Archive for April 10th, 2018

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Text, John 20: 19 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.”

In the 1960s one of the clichés used in protests against the Vietnam War was the protesters encouragement to “wage peace” as opposed to waging war.  So many of those anti-war protests involved bombing and burning of buildings as the protesters waged peace, even murder. Our good works, from the supposed “goodness of our hearts”, our right intentions and good motives, apart from the Lord can quickly degenerate into degenerate acts.  The Apostles are sent, though, in a sense, to “wage peace” and this works only in Christ Jesus who by faith through the grace of His atonement can purify the heart and will of man.  He was purifying and sending the Apostles as recorded in today’s Gospel reading. As the Paul wrote,

“…we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5). 

Three times in the Gospel Reading for the Second Sunday of Easter our Lord says, “Peace be with you”.  In Hebrew “peace be with you” is Shalom Aleichem.  Shalom/peace be with you is not just a fine how-do-you-do!   Coming out of the mouth of Lord, He conveys what His Word does: peace, shalom.  Peace has to be backed up, and his peace is:  His blood shed for sinners, enemies of God and in rebellion.

What is peace? 

When we think of peace we probably think of peaceful feelings.  Usually, by ‘peace’ what is meant are “peaceful feelings” as being “at peace”. The usual definition of peace is  the absence of conflict, war, struggle.  This definition is only a negative, a lack of something, an absence. There are a few tried and not so true ways of obtaining peaceful feelings: 

  • At a sad extreme: A person can have a frontal lobotomy and be peaceful but it is vacuous and empty.

  • Then there are the peaceful feelings which are drugged-induced.

  • Books, gurus, ministers et. al. make money over their programs and nostrums to produce peacefulness. 

Our sinful lust for more, even for peacefulness, to fill a swept and empty house results in doing anything to fill the void and  feel peaceful and good again:   more drugs, more pleasures, more satisfactions.  The last state can become worse than the first: peace, peace and there is no peace.

Now, in their place, good feelings in general are desirable:  they can tell us we are okay and so are bad feelings, as in pain, as they can tell us something is wrong.  A feeling is the result of something else, good or bad. Peaceful feelings are a symptom but not the cause.  One can take away physical pain but if the cause of that pain is left untreated, it will only cause trouble for another day.  Clearly, feelings of peace are not the cause of peace.  Jesus came to the root of the problem:  the heart of man.  God’s Word clearly teaches us that peace may not produce  peacefulness, instead, readiness with the Gospel of peace, prepares us for battle!    

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul encourages the church and her Christians to put on the whole armor of God including  for the feet of the Christian warrior: and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  The Roman soldiers boot was thick soled sandal, studded with nails, in order to stand firm in the day of battle.  A soldier’s boot needs to well made and solid to go the long marches.  It is clear that the Roman soldier’s sandal is like no footwear sold at Walmart!  

Likewise, peace in the Bible is not like what is literally sold out in the world. It is no spiked heel for show, or a dress shoe. Nor is it for mere comfort.  For instance:   The Apostle Paul makes this so clear in Ephesians 6 about the whole armor of God. Some 4 times, he uses the word  “stand”, to take a stand, to withstand, to fight against the powers and principalities.  It is not a struggle against someone else’s flesh and blood, only our flesh and blood.  It is struggle against the false doctrine and teachings of the world to want and covet more and more; in the lusts resulting in an ideology that says if it feels good, do it and look what has happened to marriage and the family.  But like those Roman Soldier’s sandals, His peace is for us to take stand upright and firm in His grace and mercy for us and for others, to battle for souls and lives.  

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace-Ephesians 2: 13-14

The Lord’s peace is the vessel which holds  all His gifts in the grace of His forgiveness.  The Lord shows us that peace is not absence but presence:  the real Presence. Peace has a name: Christ Jesus. He sent out His apostles in His peace filled with content:  the Holy Spirit.  He breathed on them the Holy Spirit and in that same holy breath he charged them to forgive sins.  Retain them when the message is refused, always in the hope the Lord will be heard.

He alone cures the fever in our blood by His blood shed for warring humanity. It is recorded in John’s Gospel alone the Lord’s teaching on peace, taught in the night in which He was betrayed:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This was not a peace after the manner of the world, a mere external, temporal blessing. Mao Tse-Tung (old spelling), once dictator of communist China wrote that peace comes from the end of a gun barrel.  In one sense, he was correct, tragically correct.  It will look like peace, but only being terror and tragic emptiness. True and eternal Peace does not come from the end of a gun barrel but it has come from the foot of His Cross and fullness of His life, eternal life.   Peace is reconciliation through the blood of Jesus Christ in His forgiveness of the entire world, received in faith as pure gift which fills His chalice with the blood of the new testament for you and I.

The Lord’s peace which will insure quietness and security in the midst of turmoil and trouble. It will take the terror out of the hearts of the believers, even when the enemies are threatening murder and every form of abuse. The person that has the peace of a good conscience in the full assurance of God’s grace and mercy will be unmoved in the midst of upheavals that threaten the very foundations of the universe, Ps. 46. And Jesus testifies to the disciples that His announcement of His going away, far from filling their hearts with sorrow, should rather redound to their joy.

Peaceful feelings are usually only about the self, the person alone.  Christ, our peace, is for us and our salvation, that the “dividing wall of hostility” is  broken down in His flesh (Ephesians 2:13-15). For our families so we can love as we first been loved.  All Christians who cling as lambs to the Shepherd and as children to their Father, know each other.  They know each other as sinners.   Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,  “In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.”  But sinners forgiven in Jesus Christ.  They know each other forgiven. His peace is reconciliation.

His peace then prepares us for battle.  His peace is for the “good fight of faith” 2 Timothy 4:6-8.  Again, Pr. Bonhoeffer:  ““When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the Spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”  This is called “sanctification”, being made holy by the Holy Spirit in the work of Jesus through the Word and Sacraments.  It is the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

“The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins” (Rev. Paul Kretzmann). Jesus sends them out, not only with “a report of the salvation earned by Jesus” but with the very means of grace, in repentance and forgiveness giving the fruit of His Cross in the preaching and teaching of the Word. His forgiveness is our peace.  Further, the Lord sends the Church out not to wield the sword of government to kill people, but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, for our salvation in His forgiveness (cf. Ephesians 4: 17;  Hebrews 4: 12). His peace is His Word to us. Christ is our peace. His peace is His reconciliation

From that locked room, the apostles would leave it with the message.  In last week’s Easter weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, George Weigel, in his article The Easter Effecy asked:  How did this happen? How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force in just two and a half centuries?

In a nutshell, Mr. Weigel said it was plain:  Jesus had risen from the dead!  Upon the disciples, “…the end of the ages” (1 Corinthians 10:10-12) had come, us as well.  Just think: after over two centuries of persecution, from mild to severe, including martyrdom, up a half of the Roman Empire was Christian.  Why?  He is risen, He risen indeed, Alleluia!

As Benedict XVI put it in his 2010 Easter message:

 “Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the Resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet this history is changed…it is truly open to the future.

History is open to the future in hope on account of Christ Jesus and we are in the wilderness of this world   The Apostles and the Church went forth to conquer an Empire without drawing the sword, waging jihad or the support of government.  The sword they wielded was the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6: 17).  His Word encourages  that the risen  Lord calls us to wage peace, not worldly peace, but the Godly peace of His forgiveness which He breathes upon His Church. We are blessed of the Lord when we are peacemakers.  With the Apostle Paul, Lord calls us to wage the good fight of faith for the salvation of many. Jesus has broken every barrier down.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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