April 7th, 2024 John 20:19-31 Resurrection Blessings”

One commentator stated “Science bows before the empty tomb.” I like that phrase. The gospel accounts were written 2000 years ago. We live in a day of exploding knowledge, yet we have no way to account for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by purely human means. Science bows before the empty tomb. Science can only try to extend human life, it has yet to create a resurrection of a dead human being.

Herbal medicine is used by many people to help cure various illnesses. Millions of dollars are spent every year on vitamins. Not too long ago, there was an article about the latest research into herbal medicine.

Do you believe in miracles?

Do you believe in honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned acts of God?

That’s a good question to ask on the Sunday after Easter.

Science cannot possibly explain the Resurrection of Jesus. And we can’t explain it either, which is why the gospel writers didn’t try to describe the indescribable. I can only think of two words that describe what happened that first Easter.

Pure miracle. That miracle of the resurrection of Jesus from death and the grave brings great blessings to us who place our trust in Him.

First. We are given total and complete forgiveness of our broken commandments. Jesus took the wrath God against sin on His shoulders and transfers to all who believe in Him His righteousness. (II Corinthians 5:20-21; Romans 5:1-2)

Second. We are given Gods’ promise that we too shall rise from death with a new and glorified resurrected body, fashioned like the resurrected body of Jesus. (Philippians 3:20-21)

The New Testament never tries to “prove” the resurrection of Jesus in the scientific sense. Instead it describes the utterly transformed lives of the early Christians who saw their Master crucified and then saw him alive from the dead. Having encountered the risen Lord, they could not possibly keep quiet about it.

They went everywhere spreading the Good News that God had entered the world in the person of Jesus Christ, that He lived among us, that He died a cruel death on a Roman cross, that in His death He bore our sins, taking on Himself our guilt, and that He rose from the dead on the third day, never to die again. They proclaimed that those who trust in Jesus are forgiven, redeemed, saved, born again, given eternal life, and one day they will be raised from the dead when Jesus comes again.

In Revelation 1:18 Jesus declares, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” I love that expression: “I hold the keys.” Every time I leave my house I take my keys with me. On my key ring I have one is for my house, no longer a key, but a “Key Fob” for my car, a key for the church and keys for various other door and locks. They give me entrance into places where I am always welcome. Keys matter. Whoever has the keys has the authority to enter at will. When Jesus came forth from the tomb on Easter Sunday, He came forth holding the keys of death and Hades in his hand. (Hebrews 2:14) This is the gospel we preach.

We tend to forget what it was like on that first Easter morning. It is worth asking ourselves:

If we had been there, would we have believed or would we have doubted?

If we had been there in Jerusalem with Matthew, James and John, would we have believed those strange rumors of Mary Magdalene that Sunday morning?

In answering that question, it helps to remember how those who knew Jesus best reacted to news of his resurrection.

Very simply, they were not expecting a resurrection. Now it’s true that Jesus had predicted that he would be put to death and then raised to life. But his followers did not understand it. A resurrection was the farthest thing from their minds. Forget his predictions. Forget all that brave talk. They had given up.

Who really expected a resurrection on that Sunday morning? Not the disciples.

It was the Jewish leaders who persuaded the Romans to seal the tomb. The enemies of Jesus feared something might happen. His friends weren’t expecting anything.

This is where the Third blessing of the resurrection comes to us. The disciples were hiding in fear of arrest. The doors were locked. The moment of fear was transformed by the physical presence of the resurrected Jesus, no longer limited by the molecules of wood and stone. “Peace be with you.” The image is of Jesus blowing His breath over His frightened followers. It was necessary.

Just as God, the Creator breathed life into the mud mold of Adam, so the disciples now receive the “breath of life”. The same Holy Spirit that created Jesus in the womb of Mary, the same Holy Spirit that brought the dead body of Jesus back to resurrected life now remains on earth in His disciples.

We possess the truth of His resurrection.

We, like the first disciples can not keep quiet.

We are to tell others why we have peace in our heart and mind.

We have no fear of a holy God. He invites us to invite Him into our daily struggles, our concerns and needs.

We are invited to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

Forgiveness is the action that changes our world. When you forgive, it may not change the other, whom you are forgiving but it will change you. We forgive because we have been forgiven. This power and authority has been given to the “Church”. This is why each Sunday morning we hear the pastor pronounce the forgiveness of our sins in our liturgy following our confession then comes the absolution.

If the resurrection of Jesus was an unexplainable miracle so also is this promise of Jesus when He “breathed” on each of His disciples giving them His Holy Spirit. Jesus had told His disciples that He would return to His Father in heaven, but He would not leave them as orphans. He promised to send them His Holy Spirit, which is what is happening in our text on that first Easter evening.

The Spirit of God who had been dwelling in Jesus, who had been with the disciples for three years, was going to be inside of them by the same Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit is God’s breath. God’s voice was visible and audible in Jesus,

now His voice is made audible by the Spirit dwelling within each of His followers. If we over emphasize Jesus then might be tempted to under emphasize the power and work of the Holy Spirit, who is part of the Trinity, coequal with the Father and the Son. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would “lead them in all truth.” (John 16:7)

Martin Luther gave us a great explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: He writes;

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, (We are blessed because the Holy Spirit enables our heart to believe the miracle of the resurrection.) “enlightened me with His gifts,” (we each are gifted with spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit) sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” This is most certainly true.    

This is our assurance. That is our hope. Death cannot win in the end. Death has been defeated. And the day is coming when death itself will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Death was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead, and one day death will be no more. So let the people of God rejoice. Jesus is alive! Though we die, we will not stay dead. The gates of hell will not prevail. Satan has the gates, but Jesus has the keys. Alleluia, He is Risen and all God’s people respond “He is Risen indeed, Alleluia.