Second Sunday in Easter (John 20:19-31)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Second Sunday in Easter + April 23, 2017
Text: John 20:19-31

This sermon was written by Pastor David Juhl and adapted by Pastor Michael Miller.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The first word the disciples hear from the mouth of their resurrected Savior is His Easter greeting: Peace be with you. Jesus’ greeting encompasses the whole result of His Easter message: PEACE. On the evening of the day of resurrection, the disciples were together. Their hearts were still full of sadness and guilt. They had heard snippets of the Easter news from the women at the tomb, Peter and John, and even two disciples who saw Him as they travelled to Emmaus.[1] Nevertheless, they still did not believe that their Lord was risen. Fear of the Jews overwhelmed their hearts, driving them to hide behind locked doors. Above all a bad conscience remained because they had forsaken their Lord and denied Him.
Then suddenly the Lord is in their midst. His greeting to them is this: Peace be with you. He also shows them His hands and side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Fear dissolved and peace moved into their hearts. Peace came to them not due to the mere appearance of the Lord, but because Jesus came to them with such a friendly greeting.
The disciples have reason to rejoice after their sorrows. Christ’s greeting to them is precious. This was no ordinary “How ya doin’?” Christ’s words to them are spirit and life. He imparts peace to His disciples with these words: peace with God and forgiveness of sins.
This is what we are doing when we greet one another in the peace of the Lord before the service.  It’s not just your ordinary casual exchange, an extra to say good morning.  It’s an Easter greeting that we have received from God and are sharing with our brothers and sisters.  Jesus’ resurrection means your sins are forgiven and you have a gracious God, and you are able to share that with one another—even those who have wronged you or whom you have wronged.
The fruit of the resurrection is peace with God. When Jesus shows His hands and side, He reminds them of His suffering and death. There is forgiveness of sins in these wounds. There is also satisfaction of God’s wrath over sin and reconciliation between God and mankind.
The resurrection of Christ is a seal that the work of our redemption is accomplished. In a manner of speaking, it is God’s Amen to His Son saying, “It is finished!”[2] We are reconciled to God because of Jesus. We have peace with God because of Jesus. This is why our Lord’s Easter greeting is so precious. He pledges peace with God. In this peace is forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Is this greeting really for us to hear and believe? We know it is for the disciples, because they saw Him in the flesh, felt His hands and side, and heard Him say, peace be with you. The Lord no longer dwells among us in as He did then. It is not possible for Him to walk into our midst and greet us as He did then.
The first one to ask this question was Thomas.  Now, Thomas put himself in a precarious position—willfully staying away from the other disciples that Easter evening, refusing to believe the multiple reports of the resurrection he’d heard, then demanding that Jesus meet his standard of proof before he would believe.  By being in unbelief, Thomas actually jeopardized receiving that peace which Jesus had won by those wounds.  Let this be a warning for our faith.
Yet, the Lord Jesus brought good out of Thomas not being there that night, because we weren’t either.  Think of us, so many centuries later.  We have even more rational reasons to disbelieve than Thomas.  Can we trust that “peace be with you” was spoken to us too?  Hear the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  That’s you and me!  We might blame our doubts on not having seen Jesus, but Jesus assures us that’s not a problem.  He sends His peace to you even today.
Although Jesus is no longer visible to us, we hear His Word. In the precious greeting to His disciples that Easter evening, Jesus institutes the pastoral office—the preaching office to announce this Easter peace from heaven to you. He sends His disciples as the Father has sent Him. Hear those comforting words to His disciples: Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” What pastors preach is as certain as if the Lord Himself spoke it. What heavenly comfort this office brings to us even when our guilt threatens to crush us and we can’t see any way path to peace.  In the midst of the locked door of our heart, Jesus’ Word shines through and says even to us: Peace be with you.   Let it be to you as you have believed.  Amen.
[1] John 20:1-18, Luke 24:13-34
[2] John 19:30