Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
That same day that the women discovered the empty tomb, at dusk, after having appeared to various individuals and small groups, Jesus showed himself alive to ten of the apostles. They were meeting in some house in Jerusalem and had carefully closed the doors, lest a sudden attack by the Jews also make them victims of their hatred. But for the glorified body of the risen Lord, neither the closed doors nor the heavy walls were an obstacle.
And his was the greeting of the risen Savior: "Peace be with you!" This is not just an empty greeting, it is an absolution. The first thing he does is forgive his sins. The peace that Christ gives consists in the forgiveness of sins. Dangers, persecutions, and threats do not mean that God's wrath rests on us and that we have been abandoned by the Father.
Then Jesus said to them again: "Peace be with you: As the Father has sent me, so I also send you." First, He actually granted them peace personally. He now he does it again for his important office. In each of the four gospels and in the book of Acts we find the great commission that the risen Christ gave to the apostles, although in each gospel this great commission assumes a different form.
"And having said this, he breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted; to whomsoever you retain, they are retained."
This formula is found the first time in Matthew 16:19. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." The context is Saint Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Notice, this is the seat of the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and the supremacy of the popes, according to the Roman church. This is a wrong interpretation. It took the Roman bishop ten centuries to establish his supremacy over the western church, and the eastern churches have never recognized the Pope as the vice-regent of Christ. Jesus does not say that his Church should be built on the person of Peter, but on the faith that Peter confessed. The divine revelation from which that confession emerged was not intended solely for Peter; all the disciples shared it and, because of this revelation, all confessed Peter's confession.
In recognition of his faith, expressed in his confession, Christ confers on Peter and all who believe the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In these verses from Matthew, the Lord promised his church will have the power of the keys. In our text for today, Jesus gave the apostles the authority to perform the office of the keys publicly, that is, in his name and his church. And on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended into the church in a visible and audible way, showing his great power.
The Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, reads as follows: “Our theologians teach that, according to the gospel, the power of the keys or of the bishops is a divine power and mandate to preach the gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and of distributing and administering the sacraments ... Consequently, the ministry of bishops, according to divine law, consists of preaching the gospel, forgiving sins, judging doctrine, rejecting doctrine contrary to the gospel, and excluding from the Christian congregation the wicked whose wicked conduct is manifest, without using human power, but only by the Word of God.
Only when individuals and congregations, by revelation through Scripture, properly confess Christ, who then confesses them, can they be sure that He is building the church among them, and then they can properly handle the Office of the Keys, not according to the standards of flesh and blood.
The sins of unrepentant sinners "have been bound", they are no longer forgiven before God. The sins of repentant sinners "have been loosed" because such forgiveness is based on universal atonement.
The Gospel is not only an account of the salvation won by Jesus, but it is the application of this message. Only he who does not accept this forgiveness, this mercy, this salvation, excludes himself from the grace of God. If such a person is told this fact, his sins are retained.
Keys are given to believers in general, to the Christian congregation that proclaims the Gospel message. By the power of the keys, the congregation can call a pastor to preach the Word and administer the sacraments publicly. For the ordination of a pastor, we do not need the laying on of the hands of a bishop in an unbroken line until the apostles.
All Christians exercise the Office of the Keys in private. The pastor, by virtue of his calling, exercises it publicly for the specific congregation to which he is called. Not by his own person, nor by episcopal succession, but by the sure word of our Lord, we must receive the absolution of the pastor as from God Himself, without doubting, firmly believing that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
Peace be with you! Which means, the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.