Easter 2 Friday
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.””
Given that this spiritual power is so great, we should thank God that we now recognize the great power and glory we have been given by Christ in this simple word, which St. Paul also praises and exalts in his letter to the Ephesians, Ephesians 1:3, where he says: “Blessed be God and the Father of Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all manner of spiritual blessing in heavenly goods through Christ.” And in Ephesians 2:5-10, St. Paul says: “God has made us alive with Christ, and has raised us with him and placed us with him in the heavenly life, through Jesus Christ, in order to demonstrate in future times the abundant riches of his Christ with his kindness over us through Jesus Christ. For by grace you have been save through faith, and this not by yourselves; it is God’s gift, not out of works, lest anybody boast. For you are his work, created through Jesus Christ for good works, for which God prepared us beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Look at the great, abundant comfort we have that God raises the same strength he exercises in Christ also in us and gives us the same power. Just as he placed him in a heavenly life, above all power, might, and strength, and all that may be named, so he has also placed us in the same power, so that those who believe have all power over heaven and earth. We have this power in the Word he left behind. It is so powerful that when we speak these words, they have the same effect as if he, walking on earth, spoke them in the majesty and glory in which he now lives. And that this the power we have out of his resurrection and ascension. There he gives us the power that we are able to kill and make alive, give to the devil and take away from the devil. But one must act carefully here, lest one follow the example of the pope. For the pope and his men have interpreted these words to mean that things must happen simply because they say so. No, you do not have this power; only the divine majesty has it. But they say, “When the pope says that your sins are forgiven, then they are gone, even if you have neither repentance nor faith.” They think that it is in their power to give heaven and take it away, to open heaven or to close it, to place someone into heaven or to cast them into hell. But this will never happen. For this would mean that our salvation depended on human works, strength, and power. But because it is contrary to all of Scripture, it cannot be true that when you lock or open heaven that it therefore has to be closed and opened.