Absolution, you are at peace with God – Easter Week 2

2nd Week in Easter

  1. People have trouble with someone claiming an authority that isn’t rightfully theirs
    1. After Ronald Reagan was shot one of these events happened
      1. When he was shot on March 30, 1981, chaos ensued behind the scenes at the White House.
      2. In an attempt to keep everyone calm, Al Haig, Reagan’s Secretary of State, committed a PR faux pas, and showed a lapse in basic constitutional knowledge, by telling the press that he was in charge while the President was in surgery.
  • Haig assumed something that was not his to take and paid a PR price for it that we obviously still remember today
  1. This also happened in Jesus’ ministry as His enemies criticized Him for things they thought He didn’t have the authority to do
    1. When He was teaching in the house in Capernaum four men tried to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus to have him healed
    2. However, they were not able to get close because of the crowd so they made a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus
  • Of course, the crowd was stunned that the first thing Jesus said to the man was not rise and walk, but your sins are forgiven
  1. The scribes pounced immediately, Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?
  1. So if the people had a hard time with Jesus forgiving sins even while He was performing miracles should we be surprised that the world is offended by our service?
    1. When I stand up here and say, As a called and ordained servant of the Lord I forgive you all your sins…there are many who question the validity of that statement
    2. Much like the scribes they say, Who can forgive sins but God alone? And dismiss us as assuming an authority that is not ours.
  2. Yet when we look at our Gospel lesson for today our risen Lord appears to His apostles in the upper room and says, 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 any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
    1. This verse is THE foundation for the Absolution that we pronounce
  3. Jesus didn’t just appear to the apostles but to all of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, this was the church.
  4. Our Lord delegated this authority and responsibility to the Church when He said, As the Father has sent me so I am sending you
  • But listen to this critique from an online evangelical apologetics site, There is nothing here (or anywhere else in the New Testament) that says priests have the authority to forgive sins and that it is passed down…The disciples were not doing the forgiving but pronouncing the sins that “have been” forgiven by God…It should be clear that only God forgives sins; and Christians, as representatives of Christ, pronounce to people what has already been forgiven them by God.
  1. I find these comments very interesting because they come from sources that otherwise claim to follow Scripture literally
    1. When a pastor stands here and says, I forgive you…it’s not my forgiveness but God’s but it is exercised through the church FOR the church that souls burdened by sin might hear that absolution and find peace
      1. Referencing this passage our catechism says, The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.
      2. This is what the church has always believed from its very founding, this is the office of the ministry – forgiveness.
    2. But this privilege is also given to individual Christians to exercise privately among themselves.
      1. Or as Luther puts it in one of his sermons on this passage, This power is here given to all Christians, although some…declare that this power was given to them alone and not to the laity. But Christ…says: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” Whoever has the Holy Spirit, power is given…to forgive sins or to retain themwe all have this power; but no one shall presume to exercise it publicly, except the one who has been elected by the congregation to do so. But in private I may freely exercise it. For instance, if my neighbor comes and says: Friend, I am burdened in my conscience; speak the absolution to me.
      2. Dearly beloved in the Lord, this authority, this privilege has been given to you because as Peter reminds us, You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
  • Part of the privilege of priests is to speak in God’s place so that we may be certain that when our sins weigh us down and we receive absolution from pastor or fellow Christian we can be sure that we are forgiven just as if Christ Himself had spoken.