Tribulation Overcome

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter based on John 16:23-33

Dear disciples of Jesus: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“In the world you will have tribulation,” says Jesus to His disciples. He doesn’t say that some of you, His disciples, will have tribulation in the world. He doesn’t say that you might have tribulation in the world. Jesus says in the world you will have tribulation.

This is necessarily so because the world is the enemy of Jesus. Thus Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Of course the world hates the followers of Jesus, because the world hates Jesus. Jesus has chosen us out of the world, so the world hates us (John 15:19).

But we don’t do so well with hate. We want to be liked. We want to be loved and accepted. We certainly don’t want tribulation. This creates a great temptation for us to not look like followers of Jesus. It creates a temptation for us to blend into the world so that we will not be the target of their hatred. It creates a temptation for us to turn away from God’s Word in order to avoid tribulation.

You’ve seen the news. You know what’s going on in the world. Apparently the world doesn’t know what a man is and what a woman is anymore. If you don’t want mentally unhinged men going into bathrooms and locker rooms with your wives, daughters, and grand-daughters, the world says you’re a bigot.

Apparently the world doesn’t know what marriage is anymore. If you think that homo stuff is not only disgusting but also an abomination like Scripture teaches, then the world says you are unloving. If you think that marriage is the institution of God and that seeking the benefits of marriage outside of God’s institution is sin, then the world has got a bunch of names to call you too.

Don’t think that Christians aren’t being persecuted for these things. Coming from our neighbours to the south are continual news stories of Christians losing their businesses and livelihood because they won’t join the world in sin. In our own country we won’t have long before we’ll see what will happen to Christians in the medical field if they refuse to participate in the murder of the weakest members of society through so-called “assisted dying.”

The easy thing to do is to do nothing. Keep quiet. Watch quietly as other Christians are suffering for the name of Christ. After all, we don’t want to join them in their suffering. We don’t want the tribulation that Jesus has told us is part of being in this world as His disciples. This is especially true if we have these issues within our own circles of friends or families. We don’t want strife in the family, so we just bite our tongue. We don’t want to lose our friends, so we just stay quiet.

But the church is supposed to be a lamp shining in a dark world (Matt. 5:16). The world only has the expectation of eternal death in hell if God does not convert them. It is not our job to convert the world, nor are we able to do it, but we are to be a light shining with the truth of God’s Word. We can be a witness to the name of Christ by suffering tribulation for His name’s sake. We can confess the truth of God’s Word to our friends and families, especially to our children and grandchildren, even if we face opposition in doing so.

Look, the devil doesn’t attack his own. He doesn’t bring tribulation to those who follow him and believe his lies lest they turn to God for help. The devil attacks those who teach and believe rightly. It pains him when his lies are exposed by the Word of God, and thus, like a furious foe, he raves and rages with all his might and even enlists the world and our sinful flesh as his allies. For our flesh is in itself vile and inclined to evil, even when we have accepted God’s Word and believe. The world, too, is perverse and wicked. So the devil stirs things up, feeding and fanning the flames, in order to keep us from confessing the truth, to turn us from the truth of God’s Word, and to turn us away from God to avoid tribulation, thus bringing us under his power (LC III.3).

Jesus is the only hope that sinners have. He is the light of the world; He is the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:4-5). Only His blood can cover our sins. Only His Word can turn sinners away from the world and the lies of the devil. Only He can turn sinners to Himself for forgiveness.

The world loves the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil (John 3:19). The world hates Jesus because their works are evil. The world hates us because their works are evil.

The world doesn’t hate us because we are good. In fact, the world loves nothing more than to point the finger every time a Christian fails and sins. Every time a Christian falls into open sin and the world sees it, the first reaction of the world is to laugh and say, “See, you’re no better than us.” And you know what? They’re right. We are no better than the world. We aren’t Christians because we’re good. We’re Christians because Jesus is good and we need His forgiveness to cover our sins. We’re Christians because Jesus has saved us and called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Peter 2:9). We’re Christians because Jesus has overcome the world.

That’s why Jesus says we have peace in Him. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We have overcome the world because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).

