2nd Easter Sunday
April 23, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
1) Produced by Jesus
2) Pronounced by Jesus’ Disciples
Dear saints, saved forever by a crucified & risen Jesus Christ,
Wars; rumors of war remind us this world in which we live today will not last – remind us a risen, ascended, ruling Lord Jesus will ‘soon’ return to eternally judge every individual. While world, national & local news headlines highlight murders, bombs; an impersonal hatred running rampant in our wicked world where random violence & victims chosen by chance seem to be a way of life in too many places – while violent death & destruction hogs the headlines, we hear background angels singing ‘Peace’ as Jesus is born into our world at Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest & on earth peace…peace to men on whom God’s favor rests?”[LK 2]
While Aaron Hernandez’s trial & suicide monopolize media attention because a pro football player is involved, not because a murder was committed, in too many places, involving too many people, no-name murders are merely a daily police statistic. In fact, murder is so common in America, coroners do not even count victims who have not been named because they have not yet been born. Signing in the background, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem Palm Sunday to complete his public ministry, we hear a welcoming Palm Sunday crowd, ‘Peace… peace in heaven & glory in the highest.’[LK 19]
Living in a world today where people’s default attitude is impersonal anger instead of agreement, in a world where personal competition instead of cooperation is what we expect, ‘Peace’ might seem a strange song for someone to sing; ‘Peace’ might appear to be an improbable prayer, yet ‘Peace’ is Jesus’ Easter announcement as he appears to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you.’
A risen Redeemer promising ‘peace’ should not surprise us because ‘peace’ appears & reappears as a keynote in Christ’s ministry. Healing a woman suffering some type of bleeding for twelve years, Jesus tells her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace & be freed from your suffering.’[MK 5] Assuring full & free forgiveness for a publicly sinful but now repenting woman, Jesus informs her, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’[LK 7]
‘Peace’ Jesus promises repeatedly, but death & destruction do not disappear. Bethlehem angels sing, ‘Peace on earth to men on whom God’s favor rests.’ Yet, within months, King Herod butchers baby boys in Bethlehem. Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus promises disciples, ‘Peace…peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”[JN 14] Quickly, Judas brings goons to Gethsemane to arrest his master; Jewish leaders angrily accuse & quickly convict Jesus when no crime is committed; soldiers curse, mock, physically & verbally abuse Jesus — finally, they crucify Christ on a cross (certainly not a picture of peace).
Easter Sunday evening, however, hours after rising from the dead, assuring us his Father’s forgiveness, Jesus appears to his disciples & announces, ‘Peace… Peace be with you!’ Obviously, peace produced by Jesus is not an earthly peace; not an absence of anger among men & women in our world. The disciples’ world would not be peaceful. Nor will people in our world appear peaceful.
Notice, doors are locked. Easter evening, disciples are afraid. Jewish leaders who crucified but could not eliminate Jesus (whom grave-guarding soldiers testify has risen from death to life) – will Jewish leaders attempt to attack Jesus’ followers in an effort to erase his influence? Suddenly, unexpectedly, Jesus appears, proves his resurrection, shows wounds inflicted in his hands & side were neither final nor fatal. But opposition from the Jewish Sanhedrin is not eliminated. Satan-serving souls continue to struggle against Christ; against Christians. Peter & John will be arrested; threatened. Paul will be stoned; forced to flee for his life from city after city. James will be put to death in Jerusalem for confessing Jesus is his Savior, his Lord.
‘Peace be with you,’ Jesus promises Easter evening after explaining earlier in the week, ‘I do not give [peace] to you as the world gives.”[JN 14] In fact, ‘In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus prophesied. ‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Peace produced by Jesus is not; never was promised or promoted as understanding & acceptance among individuals. Jesus’ peace is not collaboration & conciliation between countries. Peace produced by Jesus is a unity; a compatibility between God & human beings (who were originally created in the image of God).
