“Repentance and Joy”
Easter 3, April 15, 2018
Joy in Repentance
Text: Luke 24:36–49
As we observe life around us, we notice that certain things go well with other certain things. Bacon and Eggs. Beer and Baseball. Rock and Roll. Now, what if I gave you the pair: Joy and Repentance. That doesn’t sound like a pair that goes together, does it? Well, I am here to tell you that all the scripture readings picked out for today are telling us just that.
A young boy once received a brand-new toy Millennium Falcon starship as a gift for his birthday. It was a glorious gift—the flagship of the Star Wars line of toys. The boy was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait to open the box and put it together and explore a galaxy far, far away. But then, reality hit home. It was a school day. It was his parents’ rule that he could open his gifts before school but then he had to wait until he returned home to begin playing. He would have to wait. The boy got dressed, and ready, and traveled off to school.
While he was at school, his mind drifted back to that present waiting for him at home. He imagined all the fun he was going to have when he finally got home. But that was just it—there was still a whole day’s worth of school to sit through before he could go home and play. Unless . . .
He hatched a plan. There was one way to speed this process along. He could leave school early, make it home before the end of the day, and begin playing with his spaceship. All he would have to do was lie to his teacher and tell her he was sick. So that’s what he did. The boy pretended to be sick, his mother was called, and she came and got him and brought him home from school.
Our text today is the Gospel from Luke 24. The resurrected Jesus interrupted a gathering of the disciples as they were assembled to discuss the sightings that had occurred on Easter. Peter had seen Jesus, and he was amazed. Two disciples walking to Emmaus had seen Jesus, and they were amazed. And now, all of a sudden, they all had seen Jesus (except Thomas) because He was standing right in front of them. Jesus stood before the disciples, and we’re told that they “disbelieved for joy.”
It’s easy to relate to this. If anyone of us suddenly saw a deceased loved one back from the dead, we would also experience disbelief and joy. We would wonder how that happened. (I have never been to a funeral or officiated at a funeral, where “that” person got up if you know what I mean.) We’d be glad because one who’d been lost to us had been regained (Until we realized that they were happier in heaven). What’s harder to understand is the idea of joining repentance to joy. As we proceed further into the text, we hear Jesus teach His disciples that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (v 47). That’s a good thing. People need to know about their sins. They need to repent. With repentance comes forgiveness, right? In addition, the other passages of Scripture for this day suggest a connection between repentance and joy. In our Acts reading, Peter preaches at the temple gate that the worshipers assembled there should “repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20). That’s a good thing. In John’s epistle, he reminds Christians that Christ appeared “to take away sins” (1 Jn 3:5). That’s a good thing. As those who abide in Him, we should put away sin and practice righteousness (3:7). These are themes consistent with repentance. But our Introit for the day talks about the “joy [that] comes with the morning,” and the Psalm talks about the abundance of joy that’s more than when grain and wine abound (Ps 4:7). The folks who planned these service elements for today would have us place these two things side by side: repentance and joy. And let’s face it, when we repent and when we get forgiven then we get joy, right? We are happy that our sins are taken away.
The boy with the Millennium Falcon wound up back home with his mother. She took him to his room and tucked him into bed, so he’d rest and feel better. As soon as he was in bed, he began to ask his mother about getting out the new toy. She suddenly saw through his deception and confronted him. The boy was caught in his lie and caught in his sin. This is never a good place to be for any of us. The boy felt a sudden rush of panic and guilt. He was faced with a dilemma: Should he confess his sin or continue to lie and cover his tracks? His instinct told him to lie. He decided to follow his instinct. He told his mom he really was sick. She took his word for it and left him in his room, alone with his guilty conscience.
One thing worse than a need to repent is trying to live with a guilty conscience. It leads to fear. It makes you irritable or angry. You feel the need to justify yourself. A guilty conscience can make you absolutely miserable. It makes life a mess. The initial sin and temptation cause you to compromise, and you set aside what you know is right to fulfill your sinful desires. But once the sin’s been committed and you have to live with it, that fear controls you and pushes you into more and more sin. Your life, which had been nice and well-ordered with a well-ordered conscience and well-ordered relationships, is turned upside down. The boy was caught in that dilemma.
The resurrected Jesus has come to set us free from just such a dilemma. Jesus sets us free from sin and a guilty conscience through repentance and forgiveness. The Resurrection of Jesus Brings Joy, Even Joy in Repentance.
When Jesus stood before His confused disciples as they were hiding and discussing the fact that “apparently” He was alive, He told them that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations. The disciples at that moment were overjoyed. Jesus was alive, and He stood before them, face-to-face. He even ate with them (Ghosts don’t eat, that’s why Jesus did that). They felt joy because they were with Jesus. There is joy for the Christian in the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness. In other words, when we repent, we receive the forgiveness Jesus won for us by His death and resurrection. That brings joy. And we should want to share that.
The young boy stewed away in his room in his feelings of guilt and fear and regret. He knew he’d lied to his teacher and he’d lied to his mother. He wanted to make it right, but he was afraid. He was ashamed of what he’d done, and he was afraid of having his sin found out. But the boy knew what was right. He remembered the lessons he’d learned from his mother and father about saying you’re sorry when you’ve done wrong. He mustered up his courage. He went down to his mother and told her what he’d done.
This was terrifying. At first. But once the sin was off his chest, he was relieved. He was even more relieved when he felt the warm embrace of forgiveness from his mother. He knew he’d done wrong. He knew he might have consequences to face (He didn’t see that Millennium Falcon again until he was 18.) But he also knew he was forgiven. There was joy to be found in that forgiveness.
How much greater is the joy when we discover that, for the sake of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our sins against God have been forgiven! God has spared no expense to pay the debt for your sin. He sent His only Son to die on a cross in judgment for you. He paid the penalty you owe to heaven through the sacrifice of His own body and blood on the cross for you. And God has accepted that sacrifice. It is enough. It is sufficient. It is finished. There’s no more payment to be made. Jesus who was dead is alive because all your sin has been accounted for.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the resurrection of Jesus is for your joy. He who was dead is alive. Repent of your sin before God and know that He has forgiven you. Live in the joy of the Gospel. Repent of your sin before one another. Give forgiveness freely as you have been forgiven. Jesus died and is now alive. Repent of your sin. Receive God’s forgiveness. Live in the joy of the Gospel. Because that is two other things that SHOULD go together…Christians and Joy.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 28, Part 2.