The devil is condemned. Jesus defeated him through His suffering, death, and resurrection. The world is condemned because it follows the one who is condemned. Christ has overcome the devil and the world, and since we are in Christ, we have overcome the devil and world (I John 5:5).

Whatever tribulations we must face in the world we can take heart that Jesus has overcome the world. As the Psalm says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Jesus has also overcome the devil. Jesus has crushed his head as prophesied already to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). The devil can rave and storm against the children of God and attack them day and night. He can and will bring tribulation on those who belong to God. He can take away earthly peace, goods, fame, child, and wife. Though these all be gone, he can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done. Our victory has been won. The Kingdom ours remaineth (from LSB 656 st. 3&4).

Jesus has stripped the devil of his power over us. Our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death for us, so the devil’s accusations against us are worthless. His lies will not deceive us because we have the truth of God’s Word. His attacks against us are in vain because tribulation will not separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35).

We have this comfort and boast: that the will and purpose of the devil and the world shall and must fail and come to nothing, no matter how proud, secure, and powerful they think they are, because they oppose the will and purpose of God (LC III.3). The will and purpose of God are your salvation (I Tim. 2:4). The will and purpose of God are your eternal life.

To this end, God has given you His Word and the holy Supper of His Son’s body and blood. With these gifts from heaven He will strengthen you through all your tribulations. With these gifts He is ever with you and protects you from the devil, the world, and even your own sinful inclinations. He’s also promised you an end to all your tribulations when you leave this world. So take heart. In Christ, you have overcome the world. In Christ, you have overcome the devil. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter based on John 16:12-22

Dear Church of God called to faith by the Holy Spirit: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Without the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is a closed book to us. If the Holy Spirit does not teach us the Word, we cannot understand the Word. If the Holy Spirit does not open our eyes and reveal God’s truth to us, the Word will seem like empty riddles and stories to us.

The disciples did not understand Jesus’ figure of speech when He told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” To them it just sounded like some sort of riddle.

Jesus had told them the same thing in clearer words as well. He taught His disciples saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22) He had told them, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” (Luke 9:44) Jesus had further told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:31-33) Surely Jesus was so clear with His words that the disciples understood Him, right? No, they didn’t.

Scripture records that the disciples “did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it.” (Luke 9:45) And “they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Luke 18:34) They did not understand that it was God’s plan that Jesus would die for their sins and the sins of the whole world. They didn’t understand even though Jesus told them that He would die and rise again.

This brings us back to our text where Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth of God’s Word. Only the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to the truth.

This is what we confess when we say, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.” (SC II.3)

I cannot by my own reason believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. My reason responds to all of God’s promises by saying, “That cannot be.” God says, “Baptism saves” and my reason says, “That cannot be.” God says, “Absolution forgives your sins” and my reason says, “That cannot be.” God says, “The Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ true body and blood given for the forgiveness of your sins” and once again my reason says, “That cannot be.” That’s why I cannot by my own reason believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.

I cannot by my own strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. My strength responds to all of God’s promises by saying, “I don’t need it.” God says, “You are evil from conception (Ps. 51:5), receive my forgiveness” and my strength says, “No, I’m pretty good. I don’t need it.” God says, “You are by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3), receive my Absolution” and my strength says, “I’m not so bad, I don’t need it.” God says, “By your sinful nature you are dead in your trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), receive life in Jesus’ body and blood” and my strength says, “I feel pretty alive. I don’t need it.” That’s why I cannot by my own strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.

We only come to Jesus when the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, and sanctifies us in the true faith. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel is foolishness to us (I Cor. 1:18). Without the Holy Spirit, the Gospel seems ridiculous to us.

This is why Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just ascend into heaven to make room for the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascended into heaven to go to the Father. He ascended in order to show the glory of the risen Christ.

If Jesus had not ascended into heaven, the disciples might have thought that life would returned to normal; back to what it was before Jesus died; back to suffering and humiliation. But after the sacrifice was complete; after His suffering and death were accomplished and His state of humiliation ended, Jesus ascended into glory.

Jesus ascended to prepare a place for us, so that we can also take comfort in His promises of new life after death. Not the same old life, but new and eternal life in glory. Just as Jesus didn’t rise to the same life He lived before His death, so we will not rise to the same life we live now.

