Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Christmas Word Is the Easter Word

Second Sunday of Easter
April 11, 2010
John 20:19-31

At the beginning of his Gospel account the apostle John goes one up on the beginning of the Bible that says that God created the heavens and the earth. John says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 ESV) A few verses later he makes a startling statement: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14 ESV)

What does this mean? What is the Word? What does it mean that the Word was God? What does it mean that the Word became flesh? And what you also might be thinking: What do these things have to do with me and my life?

Jesus is here to answer your questions. He shows up when He’s not expected. He comes in when there’s no way to get in. He comes despite unbelief and doubt.

More animals were around when God became flesh than were people. God becoming a man just wasn’t on the radar of most people. God coming out of His tomb wasn’t either. It’s just as hard to believe the little baby born in a stable was God as it was to believe that the man Jesus who was lifeless in the tomb was now alive.

But everything depends on words. The Bible tells us that in the beginning God said. This is what He said: “Let there be light.” We all know what the Bible says next: “And there was light.” God is God. He could have created the universe in any way He wanted.

He chose to do it by speaking it into existence. The Word. He used words. Speaking into being what He was saying. God’s Word brings about what it says. We don’t have that power. God does. He’s God.

But the thing about God is He doesn’t go around convincing us that He’s God. He just does what He does as God. And what that is is saving us. Forgiving us, loving us, sustaining us in salvation. Bringing about in us the salvation He eagerly wants us to have.

I have learned over the years to be very careful about what I tell people I’ll do. Too often I have said, I’ll do this. Or I’ve offered to do something. Or I’ve said yes to a request to do something. Once you say it it sticks with people. If you don’t do it they’ll remember that. He said he would do it and he hasn’t done it. And saying, Oh yeah, I’ll still get to that, doesn’t help anything. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

So some have also said that you should say what you mean and mean what you say. That’s what John is getting at when He says that the Word is God and that the Word became flesh. God doesn’t just tell us He’s God. He does His being God. He puts His money where His mouth is. He doesn’t just talk the talk, He walks the walk. The proof is in the pudding. If you don’t believe it, just look in the manger. There’s God. Why would He be there if He weren’t serious about being God and saving us? If you doubt it, look at the empty tomb. Why would God go through the suffering and dying and being laid in a grave if He weren’t intent on being our God, our Savior?

When God says He’s going to do something, He does it. He puts His action where His Word is. But actually, with God His Word is His action. His Word brings about what it says. When He says He is our God He does what it means to be our God. He saves us. He doesn’t use His Word to tell us how to save ourselves, He by His Word saves us.

And what is His Word? Himself. Jesus is the Word of God. He is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. And what does this Word do? He goes about being who He is, which is God. He goes about doing what God does, which is saving us.

Nothing will impede Him. The locked doors on the first Easter Sunday didn’t prevent Him from being the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. He was right there among His disciples, being their God, in the flesh. Risen, alive, bodily. They were in there, locked up, because they were afraid. Because they listened to their own reason and the words of unbelievers. Jesus was dead, He’s gone. Those who killed Him are going to come after us.

But Jesus breaks through this world of unbelief in coming bodily to them just as the light broke forth in the darkness when God spoke His Word at the dawn of creation. Jesus, the Word made flesh who dwells among us, is present among us and speaks to us. “Peace be with you.” The Word He speaks is His Word that brings about what it says. When He says “Peace be with you,” He’s not just saying it so they might have some peace after all they’ve been through. He’s bestowing on them peace. He’s bringing about Peace in their lives by speaking it into their ears. John shows us this when he says: “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

But there’s more. With God there’s never just something. There’s always more. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” He is the God who goes about being God. He doesn’t sit around hoping we’ll get the picture that He is the Almighty eternal powerful God and that we’ll give Him homage for it. Nope, He goes about being God, our Savior. He goes about saving us. He’s the God who comes into our world, our lives, with salvation. He comes to us to save us. He is the God who is always present not just because He’s always present, but because He comes to us in the Word made flesh.

He bestows on them once again peace. He is pleased as peaches to have been sent by His Heavenly Father. He is just as pleased to send out these pathetic excuses for disciples. One moment they’ve given up on Him the next they’re overjoyed that He’s really with them. These are the guys He’s going to send out.

Because it’s all about the Word. Not about them. In other words, it’s not dependent on them. It’s dependent on God. On the Word made flesh. They are to speak words. Not just words, the Word. The Word the Word Made Flesh gives them to speak. If they forgive the sins of those who are repentant the repentant will be forgiven. If they withhold the sins of those who are unrepentant the unrepentant will not be forgiven. This isn’t because these guys are way more on top of it than the rest of the poor saps who haven’t gone to the seminary. No, we’ve just established that these guys were pathetic and Jesus had every reason to give up on them. But He didn’t. Because it doesn’t depend on them but on Him, the Word made flesh.

But we need to keep ourselves in check because it’s too easy to dismiss others as Doubting Thomases and exempt ourselves from such a distinction. It’s true, when Thomas, the poor guy wasn’t there when Jesus made His grand entrance, heard the news he didn’t believe. He wanted to see for himself. He wasn’t going to take their word for it. But even as he was indeed Doubting Thomas, weren’t they all? Weren’t they all holed up in the room believing they would never see Jesus again? Hadn’t they despaired of hope when Jesus died rather than taking His word for it when He had told them He would die and that He would rise?

So, no, we are usually wrong when we think we are any more firm in the faith than the Doubting Thomases in the Christian Church. But the good news is that Jesus remains the Word made flesh. He continues to dwell among His people. He is ready and willing to bring Himself into our midst so that we may see Him and touch Him and believe in Him. Jesus came to them again and said, “‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and My God!’” God’s Word brings about what it says. What we need to remember is that God’s Word is His Word in the flesh, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, our Lord and Savior. We cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

Thomas was given a great gift on that day. He wasn’t there the first time so Jesus came to him the second time. This time he believed. He had seen. He had touched. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” We are given a great gift also. We haven’t seen the Word made flesh as Thomas and the disciples did. But we believe. We are blessed by Him as they were. Jesus comes to us in the flesh and dwells among us. He comes to us in our Baptism, in His Holy Supper, even in His very Word which is read and proclaimed.

The Word made flesh at Christmas is the Word risen bodily at Easter. The risen and bodily Word that sprung from the tomb at Easter is the Word in the flesh and dwelling among you in Holy Communion. At His birth He was called Emmanuel, which means God with us. The God who came to be with us at His birth continues to come to you as the risen Lord in His Word, through your Baptism, and in His Holy Supper. He is with you always. Amen.


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