort of energy to make them go, whether it be fossil fuel, solar, nuclear, electricity, or even compressed air. The human body is like that, as well. We know if we do not feed our bodies, they cannot run. If we give them the wrong food, they will not run efficiently. Everything needs a source of power if it is going to do its job. The Church also needs a source of power, if it is going to work. In our text, we discover the source of power and what the Church is enabled to do. THE CHURCH RECEIVES POWER FROM THE RISEN CHRIST. 1. Power To Forgive 2. Power To Believe And Confess 3. Power To Live Forever.

The first portion of our text takes place on the first Easter evening. “The disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.” (Verse 19) Humanly speaking, who could blame them? They had just seen what the Jews had done to Jesus. Could they expect anything less? Yet, they had heard from people that Jesus was alive. The women who went to the grave that morning told of angels and of seeing Jesus. Mary Magdalene had spoken with Jesus. The two disciples who had just returned from Emmaus and told how Jesus had walked and talked with them. Still, the disciples were afraid and hid behind locked doors.

Suddenly, Jesus was standing in the midst of them. Because the disciples were afraid, the first thing Jesus said to them was “Peace be with you.” (Verse 19) ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Then he showed them the marks of the nails in his hands, feet and side. This showing removed any lingering doubts in their minds. The disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, and their reaction was one of joy. They knew Jesus had completed the task, that he had conquered sin, death, and the devil, and that this victory was theirs, as well. Their faith leapt for joy at the sight of the risen Jesus.

Having given their faith strength and power, by showing himself alive, he gives them a task to do. Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (Verse 21) Jesus was giving his Church a command, which we often refer to as the Great Commission. Jesus repeated it just before he ascended into heaven. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19&20) The disciples of Jesus were to go into all the world and tell others about Jesus.

Jesus gave his disciples a very special power. “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (Verses 22&23) Jesus gave the Church the ability to forgive sins or retain sins. It was Jesus’ to give. He earned the forgiveness of sins on the cross when he suffered the torments of hell. His resurrection seals the forgiveness. He gives the ability to forgive or not forgive.

This is often called the “Keys.” There are two keys. There is, first, the “Loosening Key.” With this key, the Christian releases another from their sins. Where there is repentance and faith, there is forgiveness. The idea behind forgiveness is to cancel, or to send away. When a Christian forgives, they are telling the other that their debt of sin has been canceled before God, because of what Jesus has done. This key is a wonderful joy to use. What better news can you tell someone than that their sins are forgiven. This is the “Loosening Key.”

There is another Key, which has a tragic function. This is the “Binding Key.” With this key, the Christian tells the impenitent that their sins are not forgiven. If there is no forgiveness, then all that lies ahead of that person is eternal punishment in hell. Jesus gave this authority to his Church to bind someone to their sins for all eternity. This Key is used when someone refuses to repent. He refuses to admit that what he is doing is a sin. Then the Church must use the Binding Key. What an awesome responsibility!

This responsibility is not just given to the pastors. Although it is exercised publicly by the pastor on Sunday morning, these keys are given to the entire Church. Every believer has been given the power by Jesus to use these Keys. We know that, every time these keys are used, it is just as if Christ himself were speaking those words. May we make full use of this power. The use of these Keys is motivated by love, even the Binding Key. By using the Binding Key, we are telling that person, in the strongest possible way, that they will be lost forever, if there is no repentance. However, we also want to quickly use the Loosening Key, so that the sinner may be assured of the forgiveness that Jesus won for them. The church has been given the power, the power to forgive, by the risen Christ.

The next portion of our text is the well-known story of doubting Thomas, which took place a week later. Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them. When he was told by the others that Jesus had risen, Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Verse 25) Actually, we are being generous in calling Thomas “doubting.” He refused to believe. He made certain demands that had to be met before he would believe that Jesus was alive. On Sunday evening, Jesus came to the disciples, as he had one week before. He turned to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Verse 27) Although Thomas had no right to make these demands, Jesus came to him. In order to banish all doubts from the mind of Thomas, Jesus invited him to do as he wanted. Jesus saw a person with a weak faith and wanted to strengthen it.

