Second Sunday of Easter
Passage: John 20:19–20:31
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: John 20:19-31
Date: April 23rd, 2017; 2nd Sunday of Easter; Series A
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The disciples were in hiding.
They were terrified that they would suffer the same fate as their leader, Jesus.
As his followers, maybe they too would be arrested, tortured, and crucified.
Peter was afraid of this when he witnessed Jesus’ passion - so he denied knowing his Lord three times.
His fear had spread to the other disciples and they were huddled, trembling in fear, behind locked doors.
Into that locked room, full of fear and confusion, entered Jesus.
This may have instilled even more fear in the disciples.
They maybe thought that Jesus was going to admonish them for denying and abandoning him!
But, instead, Jesus speaks words that they needed to hear the most, “Peace be with you.”
He showed them his hands and his side – the wounds of his bitter death were still visible, but he was very much alive!
It’s the first day of a new creation - and his first word on this first new day is “peace”.
We heard in our Gospel lesson that the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord and he said to them again, “Peace be with you.”
And this peace that Christ speaks of cannot be found in this world.
In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom.
It means that everything is set in order, the chaos is conquered, the harmony is restored.
Just imagine the average teenager’s bedroom – dirty clothes everywhere, dirty dishes, books and binders, a room that looks like a tornado has just gone through it!
Now imagine that same room, well ordered, with everything tucked neatly in its place where you can find it again. That is shalom.
Sin disturbs the shalom.
Our greed, our envy, our pride, our selfishness, our hatred all chisel away at the peace.
Each of us disturbs the harmony in our own little way.
Our refusal to live according to God’s will.
Our refusal to love God above all other things.
Our refusal to love one another as we love ourselves.
So what we have is a world full of chaos, confusion, fear, disorder.
But into this world of chaos and disorder entered Jesus - and there is shalom again.
God and humanity are reconciled. We are reconciled to one other. Shalom is restored.
Jesus said, “’Peace be with you’” and with this peace, Jesus sent his disciples into the world.
He said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Jesus knew that they wouldn’t be doing any good standing around inside of a locked room. And neither are we!
Like the disciples who were sent by Jesus - the church is sent. We are the church. You are the church.
We have a mission to disciple the nations. All nations. All people.
We read in 1 John chapter 2 that “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world”.
That is good news for all!
One of the great dangers to our churches today is that we’ve lost our sense of being sent.
Rather than thinking of ourselves as sent – we send others. Pastors maybe, or those other people who seem to be more able and qualified than we are.
But Jesus was not sending out a group of skillful, professionally, and theologically trained people.
He sent out a bunch of fearful disciples with his breath of the resurrection and the Word of forgiveness and salvation.
We are sent with this same Word of forgiveness and salvation.
We are sent to to tell the world that God is at peace with us because of all that Christ Jesus accomplished for us through his life, death, and resurrection.
We are sent out of our Baptism, where Jesus breathed on us personally and gave us the Spirit.
We are sent out having been nourished by the Word, by Christ’s true body and blood, and then we go in peace and serve the Lord - wherever the Lord has put us.
The church is like a set of lungs. Lungs first inhale, they take in air. Then they exhale, they blow air out.
Like a good set of lungs, the church first inhales – it listens to the Word of God, it receives the Sacraments. It takes a deep breath of resurrection air.
And then the church, in each and every one of its members, takes that breath of God and exhales it into our corner of the world.
In the place where the Lord has put us - we proclaim the Good News of salvation. We proclaim the peace, the shalom, we have in Christ!
Unfortunately, sometimes we just inhale and hold our breath until we turn blue.
Or, we never inhale enough for ourselves. We’re too busy, too distracted, to get serious about the Word, so we are always out of breath. We find ourselves with nothing to exhale.
The Lord isn’t stingy with his breath or his forgiveness - so, inhale deeply. Exhale just as deeply.
We heard in our Gospel lesson that the disciples met up with one of their brothers who wasn’t with them when Jesus first appeared to them.
They told Thomas the good news, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas, like so many skeptics we meet, refuses to believe. He wants to be sure that Jesus is the real deal. Unless he sees and touches the wounds, he will not believe.
Eight days later, the disciples were together again and this time Thomas was with them.
Jesus came and stood among them and again said, “Peace be with you.” He put their hearts and minds at ease.
He turned to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Jesus gave Thomas the evidence he asked for - and Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus would give us something so concrete, something so sure, to strengthen our faith?
Well, he has!
In fact, he said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Christ has given us exactly what we need in order that we may believe, something concrete, something sure: his Word; the waters of our Baptism; the bread that is his body; the wine that is his blood.
It is through these means of grace that God brings us to confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
Dear friends, inhale deeply of all that Christ has accomplished for you.
Exhale just as deeply.
Death is defeated - so what do we have to lose? What are we afraid of? Who, or what, can harm us?
We have been sent into the world with the Good News that all people desperately need to hear - through the wounds of Jesus - there is peace, there is shalom, sins are forgiven, death is defeated, and we will rise to everlasting life. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.