First Sunday after Easter – Sunday
As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. – John 20:21.
When the disciples came to rejoice at seeing the Lord in their midst, He repeated the words of greeting: “Peace be unto you!” And then He said: “As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:20b-23).
The Father had sent the Son to procure peace for mankind. This was accomplished now. The Father had also sent the Son to communicate this peace to mankind, to bestow peace upon us through the knowledge of Him, the Savior. He had just done this for the frightened company of disciples. But He also did this for all of us. Therefore He said to His disciples: “As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
Through the Word of Christ, the crucified and risen One, the disciples were to convey to their fellow-men the knowledge of Christ, and peace by this knowledge. To this end He breathed on them and gave the assurance that the Holy Ghost would help them and be with them in this important work. For the Holy Ghost is the eternal personal breath of the Father and of the Son. And He is inseparably connected with the Word of Christ.
Through that Word He kindles faith in Christ in the heart, and gives peace through this faith. This peace, however, is rooted in the forgiveness of sins. Therefore the disciples, by the Word of the Gospel, were to deliver to mankind God’s gift of the forgiveness of sins procured by Christ. And faith, wrought through this Word by the Holy Spirit, was to have and to possess this forgiveness. For whatsoever the disciples gave by means of the Word, God Himself gave it. But whoever would reject this gift of forgiveness for their sins, his sins the disciples were to retain. And whatsoever they would retain, God Himself would retain.
This office and command the Savior gave to His assembled disciples on Easter evening, not to the apostles only, but to all the disciples there assembled, both men and women. This office and command the Savior gives to His disciples of all times, not only to the called and ordained pastors, but to all disciples, both men and women.
We have an example of this office at work in Ephesians 4, where the Apostle Paul instructs not only the Ephesian Christians, but all Christians, including each of us, when he says: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor [yelling], and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice, and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (vv. 31-32).
PRAYER – I thank Thee, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, sole Bringer of peace, that through Thy Word, when it is faithfully preached, Thou hast bestowed peace upon me also. Grant that I may know more and more of Thy gracious will and of my calling, and that I will be more eagerly intent upon conveying this peace and the forgiveness of sins to others, too. To this end grant me a rich measure of Thy Holy Spirit and an abundance of grace and mercy, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
I, a sinner, come to Thee,
with a penitent confession;
Savior, mercy show to me;
grant for all my sins remission.
Let these words my soul relieve;
Jesus sinners doth receive.
Now my conscience is at peace,
from the Law I stand acquitted;
Christ hath purchased my release
and my every sin remitted.
Naught remains my soul to grieve;
Jesus sinners doth receive.
324, st. 5 and 7 [TLH]