Jesus ascended into heaven but He didn’t abandon us or leave us as orphans. He sent the Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel, enlighten us with His gifts, and sanctify and keep us in the true faith. He sent the Holy Spirit to daily and richly forgive our sins and the sins of all believers. He does this through His Word and through the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus promised to be with us until the end of the age, and so He is. He is present in His Word. He is even physically present in His body and blood so that we can cling to Him in faith and each one of us can say with certainty, “My sins are forgiven by Jesus’ body and blood.”

The promises of God are sure and certain even if we cannot fully comprehend them with our reason and strength. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes through His Word to trust His promises because those promises depend on God’s reason and strength, not ours.

The Holy Spirit calls us to faith, and also keeps us in the faith. Since the Holy Spirit keeps us in the faith, our faith will not falter even in the face of death. Thus we can all say with firm faith: On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Safe in Jesus’ Hand

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter based on John 10:22-30

Dear sheep who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sheep lying down in green pastures beside still waters. No predators around; no worries or fears; no needs as there’s lots to eat and drink. The sheep harmoniously and leisurely eat and sleep. The shepherd carries a baby lamb and the big sheep make room for the little ones by the quiet waters. This is an image of peace and tranquillity from Psalm 23 and what we normally picture in our minds when we think about Jesus the Good Shepherd and us as His sheep.

It certainly is the perfect image of how things should be, but unfortunately, it is an image far from our current reality. While Jesus certainly does lead us to green pastures and still waters, we don’t always want to follow Him. We think we know where the better pastures are. Instead of eating the nutritious food He provides in His Word and Supper, we’d rather eat the junk food of emotionalism and enthusiasm. Emotionalism is following our feelings – doing what we want, what we feel to be best. It is following our hearts instead of God’s Word. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, is seeking God apart from His Word and sacraments. Enthusiasm is believing that God speaks to us apart from the Bible. Because we are sinful, we are often tempted to follow our feelings and senses of spirituality rather than hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice because we don’t like everything He says. We don’t care to be fed and nourished by the Good Shepherd except maybe the bare minimum.

And we don’t get along with the other sheep. We speak evil of them behind their backs. We look down on those who are hurt or injured by their sin and we drive them away from the Good Shepherd. We turn our backs to those who are wandering away instead of helping them and encouraging them to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. We turn a blind eye to those sheep who are about to be consumed by wolves because we don’t want the discomfort of confronting them.

This is why we need a Good Shepherd. A shepherd that continues to nourish and feed us even when we don’t think it’s all that important. A shepherd that forgives our failures. A shepherd that goes after the wandering sheep to bring them back to the fold.

There are sheep that do not hear the Good Shepherd’s voice or follow Him. Jesus says that those sheep do not believe because they are not part of His flock. But Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” We know the voice of the Good Shepherd. We hear His voice in His Word and nowhere else. We know His voice when it calls us to turn from sin and follow Him. We know His voice when He says He knows us.

It might be a bit hard to believe that Jesus knows each one of us. After all, there are billions of people in the world. Can Jesus really know me very well personally? God’s Word tells us yes, He can and He does. He knows everything about us. He knows when we sit down and when we rise up. He knows our thoughts (Ps. 139:2). He knows how many hairs we have on our heads (Matt. 10:30). That’s not even an important detail and it changes every few minutes, yet Jesus knows it, because He knows us, and we belong to Him.

Jesus knowing us, knowing our very thoughts, can seem distressing. That means He knows all of our ugly, shameful, disgusting sins. He knows how sinful our thoughts are, even those thoughts we manage to hide from others. But our sinful thoughts are not a surprise to Jesus. Jesus knew our thoughts even before He came to die for us. In fact, our ugly, shameful, disgusting sins are the reason that Jesus came to earth. Jesus came to live a perfect life without any sins – not even one sinful thought. Jesus came to fulfil the Law of God that we cannot fulfil. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins of thought, word, and deed without ever even having a single begrudging thought towards us.

Yes, Jesus knows each one of us, and despite our sins He calls us His sheep. And He says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus gives you eternal life. You will never perish; you will live forever. No one will snatch you out of His hand.

