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Jesus Brings Peace

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love

John 20:19-31

April 7, 2024


One week ago today, during the evening of Easter Sunday, I sat down for dinner with my family and I was extremely happy after a joyful day of 3 worship services in which we celebrated our Lord’s resurrection.  I was also at peace that night having been reminded in worship that I am a forgiven child of God through Jesus’ victory over sin and death.  I’m sure many of you felt the same way.  But on that very first Easter evening, we heard in our Gospel reading that Jesus’ disciples had a very different experience.  In the opening verse of our text it says they were afraid as most of them were huddled together in a room behind locked doors.  Just imagine feeling that way at the end of the day on Easter.  Wouldn’t that seem strange?  But it certainly made sense based on the events that had taken place over that weekend.

The death of Jesus on Good Friday had been an awful experience.  Judas, one of the chosen 12 who shared in the Last Supper with Jesus, betrayed Him into the hands of the authorities for money.  When Judas understood the magnitude of his betrayal, he took his own life.  Peter had denied 3 times that he ever knew Jesus when asked by a young girl.  Imagine how guilty he must have felt after he had promised Jesus that he would never fall away and would even die for Jesus.  The other disciples had all abandoned Jesus out of fear in His hour of need as He hung on the cross, and I’m sure they all felt like failures.  Maybe the disciple, Thomas, was feeling more guilty than any of them as he was not with the other 10 who were huddled together in a room on Easter evening.  Maybe he wanted to be by himself to mourn over his failures.  We don’t know.

Not only did the disciples lose a loving understanding friend, but they had lost their leader as well.  With Jesus’ humiliating defeat on Friday, all they had lived for and hoped for had come to an end right before their eyes.  Remember, these men had left everything to follow Jesus – their professions, their trades, and their livelihoods.  Can you imagine the disciples having to possibly face the embarrassment, the anger, and the mocking of their family and friends for having left everything to follow Jesus now that He was dead?  I wonder if anyone said to them on Saturday, “You left everything to follow that man, Jesus, and what do you have to show for it?  Nothing, he’s gone, he’s dead.  What a waste.”  As Jesus’ closest disciples, I’m sure they feared being sought by the same authorities and experiencing the same fate as Jesus in order to put this religious movement to an end once and for all.

Now they had heard from the women, who had been to the tomb in the morning, that it was empty, because Jesus had risen from the dead, but they hadn’t seen Jesus yet, so that just did not seem possible.  Dead people don’t come back to life.  A few of the disciples had verified that the tomb was empty, but that didn’t really help, because if Jesus had risen that morning then why hadn’t He contacted them by now?

As they huddled together in that room, I would guess that on the one hand they all prayed that the rumors were true, that Jesus really was alive.  But on the other hand, I would also guess that they were filled with fear that Jesus had risen.  After all, what would they say to Jesus if He were alive, knowing how they had failed Him so miserably?  Would they be able to face Him?  What would Jesus say to them?  In a sense, I think we can understand this fear.  After all, how does it make you feel at the thought of having to stand before God who knows everything about you?  He knows your internet search history with inappropriate sites and pictures, He knows the thoughts you have that do not honor Him, He knows the motives behind the things that we do that may look nice on the outside, but are actually prompted by sinful pride, arrogance, or fear.

Well, the disciples knew that feeling, because our Gospel text tells us that suddenly, without any warning, without fanfare, and without force, Jesus appears before them in the room, in spite of the locked doors and says 4 simple words: “Peace be with you.”  Amazingly He doesn’t question why they did not believe Him when He told them on 3 separate occasions that He would die, but would rise on the third day.  He doesn’t criticize them for abandoning Him.  He simply offers them words of peace – the peace of sins forgiven, peace with God – to comfort their guilt and their fears.  His words, “peace be with you,” actually make perfect sense when we remember why Jesus came into this world.  Recall the announcement that the angel made on the night of Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  Jesus came to bring peace between God and sinners.  And that peace required Jesus to die on a cross as punishment for our sins.  While the memories of our past sins may still remain with us, because of what Jesus has done God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).  Isn’t that amazing, the God who knows all things has chosen not to remember our sins.  They’re gone, forgotten forever.

That is the peace that Jesus announced to His disciples on Easter evening, assuring them that they had nothing to fear from him – their sins were forgiven.  That is the peace that Jesus announces to us, assuring us that we have nothing to fear as we stand before Jesus – our sins are forgiven.  And that is the peace that Jesus wants His disciples and all of us to share with others.  Our text tells us after Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” He goes on to say, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  Now that’s quite a challenge.  Jesus came into this world loving, nurturing, and teaching everyone He met, and He gave His life to forgive everyone of their sins.  Now Jesus commissions His disciples and all of us to carry on with His work.  But they don’t go out alone, and neither do we.  Out text tells us that Jesus breathed His Holy Spirit on them to strengthen and guide them, and in doing so what He is telling them and all of us is, “I want you to go out there and reveal a loving God to a hostile world as I did.  I want you to speak truthful words to a deceitful generation as I did.  I want you to wash the feet of those who sin against you and to speak as witnesses of eternal life in the face of certain death.  In other words, I want you to love each other as I have loved you.”  That doesn’t mean Jesus gave them the kind of peace that offers an absence of challenges or difficulties.  Neither did He imply that His peace provides a quiet weekend away from the troubles of daily life.  If anything, the peace of Christ is a gift of assurance that says, “I am with you in the midst of your joys and in the midst of your struggles.”

So what does it mean for us to “share the peace of the Lord” with each other, that we do here every Sunday?  First and foremost, it is a sign of forgiveness.  The disciples really needed to hear that forgiveness; but also recall that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared.  When the disciples later told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas did not believe it.  So, eight days later, when Thomas was with the disciples, Jesus appeared to them again.  And again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” so that Thomas could be comforted and know that he was forgiven, just like the others.

Note also that as soon as Jesus shared His peace with the disciples as a sign of forgiveness, He then went on to say, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23).  Jesus charged His people and all of us to forgive, not because it’s easy – it certainly isn’t – but because we are witnesses of a merciful God whose very nature is to forgive.

“Peace be with you.”  That is God’s Word and it is our Lord’s gift to all of us this morning as we face a new week, deal with our daily challenges, and cope with the endless routines of everyday life.  Maybe you know someone who needs to hear those words – someone who is struggling or hurting or afraid.  Jesus sends us into the world as He was sent: to forgive sins in His name and to reveal that the God who created us still lives, He loves us unconditionally, and He will fill us with His peace.  What a privilege and joyful responsibility God gives to us.  May God’s peace comfort you as you encounter Him this week.

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