Editor’s Note: Pastor Nitz recently accepted a call from WELS to serve at Good Shepherd Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so this is his final sermon at St Mark. Future sermons will be given by guest pastors until his position is filled, and we typically do not receive transcripts from guest pastors. So, while we will continue to provide an audio recording of the sermon and the service bulletin, we will not be able to provide transcripts. (Additional Information)
2nd Sunday of Easter
He’s risen! He’s risen indeed! Grace and peace to you from Him who is and who as and who is to come, our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who alone gives us ultimate peace, dear friends in Christ,
Saying, “Good-bye” is a difficult thing, isn’t it? It’s not easy to say “Good-bye” to someone you love, to a child going off to school, to a loved one leaving, to someone who is dying. Good-bye’s aren’t easy, are they? Why? Because perhaps there’s always the possibility that I won’t see this person again, something could happen. God has knit us people together in such a way that we need other people in our lives- we need family, we need friends, we need loved ones and it’s not always easy to be separated from them. To a degree that same thing is true in a church family- it’s not easy to say good-bye to brothers and sisters in Christ. And finally everything that makes us sad in life is really a consequence of sin. Just think, in the Garden of Eden, in a perfect world- where there was no sin or death – you’d never have to really say good-bye. But that’s the glory of Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection changes everything, Jesus’ resurrection for the believer turns every good-bye into simply a “See-you-again,” Jesus’ resurrection gives us peace for every time and every occasion.
That’s what we want to look at this morning. In every farewell there’s a sort of look back at the past, a consideration of the present, and a look ahead to the future. And here, in this account we see Jesus give the disciples and us such a peace for the past, the present, and the future.
First the past, when you think about the past certainly there are many fond and good memories, but there are also things that you maybe wish you hadn’t done, or things which you had done, or things which you wish you would have done differently, or mistakes that you made, and what does that leave you with? Guilt. So, think about the disciples. Where are they? They’ve locked themselves behind closed doors out of fear of the Jews. Are they next? Are they going to be crucified as well? But then on Easter Sunday morning they hear the reports: People are saying that Jesus is alive! But if you’re one of the disciples, is that good news or bad news? What had they done? They hadn’t believed him, they didn’t believe him when he told them he’d rise from the dead. At the time of his greatest need, they all deserted and abandoned him. Then on Easter Sunday evening Jesus comes and stands among them and think about what Jesus could have said: You deserters! You betrayers! You deniers! In my hour of greatest need you left me all alone! No one stood up for me! Shame on you!” Jesus rightly could have lodged accusations against them, right?
And even more so on Thomas, right? 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!”
So here are the disciples, here’s Thomas, here’s us with all the past things we’ve done, all our failures, all our mistakes, And Jesus appears, and what’s he going to say to them? What’s he doing 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 joy-over-joyed. That joy is yours. Peace for your past.
What about the present? What about life right now? There are three questions that every person will be plagued by until they have answers and those questions are only fully satisfied through faith in Jesus. The questions are: who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Everyone needs answers to those questions in order to have meaning and purpose for life in the present. But notice what God tells us here, “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.” You see, God’s Word tells you who you are: A forgiven child of God! An heir of life eternal! Someone who has been washed clean by Jesus’ blood! And the more that you’re into God’s Word, the more you learn about God, the more God brings His peace into your heart.
But are you to keep this peace all to yourself? No! When we’re full of peace, we want to share that peace. That’s what Jesus told the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” That’s what the disciples did with Thomas. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” There are people in this community, people in your life, people that you know that are searching for peace and God has entrusted to you the only message that will speak peace to the human heart: sins forgiven in Jesus our risen Savior. You have peace right now to have and to share.
And finally, peace for your future. What lies ahead? What changes lie ahead for you? For me, I’m going to soon be living in a different place, standing in front of different people, for you, you’re going to have someone else standing up here. But what else will the future bring? Will you have the opportunity to spend the amount of time with the people you love? Will you have the opportunity to do the things in life that you really want to do? You see, we can live with a certain degree of fear about the future – wanting to get this done, wanting to do this, wanting to spend time with this person. We can live in a rather frantic way because we don’t want to “miss out” on something in life.
But then, Jesus’ resurrection even gives us peace for the future. How so? Jesus appears to his disciples alive, but he’s not a ghost or a spirit. He has flesh and bones. He showed the disciples his hands and 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. Why? It proves that Jesus really did keep his word, really did actually, truly rise from the dead. But it also shows us that Jesus has a real, physical body, 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.
What does that mean for us? It means, because of Jesus’ resurrection, you won’t miss out on anything! You see, since Jesus rose from the dead, so will you! One day God will give you a new, glorified body that you will enjoy for all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth! All the joys and pleasures of this world don’t even come close to comparing with what you’re going to have and experience in heaven. All of our loved ones who believe in Jesus we never have to be afraid that we won’t see them again, because in heaven we’ll never say good-bye again. Relax, have peace, Jesus’ resurrection gives you peace for the future.
You see, Jesus’ resurrection gives you ultimate peace – peace for your past, peace for your present, peace for the future, – enjoy it, rest in it, and share it! Amen.