Easter 2 – April 19th, 2020 – John 20:19-31
Christ is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!) Amen +
Christ is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!) Amen +
We hear the Scriptures differently depending upon the events of our lives, what we have been through. You hear things differently as a child than you do as a parent, or a grandparent. Thing resonate differently. Because you have experienced different things in your life, you end up noting, keying in on different things in the text. Now, with that being said, how much different is our Gospel text, how much more keenly does it resonate in our ears this morning? Consider – On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.... There had been the disciples, gathered together in fear. Why? We can't go out there – we go out there in public and there's a good chance we will die. I've preached on this text over 15 times, and I'd bet that every time I've preached it I've taken pains to point out how this is a reasonable fear, how it's understandable for the disciples to be locked up in fear – and I'm sure this text is familiar to you. It sounds a bit different this year, doesn't it? With us having been cooped up, staying inside, going out in public only when wearing masks?
I'd also be willing to wager that the disciples hated their quarantine, their hiding themselves away as much as we do. I mean, a week later, the second time around in this text, they are still locked up. Things are still rough and strange and bizarre for them. And things are rough and bizarre for us. I reckon that quite a few of us are going a bit stir-crazy, that this is some of the worst cabin or spring fever you've felt. Or the uncertainty, the random dread. The fear mongers constantly peddling panic. Our situation isn't the same as the disciples, clearly – but perhaps now we understand it a bit better. Our comfortable lives have been disrupted, just as theirs had been. And their pious stories had been disrupted too – after all, these were the disciples, the students who had dedicated their lives to following Jesus. Well, I'd say that's been tossed out the window expect the window's closed and locked and nothing is going out it. And likewise too, so many of the pious things we do, the good works that we cherish and value, well – lots of those are are on hold. And it sits poorly, it gnaws. We're Americans – we value hard work and what we do – and that's changed now, so what does that say about me? If I'm not doing what I used to do, what does that say about me?
The disciples weren't doing anything. For three years they had been defined by following Christ, their identity was that they followed Christ and now they are hiding precisely to keep from following Christ to their own graves. What does that say about them? What does that say about how God sees them? Will there be wrath and anger and punishment? Will there be fear never ending? The disciples aren't doing anything – doesn't that mean that God must now hate them?
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Hi there disciples. Peace. With you. Shalom – for you. Yeah, I know you're freaked out, I know you've been lousy – I was there when you all ran off, and you're probably expecting some fire and brimstone, if not an angry mob... but, um... no. No, instead you get Jesus. You get Peace. You get Christ the Crucified who has died and has risen – see the nail prints, see the spear wound – it's the real Jesus. And He says peace. Jesus is the Truth, and He says Peace be with you, even in that locked room to lousy disciples who hadn't been doing a thing.
Now the lie, the terrible damnable lie that we tell ourselves is that our relationship to God is based upon what we do. That God's attitude towards us is shaped by what we do for Him, how hard we work, how devoted we are, how we keep our nose clean, how we might have our faults but at least we don't fill in the blank like the other guy. And we make idols out of our actions – and these idols seem great and good... until they fail and crumble as all idols do. As all of our own actions do. And then comes the fear, the crippling fear that locks us up and wraps us up tight. And that's all based upon a lie – the lie that our relationship to God rests upon what we do. Over and against that, over and against what we think we need to do, or ought to do, or should do – or ought to or should have done – over against all of these recriminations, over and against all of that sin comes Jesus Christ, Christ the Crucified – and He says, “Peace be with you.”
Seriously. Even now. Peace be with you. And this peace doesn't rely upon you, or your actions, or what you have done. It's on Jesus – He's died and risen for you, and so you have peace. Period. And it's not in doubt, it doesn't hang upon you or your reaction – God did it for you well before you were born. All that Jesus has done – for you. So that you would know this peace that He gives. In fact, we hear: 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, “Recieve the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” There you go fellas – just as I've come into here in the midst of your fear and proclaimed peace to you – you're going to do that for others. You're going to tell them that they are forgiven by Christ the Crucified. Might have to tell them that they are loving their sin idols and not looking at Christ – but the point is to give them Jesus, Jesus Crucified for them. And thus has been the history of the Church.
There, in the upper room that Easter Evening, Christ Jesus made sure that you would have people who would speak Christ's peace to you, this day. Established well before you came along, established well before you did a cotton picking thing, but established for you. Jesus even set up this Congregation here for you – before any of you were born – put it here so there'd be a place where that peace would be proclaimed, that there would be pastors put here to proclaim it. Because it isn't about you or what you do or don't do – this peace is yours because of Christ Jesus and what He has done.
It's so simple, but oh, the temptation to not believe! The temptation to think we have to do things, that there are hoops we have to jump through first. Consider much maligned Thomas – 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. Too good. Too good to be true. Surely there are hoops I must jump through, and here are the qualifications I need met. I'm going to poke around for myself. Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” And still, Jesus shows up. Still Jesus proclaims peace. Even to grumpy, cynical Thomas. Peace be with you. And then, of course, in what really is one of the more humorous lines of the Scriptures we hear Jesus: Then He 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.” I heard you talking smack to My preachers that I sent out, Thomas. I heard all your bluster and bravado... and I still showed up and proclaimed My Peace to you. I can take your Pepsi Challenge if you want – I mean, you can dig around here if you want to... but the important thing is that I'm here and proclaiming peace – so away with this not-faith demands about what you're going to do and let's get onto faith, shall we. And so it was – Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God!” Yep, that's who it is who says peace. Your God and Lord.
And Christ Jesus, your Lord and your God still proclaims His peace to you here today, even right smack dab in the midst of your fears, your doubts, the bluster and false bravado you've shown this past week. Right in the midst of your foolish sins, your silly idols – all of it. And your Risen Lord has sent forth His Word and Spirit to proclaim to you this same peace, proclaim to you this forgiveness that He has won for you. It's all been written and read and proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ – that He has done it – and you... you believe. You hear, you receive what Christ does – and you simply get life. In His Name. The Name you received as your own in Baptism when He joined Himself to you. The Name proclaimed in His Church, week in and week out. The Name proclaimed in our homes in our own devotions, at our meals. The Name that does actually give peace and forgiveness and righteousness – true righteousness – His righteousness. And all we do is receive this. And even when distracted and fearful, Christ bursts in again and says Peace be with you.
So – once more. Peace be with you. That is, all your sins are forgiven by Christ the Crucified, and even if you should die, yet you will rise because of Jesus. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.