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The Risen Lord Gives His Church Peace

Sermon Theme: A Real Resurrection Gives Powerful Peace

Jesus’ saving love drives away fear. His faithful promises dispel our doubts. There’s plenty of uncertainty in the world around us, but based on John 20:19-31, this rock-solid truth on which we can stand is: “A Real Resurrection Brings Powerful Peace!”

It might seem like an awkward sight – a person taking a butcher knife and attempting to cut through a bowling ball – until you realize that you are watching a clip from the hit TV show called “Is It Cake?” Have you seen this show? Cake bakers are challenged to bake a cake that looks like an everyday object. Then their creation is put out a pedestal along with 4 objects that really are everyday objects. A panel of judges is challenged to determine which of the objects are real and which one is cake!

It’s an entertaining show with very little riding on it. If the bakers are able to trick the panel, then they win some money and move on to the next round. If the panel is unable to spot the fake – or in this case, the cake – they are a little embarrassed but it’s mostly a pat on the back and a “Compliments to the Chef!” for the skill that they have to be able to make such a convincing looking cake.

In the real world, determining what is real and what is fake is significantly more important. If you sell a bike for $800 and a week later try to spend one of those crisp $100 bills that you were given, but it’s thrown back into you face because it’s counterfeit, you’d be pretty mad. Now your bike is gone and you have nothing to show for it! If you spent $5000 for a designer watch and then a year later to take it to be cleaned and then are told it’s a fake and actually the cleaning will cost more than the watch is actually worth, that’s quite a financial hit you’ve just taken. It’s important to determine what is real and what is fake.

The disciples thought that they had just bought a fake. They had spent 3 years following Jesus, listening to him, serving him. They were promised freedom and deliverance. But now those dreams were dead. Those dreams were dead, because Jesus was dead. “How could we have been so foolish as to fall for his lies?” How could we have thought that he was the Messiah?” “How could we have gone “all-in” so easily on a fake?”

And then you throw this on top of all that embarrassment and disappointment: “In the process of following Jesus, we’ve now angered the Romans and the Jews. We’ve put ourselves on the wrong side of this! Everyone is out to get us now!”

And those are just the emotions from Friday and Saturday. Things get even more complicated on Sunday! Now there were reports coming in that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. The women had seen the stone rolled away and had spoken to two angels. Peter and John saw an empty tomb but weren’t sure what to make of it. Mary Magdalene was claiming to have spoken to Jesus! Just as they were all sharing their stories and trying to figure it all out, there was a knock at the door. It was two out-of-breath disciples. They had just run 7 miles back to Jerusalem from their home in Emmaus. They had walked and talked and eaten with a stranger, and then for a moment their eyes were open to see that he was no stranger at all! It was Jesus! And then the next moment, Jesus had disappeared! “What in all the world was going on?”

And it’s into that thick fog of fear and doubt, of frustration, confusion, and bewilderment that the Light of the World shines. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

 And with a word he drove that thick cloud out of their minds. His light shone through and chased away their darkness. Peace! This Hebrew word of greeting is shalom. Used like our “Hi!” or “How’s it going?” it means “well-being” or “health and safety.” It is the well-intentioned wish for someone – a prayer that there be “order” in their lives. Shalom was a greeting they had given and received a million times – but this time it “hit different!” Shalom was so much richer coming from these lips – these lips which had comforted them so many times in the past, these lips which had built them up with his powerful promises, these lips which had spoken nothing but love, those lips which were parched on the cross and which it seemed had spoken their last. Those were the lips that spoke! Into all that chaos, Jesus spoke order. Into all that confusion, Jesus spoke clarity. Into all that fear, Jesus spoke peace! After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 If it wasn’t real – that Jesus was their Savior, that he would conquer their enemies, that he was sent from the Father, that they would have forgiveness and life in his name – if it wasn’t real – then they had every reason to have remorse, sorrow, and dread. But it was real. And it still is! Jesus had done all those things and more. He is alive and victorious. A Real Resurrection Brings Powerful Peace.

There are so many things that Jesus could have and should have said: “What are you bozos doing locked up here? Didn’t you hear me when I told you how this would happen?” “I told you’d that on the third day I’d rise from the dead! Why weren’t you at the tomb waiting and watching? Why weren’t you there to meet me?” “How can you be so slow to catch on?” “Maybe I should get new disciples, ones who will understand?”

