The Peace of Forgiveness
2nd Sunday of Easter
The Peace of Forgiveness
1. Given by Jesus
2. Give it to others
Text: John 20:19-31
Put yourself in the disciple’s sandals for a moment. Ride the waves of emotions with them . . . The teacher and friend you have come to know and love over three years was betrayed by someone you trusted—Judas. Jesus was brutally beaten and executed. He had been talking about this for a while, but you didn’t think that it would really happen. Then it did. And it happened so fast you hardly knew what to do. Maybe you had a thought of fighting back in the Garden of Gethsemane, but in the darkest moments of your friend Jesus, you ran away. And once the Roman soldiers took control of Jesus, there was no way you could defeat them.
Then he died and was buried. What to do now? Where to go now? You gave up everything to follow Jesus. Now he was gone! The Jews came after Jesus, would they come after you now too? Would every follower of this self-proclaimed King of the Jews be killed?
But just as quickly as this all happened, some women came and announced that the tomb was empty. They claimed they saw Jesus, too. Peter and John sprinted to the tomb and found it empty as well. Two other disciples who had been walking to Emmaus claimed they saw Jesus. What was going on here? Was someone playing a trick on you? Were the Jews framing you disciples by stealing his dead body? Or could it be that he really did rise from the dead?
So you and the other disciples lock yourselves in a room. Maybe Jesus was alive. Maybe this was too good to be true. Maybe they were coming for you next. Maybe it would be better if you just didn’t talk about it to one another or to any one else.
Fear. Doubt. Wonder. Worry. You’re troubled. You’re disturbed. You certainly don’t have peace.
We don’t have to pretend too much to understand what those disciples were going through. When was the last time you sat down, kicked up your feet and honestly said, “I’m really at peace right now”? And if you did, how long did that sentiment last?
Rather, the way of life in America is busy, fast-paced, stressful. There are so many things to do, so many things to accomplish, so many things to keep up with. It seems like there is a bill for everything but the air we breathe (Don’t be surprised if that ever happens!), so we have to work non-stop trying to keep up with all those bills. We have doctor appointments, bank appointments, taxes to finish last minute, grass that is about to start growing like weeds again. And I don’t really care to talk right now about all the stress and busyness that come with having children!
As unsettled as our lives are, the world around us seems like one big “fruit-basket-upset.” More and more countries have serious nuclear weapons. China and other countries are destroying our economy with their rapid production of electronics and machinery. Europe is a mess. Greece is worse off financially than some third-world countries. Tribal warfare and warlord-led genocide continue across Africa. Drugs are beyond out of control in Mexico and South America.
Meanwhile back in the USA, Americans can’t seem to agree on much of anything. Liberals and conservatives clash worse than ever before. The economy remains terrible. Morality is sliding toward extinction. Many, including me, wonder if perhaps America is soon to collapse like the Roman or Greek empires once did.
Peace? What peace?
The disciples should have known better though. They actually got to see Jesus and follow him around for three years. He taught them so much about his kingdom. He even told them (multiple times!) that he was going to suffer, die, and rise again. Weren’t they ready for this? Didn’t they expect this? Didn’t they remember that Jesus told them exactly what he was going to do?
Yet there they sat in that room, locked behind closed doors like it was a hurricane or bomb shelter. They were afraid that the Lord wouldn’t protect them. They doubted that Jesus would do what he promised. They worried about what would happen to them next.
Sound familiar? You could make an argument that we should know better, too. Page after page after page of Scripture tells us exactly how great our God is. Page after page after page tells us what our God has done for us and will do for us. Week after week after week we join to be encouraged by the Lord and to encourage one another in worship. We sing and pray and give praise to a God who has done marvelous things. We nod our heads in agreement with what we hear in worship and join in countless “Amen!”s.
Yet there we sit locked in our houses, tears streaming down our faces, terrified of what is going on in our lives. We’re afraid that the Lord won’t protect us or provide for us. We doubt what Jesus promises to us. We worry about what will happen to us next.
Peace? What peace?
As Jesus said so often to his disciples, he could certainly also say to us, “O you of little faith!” Why do we doubt our Jesus? Why don’t we trust that he will do what he says? Why don’t we look to him first when we have troubles and fears in our lives? Why does sin have to capture our hearts like it did so many times for the disciples?
