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Easter 2 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
April 10, 11, 2021
John 20:18-31

 

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Our sermon text for this (afternoon/morning) is our gospel text where we hear Jesus greet His disciples two different times with the doors being locked; Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‚ÄúPeace be with you.‚ÄĚ So far our text.

Greetings are taken for granted in today's society.  We think of them as just a way to get the conversation started. "Hey yer lookin­ good' 'back at cha 'How'ya doin?' 'Fine."'  '"What'cha  up to?' 'Nothin' much.'" We more or less go through the ritual on autopilot. Most of the time, our greetings are just a polite exchange of conversation.  Sometimes, these empty greetings lead to real conversation.  Other times, they are merely a polite acknowledgement of the other person's presence.

Today's Gospel has a greeting in it.  This greeting is not trivial. It is not a tired out old cliché. It is a great Gospel greeting full of grace and comfort. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors.  They were lost, confused, and above all terrified.  They had seen the ruling authorities reach out and take their leader from them and kill Him on a cross.  Now they thought it was their turn. They expected the authorities to arrest them next. They were trying to keep a low profile and hope that the events of the past weekend would all blow over.

Now, in all fairness, there were a few in that group who knew different.  There were the women who had been to the tomb at dawn that morning.  They had talked with the angels.  Some of them had seen the risen Lord.  Others had even talked with Him. Never the less, their words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Most of the disciples in that room thought the stories of the resurrection were silly.

Suddenly, there He was with that wonderful greeting, "Peace be with you." This is nothing other than peace with God - a peace no one deserves.  Here is a peace that means sins are forgiven.  Here is a peace that means our relationship with God is whole once again.  Here is a peace that means all the sins we have ever done are set aside.

And there are plenty of sins.  On the night Jesus was betrayed, all the disciples promised their lives and their honor to their master Jesus Christ.  Never the less, when the temple guard came to arrest Jesus, they all fled.  On a personal note, Peter denied Jesus three times during Jesus' trial. Throughout that First Easter, witnesses have tried to tell them that Jesus was alive, [Luke 24:11]  but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Then there were the things that happened before Easter weekend - the disciples often argued over who was the greatest - the disciples prevented children from coming to Jesus - the disciples sinned often.      All these things are forgotten as Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."  Then Jesus showed them the marks of the struggle that had earned that peace.  He showed them his hands and his side.  Here were the marks that remind us all of the work Jesus did -  the  nails of the cross - the spear that pierced His heart.  Here, written on His body is the story of the suffering and death that earned salvation.

That salvation is also for us.  We, like all humanity -- like the disciples, sin. There have been times we were ashamed of the Savior.  We have wanted to fit in and so denied that we knew Jesus. We've all made promises to God that we haven't kept.  Like the disciples, we often focus on ourselves instead of God.  We know that our sin has earned the eternal wrath of God.

Nevertheless, Jesus comes to us and says, "Peace be with you." The wounds of His hands and side tell us that He has made all things right.  Everything is new again and we have a new healthy relationship with God.

The peace that Jesus offers is not only for our relationship with God, but it is also for our relationship with each other. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending  you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven: if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam and gave life to all mankind, so also Jesus breathed on His disciples and brought life to his church.

As Jesus breathed life into His church, He gave it a commission.  He gave His peace, His forgiveness to the church.  The mouth of the church is the mouth of Christ and that mouth gives peace and forgiveness.  In public, Christ's words of peace and forgiveness come from the mouth of the pastor. As Martin Luther said in his explanation of confession, "We receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven." The pastor himself can be inexperienced, he can be incompetent, he can be someone we really don't like, but when he says, "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," you can be certain that he is bringing the words of Christ to you. The sins of all who confess and believe in Jesus Christ are indeed forgiven just as certainly as if Jesus Christ Himself stood here and forgave your sins. 

Therefore the Holy Christian Church is a beautiful and glorious being. In her we hear what God speaks and desires.  We hear about repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and faith in Jesus Christ. Whoever touches a believer touches the apple of God's eye.  Whoever believes in Jesus Christ shall be the dwelling place and temple of God.

How sad it was that Thomas missed out.  How sad it is when anyone misses out on hearing those words of peace. That is because the world is not polite and constantly pummels us with Satan's lies.  We are helpless before those lies without Christ's words of peace. It is a terrible thing when people do not hear the Word of God. They miss out on the peace of God.

How merciful it is that Jesus Christ gives His peace again and again. The second time Jesus brought His peace, Thomas was there.  Thomas had been hard hearted.  "Unless I see in  his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into  the mark  of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." Jesus did not say, "You foolish man.       Why didn't you believe when your friends told you the truth?" Instead Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands: and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."

Christ brought His peace to Thomas patiently and faithfully.  He brushed aside the stubbornness.  He offered the marks of His love for Thomas to inspect. He offered the marks that showed that sin is forgiven and we have peace with God.

It is easy to pick on Thomas.  He will forever be known as doubting Thomas.  In truth, all the disciples doubted until they saw the Lord. Thomas' only disadvantage was that, for some reason, he was missing the first time Jesus appeared.             He was really no different than the others.  The real lesson here is how Jesus continues to bring His greeting of peace.  Jesus is patient, merciful and totally trustworthy.  He continued to offer His peace to Thomas and He gave that peace to His church.  Now He offers that peace through His church to us.

That peace is the peace that He earned for us with His perfect life, His innocent suffering and death, and his resurrection.  It is the peace of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  It is the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding.  Amen.