PEACE BE WITH YOU!
John 20:19-31 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, dear Christian friends,
I am at peace! Are you?
“Pastor, how can you say that? Have you been living under a rock for the past month? Have you missed the daily death toll caused by the coronavirus? Have you overlooked the fact that moms and dads have now all become home-schooling parents and all kids are home-bound with ‘cabin fever’ and tensions are rising? Have you forgotten about the countless sick people or unemployed people or soon-to-be unemployed people or depressed people or lonely people now in our homes due to the “shelter-at-home” directives?”
No, I haven’t missed, overlooked, or forgotten these people and these problems. Yes, in spite of that, I still have peace! Do you?
Is it because the numbers detailing deaths and new cases of sickness with COVID-19 are declining and not rising? Is it because the curve has flattened? Is it because of all the talk this week of possibly re-opening things instead of extending the shutdowns?
All those things are awesome, but not the reason for my peace. How about you?
My peace cannot come from things that may change with the physical or financial health of America. If so, my peace may go away and never come back. My peace is not found in that everything is right with this world. If it was, I wouldn’t have peace and neither would you.
My peace comes from my Savior and what he did for me. My peace comes from his Word and what he says to me. My peace comes from my baptism and what it means to me. My peace comes from the Lord’s Supper and what it gives me. This peace does not depend on falling death tolls or rising employment figures.
Find your peace— as Peter, James and John did, as Thomas did, as the female friends of Jesus did— in the words Jesus spoke to them in this portion of Scripture. Jesus said to them in their time of depression and despair, PEACE BE WITH YOU! In our times of depression and despair— at any time— he says the same to you and to me, PEACE BE WITH YOU!
On that first Easter evening, the disciples were “sheltering at home”, similar to what we are going through right now in that it was best to “stay home, stay safe”. As far as I know there was not a worldwide epidemic going on, but there were many other problems causing them to meet with the doors locked.
As our text tells us, one reason for them to self-quarantine was for fear of the Jews. We might want to add on “for fear of the Romans” as well. Those who had put Jesus on trial, punished him, placed him on a cross and positioned guards around his tomb would not be pleased that his body was gone and the talk around town was that he had been raised from the dead. These disciples, men and women alike, would have been thought as likely accomplices to whatever happened to his body and their freedom or their lives may have been in danger. They were lacking peace.
These disciples had just seen their best friend— a kind, gentle, humble, miracle-working, good news message-delivering companion— die a horrible, horrifying death three days before. The ghastly scenes were probably still haunting them. They were lacking peace.
All of these disciples had deserted Jesus in his time of need. Soldiers carrying swords and clubs, one of their own betraying their friend to the enemy, fear for their own health and welfare caused them to go back on their promise to remain by Jesus’ side. They most likely were now victimized by thoughts of guilt and “what if I only.…” They were lacking peace.
So, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” These words were the necessary antidote to their emotional and spiritual sickness. So much so that Jesus repeated them.
“Peace be with you!” “Peace, John, even though you ran away from me when you said you would not. Peace, Peter, even though you deserted me when you promised you would not. Peace, James, Mary, and all the others who ever doubted I would do what I said I would do.”
Because Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came, the others needed to tell him what they had seen and heard so Thomas could have the same peace they had in knowing Jesus was no longer dead, but alive. This was probably their first opportunity to reveal this amazing truth to someone else and follow through on Jesus’ instruction: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Along with the words, “We have seen the Lord!”, you can imagine the disciples saying to Thomas, “We have peace. Do you?”
But Thomas would not believe. “How can you be at peace when so much is going wrong right now? Why can you be at peace when we have all been guilty of deserting Jesus? So, he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
You may not have believed me at the beginning of the sermon when I told you I am at peace. Why would I be with all going on right now? How could I be knowing all my sins against Jesus?
Like Thomas, you may not listen to someone else tell you of the peace they can have in spite of troubles, but please listen to Jesus, as Thomas did! A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Unlike Thomas and the rest of the disciples, you and I have not been able to see Jesus in flesh and blood. We have to wait until heaven for that. Yet, we can see him in the way he makes himself known to us today.
These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. With the Word of God— spoken over you at your baptism, empowering the bread and wine to be his very body and blood in Holy Communion, and open before you in your daily devotions and Bible readings— grow in your saving faith, be assured of your eternal life in heaven won for you by Jesus and find your peace in Jesus’ love and forgiveness which continues through every kind of sin around you or in you.
I’ve had doubts and fears through this month of quarantining and at many other times during my life. I know you have, too. “What can Jesus do to fix my broken relationship? Why would Jesus take the time to deal with my little problems when there are so many larger problems to address? How can Jesus forgive me for all my wrongs?”
In Jesus’ words is where you can find peace. Here is where you can know that Jesus is all-powerful to take care of this world and everything in it and all-gracious to take care of you and all your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual problems. His resurrection from the dead proves his word is true and his work of salvation is complete.
Jesus earned peace for you. Jesus gives it to you. Jesus reminds you of it again today. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
I am at peace! Are you?