Easter – Week 1 – Saturday



 “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:22-23 

This is a great and powerful authority which no one can adequately praise, bestowed upon poor mortal man and valid over sin, death, hell, and all things. The pope boasts that Christ has given him authority over all earthly and heavenly matters in the spiritual domain. This could be quite right, correctly understood. But he applies all this to the earthly sphere and government. This is not what Christ means. 

He is here conferring spiritual authority and government, and He means to say: “When you speak a word over a sinner, this word has also been spoken in heaven, and it avails as much as if God Himself had spoken it in heaven. For when you speak this word, God is in your mouth, and hence, this work is as powerful as a word spoken by God Himself.” 

It follows, therefore, that when Christ speaks a word because He is Lord over sin and death, and say to you, “Your sins are forgiven you,” then your sins must be gone, and nothing can gainsay it. On the other hand, if He declares, “Your sins are not forgiven you,” then they must remain unforgiven, and in this case not even an angel, or a saint, or any creature can forgive you those sins, even if you martyr yourself to death over them. 

It is this power to forgive sins that Christ confers on every individual Christian inasmuch as Christ has made all authority in heaven and on earth available to us (Matthew 28:18). Here Christ rules not in any material manner, but spiritually, and He also rules His Christians spiritually. 

SL 11:731 (15-16) 

PRAYER: Grant us Your Holy Spirit, heavenly Father, the Spirit of truth and understanding, so that we may fully appreciate the very great authority which we enjoy to proclaim forgiveness to our neighbor, in and through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 2:352-63.