A Pastor’s office is no ordinary office. It is a tomb for the dead.
Those crushed by their repeated slip-ups and beaten to death by their consciences; those pierced by the sharp tip of their transgressions and bled dry by the Law’s constant demands; those dead in their sin are laid to rest there. Like a stone, the closed door seals them in.
But, as a pastor’s office is no ordinary office, neither is it an ordinary tomb. For the power of an ordinary tomb lies in its ability to hold the dead, but this tomb sends the dead out alive.
How can this be?
Was she a good person who made an honest mistake? Did he have an “in” with the man of God? Was their remorse great and their sin small? Did they promise to do better? Come to church more often? Worship more sincerely? Prayer more fervently? Confess more earnestly? Give more generously? Did they convince God they could do better with a second chance?
No. The dead can’t speak for themselves, let alone defend or bargain for themselves. Just as dead men tell no tales, neither can the dead raise themselves to life.
Is it the lighting, the walls, the furniture? Are they made from special materials? Blessed with divine words? Infused with sacred power?
No. These are made of common materials. No amount of pious incantation can render to these objects extraordinary power. No human abilities can make them more than the ordinary objects they are.
Is it the pastor who works in it? Does their degree confer a special relationship with God? Or is it their knowledge about the spiritual realm? Are they more blessed and so holier-than-thou? Do they possess an inner strength and power the rest of us lack?
No. The pastor is a sinner like you and me. Needs forgiveness like you and me. Needs grace like you and me. Needs Jesus’ righteousness like you and me.
Instead, it’s the words the pastor speaks. Words that claim to do what they say. Words whose power and strength come from the living Lord who commanded them (John 20:22–23). The living Lord who once was dead and then rose to life, turning an ordinary tomb into an extraordinary one.
These words the pastor speaks? “And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Depart in peace” (Luther, Small Catechism, V).
These are grace-filled words. Soothing music to hurting ears. A comforting blanket to shell-shocked sinners. They speak a promise faithfully fulfilled. They bring absolution and forgiveness. They raise the dead to life.
You see, it is not the holder of the office, nor the accouterments thereof, but the Word therein. The Word through whom all things were created (John 1:1–3). The Word that became human and lived among His people (John 1:14). The Word who became sin, though He knew no sin, that we might become as He is: righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Word who died in our place on the cross.
This Word, who stormed death’s door, on that first Easter Sunday, in that first Easter tomb, now storms the door of the tomb that is the pastor’s office. Not from without but from within.The Word who rolled back the first stone on the first day of a new creation, brings you and me new life.
It’s not the pastor’s own words and power, but God’s Word, that is, Christ Jesus, who brings such marvelous, sweet, and powerful words. Not only do they provide comfort and forgiveness, but life. For “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther, Small Catechism, VI). Sin, death, and condemnation enter never to emerge again. The soul, once dead, burdened, and enslaved, walks out free, alive, and redeemed.