Messages from Pastor Raddatz

April 19, 2020 - Psalm 148   Acts 5:12-20   Revelation 1:4-18  John 20:19-31 


[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22–23).

This is not the first time that God breathed on human beings. By breathing on his disciples and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus is in effect re-enacting Genesis 2:7, where “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” We will examine how Jesus approaches us and replace our fears with peace.  He creates in us a clean heart.  He forgives the dirtiness of our sin.  He gifts us with his Spirit who brings peace with God.  Because of God’s Holy Spirit, we can forgive.  In this way we are his new creation.

FEAR IS AS COMMON AS BREATHING (when we are troubled)

Anxiety is our usual human response when things do not go our way.  Therefore, the disciples were behind locked doors on the first Easter Sunday night.  They were afraid of the Jews because if their rabbi was crucified the same thing could happen to them!  They are behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.  Jesus comes and stands among them proclaiming “Peace be with you”.  He shows them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you”.He MULTIPLIES peace.  This is the second time he gives them peace, but he is not done for he says a third time, “peace”.

This message of PEACE is so important for us today!  While we continue to practice “Social Distancing”, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we wait.  We wait to hear if it is on the increase or has the curve of increase flattened out?  We wait to see if our body has any new aches or pains today (I’m not immune to the fact that the older you get the greater the chance of new aches and pains).  What is my body telling me?  How do I respond to the news and threat of this pandemic?  My first reaction can be fear, but is that what God wants me to do?  Therefore the appearance of Jesus behind the closed doors to the disciples who are huddled in fear is so vital!!  He wants us to look to God for he grants us peace.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” John 14:27

Peace which is shalom in Hebrew is a common greeting and a common farewell. Jesus uses in a unique way in John 14:27. The term speaks in effect, of the salvation that Christ’s redemptive work will achieve for his disciples.  God’s peace is TOTAL WELLBEING AND INNER REST OF THE SPIRIT, in fellowship with God.

All true peace is his gift, which the redemption emphasizes.  He does not give as the world gives means the world only gives you what you earn or what you pay for.  In the greetings of peace the world gives, it is only a longing or a wish. 

Jesus peace is real and present. The result of Jesus’ peace: V. 20 tells us: The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Jesus replaces our fears with his joy.  PEACE AND JOY ARE THE GIFT OF FAITH.

PEACE IS GOD’S UNCOMMON GIFT (Jesus breathes it in us)

God’s peace is special.  We have peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us. 

In John 20 Jesus is, in a sense, re-creating humanity, through the Holy Spirit given to the disciples. We should therefore understand forgiveness not only to balance our accounts, as it were, but to bring us into a new relationship with our creator, who gives us life. Forgiveness is God’s promise that whatever we have done in the past, he is not going to let that separate us from his love.

The example of a human family may be helpful to illustrate the point. When children do something wrong, they feel fear because they are “in trouble.” In their minds, normal family life is suspended because their parents are angry with them. Will they get an angry lecture? Will privileges be taken away? But most importantly, will things ever be back to normal? When they hear words of forgiveness, those words are a promise that family life will continue, and they will continue to be welcomed in it. Children do not run to a ledger and check off the sin. Instead, they relax because they are comforted by this promise of a relationship.

In the same way, God’s words of forgiveness assure us that we continue to be welcome in his family, the newly created human race. Once again, the Small Catechism says it best. In the sixth chief part about Holy Communion (The Lord’s Supper), is the question, “What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?” Luther says, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” With that in mind, it is not surprising that Jesus would evoke the creation of life in Genesis 2 when he gives the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins in John 20.While we cannot share this Holy Communion together, we can be assured that God is communing with us!

How do we commune with God during this time of cancelled services?  We can pray and we can open our Bibles.  God is there.  God is also with us and in us!!!  God comes to us in Baptism.  We are called to live out our baptism.

You “live like you are baptized” when you believe that nothing separates you from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:31–39). You live in Baptism when you laugh at the devil’s attempts to induce you to fear and dread. As Luther says, “Send those terrors right back to him” (LW 43:127). Be confident; you do not fear death, for you are united to Christ.(Reporter, “When One Can’t Flee the Plague” by Roy Askins, March 4, 2020)

Verse 22, “And with that 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.”

God’s peace is for us.  It allows us to share forgiveness with each other.It is therefore between them and God.Forgive yourself and forgive others.

Literally: V. 22 reads, “THOSE WHO’S SINS YOU FORGIVE HAVE ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN; THOSE WHOSE SINS YOU DO NOT FORGIVE HAVE NOT BEEN FORGIVEN.”  God does not forgive people’s sins because we do so, nor does he withhold forgiveness because we do.  Rather, those who proclaim the gospel are in effect forgiving or not forgiving sins, it all depends on whether the hearers believe in Jesus Christ or not.

Who does forgiveness serve?  It serves peace to the one who forgivesForgiving is rediscovering the shining path of peace that at first you thought others took away when they betrayed you. ~Dodinsky,  It has also been said, Forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. ~Author Unknown

Who do you need to forgive?  How can your following of Christ change destructive habits you have learned from others?

Jesus replaces our fear with His peace.  His creates in us a clean heart that IS FORGIVEN and can forgive.  In this way we are his new creation. He gives us life, eternal life with him and a life of loving relationships. Just as God’s breath went into man at the first creation, Jesus breathes in us his Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God,

John Raddatz, Vacancy Pastor

Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Houston TX

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