This last point is crucial to understand. If it was up to us to hear the voice of Jesus, we would never listen. If it was up to us to follow Jesus, we would all be lost. If it was up to us to stay in Jesus’ hand, we wouldn’t remain there at all. But it is not we who hold onto Jesus, it is Jesus who holds onto us. Because He holds onto us, He says no one can snatch us out of His hand. No one and nothing can.

This means that sin cannot snatch us out of Jesus’ hand. This world cannot snatch us out of Jesus’ hand. The devil is powerless to snatch us from Jesus no matter how much he raves and storms. We confess with Saint Paul, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39) No one and nothing can snatch you from Jesus’ hand.

You belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. That is why you hear His voice and follow Him. That is why Jesus has again called you here today to hear His voice. He once again teaches you through His Word. He will once again feed you and nourish you with His true body and blood to forgive you all of your sins and strengthen you to continue hearing His voice and following Him.

Jesus has brought you into His flock, that is why you hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus knows you. He continues to strengthen you through His Word and Holy Supper to crush your desire to follow your feelings and to turn you away from seeking Him anywhere except in His Word and sacraments where He has promised to be found. Jesus has snatched you from your sins and futile ways and He will not let go of you.

No one will snatch you out of Jesus’ hand. The world and the devil cannot make Jesus let go of you. Your ugly, shameful, disgusting sins cannot make Jesus let go of you. Not even the nails driven through His hands could make Him let go of you. You are Jesus’ sheep, so He promises you that no one will snatch you out of His hand, and He gives you eternal life, and you will never perish. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Fishing with Jesus

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter based on John 21:1-14

Dear people for whom God provides: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“I am going fishing,” said Simon Peter. He didn’t quite know what else to do. Peter had spent three years with Jesus, during which time Jesus provided for his needs and the needs of the other disciples. The disciples had followed Jesus as He travelled around healing the sick, raising the dead, and teaching the crowds about the kingdom of God. They had been fed by Him miraculously, and they had been fed by the many people who showed hospitality to Jesus, inviting Him, and thus also His disciples, into their homes.

Jesus was no longer visibly with them as He had been. He had risen from the dead and had appeared to them twice, but He wasn’t with them so that they could see Him. He wasn’t walking around with them teaching them.

The disciples must have questioned if Jesus would still provide for them. If Jesus wouldn’t be around to miraculously provide food, would they now go hungry? If Jesus wasn’t around visibly to get invited into homes, would people still invite the disciples into their homes? Would Jesus in fact be with them at all, since they couldn’t see Him?

Earlier, when Jesus had made His twelve disciples into apostles, He sent them out saying, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.” (Luke 9:3-4) Jesus promised His apostles that He would take care of them through the people to whom they preached. Later, Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They answered, “Nothing.” (Luke 22:35) They had no needs for which Jesus did not provide. Even though they had nothing with them, Jesus took care of them through His people.

  However, then Jesus said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36) So was this the new situation for the disciples now? Did they now have to take care of themselves and fend for themselves?

Well, they tried taking care of themselves. They went fishing. Not just for recreation and enjoyment, but to provide food for themselves and their families.

They spent the whole night out on the Sea of Tiberias, thus it is clear it was not just fishing for fun. They had been professional fishermen before Jesus called them to follow Him. They knew the best places to fish, the best methods to fish, and the best times to fish. But they caught nothing. Despite their best efforts, they had nothing to show for it. They were unable to take care of themselves.

Following Jesus’ Word, however, the disciples had a miraculous catch of fish. They caught so many large fish simply from throwing their net into the water that they counted the fish and recorded it for us to read. They caught 153 large fish, all because of Jesus’ powerful Word.

This event is not about catching fish, however. It’s not Jesus teaching the disciples how to be better fishermen or showing them where the fish are. It’s about Jesus continuing to provide for the needs of His people, even if they cannot see Him. Recall, the disciples did not know it was Jesus when He called out to them from the shore. They didn’t realize it was Him until after their big catch of large fish.

When the disciples got to shore, they saw that Jesus already had a charcoal fire going with fish on it and some bread. Whether Jesus provided this miraculously or not is an interesting question to which we don’t have an answer, but the point is that God does provide.

