ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Apostles and the generation of Christians with them saw Christ in the flesh with their eyes. But the rest of us, we have seen Christ by faith which comes by hearing His Word. True faith is faith in the Word. Jesus is the Word. His disciples believed in Him in part because of what they saw. They saw the Word. For the rest of the ages, it is ours to hear the Word. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is our lot. This is our blessing.
Jesus tells His apostles, “As the Father has sent me so I send you.” With these words, He sends His apostles into the world to preach the forgiveness of sins in His name, to baptize and to teach, to absolve and to bind sins, to administer Chris's body and blood. It is through the ministry of the Apostles that the Spirit brings faith to those who hear the Word. It is the Gospel and Sacraments that bring us Jesus and bring us faith. It is through the Spirit who works by these gifts—through the Word, the water and the blood—that we are given faith which trusts in Christ and clings to Him.
The world does not understand this. Many who call themselves Christians do not understand this. There is no faith apart from Christ's Word and Sacraments. Christ does not come to us or deal with us or forgive us or give us life apart from the Spirit. There are many who say they don't need to come to church to believe in God or have forgiveness. There are many who are baptized but no longer come to hear God's Word. There are many who began receiving the Sacrament and now receive it rarely if ever. I don't want you to have any false impressions. Those who despise Christ's gifts and don't receive them are not to be considered Christians. We aren’t justified merely because we’re here this morning and others aren’t. It is just as easy to despise the gifts of God while sitting in the pew every Sunday, to act like the Pharisee who feels worthy because he is not like the tax collector. Repent of such thinking. Repent of such a faith.
Repent of self-reliance; it is Christ who earns for us the forgiveness of sins. He does it by His perfect life and His obedient death. He does it by shedding His blood. He does it on the cross by the water and blood that flow from His side. See? He comes by the water and blood! That's how He died. It's how He comes to us now: by the water of Baptism and the blood of the cup in the Supper. He comes to us by the preaching and teaching of Scripture. When the Lord was raised from the dead, He breathed on His disciples and gave them the authority to forgive and bind sins! Jesus doesn't leave us guessing as to how we may have forgiveness! It's all there in the preaching and teaching of Scripture by which the Spirit gives us the forgiveness won by Jesus. No need to wonder about where to find Jesus: He comes to us in the waters of the font and the absolution spoken by our pastors. No need to look high and low. He's right there on the altar in His body and blood. His own Word and Sacraments give faithful witness. This is how He comes to us. This is how He forgives us and saves us.
Yes, the Apostles got to see Jesus with their eyes, but you have heard Christ and believed in Him through His Word and Sacraments. This faith clings to Jesus where He has promised to be: in His church, where His Word and Sacraments are given. Here and only here you can be certain that all Jesus has done, He has done for you. Here in His church, Jesus puts His Word, His water, and His body and blood in you. Do not doubt what you have heard. Instead, believe with the faith given you in Holy Baptism…for believing, you have life. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.