I believe that today’s sermon was much better than Wednesday’s. Why? See the Wordle:
Although once again, the largest word is not our Lord’s name, it is clear that the focus is on the peace given by Jesus. And that’s what we need to hear.
Read the whole thing, if you like, after the jump
A beautiful morning on vacation, a quiet room with a view of mountains, a cup of coffee or tea. Ahh peace. A quiet evening, the air so still you can almost hear the sun setting, it’s yellow rays turning to orange and red and pink. The sky slowly getting darker. Peace. Enjoying a hike though the mountains, listening to birds and the bubbling streams. Peaceful. A lazy day, no plans at all, just quietly relaxing, reading a book, or doing a crossword, watching your favorite old shows on DVD, or just watching the world go by. Peaceful. All of these are wonderful first article gifts. Peace, as the world gives it. But that peace can only go so far.
Peace in the world can not take away the sadness of losing a loved one. Which is what the disciples had. They had a quiet evening, locked in a room. Quiet, but not peaceful. They were afraid of what might happen. Jesus had been killed. They might be next. Now, there were reports of Jesus body gone, and some of the women had reported actually seeing Jesus. The quiet in that upper room was anything but peaceful. It was so quiet that every little noise was a loud BANG! The floor creaks. Is it because someone is coming up the stairs? People walk by outside talking. Are they from the temple guards? Peace doesn’t necessarily mean quiet. It’s quiet in that room. It’s not peaceful.
Suddenly, Jesus appears to them.
“Peace be with you.” They need peace. They need comforting. After everything that has happened. Jesus appearing is just what they hoped for, but peace it did not bring. Who is that? Jesus? How? Are we going crazy? Is this come kind of trick? “Peace be with you.”
This is not a trick. This is the Prince of peace, giving the disciples true peace. As he told them before he went to his death, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives to you, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
That’s the peace that Jesus gives to the disciples. Not worldly peace. Not peace and quiet kind of peace. Not peaceful sunset kind of peace. That kind of peace has its place. It can offer rest and relaxation from worldly problems. But it can not offer peace that goes beyond this world. It can not offer peace when facing death, or when coping with death. The world can not give that sort of peace. Oh it tries. It offers all sorts of platitudes. But those platitudes just hide the real problem. The real problem, as the disciples had discovered so horribly, is death. In their case, Jesus death. Jesus brutal and shameful death. A death that could come to them any moment – not just on the general principle of their own mortality, but specifically because they are followers of Jesus. The leaders want this movement crushed, and they’ve shown that they will kill to do that. And now, the one who protected them, the one who drew the crowds that made it impossible to arrest them, is gone. They are on their own, on the run. Hiding in an upper room with the doors locked.
They need, not worldly peace, but peace that goes beyond this world. The peace that passes all understanding kind of peace. They need the peace that only Jesus can give.
And so he gives it to them. He comes and stands among them – “look, I am not dead as you supposed. I am living. I have gone through death, past the things of this world, and now stand among you, so when I say ‘peace be with you,’ when I say I give a peace that is not as the world gives, I know what I am talking about.”
Then he breathes on them, and gives them the Holy Spirit. Again, a promise given before he was crucified. That the Holy Spirit, the comforter would come to them. And so they are comforted and given peace. Jesus is not dead. Death has no dominion over him. More than peace, they are also given power. A power that only God has. A power that ties directly to the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit. It is the power to forgive sins. Jesus, the son of God gives to his apostles, and therefore to his one holy Christian and apostolic church, the authority to forgive sins. Not just before the eyes of the world, but before God himself. If you forgive any one his sins, they are forgiven him. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is a power that is sorely needed by sinners. Because sinners face eternity. That is to say, you face death.
Not as the disciples did, necessarily. Not in the – hiding-in-a-room-while-you-wait-for-the-authorities-to-come-and-get-you-and-kill-you sort of way. But certainly death can come at any time. And there will be a day when death is immanent. When you face eternity, when you need the peace that goes beyond the kind of peace the world can offer. You need peace with God. And that’s what Jesus gives to his holy apostles. The peace that comes from sins forgiven. The peace that God gives to his children.
And the absolute proof of this peace comes from an unlikely source – the one apostle that was not there that evening. Thomas. Who refuses to believe unless he sees and touches the Lord. He will not be taken in by the mass hysteria and delusions that currently afflict the other followers of Christ. Beginning with Mary and the women at the tomb, now even the other Ten disciples are caught up in it. But Thomas will only believe if he can touch. If he can put his finger in the wounds themselves. Only then will he believe.
And so, on the eighth day of the Resurrection, that is, today, Thomas is with the disciples. The doors are locked again. And again Jesus appears to them. Locked doors are nothing to the one who created the trees the make the door. Jesus merely goes through. He appears. Thomas touches. This is no ghost. This is really death undone. This is the proof of the salvation that Jesus promises. This is proof that the forgiveness is real. And so, the peace is real. Thomas finds his peace in the wounds of Jesus. A peace that takes away fear. It lasts past those few quiet moments of sunset, the few quiet times when we find earthly peace. This peace is a peace that can not be taken away. Peace with God that lasts through storm and tempest. Through sound and fury. Even through death and decay. The wounds of Jesus stand as a testament to the victory he has won over death. They are where you find your rest. They are where you find pardon. The wounds of Jesus are where you find true peace.
Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven. Your Lord is Risen, and can die no more. You are at peace with God.