Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we bask in the afterglow of Your Easter victory, we are at peace. You have made peace with God on our behalf and as a result we also have peace with You. Yes, You are our peace. For You have set our hearts free from fear, doubt, and that sinking feeling of guilt. Lord, today we thank You for truly being our Prince of Peace. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE PRINCE OF PEACE!
TEXT: John 20: 19-31
Dearly Beloved Seekers of Lasting Peace:
There is an old legend which speaks of the holy family journeying to Egypt to escape the evil King Herod. The legend says that as they went through a small grove of trees, all those trees bowed down to the baby Jesus except one. The aspen tree was just too proud to bow to the infant King. So, Jesus cursed it just He did later to that unfruitful fig tree. At the sound of His words the aspen began to tremble through all its leaves, and it hasn’t ceased doing so to this very day!
Well, that’s just a story that someone concocted to explain the nature of the quaking aspen. But it does tell us a lot about how previous generations of Christians viewed Christ and the peace that He brings. It certainly is true that at His words of judgement even demons quake, and at His word of peace even feverish souls are calmed. That’s because God’s Word is not just informational, it’s also transportational. His word is the vehicle through which He sends the Holy Spirit, the Comforter from on high. We see that in our lesson when He instituted among the disciples the office of the keys. He breathed on them and spoke to them simultaneously: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Looking at this lesson earlier this week, one word kept jumping out at me. It was that little word: peace. And so today I want to key in on the truth that:
PEACE BRINGS FAITH AND FAITH BRINGS PEACE
Last week we touched on the despondency of the disciples in view of Christ’s death. The women going to the tomb went there with heavy hearts. Peter was off sulking because he felt like a traitor—and he was! The rest of the disciples also felt terribly guilty over what had taken place. After all, they had all run away when Jesus needed them the most. But, when Jesus arose from the dead, either He or one of His angels sought out the women, Mary Magdalene, Peter, those two disciples headed for Emmaus, and now we also see Him appearing to the assembled group.
The doors are locked. They all fear for their safety. Peter has just arrived along with Luke and Cleopas who ran back from Emmaus. Those three were just telling the others about how Jesus had appeared to them when suddenly “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
The first word out of Christ’s mouth was: “Peace.” Why? Because only God’s peace could comfort their hurting consciences. Only God’s peace could heal their inner scars, the scars of sin on their hearts. When Christ said those words He was actually giving them Godly peace. He was implanting it in their hearts once more. And they responded with faith! Their joy was a manifestation of their renewed faith in the resurrected Savior. Yes, peace brings faith.
It is the same for you and me. Let’s examine the nature of Godly peace. Where does it come from? God. And what is its nature? Forgiveness. Christ had forgiven all their sins and ours on the cross. He had paid for them all—every denial, every betrayal, every attempt by humans to fear their fate. So, by saying: “Peace be with you!” Jesus was actually pronouncing a gospel-based blessing upon them. We know that Christ’s words are powerful—remember how the fig tree withered and died at His curse, recall the demons that ran away when He uttered a word to cast them out. Likewise, when Christ utters words of peace—faith and love are ignited in human hearts.
The fact that Godly peace is important is seen by a couple of things that bear your attention. Note that Jesus repeats that same greeting “Peace be with you,” just before He gives them the office of the keys, thus instituting the public ministry of His word. Also, a quick perusal of a concordance reveals that the word peace is used about 150 times in the Old Testament and another 70 or so in the New Testament. All this shows us that inner peace is God’s mission to human beings. Yes, on the cross “God was in Christ reconciling (bringing peace) the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them any more.” No wonder the disciples were overjoyed! No wonder we leave with uplifted hearts each Sunday!
Of course, one disciple, Thomas, was absent that Easter evening. And when apprised of Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas would not accept the truth. Thus, he had no peace. So, a week later when they are all together, including Thomas, Christ appears again among them. And what are the first words from His mouth? “Peace be with you.” Then He singles out Thomas and tells him to touch his Savior. How does Thomas respond?–With that joyous confession: “My Lord and my God.”
Peace brings faith and faith brings peace. Once we possess the gift of God’s peace, once we’re baptized, once we commune, once we hear the message of the gospel—His peace works faith within. And then that Godly faith causes us to confess, to trust, to have confidence that “all things will work for the good to those who love God.” That’s the point of our lesson. That’s the truth we all need to take home.
Some of the most sublime words in all the Bible are: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Who is Jesus talking about there? He’s referring to us. He conveys a special blessing on those of us who haven’t seen His resurrected body. We usually think that the disciples were more blest than us. Not true! We’re more blest than they are according to the point of comparison here. How is this possible? We don’t have the physical body of Christ before us. But we do have His word—the same word He uttered to those hurting souls in that Upper Room—“Peace be with you!” And it is through such words of the gospel that Christ brings us peace and faith which in turn leads to inner solace.
The standard greeting at the beginning of each sermon is: “Grace and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!” Those words are taken verbatim from various epistle greetings penned by St. Paul under God’s inspiration. Those words have the power to uplift you because Christ already has on the cross. They have the power to heal scars because Christ already did so when He arose from the tomb. And they have the power to make you into a better human being because they bring faith which in turn leads to even more confident peace in His mercy. So, don’t quake like the aspen when standing in God’s presence. No, be at peace, remembering above all else that: He is at peace with you! Amen