This week in our parish, we return to the teaching and preaching of the Creeds and what is in them. In particular this week, we are gong to consider one phrase: “the forgiveness of sins”. In doing so, I could not but help recall a story I heard a while back about a man who was at home and received phone call. It was the police and they asked him some questions about his wife and his whereabouts for the past several hours. Apparently the man’s wife had been badly beaten and left in a ditch on the side of a country road having been given up for dead. The police anted to know if he could come and identify his wife. “Oh my goodness!” the man exclaimed, shaking and shuttering “I’ll be there as soon as I can!” When he arrived, the police arrested the man for attempted murder? Why? He knew where the body was opposed to be.
So it is no wonder that the disciples on the road and the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem were nothing short of shell shocked when they discovered that the Lord Jesus was alive (Luke 24:13-49). After all, the dead don’t rise and the followers of Jesus knew that they knew where the body was supposed to be. Nevertheless Jesus stood among them and greeted them as simply as he could – as he always had: with peace. He invited them to come to him and see and touch and examine him to know that it was the truth. He wanted them to know that he was really alive. He ate in front of them. He taught them one last time like used to on the roads, in the boat, in the fields and in the places and spaces of worship and most of all around the table. Jesus prepared them for his departure. He geared them up for what was next and what lay ahead of them as the mission of the kingdom was ahead of them. He reminded them of what the Word says, giving those who will lead and those who will follow hope and strength for the days and trials ahead. Most of all, Jesus told them to remain in the city and wait until they got power from on high before they moved out to live in the blessing.
In this moment of encounter with the risen Lord, these folks needed peace more than anything else. They had been distraught over the crucifixion and the burial. And now there was all this nonsensical talk about the body not being in the tomb and some who are saying that they have seen Jesus – even Peter who denied Jesus that night had seen them. Beleaguered, embattled and bewildered they suddenly find that Jesus is there amongst them offering his own peace and his own self. Wouldn't such a moment cause you to take a pause and consider what it is that is going on? Wouldn't it be like Jesus to do something like this?
During their chat, Jesus tells them point blank, “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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 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. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24.44-49 ESV)
I am always amazed at the number of people I encounter in the Church who have yet to come to a place where they know and believe that in Christ God has dealt with their sin and believe that there is still an atonement that needs to be made. Sin came because of Adam and because of sin there is death. We are by the virtue of being of Adam’s race then subject to death. God sent Jesus to be the second Adam so that through faith and trust in him, there would be life. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves and to make ourselves good enough in God’s eyes. There is nothing we are and nothing we possess that can pay for the judgement made against sin. This is why we need Jesus. God laid on Jesus the price of our lives; the iniquity of us all. In turn, through the gifts of grace and faith we can receive Christ and “all other the benefits of his passion.”
Being a Christian does not make one perfect – by no means. It does mean that there is work to be done on relationships starting with God to make sure that we live the kind of life that is righteous. It means that we need to live the kind of life where the fruit of a righteous life, a life lived in the Spirit are evident in increasing measure. And we need to keep in mind that “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1.6) God will bring the perfection. We need to be faithful and boldly declare that there is forgiveness, repentance and the nearness of the kingdom for those who will come and do so.