We lost God’s image in Eden, of course. Sin separated; sin still separates us from a holy, sinless, totally righteous God. Fortunately, God promises a solution for sin as soon as Adam & Eve eat forbidden fruit — a deadly disobedience we inherit & repeat whenever we sin in various ways every day. Isaiah outlines God’s solution, prophesies, ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, & the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”[IS 53]
Jesus puts God’s plan into effect, suffering our sin’s deadly penalty on a cross at Calvary. ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins;’ — ‘God made Jesus who had no sin be sin for us, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God;’ — ‘he was raised to life for our justification.’[ROM 4 / 2 COR 5] Raising Jesus to life Easter Sunday, God declares his Son’s payment for our sins acceptable,.
Appearing to disciples Easter evening, Jesus can proclaim peace between God & man, ‘Peace be with you.’ Jesus is authorized to announce God’s ‘peace’ for his followers because he has atoned for our sins, he has won God’s forgiveness; he has eliminated God’s anger forever. While we live in this world, other individuals might become angry & get upset with us. People we know might oppose us; may even aim to make our life miserable. Total strangers could drop death & destruction into our life – could intentionally or randomly end our earthly life. But God never will! God will always be at peace with us. God will only love us. When we daily confess our failures, as we regularly repent of our sins; when we sorrowfully admit our inability to always apply Christ’s will in our attitudes & actions, God will, without a doubt, lovingly say, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’ — my Son Jesus lived your righteousness, Jesus died for your redemption; I raised my Son Jesus to assure you everlasting life in my family of faith — ‘Go in peace.’
Peace Jesus produced is peace for us forgiven sinners, perpetual peace with our forgiving God. Let worldly wars & worries melt from our mind the way a late spring snowstorm would melt under an April sun. Let human hatred bounce off our back & fade from our own sinful mind. Let all our opponents’ anger be drowned out by the booming voice of a risen Redeemer saying to us saints again & again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Understand, please, how peace Jesus produced for our souls is today to be pronounced by Jesus’ disciples upon other individuals. Breathing on his disciples, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Is world-wide peace an impossible dream today? Humanly speaking, ‘Yes!’ Too many different people with dissimilar opinions; too many disconnected nations pursue too many different plans for everyone to concur completely — unless we look at peace with God, that peace of forgiveness the Holy Spirit produces, creating faith in people’s hearts as they hear God’s Word. Peace with God is possible for everyone everywhere because Jesus suffered as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world;’[JN 1] because Jesus died as ‘the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.’[1 JN 2]
Since every sin is already redeemed by Christ, we disciples can pronounce God’s forgiveness to every repenting sinner, guided by the Holy Spirit’s assurance, ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful & just; God will forgive us our sins; God will purify us from all unrighteousness.” Conversely, because no Redeemer exists other than Jesus, because there is no way to atone for any sin except by the innocent blood Christ sacrificed for us on his cross, no one can announce forgiveness where there is no repentance, as the Holy Spirit also explains, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves & the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar & his word has no place in our lives.’[1 JN 1]
Notice, no decision needs to be made by disciples as we distribute Jesus’ forgiveness. We simply proclaim our Lord’s proverbial conditions, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses & renounces them finds mercy.’[PROV 28] We proclaim God’s mercy, God’s forgiving grace. We preach Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, raised to life to declare us redeemed. With the sinning, repenting, rejoicing psalmist David, saints who still fall into sin every day joyfully say, ‘I acknowledged my sin & did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ ‑‑ & God forgave the guilt of my sin.”[PS 32]
In a world where wars & rumors of war, where angry opposition & personal violence will continue to be all too common, please listen as Jesus our risen Savior regularly says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Appreciating peace with a forgiving Lord God — ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding to guard our hearts & minds in Christ Jesus’[PHIL 4] — please pass our Lord’s peace on to other souls, souls God also looks upon with favor. Saying, ‘Peace be with you,’ pronounce Jesus’ forgiveness upon every other repenting sinner with whom we will also be at peace because Jesus, ‘delivered over to death for our sins, was raised to life for our justification!’