Peace be with you!
If your life is out of sync because you have a boat load of problems to contend with in your heart, then you aren’t listening to the words of your risen Savior who says to you: “Peace be with you!”
Easter Sunday was not a peaceful relaxing day for Jesus’ followers. It was a day of tension, drama, suspense and fear. The ladies had reported the alarming news that the tomb was empty. They had seen an angel and Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene! They heard that the guards had reported the same to the governing authorities. The disciples wondered what the future held for them. Would they be accused of stealing the body? Would they suffer the same fate that Jesus had suffered? Even if Jesus really was alive, what would he think of them? They all deserted him when he was arrested. They all were guilty of denying Jesus in one way or another. They all had doubts about the things they had seen and heard. If Jesus has risen as he promised, then he really is God and his Word really is the truth. Then they could not bear to stand before the living God and give answer to Him for their sinful behavior. Easter was not a peaceful relaxing day!
That is why it is not surprising to find them behind locked doors cowering in fear. What was surprising was the sudden arrival of Jesus! He “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Can you imagine seeing Jesus and having those words being the first to come out of his mouth? There were experiencing a lot of different emotions, but certainly not peace! But with that word, Jesus changed everything in their lives! All the fears and worries evaporated. Jesus had forgiven them. They did not need to be afraid anymore. They were incredibly thankful that Jesus came in peace to calm their troubled hearts. He does the same for us today. Let us take home with us today, this thought:
Peace be with you!
Because you have the forgiveness of sins
Because you have the blessing of faith
Jesus entered that house in a manner that we cannot explain or understand. How Jesus could appear in the flesh inside a locked room and vanish before the eyes of those present just as quickly, is a question for which we have no answer. In eternity we will know because then our bodies will be “fashioned like his glorious body.”
Luke tells us that the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus appeared. John tells us that Peter and John didn’t understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus when he spoke to her in the garden. Luke tells us that the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus until he broke the bread. All these people who knew Jesus so well weren’t expecting to see him again! These disciples weren’t unbelievers in the resurrection. They just didn’t understand it. Because they didn’t understand it, they lacked the peace which the resurrection brings. Resurrection peace is closely tied to the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus “showed them his hands and side.” Jesus wanted them to understand his identity. He is not a ghost. The wounds in his hands and side testify that this man standing before them is the same Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. He is alive forever and ever. Because he is alive, he has conquered death. If he has conquered death, he has paid the wages of our sins. If our sins have been paid, we have the forgiveness of sins.
“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” They now had peace, the forgiveness of sins. They needed that! They felt the weight of their sins. Now that weight was lifted off their shoulders. The could echo the words of Jesus with full confidence: “peace be with you.”
There isn’t enough peace in our lives! Too much of our time is spent feeling sorry for ourselves because life isn’t fair. Or, we feel hopeless because we have made such a mess of things. Or else we are so consumed in trying to make our own peace through indulging ourselves in things that we are passionate about that we live tired, empty and confused lives. We don’t even notice our love for Christ growing cold. We can lose our passion for Christ and the peace of sins forgiven.
If your life is out of sync because you have a boat load of problems to contend with in your heart, then you aren’t listening to the words of your risen Savior who says to you: “Peace be with you!” Jesus once promised his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The second time Jesus said “Peace be with you,” Jesus was reaffirming his love and forgiveness to his disciples in spite of their disloyalty. He wanted them to know that they are at peace with God because He has washed their sins away. Their faithlessness does not nullify Jesus’ work! Peace with God is not dependent on you, but on the promises of God. Because God’s Word is true, no one can take that peace away from you!
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” The Father sent Jesus to earth to do his will. Jesus sends his disciples out into the world to do his will. You know his will: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” That work begins by sharing the peace of God with restless, frightened, lonely sinners. The peace of God is found in the forgiveness of sins announced to the whole world by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
“And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is a different spiritual gift than that given at Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, the church received a better understanding of what the work of Jesus really means. But, on the day of Easter, the church received the gift of the office of the keys to preach forgiveness of sins to the world. Without the blessing of Pentecost, the church would have been ill-equipped to use the blessings Jesus gave on Easter.
The necessity of the Spirit to do the work of the church is clearly shown in the Bible. Moses was endowed with the Spirit for his office. When the work was too difficult God “took the Spirit which was on Moses and put it on” 70 elders appointed to assist Moses in the work. Again and again, we are told that the Spirit equipped the prophets and the kings for their work. John the Baptist and even Jesus received the Spirit to do their work. This same Spirit is given to Christ’s church to carry out the office known in our Catechism as “the keys.” The keys to the kingdom of heaven are all about the forgiveness of sins.
The keys are given to every Christian. The keys were given to the whole church assembled behind locked doors. Every believer has the joy and privilege of sharing the good news of forgiveness to every trembling, repentant sinner. Every believer has the responsibility to tell an arrogantly impenitent sinner who lives in utter defiance of God’s will that his sins are not forgiven. We don’t have the freedom to arbitrarily decide how to treat people. Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” Use the keys the way Jesus did. Forgive the repentant. Withhold forgiveness from the impenitent. What a huge responsibility and wonderful joy to share the peace of forgiveness at every opportunity! Peace be with you because your sins are forgiven! The resurrection proves it!
This peace becomes real through the blessing of faith. Thomas, one of the disciples, wasn’t there that first Easter. He refused to believe that Jesus was alive unless he could see the risen Savior with his own eyes. Jesus appeared among his disciples a week later when Thomas was with them. And urged Thomas to touch his wounds and see that it is really Jesus! Thomas did just that! He believed what he saw and felt! He confessed his faith in Jesus as his “Lord and God.”
That was a long week that Thomas lived without the peace of forgiveness and the joy of Easter because he wouldn’t take God at his Word. It has been a long week for a lot of people who thought Easter was a one-day celebration – worse yet it will be a long and sad life for them. They forgot to take the message of peace home with them. Happy is the person who receives the Word of God with great joy and believes what God tells us in his Word.
We live in a skeptical world. Society teaches us to find proof before accepting anything as true. People are still searching for proofs of Jesus’ resurrection as if the Bible weren’t proof enough for them. Of their own choosing, they live without the peace that God has given us in his Word. John tells us that we have everything we need on the pages of the Bible to know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. In him is life now and forever.
If you are looking for some peace in your life, you will not find it on the evening news. You will not find peace in people who come and go in your life. Even people who love you the most will not always be able to give you a peaceful and happy life. They simply won’t be with you always - nor will you be with them! Real, lasting peace is found in Jesus.