Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Do You Need and How Do You Get It?

Second Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2012
It really is this simple: what you need is Jesus, and how you get it is Jesus. But that doesn’t really do justice to what you need and how you get so it’s worthwhile to flesh it out. There are a lot of things you need. But cut through it all and there’s one thing you really need and that’s Jesus. The good thing is that when you get Jesus you get it all.

The first Christians as we see from our First Reading today from Acts realized this. Even those who were wealthy realized that as nice as it is to have all that wealth, when you have Jesus you have so much more. One of the things they had that perhaps we have lost was a conviction that Jesus was returning in glory imminently. If you believe that it puts all your wealth into a new perspective. As they say, you can’t take it with you. So if Jesus is coming again very soon why not do with your wealth what will benefit the most people?

That’s not to say that that passage of the Bible is telling us Christians today that if we have a lot of possessions that we must sell them and put them in the general pot for everyone to share. That might make things a little easier at Prince of Peace around budget time, but it would miss the point. As a description of how the first Christians saw their life together as a Christian community we have a stark contrast to our individualistic and wealthy culture we have in twenty-first century America. Obviously, that may not seem to be the case for many during these days where many people are taking a bit hit with the slide the economy has gone into. It remains, however, that compared to the culture the first Christians lived in 2000 years ago our standard of living is very different. We have many blessings as a society they simply did not have and if they were transported into our time they would marvel at our wealth.

The point, though, is not how much we have or even how much we are struggling economically or otherwise. The point is that the Christians back then and we as Christians today have something in common and that is Christ. In our culture it’s easy for us to live out our Christian lives with a ‘Jesus and me’ attitude. How much more would others be blessed if we saw our possessions as not simply our own, and they are, but as blessings God has given us in order not only to enjoy the life God has given us but also to serve and help others? What we really need is Jesus. Any blessings such as possessions and money and even wealth are blessings above and beyond. If everything you owned were stripped away you would still have Jesus. And you would have everything.

This is so because with Jesus you have everything you need. You have peace that goes beyond all understanding. You have forgiveness of all of your sins. You have the promise from Christ Himself that you are blessed. You have everything you need, you just don’t realize it because you are so caught up in the things you think you can’t or don’t want to go without. You are blessed beyond what you can imagine, you just don’t fully embrace that because you worry about those things you don’t have that you think must have. You are eternally wealthy, wealthy beyond compare, you just don’t get all that excited about that because you are caught up in the things of the world, just as those who are not Christians.

The point here is not to say that it’s so bad that we live in the culture we do. We live in the culture we do, the Christians 200o years ago in Palestine lived in the culture they did. This is just the way it is. If you had grown up in a poor culture in Africa things would be very different for you. The point of this is not to compare, the point is to see how God has blessed you no matter who you are or in what society you live or where you grew up or where you live. Some people are blessed with a lot of wealth, some barely scrape by. What you need, just as with everyone, is forgiveness of your sin. You need new life. You need peace with God. You need hope in the midst of all of your fears and struggles and temptations, and yes, even your sins. What you need is Jesus. With Jesus you have it all whether you have a lot or a little, whether you live here or in Brazil, whether you are alive now or if you had lived 1300 years ago.

John makes this clear in the Epistle reading when he says that Jesus “is the propitiation [that is, the sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” This is an important thing the Scriptures teach. What everyone needs is Jesus. That’s why Jesus made the payment for everyone’s sins. Many people don’t know this. They don’t know or don’t believe they need their sins paid for. As Christians we do know this. Since we do we should live like we know it. Above all people we should recognize daily that we need Jesus. We need forgiveness, we need the peace He gives, we need Him. John makes another statement, a sobering one: if we say we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar. Think of it this way, why would Jesus have died on the cross for the sins of the world if payment for sins were not necessary? He did it because it’s necessary. We need Jesus.

Knowing what we need, how do we get it? How we get what we need, which is Jesus, is Jesus. Jesus gives us Himself. We can’t get what we need by anything we do. We need Jesus and so He gives to us what we need. He gives us Himself.

Jesus rose from the grave. John and Peter made their way to the tomb on the Sunday after the Friday Jesus died. They saw it was empty. Furthermore, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus Himself. She told those apostles. So what were they doing? Setting up a nice meal for when He would arrive? Talking about all that was in store for them now that they knew He was no longer dead and that He’d be able to continue to be with them as He had for three years?

Nope, they were cowering in fear. They were still not believing He was with them. They were doubting the sight they had seen that the tomb was empty. They were doubting the words of Mary Magdalene that she had seen Him. What was it that these men needed? To believe? To trust? To go back to all of those words Jesus had told them, that He would suffer, die, and rise? To listen to Mary and take her at her word? Yes, they definitely needed to do all those things.

But what did they really need? What was the one thing that could break through all of their fear and doubt and confusion? Jesus. What they really was needed Jesus. And Jesus they got. They didn’t go to Him in fervor or firm belief and trust, He came to them. He broke through more than the walls He miraculously passed through. He broke through their trusting in the things of this world; of what they thought they needed. He came right into the midst of them and was now before them.

Peace be with you. That’s what they needed. Jesus was before them and how they got what they needed was that Jesus came to them to give it to them. The peace He spoke to them was peace that was followed up with an object lesson of sorts. As our Gospel reading today says: “When [Jesus] had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” What they needed was Jesus. The one who had scars on His hands and in His side. The one who had suffered on the cross as the sacrifice for all of their sins and the sin of the whole world. What they needed was Jesus and Jesus was what they got because He delivered Himself to them.

The Gospel reading today does an amazing thing. It might appear that the amazing thing it does is tell us of an amazing event. While it is amazing that Jesus passed through walls, stood before them in flesh and blood, having risen from the dead, and was ever patient with Thomas in his doubts, the truly amazing thing it shows us is that when we get what we need, namely, Jesus, it is in a way that is more real than when the disciples got Jesus that day when He stood before them. How this is so is because while they certainly could touch Him and His scars in a way you and I can’t, He offered that to them for what, forty days? After that, I’m going away again guys. I’ll be ascending into heaven in forty days and you will no longer see Me as you do now. When you are afraid or have doubts or get caught up in the cares of the world or the struggles of your life, I won’t be passing through the walls of your living room to show up so that you can see that I really am your God and Savior.

They still would need Him though. We still do today. What Jesus did and what He still does today is come to us. You might say He passes through the walls of this sanctuary in order to be before us right here at this altar, in bread and wine. When you eat the bread and drink that wine you won’t be touching it in order to feel any scars. But you can be assured that the body in and with that bread is the body of Christ that bore the scars from nails piercing through His hands. You can know for certain that the blood in and with that wine is the blood that was poured out on the cross as the sacrifice for all of your sins, even as it was shed for the sins of the world.

In this way you know what you need and how you get it. Just as He came to the disciples that day He rose He comes to you today with what you need: Himself. And with Him you get it all. Amen.


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