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Killing the Lord of Life

April 15, 2018
By Rev. David French

The appearances of Christ after His resurrection are so packed with meaning.  You not only have the obvious teaching that Jesus rose from the dead, but you also have teachings that focus on the life of the Church.  Last week we not only learned that Jesus rose from the dead, but we also learned that Jesus established the office of the Holy Ministry and gave it the authority to forgive sins.  Today’s reading again shows us that Jesus rose from the dead, and it also teaches us how to interpret the Bible and what His Church is to proclaim.

Today Jesus is again showing Himself to the disciples.  Again, Jesus invited the disciples to examine the wounds of the crucifixion saying: Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have (Luke 24:38–39).  A verse later He asks for something to eat.  You see, Jesus really wants the disciples to understand that they’re not just seeing things, that He is with them, the real flesh and blood Jesus, risen from the dead. (just like He told them.)

After Jesus had reinforced the reality of His resurrection, He began to teach His disciples a very important principle for the proper understanding of the Scriptures.  Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).  And so He teaches that the only way to know Him is to look to those to whom God had revealed Him in the Old Testament.  That is, the entire Old Testament is about Him.

He then gave the disciples the precise meaning of the Scriptures as He opened their minds: and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45–47).  Now when Jesus says: Thus it is written, He’s saying that this is what the inerrant, infallible Word of God, the Bible, says.  Since Jesus is the Christ, He Himself accomplished the suffering and the rising from the dead.  He also continued to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins until He ascended into heaven.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus passes the responsibility of that proclamation on to His disciples.  And each generation since has passed that responsibility on to the next, down to our own generation today.  This is the mission statement that Jesus gave to the church … proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in My name until I return.  Christ opening their minds and giving these instructions guaranteed that when the apostles wrote the books of the New Testament, those books would, without error, proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ.

But what does it mean to proclaim repentance?  The Augsburg Confession says, “Repentance consists of two parts.  One part is contrition (or sorrow) … through the knowledge of sin.  The other part is faith that believes that, for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven.” (AC: I, art. xii, par. 3–5).  So step one in the proclaiming of repentance is preaching the law so that the punishment you deserve for your sin becomes very clear and real to you.  The second step is to point you to Christ and His sacrifice that saves you from the fires of hell that are the punishment we all deserve.

And what does it mean to proclaim forgiveness?  Again in Augsburg we read: Even though you are guilty and deserve punishment here on earth and forever in hell, God, for Christ’s sake, declares you righteous.  By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins (AC: I, art. iv, par. 2).  So the proclaiming of forgiveness begins with the gospel or the good news of Jesus paying for our sins on the cross.  Through that gospel the Holy Spirit works faith in you so that we receive all the blessings of the gospel which begins with forgiveness.

In our reading from Acts, the Holy Spirit had just worked through Peter to heal a lame man.  After Peter healed the lame man, they went into the temple area.  The man who had been lame was jumping for joy, which of course drew the attention of the crowds.  As the crowd gathered, Peter began by pointing to their sin: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.  But you denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.  To this we are witnesses (Acts 3:13–15).  Clearly Peter flat out told the crowd that they were guilty of crucifying Jesus, who was not only innocent, but is the very Son of God.

Now listen to his proclamation of forgiveness: Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago (Acts 3:19–21).  Notice how Peter points to Jesus as he describes forgiveness with the words, that your sins may be blotted out.

The interesting thing about Peter’s sermon is that not everyone who heard his sermon actually participated in the plan to kill Jesus.  But then, when you study Peter’s other sermons, you find that he regularly accused his hearers of killing Jesus even if they weren’t in Jerusalem on Good Friday.  It doesn’t take long to realize that when Peter accuses people of killing Jesus, he’s not just talking about the people who were there on Good Friday, he’s talking about the sin of the world that led to God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus that Good Friday.  That means Peter is here and now accusing us, you and me, of killing the Lord of Life with our sins.

So, with what sins have you crucified your Lord?  Have you believed gossip without checking the facts?  Do you steadfastly defend your own opinion rather than steadfastly defending all the teachings revealed in God Word?  Are you foolish or arrogant enough to believe that you don’t need to join your fellow Christians in Bible study?

Honestly who is number first in your life, you or God?  If you said God, you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you.  And that should scare you.  Do you really understand that only the repentant will go to heaven?  Have you truly repented for your sin?  Are you sure?  The good news is true repentance like true faith come not from you, but from God.  As we read in Acts 11 … So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.  That is, rejoice for your salvation from beginning to end is a work of God.

It’s true that the proclamation of the forgiveness of sin begins in fear, but it ends with the peace that surpasses human understanding because it comes from knowing that you are forgiven.  Jesus has instructed His Church to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sin in His name.  That means, anything that doesn’t speak to repentance and forgiveness in Christ does not belong in Christian worship.  And so, together, our order of worship, our preaching and teaching, and our hymns all serve to assure you that you and all who repent are, by grace through faith, God’s precious and forgiven children.

In His Name, Amen.