4/9/2018 11:14:04 AM
Peace Be With You
You’re on your way to church with your family this morning, and it’s clear that more than one of you got up on the wrong side of the bed. Though the kids are hardly awake, they’re still at each other’s throats. You’re running a little late, so you hope to be able to snag a close parking spot in the upper lot. But to no avail. After circling the upper lot, you must park on the far side of the lower lot. As you are trying to get your family to quickly shuffle through the parking lot and up the stairs, you notice that junior has on two different pairs of shoes. You open the entry way doors to hear the bells already ringing. As you walk through the entry way to the sanctuary, one of the pastors greets you with a big “Good morning, how are you?!” With a smile on your face, you say, “We’re great.” But you’re thinking, “Not so great.” You walk into church, and you get a win: there’s a whole pew for your family towards the back. You and your family sit down by the start of the first hymn. You let a small sigh, “We made it.” But as the hymn comes to a close, your mind starts to race again. “Did I unplug the curling iron?” “Did the kids put the milk away after eating their cereal?” Did I see the garage door go all the way down?” Your mind comes back as the congregation begins to say the confession of sins. And you say the words out loud, “I confess that I am by nature dead in sin. For faithless worrying and selfish pride, for sins of habit and sins of choice, for the evil I have done and the good I have failed to do…” Pastor turns towards the congregation and loudly proclaims, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again…” But as the pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you’re still thinking of the lie you told your boss during the week, the harsh words toward your kids on the car ride here, your angry attitude with your spouse, and the jealous thoughts you entertained toward your friends and neighbors. You’re in church the week after Easter, but there isn’t much Easter joy. You don’t feel the Easter peace. You’re a little anxious, a little overwhelmed by a number of things.
On the very first Easter evening, the disciples and a few other close followers of Jesus were more than a little anxious, more than a little overwhelmed. They were gathered in a house with the doors locked. They were afraid the Jewish leaders who had arrested, condemned, and killed their teacher were going to come after them next. Though they had heard Jesus’ tomb was empty and that some had even seen him alive, there wasn’t much Easter joy. They didn’t feel the Easter peace.
As we continue to celebrate our Savior’s resurrection, just a week after Easter, we get a chance to explore this truth: The risen Lord gives his followers peace in a very real and personal way. – Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. By doing so he conquered death, showed our sins really are forgiven, and accomplished his purpose for coming to earth. But here’s the amazing part: After rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, Jesus didn’t just say, “Well, my work here is done, I’m out of here.” And immediately ascend into heaven. No.
As Jesus’ disciples are locked in that house, afraid, anxious, not knowing what to think or believe, Jesus comes and stands among them. He says, “Peace be with you!” Jesus greets them with a common Hebrew greeting. But on uncommon lips, this common greeting is much more than a casual wish of peace. This is the Prince of Peace speaking to them. He doesn’t merely wish what the word expresses; he gives it. Jesus gives them the peace the world cannot give (John 14:27), the peace that will sustain them through all earthly troubles (John 16:33). Jesus, the risen Lord, appears, giving his frightened followers true peace.
Though they should have known, expected, and believed the events of the resurrection not only after but even before it all took place based on all Jesus had said, Jesus offers them the proof their anxious hearts crave. He showed them his hands and his side. This always astounds me. Rather than scolding them for their fear and lack of faith, he gives his disciples exactly what they need. He gives them peace in a very personal way. They are able to see, “Yes, this is our Jesus who was nailed to the cross. This is our Jesus who was torn open by the spear. He’s alive.” They’re overjoyed.
He says it again. “Peace be with you!” This time he goes on. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you… If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This second greeting and announcement of peace isn’t only for those in the house. Jesus wants them to be peace dispensers, peace sharers.
The key to the disciples’ mission of being peace sharers is the forgiveness of sins. Jesus gives them the authority and the power to proclaim the forgiveness he won for everyone through his death and resurrection. This remains true for Jesus’ followers today, you and me included.
What an amazing thing! These disciples go from hiding in fear and confusion one moment to being commissioned as heralds of forgiveness the next. Isn’t this too a way Jesus gives peace to his disciples? He says to them, “Fearful and fragile though you may be, I want to use you, yes you, to take my peace to others.”
One of Jesus’ closest followers, Thomas, wasn’t in the locked house when Jesus miraculously came and stood among them. So the others told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas refused to believe it. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later, the disciples are together again. This time Thomas was there too. And just as he had done a week earlier, Jesus came and stood among them and says, “Peace be with you!” Then he looks right at Thomas and begins to speak. And in my mind, I’m sliding to the front of my seat and grabbing the popcorn. Jesus is going to let Thomas have it, right? He’s going to lay in to him for not believing, for doubting. Not only did Thomas fail to grasp Jesus’ words like the others, but now he had heard eyewitness accounts. And he still strongly denied it. “Put your finger here.” Jesus says. “See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” We may call him Doubting Thomas, but Jesus doesn’t. No. Jesus offers Thomas his hands and his side. Jesus seeks to remove from Thomas all doubt. This is Jesus. He doesn’t scold. He doesn’t blame. He reassures. He comforts. He offers peace just the way his followers need him to. The risen Lord gives peace in a very real and personal way. This reading just screams that.
It may scream that for those in the locked house, but I don’t think Jesus is going to come to me and offer his hands and his side. Maybe not. But listen to what Jesus went on to say to Thomas. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus is talking about you and me. Even though we haven’t placed a finger into the nail holes of Jesus’ hands, he calls us blessed. And you know what? We are so blessed. Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Jesus gave us all of this(The Bible) for one main purpose: so that we would know and trust in him as our Savior. And by doing so have eternal life. Talk about peace! “Life in Jesus’ name.” That’s peace!
Jesus might not come to us in the exact same way he came to his disciples the first two Sunday nights following his resurrection, but those two nights are recorded in the Bible to illustrate for us his love and care. They show that our risen Lord is a personal Savior. A Savior who offers his followers peace.
I don’t know if my story earlier is true of you and your situation or not. I don’t know if you’re anxious or overwhelmed. I don’t know if you’re struggling with guilt; or with just trying to keep up. But Jesus knows. Just as he knew his disciples needed to touch his nail pierced hands, Jesus knows what you and I need. And he gives it to us in his Word. These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We have everything we need in God’s Word. We do. Everything! In God’s word we know who Jesus is: the perfect Son of God. In God’s Word we know what he has done for us: He lived as our substitute. He died in our place. He rose again conquering death. In God’s Word we know what that means for us: We’re forgiven. Heaven is ours. Death is only a sleep. In God’s Word we know of Jesus’ care: “Surely I am with you always.” “Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” It’s all there. And it’s all we need. Through the written Word Jesus says to you personally, “Peace be with you.”
God’s Word may be all we need, but it’s not all. Today for Christian, three months ago for Nash, 30 years ago for me, you can fill in the blank for yourself, Jesus came through the waters of baptism and said, “Peace be with you.” In a few minutes, many of you will come to the Lord’s table. And through his body and blood with the bread and the wine, Jesus will say, “Peace be with you.” We don’t need Holy Communion to be forgiven, to have Jesus’s peace. Those who don’t receive it today aren’t any less forgiven. It’s something special Jesus offers. I was talking to Pastor Qualmann about this a few days ago, and he referred to communion as dessert. I don’t need it, but it’s something sweet Jesus wants to give me – it’s another way he offers and assures me of his forgiveness, of his peace.
My prayer this week, and perhaps it can be yours too, is that our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, continues to fill his followers with peace. Amen.