Enduring Love (Psalm 118:2-24, John 20:19-31)

He is risen!

He is risen!

Oh give thanks to the lord for he is good:

His steadfast love endures forever!

Let God’s people say: “His love endures forever!

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 22-24).

Psalm 118 is a thanksgiving testimony to God’s steadfast love, which has no ending.  This is the kind of assurance that both you and me need especially in moments when we are gripped by fear or feel abandoned or rejected.  Life is full of fearful events; chronic illnesses, accidents, bad choices, circumstances that we are not able to control, death etc This psalm testifies to what God has done for this worshiper and by extension the community of faith.  We may look back to what God has done both to us individually and communally as a church and as God’s people and marvel at God’s love.  Had it not been for the Lord might I say boldly, I do not know where I would be today! But his steadfast love that endures forever has enabled me to testify this day to God’s goodness and forgiveness. The psalm refers to a stone that had been rejected by builders becoming the cornerstone that holds the house together because of the doing of the Lord; this is a course for rejoicing and testimony to God’s enduring love! This love is unearned; the LORD gives it! Therefore in this second day of Easter, we are reminded that not even death reigns over our God because God raised Jesus from death and the grave has been overcome(1 Cor. 15)!

In the Gospel of John 20:19-31 various experiences are depicted among Jesus’ disciples; they are fearful and are locked up for fear of the Jews.  Some of them are doubtful about the whole resurrection story (resurrection was a future event that God’s people looked to at the end of all things) but breaks upon further interaction with the resurrected Jesus doubt is turned into worship “My Lord and my God”.  We see Jesus breathing on the disciples and commissioning them to go forth and embody God’s forgiveness.  This message is not only for us, it is for everyone.

May we take a moment and ask ourselves about things that may be bringing fear to our hearts today?  Easter is a time when Christians celebrate God’s victory over fear.  At Easter we proclaim that the stone that had been rejected by builders has indeed become the cornerstone! The most fearful thing in the human experience is death and Easter makes it clear that death albeit the ultimate fearful event, it does not speak the last word on the lives of Jesus’ followers.   The Easter story declares God’s victory over death and the grave and proclaims a new beginning for God’s people marked by forgiveness and mission.

In our text this morning, the resurrected Jesus appears to his fearful disciples unhindered by anything including locked doors and strong walls and does significant things:

·         He blesses the disciples with his peace greeting (Shalom in its fullest extent). He pronounced it not just once, but three times

·         He breathed on them and empowers them with the Holy Spirit to go forth as missionaries.

·         He commissions them as his agents to forgive – or retain – sins.

Thomas had missed the first experience but as he interacted with Jesus he made the declaration that author of John sees as the purpose of the whole book, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31).

The resurrection event resulted in a mandate and the empowerment of a community to do what Jesus did. The resurrection is an experience of forgiveness; it is a testimony of forgiven lives communicating forgiveness as Archbishop Rowan Williams once said.  Now, in the same manner that the son was filled by the Holy Spirit while on his mission (Jn. 1:32-34; 3:34), his disciples also now receive the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish their mission.

The author of John initially stated that since Jesus had not been glorified, the Holy Spirit had yet to come (cf. Jn. 7:39) but after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came and he imparted the Holy Spirit on his disciples through his breath in the same manner God breathed into Adam making him a living being (Gen. 2:7; cf Ezk. 37:9).

The disciples of Jesus are God’s missional agents, mandated to declare and embody God’s forgiveness in the world although it is God who actually remits or retains sins.  As God’s agents of forgiveness, we posses no authority independent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to forgive sins or to do anything for God (FF Bruce).  Through the resurrection, we have been and are continually being empowered by the Holy Spirit to forgive and to embody forgiveness for all peoples in the world.  Jesus, God’s beloved son who came to reveal God to the world, commissioned us his disciples in the same way he was commissioned by the father to proclaim and enact forgiveness because God’s love extends to all and is unlimited and no one is outside of God’s forgiving realm.   This is our mandate and mission as Jesus’ disciples.  Amen!

By Nelson Okanya

April 7, 2013

At Goods Mennonite Church PA

 

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