On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Sometimes things can be pretty hectic, a lot can happen in one day, and you think back, how did all that fit in, surely that was yesterday? Maybe you felt that way last Sunday, food, family, God’s service, travel … For the disciples on that Resurrection Sunday I’d bet it was a hectic one too; going from devastation at their friend and teacher’s death; grief at the supposed lies that Jesus was the King to save the world; then waking up to confusion at the women’s news; then when Peter and John confirmed the empty tomb; fear of the Jews who had just killed their leader and probably were looking for the disciples and the body; two leave for Emmaus and come back with news of their conversation with the risen Lord; then Christ suddenly appears inside locked doors says a few words shows His body and just as suddenly leaves. Now I doubt most of us even remember how I started that sentence, but that all happened to the disciples in one day. Devastation, grief, confusion, curiosity, disheartened, surprise, joy, wonder, disbelief; all these emotions within 24hrs, certainly an emotional rollercoaster if there ever was one. Hectic! And into all this Jesus speaks peace.
To have all your plans destroyed, your position redundant, your friend and leader dead, and the authorities the ones who killed Him. Your whole world crumbled before your eyes, emotionally exhausted, from the heights of Palm Sunday your King welcomed royally, within a week His crucifixion; can we just go back to our lives before all this happened? But now the body’s gone, will the authorities come and try to kill us too? What can we do? And then, in the midst of this fear, worry and the darkening of the day, suddenly, there’s someone else in the middle of the room! Whose that? What’s, How’s…? Peace be with you. Holed up in this house for fear of the authorities, probably exhausted from the events of the previous week, Jesus comes to them bringing peace. Perhaps the disciples thoughts; What’s happened to Jesus my Lord, the promised Christ? He is alive! Am I following a madman to my own death and destruction? No, Jesus has ultimate power over death! What can I do to save myself? Peace, you don’t need to worry, Jesus has done it for you, He saves you.
Here Jesus first and foremost brings the peace that comes from knowing He is alive, their friend and leader is alive, but also that He has God’s power to appear where He wills and the truth that death has no power over Him. It’s not just a vision, but Jesus, body and soul, is fully alive, risen and glorified. God’s Word is true, Jesus is alive and so peace to you. Earlier Jesus had said that He would turn sorrow into joy (John 16:22); and how true that was this first Resurrection Sunday! From fear and terror, to wonder and joy in just two words. With His physical body, His scars He proves who He is and that He lives, and the disciples rejoice! What an amazing experience, what wonder, to have your whole world destroyed and now three days later restored and glorified! To be like Job in His devastation, seeing all you love destroyed, but then here to have it all suddenly restored and so much more! That wonderful joy and release of grief and fear, but then Jesus still has more to say, and again He says peace to you. First peace to allay fears then peace for calm to listen to the truth.
Peace to you, as the Father sent me so I send you. The mission of the church, the body of Christian believers, is to continue Jesus’ mission, to bring God’s Word of forgiveness and truth to the world. And He breathes on them, just as the Father breathed life into Adam, so now Jesus in new life breathes on the disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven, if you retain them, they are retained. This is Jesus’ mission, what God sent Him for, to bring His forgiveness and condemnation of sin, truth and mercy. Now Christians are called to follow Him, to speak God’s Word of mercy and truth to all the world. And that Word has power, when I say to you today God’s Word of forgiveness, your sins are forgiven, God does forgives your sins. This is the grace that Jesus gave to the church and that you and the LCA have given to me to serve you. He also gave the authority to declare the truth, just as He did, that those who reject Jesus, who reject that they sin and reject Christ’s forgiveness are not forgiven. This is the truth, it is God’s Word, Jesus’ mission, and we need to be careful how we do this, so again you have entrusted me with the public working of His mission, but we all Christians also declare Christ’s truth to each other, forgiving one another and trying to lead all people back to Jesus, in word and action.
Now I don’t have all the answers, just a guide to speak the truth in love. However, we see how Jesus again, does His mission when we hear of Thomas the Twin. He was struggling, as we all do, with two people inside himself, the believer and the unbeliever. He was not with the twelve and when they tried to fulfil Christ’s mission by telling Thomas the truth, He did not believe. Thomas was staying in His betrayal and rejection of Jesus. But Jesus again suddenly appeared. Did Thomas have a flash of fear? Again He had betrayed His Lord, will He now be struck down as that fig tree? No, rather Jesus brings peace to a troubled conscience. “Here are my wounds, touch them, do not be faithless but faithful, believe!” God’s Word works its forgiveness and Thomas makes the strongest declaration in the whole Gospel of John, ‘My Lord and My God.’ We know that Jesus was more than a man, more than a prophet, so much more than even the archangels of God. But throughout His life no one had confessed that He was God Himself. Now Thomas, who has been called the doubter, gives the strongest confession of trust and faith in Jesus, My Lord and My God. So Jesus shows His mission, bringing truth and forgiveness; then Thomas gratefully receives it. This is now our mission to together bring Christ’s Word of truth and mercy to each other and all people and receive it well from each other, responding in joy, trust and love; confessing together who Jesus is, Our Lord and Our God.
And so, the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.