There are many things that Jesus could have and maybe should have said, but instead he said “Peace be with you!” And I’m so glad that he did! Because I’m right there with the disciples. And I know that you are too! There we are, locked up in fear of what our enemies might do to us. “What’s going to happen if people find out that I’m a Christian?” “How is this relationship going to change if people find out about me?” There we are – eager to follow Jesus when it’s easy, not so excited when the going gets tough! Doubts so easily creep in. “I’m not sure if it’s worth enduring ridicule, mistreatment, hardships for the sake of my faith. I’m OK with Jesus if he’s going to make my life better, but I’ll pass on the parts that sound like life might be worse.”

 And it’s right there, to people with doubting and fearful hearts that Jesus appears. Not with his harsh words of judgments. Not with words of crushing condemnation. No, Jesus comes to us and says “Peace be with you! And he shows us his hands and his side, he gives us the proof of his victory over our enemies. He points us to the promises in his Word.

 And with peace in our hearts, we can go out into the world to carry out the mission that God sends us on: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

He gives these keys to his people and asks us to apply them for the benefit of the people in our lives. He wants us to be gracious and forgiving like he is to us. He calls on us to forgive the sins that others have committed against us. And at the same time we lovingly warn those who are rejecting Christ’s love. If a person refuses to repent or is persisting in a sin, then the time might come for the binding key – to announce that a sin is not forgiven. This is a big responsibility! That’s why he doesn’t send us out alone, but sends us with the Holy Spirit to carry on the task of proclaiming God’s demands and his love.

We’re not sure where Thomas was on Easter evening or why he wasn’t with his friends. But we know what the result was. The disciples had to fill him in! “We have seen the Lord!” That’s the same report that the disciples received on Easter afternoon and they didn’t believe it! Maybe Thomas’ response isn’t as shocking or unique as some have made it out to be! But what is shocking and unique is Jesus’ response. He comes back! A week later – same time, same place! Again the disciples have locked themselves inside, this time with Thomas. And Jesus is shockingly gracious. “Why are you people still here? Didn’t I give you a job to do? Haven’t I promised you my care and protection? I gave you peace and you should be out sharing it, but here you are cowering in fear again!” These are things that Jesus could have and should have said, but he didn’t! Instead he said it again: “Peace be with you!” I see that you are still in a panic room. I’ve come again to set things in order. I’ve come to make them right for you! I have risen to make them right for the world! I have come to give you joy and hope and peace!”

And grace upon grace, Jesus’ turns and repeats back to Thomas words that Thomas probably wished Jesus hadn’t heard him say. Jesus uses Thomas’ words, not against him, but for his benefit. He gave Thomas what he asked for. He gave him the proof that he needed. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Jesus does the exact same thing for us in his holy Supper. He allows us to see the wounds that he endured for us. We get to see his sacrifice and recall his suffering for us. This is my body, this is my blood – given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. “Reach out and touch it! See and touch and taste my love for you!”

And what a beautiful confession of faith results. Thomas said to (Jesus), “My Lord and my God!” It was mission accomplished for Jesus. And what Thomas knew, he wants us to know and confess as well! “Thank You Jesus! You did this – for me! You are a Savior – for me! Eternal life is a gift given – to me!”

Jesus applies his saving love right where it hurts, right where we need it! To doubting hearts he shows us the sure signs of his victory, a victory freely shared with us. To people who are prone to fear, he reminds us of his power and recounts for us his promises. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Grace upon grace! That’s you and me! We are blessed to believe though not seeing. And we believe through not seeing, because God gives us the faith to do just that. He’s the one who opens our eyes of faith to see and then he blesses us for seeing! God blesses us for being blessed by him!

 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus appeared on consecutive Sunday evenings so that his disciples could know and believe that he had risen from the dead. The signs that he performed during his ministry were performed ultimately so that others might know him and believe in him. He inspired the Apostle John to record his life and ministry in his Gospel for the same reason – that we and the world with us – might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Anointed One – God’s Son and our Savior – and that by believing (we) may have life in his name.

Jesus’ saving love drives away fear. His faithful promises dispel our doubts. His power gives us confidence and hope! There’s plenty of uncertainty in the world around us, but this is a rock-solid truth on which we can stand: Christ’s Real Resurrection Brings Us Powerful Peace! Amen.

Pastor Brian Hackmann
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