See your risen Savior! See a real peace! It’s a peace freely given by Jesus! As the disciples sat in fear, suddenly Jesus appeared and the first thing he said to them was, “Peace be with you!” Jesus didn’t have to appear to all of his disciples. But graciously he gave them personal proof that he was alive. He proclaimed that peace now belonged to them.
He gave them even more proof then! “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” Jesus didn’t have to do that either. Yet graciously he eased their minds by showing the wounds from his crucifixion as if to say, “Look, here is the evidence that I suffered and died for your sins. Now touch the healed wounds and see that I have conquered death and truly risen.” Then once more Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”
But Thomas wasn’t there. So Thomas earned himself a nickname by “doubting” what the others said. We have to wonder if Thomas thought they were all playing a really big and really mean practical joke on him. But this wasn’t a time for joking around. Was his faith really so weak that he doubted at least 10, if not more, of his friends telling him that they saw Jesus with their own eyes and touched him with their own hands?
Again, Jesus didn’t have to appear to Thomas. But graciously and mercifully he did so that Thomas could hear Jesus say the same words yet again, “Peace be with you!” The Lord was loving enough to work in Thomas’ heart so that he could be given The Peace of Forgiveness.
Sometimes you and I are like the 10 locked in the room, afraid and unsure of what to make of things. Sometimes you and I are more like Thomas. Unless we see some real proof and evidence from Jesus, then we will refuse to believe that we have any peace in our lives.
But listen to your Savior. He speaks to you as well, “Peace be with you!” That isn’t a pious platitude or an empty wish like that of a hippie: “Peace on earth, man!” Oh no. That’s a fact. See with the disciples the holes in his hands and feet. See the wound on his side! Jesus was crucified and died for your sins. But now he is risen! We have real peace! We have The Peace of Forgiveness given by Jesus!
Jesus knows our sinful minds so well. He knows that, like the disciples, we still will have our moments of weakness or doubt. So graciously he gives us other tangible things as proof and assurance too! He gives us water to touch that is attached to his promises, water that washes us clean and grants us forgiveness in baptism. He gives us bread and wine along with his true body and blood to touch and to eat, assuring us that the body and blood given and shed for us on the cross won us forgiveness now and forever.
That’s real peace. It’s The Peace of Forgiveness. And this true peace is only given by Jesus.
Sometimes we truly struggle with this. Battling our own sinful doubts and worries will be an ongoing battle for us. That’s why we continue to remind one another of the peace that Jesus gives.
But as much as we struggle with our understanding of peace, most people in this world have no clue about peace at all. While we might temporarily forget or have lapses of weakness, most people have never heard of the free forgiveness we have through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
We can change that. In fact, Jesus wants us to change that. Listen to Jesus in verses 21-22: “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 his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Not only does Jesus give us peace, but Jesus also wants us to give it to others!
Since Jesus has ascended into heaven and is no longer physically visible in this world, he has given to us the peculiar privilege and power to forgive sins on his behalf. You see this on a weekly basis when we confess our sins together in church and then I announce Jesus’ forgiveness to you. You do this on a daily basis with your spouse or with your children when they confess their sins to you and you say that they are forgiven.
However, this Peace of Forgiveness is not just for those in your friends and family network. It’s not just for people that already know about Jesus either. This is for others too! When you hear someone at work distressed by the troubles of life, tell that person about real peace in Jesus! When your friend can’t quite make sense of things, tell that friend about Jesus who gives us a peace that calms troubled hearts. When someone is facing disease and death, talk to that person about the Savior that died and rose again to conquer death and give life in heaven.
Jesus gives you the privilege and the power to share the Peace of Forgiveness with others! Tell them about the Bible. Invite them to a Bible study. Invite them to worship. That’s why we have the Bible: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” That’s The Peace of Forgiveness. Jesus gives it to you, now give it to others!
Time and again I’m amazed by the stories that many of you share with me. Just this last week I heard from several families sentiments like this: “I just feel good now. I feel calm now. I feel at peace.” That’s no coincidence. That’s not some magical brainwashing that Christ the King Church does to people. That’s real peace. That’s The Peace of Forgiveness.
The more you are around the Word of God and the more you focus your life on Jesus, the more you will come to recognize, enjoy, and live the peace that our risen Savior gives. That’s true peace. That’s peace for now. That’s peace for eternity. Live that peace. Give that peace.
Posted on April 15, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Africa, Church, Disciples, Drugs, Easter, Greece, Jesus, John, John 20, Mexico, Peace, Resurrection, Sermons, South America. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.