God takes care of spiritual needs first and foremost, but He also provides us all that we need to support this body and life. Sometimes it is hard to see. When doubts arise and suffering comes; when needs arise that we can’t see how to fulfil, we may well wonder if we will go hungry. We may well wonder if Jesus is with us at all since we can’t see Him.

As surely as Jesus was with His apostles even though they couldn’t see Him, so He is with us. As surely as Jesus provided for the needs of the apostles, so He has and will continue to provide for our needs. After all, Jesus has given us the same promise He gave to the apostles: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He has promised that as He provides even for the birds of the air, so He will provide all our needs, who are after all of greater value to Him than birds (Matt. 6:26).

Undoubtedly, with the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus was also teaching His apostles something more than just that He would continue to provide for their physical needs. Jesus had called them to be fishers of men. Jesus had sent them to baptize, preach His Word, and forgive sins. But not everyone wants to be baptized. Not everyone wants to hear God’s Word. Not everyone thinks they have sins that need to be forgiven. This can lead to the temptation to change tactics to increase success.

Preaching is in some ways like fishing. Sometimes a preacher may fish all night and catch nothing. He might be tempted to change His fishing strategy – maybe a bigger net will do the trick; maybe a bigger boat will do the trick; maybe some new lures will do the trick.

Maybe he’ll add more razzle dazzle to Sunday mornings. Get rid of the liturgy and the liturgist and get some entertainment. Get some catchy beats and a great big screen. Put some singers up front and have a version of American Idol – that’ll bring in the crowds. Don’t preach the Law that kills or the Gospel that makes alive, instead talk about things that make people feel good about themselves – that’s what people really want to hear.

            But this is all wrong. The focus with all of this is on us and what we do. It completely ignores the power of Christ’s Word. It completely ignores the effectiveness of the sacraments. It completely ignores the mandate of Christ, which is to baptize and teach all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:20).

We don’t need attractions or razzle dazzle to draw people into the church. The power is in the Word of God and the sacraments. We don’t need to move away from God’s Word, we need to cling to it more.

Sometimes to us, God’s Word and sacraments might not feel so powerful. There are many congregations that are shrinking and have plummeting attendance. Some are closing. All are struggling in one way or another.

But it is Christ’s Word which fills the net. It is the Holy Spirit who calls and gathers people into the church by giving faith to believe that Jesus died for their sins. If there is to be any growth in the church, it must be given by God (I Cor. 3:6-7).

If hearers don’t want to be baptized, don’t want to hear God’s Word, and don’t think they need forgiveness, it doesn’t mean that preachers should stop preaching these things. Scripture tells us that a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (II Tim. 4:3-4). This does not mean that the church should turn away from God’s Word and start teaching myths because that’s what people want to hear. The church should continue to preach Christ crucified, because that is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16)

The miraculous catch of fish was to teach the disciples that it is the Word of God that has power. Jesus taught the disciples that He would provide for all of their physical needs, but even more that as they would go fishing for men, it would be His Word that brings people into the net of the church.

This same lesson is for us. God will provide for our physical needs, and He will also provide for our spiritual needs. Let us not despair if people don’t want to hear God’s Word or if they reject it. Let us not be gloomy if our church attendance is down while people flock to places where they can hear what their itching ears want to hear. But let us cling to God’s Word and His sacraments. They are our only hope for salvation. Even if we’ve fished all night and caught nothing, at Jesus Word, we will drop the net on the right side of the boat, and let His Word catch what it will. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Peace Be With You

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter based on John 20:19-31

Dear disciples who have peace: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Peace be with you.” These are Jesus’ first words to His disciples after His resurrection. The disciples had abandoned Him. They had fled when the going got tough. One of them had denied Him verbally, but they all denied Him by their actions. They did not believe the women’s words that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas gets a bad rap and we call him “doubting Thomas,” but all the disciples doubted. They had all lost their faith in Jesus and were hiding behind locked doors out of fear. And Jesus showed up in their locked room and said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus did not come to them to berate them. He didn’t come in anger and demand explanations from the disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus came to the disciples to give them peace. He came to calm the turmoil going on in their hearts. He came to them to comfort them in their fear and sorrow. He came to show Himself truly to be alive.

