Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homily for Quasimodo Geniti (The Second Sunday of Easter – Easter 2)


John 20:19-31; 1 John 5:4-10; Ezekiel 37:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Now what? So what? What does the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead mean for your life today and tomorrow and until there are no more tomorrows? How then should you live? What should you do? Well, in some ways, nothing has changed, for, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. But, then, on the other hand, everything has changed, for the Word of God has become flesh, has suffered unto death, and has been raised from the dead in the flesh. So, while the Word of God has always been the life of men, no longer is death the end of man, neither in the flesh nor in the spirit.

And, you already share in the first fruits of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, for you have been baptized into His death and you have been raised in His resurrection. All that properly belongs to Him, righteousness, Sonship, eternal life, is given to you as a free gift of God’s grace through baptism and faith. Through baptism into Jesus’ death, your sinful nature and all your guilt has been crucified, died, and buried – it is finished! And, through baptism into Jesus’ resurrection, your new man has been raised with Christ to life to serve and to praise the LORD freely without compulsion of the Law. Yet, this is only the first fruits, for there will be the death and resurrection of your body in time to come. And, that is important to remember and to not discount. For, God created Adam as a flesh and spirit man. And, as the flesh alone is not a man, so the spirit alone is not a man. However, when Adam sinned, he introduced death into the world, resulting in that Adam, and all his descendents thereafter, would die in body and in spirit. Yet, while all men experience, in time, the death of the body, because of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the death of the spirit need not be experienced at all. Further, because of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the death of the body is not the end of the body, but your flesh and blood body will be raised when Christ returns on the Last Day.

Ezekiel was given a preview of the Last Day when the LORD lead the prophet by His Spirit to view the end result of Adam’s sinful rebellion, death, as his descendents laid dead in a valley of exceedingly dry bones. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to proclaim the Word of the LORD to the dead, dry bones. Ezekiel did so, and the bones came together, bone to bone, and sinews and flesh covered them, yet still there was not the breath of life in them. Then the LORD commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath. Ezekiel did so, and the breath came into the flesh and blood bodies and they lived and stood on their feet, and exceedingly great army. Then the LORD commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the, now living, men yet again saying, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.” “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” Thus, in the same way in which the LORD’s creation of man was not complete until the LORD breathed His Spirit into the man’s nostrils and Adam became a living being, so too the LORD has promised both to raise your flesh and blood body and to revitalize you with His life-giving Spirit.

Indeed, in order to keep His promise, it was necessary that God become a man. In the Incarnation, the Word of God assumed the flesh of man from the virgin Mary and became the New Adam. Jesus, the Second Adam, bore not the corruption of sin common to all men generated of man’s seed, for He was conceived, not by a man, but by God. Thus, already, in the Incarnation, the flesh of man experienced redemption as the LORD assumed it and it was not destroyed, just as the burning bush that Moses beheld contained the Angel of the LORD in fire and yet was not consumed. So it was that Jesus’ obedience under the Law counted as man’s obedience. But, still, there was the matter of the death of the body to be dealt with, so the God-Man Jesus submitted to suffering, crucifixion, and death as His Father willed, as a man, the innocent for the guilty, and then God raised Him from the dead. Why did God raise Jesus from the dead? He raised Jesus from the dead because He was innocent. He raised Him from the dead because He was obedient. He raised Him from the dead because He laid down His life willingly in love for God and for you His neighbor. And, God raised Jesus from the dead as the first fruits of those who fall asleep; for, now, that is what death is like, sleep from which you will awaken, that you may believe and live now in freedom and love and forever in eternity. Jesus’ death was because of who you were, but Jesus’ resurrection is to demonstrate who you are! You are sons and daughters of God in Him and through Him, and what you will be has not yet appeared; But when He appears, you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is.

So, Thomas wasn’t really so much of a doubter as he has come to be called, but what Thomas was looking for was the whole man Jesus. Show me the body! That’s what Thomas needed to see. Thomas was no Gnostic; He wasn’t going to be satisfied with a disembodied spirit for a Lord. “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails,” he said, “and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.” Unless I can see Jesus with my eyes, and touch Him with my hands; unless I behold Him in flesh and blood and spirit, I will not, I cannot believe. If Jesus’ body and spirit are not reunited and alive, then death is not undone, my faith is futile and I am still in my sin, I am dead. Now, surely you can relate to Thomas. I know I can! The motto of our skeptical and cynical age is “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The other disciples had the advantage of having Jesus appear before them and show them His wounds, and His presence amongst them brought them peace and joy. But, Thomas wasn’t there, He didn’t make it to church that first Sunday and He missed out on Jesus’ real presence! Of course it was difficult for him to believe, maybe even impossible. Thomas needed to see the body in order to believe that Jesus was raised, just as He had said. And, you need to see Jesus’ body too! You need to hear with your ears, see with your eyes, touch with your hands, and taste with your tongues, and so Jesus comes to you in His Divine Service, through His Word and through His Means of Grace to bring you His peace.

Thomas wasn’t there that first Sunday, but he was there the second, and, once again, Jesus came amongst His disciples with His real presence and He proclaimed peace. The peace that Jesus proclaimed was peace with God, that is, justification, restoration, and reconciliation with God. Jesus’ peace includes the forgiveness of sins, victory over death, and eternal life, now, and forever. Jesus gives His peace in His real presence amongst His people through His means of grace, the proclamation of the Gospel, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper. Jesus invited Thomas to touch Him, to handle His flesh and His wounds that He might believe saying, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” And, Thomas did believe, and he confessed with his lips what he believed about Jesus in his heart, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus lovingly gave Thomas what He needed to believe; He gave Himself, His flesh and blood real presence to strengthen Thomas’ faith and to reassure and comfort His disciples. And, these Jesus still gives to you today that you may have His peace, peace that the world cannot give. But you receive so much more than even Thomas and Peter and the other Apostles and disciples, for, to you Jesus gives His resurrected and glorified flesh and blood to eat and to drink that He may live in you and you in Him in Holy Communion, even as He has given you His Spirit in Holy Baptism so that you were born again, a new life and a new man.

Quasimodo geniti – Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. The resurrection of Jesus is the power behind Holy Baptism. And, your baptism is the only death that will ever truly matter for you, for when you were baptized, you died; you died with Jesus and were buried. But, in your baptism you were also raised to new life, for you were baptized into Jesus’ resurrection, so that, in your baptism, you were truly born again to a new life that never ends. Thus, Easter is like unto your birthday, your new birth unto eternal life. Now what? So what? How then should you live? What should you do? Live as newborn infants, who long for the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word and Holy Sacraments, and by these, grow up into salvation just as you are nourished by food and drink and grow up to be a woman or a man – it is the natural thing that you were created to do.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Many interpret Jesus’ words to Thomas as a mild rebuke of his unbelief, and perhaps they are. However, we might also understand these words as encouragement for Thomas and the Apostles that, because of their eyewitness testimony, many others who did not have the blessing of seeing, hearing, and touching Jesus in the flesh and blood will, nonetheless, be blessed with faith. Further, after seeing, hearing, and touching His resurrected Lord in the flesh and blood, Thomas made a confession of faith that eclipsed even that of Peter who had confessed Jesus to be the Christ and Son of God; Thomas confessed upon seeing Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Then, John concludes the story by writing, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.”

There are three that testify to Jesus’ bodily resurrection and real presence: The Spirit of the Gospel, the Water of Holy Baptism, and the Blood of the Holy Supper. Jesus has given you these gifts of His real presence that you might see and hear and touch and taste and believe, and that believing, you may have life in His Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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