Sermon – Easter 2 – April 28, 2019
John 20:19-31 ‘The Keys of Peace’
CT: Jesus rose from the dead giving us the peace of His ongoing presence, and the gift of the Holy Spirit as an assurance of our forgiveness and life.
Intro: It’s hard to take seriously Monty Python’s killer rabbit in the Holy Grail movie, but our sweet little snow shoe hare that changes colour with the seasons does more than nibble on carrots; it will eat carrion, even it’s own kind. Hard to believe, but true. It’s even harder to believe that anyone would take explosives into an Easter morning worship service and kill hundreds, but they did. But can the dead rise and live? I’m not talking about a near death experience, for as Billy Crystal said in ‘the Princess Bride’: “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead!” And Jesus was really dead; Roman soldiers were good at that kind of thing! The spear that pierced Jesus’ side said it all; blood and water flowed freely from the wound. That’s dead!
Dead: But that’s the disciples’ question in our Gospel lesson. If a man dies, can he live? Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried; period. The finality of death hung over them that first Easter evening. They were huddled together behind locked doors, afraid that they might be caught up in this anti-Jesus sentiment and end up dead too. Going over Jesus’ words and actions of the past 3 years would only have fuelled their grief. He had said so much and done so many things; how were they to make sense of them now in light of His death and the news of His empty tomb. They didn’t feel safe; peace was the furthest thing from their minds.
Warned: Jesus had told them about this day. He said, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) And He told them that He would not leave them as orphans, but the Father would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit who would cause them to remember all He had told them. And He promised them His peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Jesus told them up-front that His leaving would bring them great sorrow, but that their sorrow would turn to joy. It would be like a woman who, having had a baby forgets the anguish of the birth for the joy of the child in her arms. But at the time their sorrow would be great; they would all be scattered leaving Him alone. “Yet,” said Jesus, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)
Jesus not only readied His disciples for His leaving them; He also promised them that He would come to them again. But ‘dying on a cross leaving them’ didn’t cross their minds. Nevertheless Jesus had promised them the peace of His real presence and the ongoing gift of the Holy Spirit. And He gave them both!
Peace: In the midst of the disciples’ fear, grief, and confusion, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” And then “He showed them His hands and His side.” Jesus had a real body. This is the really important part of or reading today; the risen Christ is the same One who was crucified. Death is defeated. Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. Sins are truly atoned for; you are forgiven. Jesus is our peace. He has restored our relationship with our heavenly Father making peace by the shedding of His blood. (cf. Romans 5:1) Jesus kept His promise to return to them, and as He has risen from the dead they and we now have the assurance that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19)
Sent: The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord; they saw Him and touched Him! Then Jesus reiterated His greeting, “Peace be with you”. Peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. The Hebrew word has the sense of being ‘whole’ or ‘complete’. Jesus’ peace means that in Him they/we are now complete. But more than that; as the Father always was and is with the Son, so Jesus remains with them/us, and through us His mission continues. As Jesus was sent so the disciples were sent, and so you are sent.
Every Gospel writer records it a different way. “In your going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19) “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) “Repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) We are the recipients of the Great Commission; the Good News of Easter. Not only has He made us whole, restored our relationship with God; that wholeness is what makes it possible for us to go to others.
Holy Spirit: As the first man received the breath of God and was made a living creature, so the old man in us receives the breath of God, the Holy Spirit to go with the Good News of forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. From the first disciples to the holy Christian Church throughout the ages, the Office of the Keys has been given. It’s “that special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.” (SC) It’s from God through Christ to you, the gathered redeemed people of God. The Office is not mine; it belongs to Christ, who entrusts it to you that you would have your pastor (me) exercise it rightly, and publicly on your behalf.
But see what Good News this really is. Jesus not only rose from the dead, validating the forgiveness of your sins and giving you the hope of eternal life; He prepared the means by which this Gospel can be applied personally to you through His Church so that we who have not seen are blessed. In the Smallcald Articles of our Lutheran Confession you’ll find these words: “God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world. … Second, through Baptism. Third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourth, through the Power of the Keys. Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.” Truly, today, the peace of Christ has made us whole. Peace be with you.