Whether or not Thomas did as he had demanded is not known. However, what is important is what Thomas showed by his reaction, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Verse 28) Thomas confessed his faith in Jesus. Jesus had turned his unbelief to a confessing faith. If you don’t believe something, you will not go and tell others about it. However, Thomas did, and he told others about Jesus.

Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Verse 29) We fall into that latter category. We have not seen the risen Jesus with our own eyes. Yet, we believe in him as the Savior from sin. Everything depends on our faith. It doesn’t depend on my feelings. My feelings change from day to day and week to week. Whether I am saved or not does not depend on if I feel saved. It rests upon the clear Word of God. There it says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16) Because the Holy Spirit has created faith in my heart, I can hold to God’s promises, even if I haven’t seen Jesus with my own eyes. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Martin Luther once said, “I believe what God promises, if I feel it, or if I don’t feel it!”. God has made many promises, many of which still lie in the future, such as eternal life. Because of what Jesus has done for me, I know that eternal life will be mine, not because I have seen or experienced it, but because I believe in the sure words of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ resurrection gives us the power to believe. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” If Jesus didn’t rise that first Easter, we would have no reason to be here this morning. Our faith would be completely useless. It wouldn’t do us any good. However, because Jesus has risen from the dead, we believe in him and the promises that he has made to us. Jesus has given us the power to believe and the power to confess him before others. May we strengthen our faith in him and make the most of every opportunity to tell others; to share the power that Christ has given the Church.

John describes one other power that has been given to the Church. He writes, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Verses 30&31) John again draws attention to our faith. We believe in Jesus, and our faith is not a blind faith. It is based on eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ disciples, as we have them recorded in the Word of God. Because of what is written there, when we come to faith, we can see, as the passage says, that Jesus is the Christ. The man, Jesus from Nazareth, is the very one spoken of coming throughout the Old Testament. He was the one who was to save the world. We also see that Jesus is the Son of God. We see proof of it in his miracles. We hear it from his own lips. We see it evidenced in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Only God could do such things. This is what we believe because it is found in the Bible.

What are the results of this faith? “By believing you may have life in his name.” Jesus gave the Church the ability to live forever. Before we came to faith, we did not have this power. It says very clearly in the Bible, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) All have deserved this death because, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) We all deserved eternal death in hell because of our sins. We, all, have broken God’s will for our lives. There was nothing in our future, except punishment for all eternity.

However, Jesus’ resurrection gives us the power to live forever. Jesus won the victory. As we find in 1 Corinthians 15:54,55,57, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God allows us to share in the victory Jesus won over death when he rose that first Easter. Death holds no power over us, because Jesus has given us the power to live forever. Although physical death may still our hearts, we know that this is not the end of the road. We don’t have to wonder if there is life after death. We know that there is! We know that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life, that those who fall asleep in Jesus are experiencing the joy and happiness that can only be found in heaven. This is the power that is given to Jesus’ disciples then and now. Jesus, himself, tells us in John 11:25&26, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” This power comes to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. May this knowledge that this power is ours strengthen us when loved ones pass away and the days are dark on this earth. We know that this is all passing, until we reach our final rest in heaven. Jesus’ resurrection gives us power to live forever.

Earlier, we spoke of machines that work on fuels or sources of energy. What if their source of energy runs out? A vehicle is fine, until it runs out of gas. A refrigerator keeps things nice and cold, until the electricity is out. The human body works wonderfully, until you withhold food from it. This is also true of us as we live our life of faith. May we never stray from our source of power, Jesus. As long as we are connected to him, we are strong and able to carry out the responsibilities that he has given us. We can use the power to forgive others if we remain in him. We can believe if we don’t cut ourselves off from him. We will live forever, because we have been given the power to do so by Jesus Christ. May we seek to use the powers Jesus has given us to carry out his mission to others. As it says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Amen.