In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Sacraments are instituted around and have their authority from the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now that He has offered Himself as a sacrifice, once for all on the cross, atonement has been made. The Father’s wrath is satisfied. Sin has been propitiated. Now that He is risen from the dead, salvation is ours, and the gates of heaven are open. The sacraments are the means by which He transfers to us the salvation He won. On the night in which he was betrayed, He took bread. When He was about to ascend into heaven He instituted Baptism by giving them the command and words of institution for the washing of rebirth in the Holy Spirit.
On Easter evening (the text before us this morning), He stood in their midst, coming through closed doors, coming to scared apostles, and pronounced peace. He gave them the Holy Spirit and commanded them to forgive the sins of those who repent and to retain the sins of those who fail to repent. Now that He had opened the gate to heaven by His death and resurrection, He gave the “keys” to the apostles. The gate is opened and closed by forgiveness, by repentance. There are two important parts here. It is open—right now, forever; but it can be closed to those so hardened as to not repent and confess their sins. If a sinner does not want Jesus’ forgiveness, then the binding key is in effect. That night, Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Absolution, that is forgiveness from the pastor as from God himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
This account was prefigured from the 6th day of creation. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). It is God’s breath that gives man life—not just mortal life, but life eternal. Once God breathes the soul into Adam, He is making an eternal being, a soul that will live on into eternity. With this blowing, God the Creator, made man in His image. It was not the fashioning out of dust that gave Adam the image of God, but it was the breath of life that created him into God’s image. At that moment, Adam received a holy, pure, and unspotted soul. Eve was created out of Adam and thus took part in his unblemished soul. There was no need for God to breath into Eve, since she received her life from the life of her husband. They shared the image of God.
However, that image was lost through the fall into sin. When Adam and Eve sought to be like God, they lost the image that God had breathed into them. Sin had corrupted them in every way. They were no longer holy, spotless, or pure. They were now sinners, and death had entered them. And just like Adam’s holiness was transferred to Eve, so their sin and death is transferred to all of their descendents. Their sinful nature corrupts all people.
If man were to be made holy again, it would be necessary for the Son of God to be sent as the Mediator, as true man. It would be necessary for the lost blessings to be won again for the whole human race through the suffering, death, and resurrection of God as man. The image of God would once more have to be renewed in us. This is the great, overwhelming grace and mercy of God. He is born of the Virgin Mary and restores to us again what He first gave Adam in creation—His very image. And He re-creates us in a very similar manner as the first creation, through means, through mysteries, through breathing. That is what happened on that night in the locked upper room. The glorified Jesus is re-creating His scared disciples and breathing into them the image of God.
Just as the sacraments are tied to the death and resurrection of Jesus, so is the Office of the Holy Ministry. He consecrates His disciples to preach, teach, and administer forgiveness on that Easter evening. It is through the Office of the Ministry that God restores and renews the lost image of God in His people. And this is accomplished through the Holy Spirit that was breathed and proceeds from the Father and the Son. He did not give them the Holy Spirit for their sakes alone, that evening. He gave them the Spirit so that they could go forth, convert people to God, make children of God and heirs of eternal life through faith, recreating us in His image. St. Paul says in 1st Cor. 15, that just as we bear the image of the man of dust—sinful Adam, so we too, will bear the image of the Second Adam—Jesus (v. 45).
Your champion Jesus, has done battle against Satan. Where Adam and Eve fell short, Jesus conquered. A war raged and victory was His. Peace now ensues. He stands in your midst to let you know that you don’t have to be afraid. “Peace be with you.” Jesus says.
And He shows you His marks. The imprints in His hands, in His feet, the hole in His side are still there in the glorified and risen Christ as marks of victory. They are trophies of salvation. They mark the cost which He paid willingly for your redemption.
Jesus still uses marks today to be signs of peace and comfort to scared and anxious disciples—you. He willingly and generously uses water to wash you clean. He uses bread and wine to become His true body and blood for your forgiveness. He sends men out into all the world to preach repentance and then to forgive those who repent—that is those who are sorry and believe. The Christian Church, even this little congregation lives by the marks of Jesus Christ. We poor sinners, who gather here are refreshed and renewed by the Lord. We who so often want to lock ourselves behind the closed doors of our shame, our ignorance, our anger, our pleasures, and our fear are not closed off from our glorified Lord.
He, who became your salvation while you were yet sinners, comes to you again and again to show you the peace which He brings, to breathe into your dry bones the breath of the Holy Spirit. You are the Israel of God. You have been born of God and have become His new-born babes. The water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit all testify on your behalf. And they agree. You are His precious child. Jesus is no longer dead. And soon, He will open the graves and come again. He will bring all the dead to life and place His own into the promised land of heaven.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia!
(He is ris’n indeed! Alleluia!)
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana