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Peace Be With You

Apr 08, 2018

Passage: John 20:19-23

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Easter (season)

Detail:

The Text: “19On 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.’ 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the LORD. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ 22And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Our LCMS president, Pastor Harrison, wrote in the November, 2017 issue of The Lutheran Witness: “Our world is completely unhinged. The evil rampage witnessed in Las Vegas [in 2017] which tragically and deeply affected also many LCMS people, is but a symptom of the chaos of these ‘grey and latter days.’ The political world is unhinged. The ethical world is unhinged. The social world is unhinged. The religious world is unhinged. The racial world is unhinged. The educational world is unhinged. Merriam-Webster puts it this way: ‘Definition of unhinged: upset, unglued; especially: mentally deranged [e.g.] ‘…attacked by an unhinged extremist…’ (LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, The Lutheran Witness, November 2017, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 1).”  In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Our LCMS president, Pastor Harrison, wrote in the November, 2017 issue of The Lutheran Witness: “Our world is completely unhinged. The evil rampage witnessed in Las Vegas [in 2017] which tragically and deeply affected also many LCMS people, is but a symptom of the chaos of these ‘grey and latter days.’ The political world is unhinged. The ethical world is unhinged. The social world is unhinged. The religious world is unhinged. The racial world is unhinged. The educational world is unhinged. Merriam-Webster puts it this way: ‘Definition of unhinged: upset, unglued; especially: mentally deranged [e.g.] ‘…attacked by an unhinged extremist…’ (LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, The Lutheran Witness, November 2017, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 1).”

Our synodical president went on to quote what St. Paul saw coming: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Tim 3:1-5).”  Our synodical president went on to quote what St. Paul saw coming: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Tim 3:1-5).”

And yet, it is easy for us to feel unhinged. We can begin to feel as though we have lost our strength. When confronted by fear, paralysis takes over; and when we consider the basis for our shame and guilt, we feel unworthy. Put these together, and no wonder we’re tempted to live in a dark corner of the world while avoiding real life and the peace and joy that the LORD otherwise intends for His baptized people. And yet, it is easy for us to feel unhinged. We can begin to feel as though we have lost our strength. When confronted by fear, paralysis takes over; and when we consider the basis for our shame and guilt, we feel unworthy. Put these together, and no wonder we’re tempted to live in a dark corner of the world while avoiding real life and the peace and joy that the LORD otherwise intends for His baptized people.

Thus, for example when fear and shame fill our souls, then we feel unqualified to be the witnesses of the LORD He has called us to be (1 Pe 2:9). “What about what I have done? What about my sin? If this is true for me – and it is – then what business do I have to share God’s Word with another? It even feels weird acting like a Christian! What right have I? I’ve been too hypocritical.” When this happens, what is really happening? We are living in fear. We are living in shame. Thus, for example when fear and shame fill our souls, then we feel unqualified to be the witnesses of the LORD He has called us to be (1 Pe 2:9). “What about what I have done? What about my sin? If this is true for me – and it is – then what business do I have to share God’s Word with another? It even feels weird acting like a Christian! What right have I? I’ve been too hypocritical.” When this happens, what is really happening? We are living in fear. We are living in shame.

And this is the precise time when all power is lost. This is when the gospel is forgotten. This is when the ministry of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. And this is the precise time when all power is lost. This is when the gospel is forgotten. This is when the ministry of the Holy Spirit is overlooked.

What is here recorded in John 20:19-23 is therefore a great help to us poor sinners. The LORD wants us to know that He understands how we can feel. Just look at the disciples that the LORD in His wisdom chose to present to us in this scene: they are a picture of us when confronted by our great weaknesses.   What is here recorded in John 20:19-23 is therefore a great help to us poor sinners. The LORD wants us to know that He understands how we can feel. Just look at the disciples that the LORD in His wisdom chose to present to us in this scene: they are a picture of us when confronted by our great weaknesses.

First-of-all, they were deeply mourning, and this would be the most intense mourning after Christ’s death. It was evening of the 3rd day [know the way the Jews counted: Friday when Jesus died started at sundown on Thursday and Friday ended at sundown on Friday = that was the 1st day. Then the second day was sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday = that was the second day. Then the 3rd day began at sundown on Saturday and ended Sunday at sundown], so here in John 20 they were already transitioning into the 4th day. Jesus had once said at Jn 14: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (verse 18).” And yet there they were, abandoned! Where was He? They were beside themselves.

Peter Chrysologus: “It was evening more by grief than by time. It was evening for minds darkened by the somber cloud of grief and sadness because although the report of the resurrection had given the slight glimmer of twilight, nevertheless the LORD had not yet shone…(Elowsky, Joel C. Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2007. 355.).”

Chrysostom: “It was likely that when the disciples heard these things from Mary [her report to them that she had seen the LORD, Lk 24:10] they would either not believe the woman [and this seems to be the case according to Lk 24:11] – or if they did believe her, they would be sad that he had not considered them worthy of such a vision even though he promised to meet them in Galilee (Ibid., 355).”

So, they were grieving. We do too, right? And how often do we get stuck in sadness? But this was not all the disciples were going through as they were feeling -- I am sure -- very much unhinged. They were also full of fear.

Jesus Himself had taught them, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (Jn 15:20).” “These [Jewish] authorities…engineered the execution of their teacher, and the authorities’ Roman allies normally sought to stamp out followers of leaders regarded as treasonous (Keener, Craig S., The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume Two, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. 1200).” And, “through the locked doors, John underlines the fear of the disciples … (ibid., 1201).” Once again, Chrysologus: “No darkness of night can be compared with the gloom of grief and fear…(Elowsky, Joel C. Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament IVb, John 11-21, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2007. 356.).”