Jesus showed them His wounds – the wounds by which He earned them peace. He proved to them that He is bodily, physically risen from the dead. Jesus showed them His wounds by which they are healed and have peace with God.

The disciples have peace with God because Jesus faced the wrath of God for them. Jesus drank the cup of the wrath of God in their place. The anger of God was all directed at Jesus, not the disciples, so the disciples have peace.

If you are still looking at God as an angry judge, you’re still looking at Him wrong. If you expect God’s wrath to be poured out on you after you have fallen into sin, you still have the wrong picture of God in your mind. Jesus came to His disciples who had miserably failed, and He did not come to them in anger or wrath. He came with peace. “Peace be with you.”

This is not to say that God does not discipline His children. In fact, Scripture tells us the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives (Prov. 3:11-12; also cited Heb. 12:5-6). Scripture tells us that those who are left without discipline are illegitimate children and not sons (Heb. 12:8).

God’s discipline of His children is not to punish us, but is to correct us and is for our good. God’s discipline quenches our sinful desires and kills the flesh. His discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness as it turns us away from our sins and gives us peace through the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 12:11). His discipline is not the same as pouring out His anger and wrath on us even though it is painful rather than pleasant. His discipline is an act of love, just as an earthly father disciplines his child out of love for the good of his dear child. God the Father’s anger was poured out on Jesus, so we will never face the anger of God over our sin.

Jesus’ first order of business after giving the disciples peace was to send them to give that peace to others. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Jesus sent the disciples to forgive sins, thus giving peace, because there is peace in every heart that has received the forgiveness of sins.

And do not misunderstand withholding forgiveness to be out of anger or wrath. This too is done out of love. Withholding forgiveness from someone living in sin is for the purpose of turning them away from their sin. Jesus commands forgiveness to be withheld, not because He is angry or wants to send sinners to hell, but because He wants sinners to turn from their sin and receive forgiveness. Jesus wants sinners to have peace.

The disciples understood the need for peace – they themselves had been in desperate need. They were in hiding behind locked doors out of fear right at the moment Jesus made them apostles by sending them to forgive sins. They were cowering without faith one minute, and being sent by Jesus to forgive sins the next minute.

The comfort of this is that absolving sins isn’t effective because the minister has great, strong faith. Absolving sin is effective because Jesus sends His ministers to forgive sins. Jesus tells His ministers to absolve repentant sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent. It has nothing to do with the person of the minister himself – it is the command of Christ, that is why it is just as valid and certain even in heaven as if our dear Lord dealt with us Himself (SC V). Jesus commands it, and so it is, even if your minister just came from cowering in fear and doubt behind locked doors.

Of course the peace that Jesus gave to His apostles meant that they did not stay in hiding behind locked doors. The peace Jesus gave them meant that they were no longer in fear for their lives. In fact, the apostles went into the Temple to preach the resurrection of Jesus to exactly those Jews from whom they had been hiding.

The book of Acts (4:1-22) tells us that because Peter and John preached in Jesus the resurrection of the dead, the exact same council which had condemned Jesus for blasphemy and brought Him to Pilate for crucifixion had Peter and John arrested. Annas and Caiaphas and the council threatened them and told them to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. The apostles were thrown into jail since they refused to stop (Acts 5:17-18), but an angel of the Lord released them from prison during the night, and they went right back into the Temple to teach.In response to the threats of the council they simply responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

The disciples were no longer afraid. In the face of threats and opposition, they only prayed for more boldness to keep preaching the peace of God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because of the peace that Jesus had given them, they were not afraid of death. Jesus had proved to them and to all of us that He is stronger than death. He has defeated death by His resurrection. We do not have to fear death. Death is but a slumber from which Christ will awaken us.

You have peace. You have peace in spite of illness and death. You have peace in spite of the endless wars the world wages. You have peace in spite of your sin and you have peace in spite of the war waging within your heart. You even have peace in spite of receiving God’s discipline.

You have peace because Jesus was wounded for your transgressions. You have peace because Jesus rose from the dead and has promised you that you too will rise. You have peace because Jesus still sends His ministers in His stead and by His command to forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.