2nd Sunday of Easter
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Grace and peace to you from Him who is and who was and who is to come, our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who alone gives you ultimate peace, dear friends in Christ,
Do you have peace? What gives you peace? I think you could safely say that everyone in our world to some degree or another is searching for this concept of peace. You want peace at home – no conflict or crying or yelling. You want peace at work – no more anger or jealousy. You want peace in the world so there is no more fighting and killing. People have different ideas on how to achieve that peace. But we all know that the Bible often talks about “peace.” It’s a peace that you can have no matter what the situation in life you’re in. It’s a peace that transcends human understanding. It’s a peace of heart, peace of soul, peace of mind. Jesus’ resurrection gives you peace. We’re going to explore three aspects of this peace today: peace for your past, peace for your future, and peace for your present.
First, peace for the past. What was it like for those disciples? They’ve locked themselves behind locked doors out of fear of the Jewish leaders. Are they next? Are they going to be next in line for crucifixion? But on Easter Sunday they had reports of people saying that Jesus is alive! If you’re one of the disciples, is that good news or bad news for you? You might think that’d be wonderful news, but remember what they had done? They hadn’t believed Jesus and at the time of his greatest need, they all deserted and abandoned them! So, Jesus appears to them. And what could Jesus have told them? “You scoundrels! You deserters! You betrayers! You deniers! In my hour of most need to you left me all alone! No one stood up for me and everything that I went through! Shame on all of you! You have this coming or that coming to you!” Jesus could have rightly lodged accusation upon accusation against them, right?
And Jesus could have done the same thing – even doubly so – to Thomas. Jesus rises from the dead, just like he said he would, then he appears over and over again to people, appears to Thomas’ closest friends who tell him in no uncertain terms that they saw the Lord – alive! And how does he respond? I won’t believe it. Unless I have proof, unless I can stick my fingers in the nail holes and my hand in his side, I won’t believe it. And then next week Jesus appeared again. And he could have said to Thomas, “Now look here you double-minded man! Is it not enough that I told you over and over again that I was going to rise again and then I did, just like I said, and you didn’t believe when people told you! Really? Come on!
Well, Jesus could rightly do the same to you and me, right? What is it that you struggle with most about the past? Is it not guilt? You see guilt is knowing that we’ve done wrong in the past and knowing that we deserve to pay for it. It’s a cloud that weighs you down. It burdens and it haunts. While there are things in your past that you’ve buried so deep that you think no one is going to find out about, while there are things that you never want to reach the light of day, deep down you know that someone does know about those things, someone did see. If you’re anything like me, your past is loaded with mistakes, failures, poor judgments, regrets. How could I have done that? I deserve to pay!
Here are the disciples – they betrayed, abandoned, failed – and Jesus is alive?? What’s he going to say to them? What’s he going to do to them? He appears and says, “Peace be with you.” Can you imagine any more comforting words than those? Peace – everything is right between you and God, everything is just the way it’s supposed to be. Yes, you abandoned me, Yes, you deserted me, yes, you messed up big time, yes, you doubted me, yes, you didn’t believe me, yes you deserve my wrath and judgment forever, but hey look, look at my hands, look at my feet, don’t you see? Don’t you realize what I’ve done for you? I died on the cross not for myself, but for you, the price is paid, your sins are forgiven, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to be scared, I won you peace. That same peace is yours. What burdens you? What guilt do you feel? Jesus gives you peace. His death paid for your sins in full, His resurrection proves your sins are forgiven. And when the disciples saw Jesus, they were filled with gladness. That joy is yours. Peace for your past.
Peace for your future. Jesus appears to the disciples alive, but he’s not a ghost or just a spirit. He has flesh and He has bones. He showed the disciples his hands and his feet, the same body that was nailed bloody and beaten to the cross. He has Thomas put his hands in the nail marks and in his side where the spear made sure that he was dead. What’s the point of all that? What does that tell us? Yes, it proves that Jesus really did keep His Word, really did actually, truly rise from the dead. But it also tells us that Jesus has a real, physical body- and yet a glorified body, in fact, one that he was able to pass through walls and locked doors with. But He has a real, resurrected, and glorified body. And the Bible connects Jesus’ physical resurrection with the fact that one day our bodies will be physically raised from the dead and we will live in the new heavens and the new earth with a real glorified body- like Jesus’ body.
Now one of the big fears that many people have about the future is this fear of missing out on something. I don’t want to miss out on something before I die. And people can live their lives in this frantic way because of this fear of “missing out” on something. People work 100 hour weeks in order to make money so they can get certain things because they don’t want to miss out. People make it their goal in order to travel the world, to visit exotic places because they don’t want to miss out. People make out a bucket list of things they want to do before they die because they don’t want to miss out. People sacrifice time with their family because they don’t want to miss out on a career advancement. We can live our lives with this fear of regret or this fear that we’re going to end up missing out on something great.
But then there’s Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead with a real physical and yet glorified body. And since He did He promises to one day give you a real, physical glorified body that you’re going to enjoy for all eternity. Since Jesus is alive you’re going to live in the new heavens and the new earth forever. Your feet will touch streets of gold. All the joys and pleasures of this world don’t even come close to comparing with what you’re going to experience in heaven. Relax, you’re not going to miss out on anything! You can have peace for your future. You can give your stuff away, you can sacrifice, you can live without regret.
Finally, peace for your present. Peace for your life right now. Jesus’ resurrection proves that life isn’t just some random accident, you have purpose in life. First, to live in the peace that is yours. You live in it by growing in this peace. “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.” The more you grow closer to Jesus through His Word – God’s Word, the Bible – and through His visible Word in the Sacraments, the more peace you have in life.
But that’s not it. We’re not here to become just personal entities of peace. We’re not here just to have a personal peace that warms our hearts and puts a smile on our face as we go about life. No, we’re here to share the peace of Christ’s resurrection. It’s only people who are full of peace that can share peace with others.
There’s people in your life – co-workers, neighbors, associates, family members – who need peace. Maybe they are loaded down by guilt and are enslaving themselves to the idols of this world – money, sex, alcohol, drugs – they’re searching for peace. They’re searching for peace for their past, their present, their future. Do you love them? Look at what the disciples did with Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” They wanted him to have the peace that they had, they shared it.
Why are we here? We’re here to be ambassadors of peace. Fueled once again by the peace we receive here gathering around God’s Word of peace and His sacrament of peace we’re energized to bring that same peace that has made so much a difference in our lives with others. The disciples carried this message of peace to the ends of the earth. Enjoy this peace and share this peace for your past, your present, and your future. Amen.