The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and The Fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you All. Amen.
John 20:19 “When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of
the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear
of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace
be with you.’ 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His
hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the
Lord. 21 Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the
Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ 22 And when He had said this, He
breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you
forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain
the sins of any, they have been retained.’
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them
when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him,
‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I shall see in His
hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the
nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ 26 And after eight
days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came,
the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace be
with you.’ 27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger, and see
My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not
unbelieving, but believing.’ 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My
Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me,
have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’ 30
Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the
disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been
written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and
that believing you may have life in His name. (NASB)
War is the natural state of affairs in this fallen and sinful world. I am not
sure how reliable the Institute for Economics and Peace is, but for the past 10
years it has published a list of countries and conflicts. This organization keeps
count of the who, what, when, where, and why’s of wars and conflicts around the
Last year it issued a report that said of the 163 recognized countries on the
planet, only ten are free from any involvement in war or a significant conflict. All
the rest are engaged in one form or another of military conflict. The Institute for
Economics and Peace is likely a liberal think tank, but I suspect this organization
isn’t far off the mark. Since the fall into sin, peace on earth is a rare thing. Danger
Americans tend to forget this reality. For most Americans in the modern era,
war is usually something that happens in some far away “God forsaken place.”
Americans think we can escape the realities of war and that some how we can opt
out of the natural ebb and flow of history. After the 911 attack, George Will
commented that America’s vacation from history had come to an end.
These days we tend to get a little nostalgic for a pre-9-11 world. But the
truth is that the world was not any more peaceful prior to 9-11 than it has been
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:10 “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the
former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask
about this.” Since the fall into sin, there has been death, sickness, poverty, pain,
sorrow, and conflict within ones’ self, one’s own family, our communities, and
countries. At every level of human existence, conflict and war, uncertainty and
doubt are the natural order.
The Gospel lesson assigned for this morning begins on Easter Sunday. It
was evening on the first Easter. The disciples knew that the body was gone. Some
of the women had claimed to have seen and talked with Jesus. Never-the-less, the
disciples were still confused and couldn’t bring themselves to believe on the Word
The disciples were locked behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews.” The
Jews had gone to a lot of trouble to kill Jesus. They took extra steps to make sure
no one could just walk off with the body and fake a resurrection. They had guards
be stationed outside the tomb to guard the body and a very large stone rolled in
front of the opening to make sure it remained sealed.
That is one of those interesting facts of the Good Friday and Easter story.
The Pharisees, scribes, and chief priests understood what Jesus had taught
concerning His resurrection. It was Jesus’s own disciples that were confused over
The religious leaders had had Jesus killed and they wanted Him to stay that
way. The only question in the minds of the disciples on Easter Sunday was did the
religious leaders want the disciples dead too.
As the disciples were locked behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Peace was not what the disciples were feeling at the time. Yet, Jesus comes
to His disciples and says “Peace be with you.” He is not merely issuing a simple
greeting, “Hello,” “Hi,” or “howdy.”
Jesus did not do what people in the church do today when they “pass the
peace.” Some of the modern liturgies have built into the service a time to “pass
the peace of Christ.” You have likely attended such a service from time-to-time.
Although well intentioned and even though pastors and priests try to instill in the
people a proper understanding of the passing of the peace, it basically turns into
little more than saying “hello,” small talk, a laugh here and there, and the like.
No one ever uses this time to actually cultivate the peace of Christ. They
don’t make their way over to someone in the congregation to make amends, to
bury a grudge, and to extend forgiveness and peace to one with whom they are at
odd. No one uses this time to forgive as you’ve been forgiven; to love as you’ve
been loved. It may be called the passing of the peace, but it’s anything but that.
But when Jesus speaks the statement, “Peace be with you, it is a declaration
of peace. The war is over. Forgiveness and peace are now the status quo. It is
different. It’s a pronouncement of the condition that exists between God and man.
Between God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and you. God and sinner reconciled.
It is living proof that what Jesus did on the cross of Good Friday was complete.
Jesus’s declaration of peace included proof. The procurement of God’s
peace had left scars on Jesus’s body and He shows the disciples His hands and
side. Thus He shows Himself to be both the crucified and resurrected Jesus.
Christ’s declaration of peace is absolution.
All but one. John, had been paralyzed by fear, doubt, and confusion. One of
them Peter had denied Jesus three times. All but one had fled for their lives and
deserted Him. Worst of all, they did not understand and believe His doctrine, His
Word; that He would suffer, die by crucifixion, and be raised on the third day.
That is a common problem today. Lots of people believe in Jesus, they just don’t
believe His doctrine.
Despite all their sinful failures and all their errors, Jesus directed them to
the proof that all was forgiven. As the disciples began to realize who it was that
stood in the room with them and had forgiven them.
Jesus says it again. “Peace be with you.” Then He adds, “As the Father has
sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) With these words Jesus ordains
and installs them men into the Office of Apostles. “Apostle”comes from a Greek
word that means “to send” or “sent ones.”
Jesus told His disciples that He had been God the Father’s sent One,
“Apostle.” Now He commissions His disciples to be His sent ones. He gives them
a gift and a very specific purpose. 22 “And when He had said this, He breathed
on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of
any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have
been retained.’” These apostles will take the very peace that Jesus has given to
them and proclaim it to the world.
Here in John chapter 20, about 50 days before the ascension of Matthew 28,
Jesus promotes His disciples to Apostles, students to teachers and preachers. But
this is not a promotion based on merit. See that. True to form. It is a promotion
based on Christ’s person. His work. His forgiveness. His call. His commissioning.
Just as conversion is has nothing to do with a person’s merit of potential, so also
the call into the office of Apostle and the call into the Pastoral Office is all done
by God’s grace.
In John chapter 20, Jesus called men who often argued over who was the
greatest among them. These were men who did not understand much of what Jesus
taught them during their seminary training. These were men who abandoned Jesus
in His hour of need. They didn’t understand what was going to happen on the third
day. These men were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.
Yet, Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. He sends
them. St. Paul would write of these men to the Christians in Ephesus. “You are no
longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and
members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19–20)
When [Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold
forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:22–23), Jesus investing the Office
of Apostle and Pastor and His Church with the authority to forgive and retain sins
according to His Word. He was giving the authority to administer and proclaim
His peace as well.
Throughout your lives you have had or will have (I pray) different pastors,
with different personalities, different strengthens and weaknesses, their own
demons and sins, and their own history and circumstances. But whether wonderful
or a jerk, the gift of God’s forgiveness and peace doesn’t depend on the
personality or the whims of the pastor. The forgiveness is sure because it depends
only on the promise of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s forgiveness not only comes with the actual word “forgive,” but it
also comes with other words … words like “peace be with you” and “give thee
peace” in the benediction. After you receive communion, I say, “Depart in peace.”
When the pastor says these statements, he is placing the very same peace that
Jesus gave to His disciples on you.
We live in a sin-filled world that tempts us all the time. We are still
burdened with a sinful nature that wages war against God and His holy will and
ways. When we examine our lives in light of the Ten Commandments, we become
know the bite of the Law and we get a glimpse of our many sins.
Jesus Christ has given His authority and His command to His pastors to give
away Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by way of preaching the Gospel,
absolving sins, baptizing, and distributing Christ’s body and blood to those who
confess and repent.
There is not a pastor in Christ’s church, myself included who is exempt
from this command. I must give away the forgiveness of sin and peace of Christ
because that is what the office that I occupy calls me to do. He did this though I
did not merit this office, but was called by Him through the Church into this
office. It is through His mouth that Christ now speaks to you, Peace be with you
your sins are forgiven.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus. Amen
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and The Fellowship of the