But their fear was not confined to what might have happened to them at the hands of the authorities, but what if Jesus did keep His Word and not leave them as orphans? Peter had denied Him. John had fled away from Him. Thomas had doubted Him. All of them forsook Him (ibid., 360)…did they really want to see Him again? Would He want to see them?

Again, they were unhinged. It is easy to feel this way. “In my condition, I need to see God, and yet do I really want to? In my condition, I need to see God, but does He really want to see me? I am beside myself.”

This is our condition in sin and the Law ensures that we know it, yes, we are full of sin and death. In sin, we do not expect the Resurrected Christ to come to us; in sin, even if He came, would we want to stand in His presence? Could we even stand? Wouldn’t we be more like St. Peter on the boat: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O LORD (Lk 5:8).”

Here we are after Easter, stuck in this funk, stuck in this sorrow and dread, behind locked doors.

And this my dear Christians was exactly when the LORD came. As the 3rd day came to close, that first day of the week as it was now evening and transitioning to the next day, the LORD Jesus did not want to allow a single day to pass. He did not want to permit His beloved disciples to dwell on all these negative things and become distracted (Ibid., 355).”

We need to understand at the very beginning here that the words Jesus spoke were no mere wish or formal greeting. No! When the LORD spoke the words, “Peace be with you (not once, but twice here at Jn 20:19-23),” He was giving and instilling into His disciples what His Word actually said (Lenski, R.C.H., The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, Minneapolis, Minnsesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943. 1366). They were receiving and having created within them, peace!

This peace eradicates sorrow and fear. What sorrow is there when eternal life is guaranteed? I happily remember my dear father whose birthday is tomorrow. He would have been 93, but since he trusted in Christ, I rejoice to see him again! Why fear when the LORD can and will protect us from anything that threatens us? Peace or shalom means that all the trouble in our hearts can fly away.

Jn 14:27: “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.”

Such peace is reconciliation with God, secured through Christ’s death and resurrection; not external peace, politically and militarily maintained (The Lutheran Study Bible, 1812). That is, the peace from the LORD is lasting peace, not fluctuating peace. It is eternal peace. It is peace which the world cannot take away from you Christian! And in bestowing this peace, the LORD “showed them his hands and his side (vs 20).”

“Jesus’ scars on his hands and his side (cf. 19:34) are marks not only of his suffering, but also of his victory…(Kostenberger, Andreas J., John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004. 572).” “In Jesus’ case, ‘peace’ was uniquely his gift to his followers by virtue of his vicarious sacrificial death on the cross…Jesus’ greeting was given to dispel any fears of his followers owing to their desertion prior to the crucifixion…(Ibid., 572)”. “Here Jesus shows the disciples the very price at which he bought their peace…(Lenski, R.C.H., The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, Minneapolis, Minnsesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943. 1367).”

When He combined the words “peace be with you” to the showing of His hands and side, it was like saying: “My peace has wiped away your sins. These are the wounds that covered your sin with my blood. These are the wounds that say, “You are not condemned!” These are the wounds that say, “your sin has been removed as if you never sinned!”

And while giving His disciples His peace, “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit (vs 22).’” F.F. Bruce provided a great summary of what was happening: “The Spirit is imparted by the breath of Jesus. The verb used here…is used in the [Greek Translation of the Old Testament] of Gen. 2:7 where, after fashioning the first man from dust, God ‘breathed into his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul’, and again in the command to the pneuma [the breath-Holy Spirit] in Ezek. 37:9, ‘Come from the four winds and breathe into these corpses, and let them live.’ But it is not the bestowal of life that is in view now [in John 20], but empowerment for ministry (Bruce, F.F., The Gospel of John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983. 392.).”

In fact, two things were happening here. One, the disciples were becoming born-again. The same powerful Spirit who gave life to all humanity in Genesis, is the same Holy Spirit who breathes new life in God’s new creation people. This is the breath we receive in Holy Baptism! This is the gift of the Holy Spirit that transfers from sorrow and fear, to joy and peace. But not only did the Holy Spirit re-create the disciples here in John 20, but He commissioned them to go out in His power to give Christ through the saving gospel. That is, the disciples in receiving the peace of Christ received both rebirth and power.

This is what the Word teaches at John 7:38-39 before Christ’s death and resurrection:

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Upon having been resurrected from the dead, the LORD was now the LORD of glory and it was time to give the “rivers of living water,” that is, the Holy Spirit to His followers. As is pointed out by one commentator: “…the side [of course where our LORD was pierced] recalls the source of living water (John 19:34) he has now come to give (20:22; 7:37-39) [Keener, Craig S., The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume Two, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. 1202].”

The blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus is that same blood and water that gave us peace. And the same Christ who is your peace and power for mission to serve the Living God and to share His gospel continues to come to you as well through His blood in the ongoing feast of the Holy Supper and through the living water that has already washed you in Holy Baptism. These have given you Christ. These have given you and continue to give you the Holy Spirit.

Everything has changed, because now you have Christ and to have Christ is to have the Holy Spirit. Sadness? It cannot stand up to forgiveness. Fear? It is overcome by peace. So, we go forth because everything has changed. Jesus said at John 16:33:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

It’s true, since the LORD has even defeated death and because He has given Himself to you and given His Spirit to you, even in tribulation, you take heart. The world tries to get you down but hear Christian! Behold Christian! The risen Christ has overcome the world! Peace…yes peace, is now yours. Hear His Word to you baptized one: “Peace be with you!” And He breathed on you in your holy baptism and gave you the Holy Spirit and He said to you again and even says to you today, “Peace be with you!”