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.