Easter 2c (April 7, 2013)
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
TITLE: “Peace be with you”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from John 20, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
You have in the Gospel lesson today a wonderful picture of the tenderness and love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who rose from the dead. Put yourself in the place of the disciples for a bit, and you will see how much God loves you and only wants to forgive your sins and bring you the peace which surpasses all understanding.
The disciples were gathered together in the upper room for fear of the Jews. They had heard the resurrection story. The women had even seen the Risen Lord. But there was still this nagging fear. What would Jesus response be to them? After all, how had they done in their commitment to the Lord and His message? Frankly, they hadn’t done very well. In fact, they had all rejected him and fled from the scene. In the face of fear and opposition from the Jews, their friends and relatives, they had left Jesus to die the death of a common criminal, without a friend or a loved one to even stay with him to the bitter end.
But Jesus had risen from the dead! And now the question was before them: what will Jesus do? Now that’s a question, or one very similar to it, that you hear asked a lot. There is even still the remnants of a popular movement that seeks to ask that question. When faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, they want you to ask the question, what would Jesus do?
Of course, that is a completely Law question. Consider your place according to the 10 Commandments, and you will both learn what Jesus would do AND that you fail constantly. As a sinner from birth, there is no doubt that you fail in the quest for perfection. Gossip, slander, theft, covetousness, adultery by thought, word and deed, even hatred or worse fill your thoughts and minds. You may not admit it to others, but it is the truth as sure as you sit in the pew today. You are no better than the disciples who abandoned Jesus so many years ago.
They were afraid. They were afraid that their hopes were lost. But perhaps even more, they were afraid that He was God and that they had abandoned Him to die. What could be worse than abandoning the Son of God to die, only to have Him come back? What would be His response?
If you take sin seriously and believe that it is your sin which caused Jesus’ death on the cross, this is a question you simply must ask of yourself. How does God look you, a sinner? Does He judge you according to the Law and condemn, or does He judge you by looking at His Son and forgiving your sins for Jesus sake?
It is very easy to toss this question away as a no-brainer. Of course God loves me. Of course God forgives my sins. But the nagging doubts will come back at the worst times. Death and heartache brings it out. Broken relationships, painful lives and all of the thousand other things which afflict us all can bring doubt and fear to the front.
This is what the disciples faced that evening of the resurrection. This is what you face as a sinner from birth who needs God’s love and forgiveness. And that is what Jesus comes to give this very day. Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
God gives peace by His Word. He shows them His hands and His side, but it is finally His Word that creates faith and gives the peace which the world cannot give. For you see, the Word of God which created the world and everything in it creates faith in your heart and gives you the peace which is beyond understanding. That is the joy of Easter. That is the miracle of the Christian faith.
Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. He tenderly invites you to believe in Him and His forgiveness. He gives you a pastor to speak that Word of Absolution to you. He gives you His very body and blood in His Holy Supper to forgive you and draw you into His presence.
I think that is what is so difficult to understand about Jesus’ words, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. God defines both the Christian Church and the Holy Ministry. They are about forgiving and retaining sins. Nothing more, nothing less. This is why John says at the end of our text, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
God creates faith and gives you peace by forgiving your sins. And He uses the most earthy and mundane things in the whole world to accomplish this great and wonderful task. He uses pastors. Common sinners, with all the faults and foibles and weaknesses that every sinner has. He uses words. Just words, that in our day and age are there and gone in the blink of an eye. He uses common wine and bread. He uses common water. But with the breath of God’s life in them, these common things are not so common after all. For when attached to God’s Word and promise, these common things bring you life and peace that does not exist anywhere else. These common things are the tools that God uses to give you faith, the faith that moves mountains, the faith that brings you through this life and into eternal life.
We don’t have to ask the question, what would Jesus do? While it may be an important question in some ways, it ultimately misses the point. The really important questions are, what did Jesus do when He died on the cross, and what does Jesus do even today? He forgives you. He gives you peace. He makes you His own for all eternity. Believe it for His sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.
Sermon revised from 2002.