In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: John 20:19-31
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our risen Lord,
Joseph had been stripped of his coat of many colors, a special and unique gift from his beloved father; he had been thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery. His own brothers had done this to him. But Joseph did not stay a slave. Over the course of years he rose to become one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers probably figured he was long dead. They were wrong.
They found out how wrong they were when they needed food during a severe and long-lasting famine. Joseph was in charge of the food in all the land of Egypt, and that’s where the brothers had to go to get food. Without the food they and their families would starve to death. Joseph recognizes his brothers when they come to Egypt, but they do not recognize him. Finally though, Joseph lets them know who he is. And Moses, the writer of Genesis, tells us: “they were dismayed in his presence.” Yes indeed, the brothers who had wickedly sold Joseph years before out of their jealousy and hatred of him, the brothers who despised him, the brothers who had to “settle” for just selling him into slavery when most of them wanted him dead – these are the ones who are now “dismayed” in front of Joseph.
The fate of these brothers, these sons of Israel, is in the hands of Joseph. Joseph has reason to hate them. He has reason to want them punished for their evil; for their betrayal, for their cruelty. Yet what does Joseph do? Listen to what Moses tells us: “And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:4-5). Joseph knows that God had a purpose for his slavery – the purpose was that Joseph might save lives through God putting him in the right place at the right time. Joseph does not use his power nor his advantage over his brothers to give them what they deserve. Instead, he forgives them, he accepts them back as his brothers, as his family, and rejoices to be with them again.
You can probably figure out the connection between Joseph and Jesus. On that first Easter evening Jesus meets His disciples. What are His first words to these men? These are the ones who all promised that they would never leave Him. These are the ones who said they would die before they would abandon Him. But what did they actually do? They fell asleep instead of praying. They ran away when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had actually denied even knowing Jesus three times. They did not rally around Jesus to protect, support, or help Him in any way. They left Him alone during the time of His greatest need.
So, now it is the evening of the third day. Stories of resurrection have been circulating, but the disciples have hardly dared to believe. How does Jesus greet these men? He could have refused even to meet with them. He could have met them with fire and brimstone, punishing them for their cowardice, their lack of faith. He could have scolded them.
What are His words? “Peace be with you.” I want you to remember that. I want you to have this picture of Christ in mind when you wonder if God will forgive you, if He wants to forgive you, if He’ll hold your sins against you. Jesus did not scold. He did not punish. He gave peace to them.
Now, some abuse this peace with God and interpret it to mean that now God allows every and any thing to be done, as if there is now no morality, no right and wrong, and that God will simply love no matter what. There is enough truth in that statement to make it sound right, but it also has enough error to make it deadly to souls.
Why doesn’t Jesus need to scold or punish the disciples on that Easter evening? There’s no need for more law because they know their sin. They know they failed. They know they cannot excuse their actions or lack of action for Jesus. They are not trying to say that what they did was right or something that God should allow. The disciples, like the brothers of Joseph, understand their sin. And by the grace of God alone they are forgiven.
One disciple is not there on that first Easter evening. When he hears the story of the resurrection for the other ten Thomas doubts it. He demands to see, to touch.
When Jesus shows Himself to Thomas the next week, He doesn’t need to scold Thomas much either. Jesus says: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas sees Jesus and recognizes Him. He does believe. He confesses his faith in the risen Jesus: “My Lord and My God.” Thomas knows why the nail prints are in the hands of Jesus, and why the side of Jesus has a wound. These are the marks of the crucifixion. These are the marks of the winning of salvation: forgiveness from sin, life.
The wounds of Jesus are a reminder that forgiveness came with a price – the death of the Son of God. Those who imagine that God’s love for us allows us to continue in sin or to think that God doesn’t care about sin, are not only mistaken, but they also blaspheme the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay for sin. He didn’t die so we can consider sin as of no consequence.
But as we realize our sin, as we come to understand more and more that our sins are known to God even more than Joseph knew the sins of his brothers against him, then let us remember that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus wants us to know peace with God. Jesus wants us to hear forgiveness for all sin. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, or to run away from Him, or to hide from Him. Jesus calls us to Him with words of peace, forgiveness, and love.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Blessed are you, by faith in Jesus Christ. Life is yours, by believing in the name of Jesus. You have a God who forgives, who paid for sin with His own death, who rose again in triumph, all for you. Trust the words written for you, that you may believe and live. God grant this to you all in the name of Jesus – Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!