John 20:19-31

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 had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Theme: “Jesus Lives to Give Peace”

Dear fellow redeemed,

How is your sleep? I recently saw an article reporting widespread sleep issues. Nightmares and restless nights are apparently more common than normal. People are feeling miserable for days on end partly because they are sleeping so poorly for days on end. This of course is due to everything we are going through at the present time. Have you experienced this? Do you feel very peaceful right now? Are you anxious? Are you stressed? Are you burdened? You are likely keenly aware of just how desperately you do need peace. Easter means peace for you. The wonderful news for us all is that Jesus lives to give peace.

            The first event in our text takes place the evening of Easter Sunday. John tells us, “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….” There was both an inner and outer door. Both were barred. The disciples feared the Jewish leaders. They feared they might be arrested because Jesus had been arrested and put to death. The disciples were not at peace because they were not looking to Jesus for peace; instead, they were consumed by the bad news and threats from the Jewish leaders which surrounded them. They tried to find peace in locked doors and thick walls but their turmoil remained.

            Right now, we are learning firsthand how other sources of peace fail us. What have you looked to for peace in our current crisis? Lawmakers to make decisions you approve of or reverse decisions that bother you? Doctors to keep you healthy or cure you if you become sick? The government to secure your finances or get out of the way of your finances? Those might be fine and beneficial things in and of themselves but they cannot give you the peace you need. They will fail you in that regard. Worse yet, we have sinned against God when we made such things our confidence for peace.

But look at what Jesus does. Suddenly, in the midst of this scared group of disciples, “Jesus came and stood among them.” The Savior had risen. Jesus according to His human nature now was fully using the divine attributes communicated to it from His divine nature. Therefore, locked doors and thick walls were no hindrance to Him. His body is no longer limited by the confines of space and time.

Jesus greeted His disciples with these words, “Peace be with you!” The risen Savior came to them to give peace. Jesus lives to give peace. This peace is the fulfillment of the Christmas promise of the angels. Christ has reconciled us to God; we are at peace with God through Jesus. We are forgiven of all our sin through Jesus. Jesus delivers that peace to us.

            “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” After His resurrection, many eye witnesses, more than 500, saw, ate with, and touched the Lord. His wounds served as a visible Gospel, a visual reminder of what He had done for them. Though He stood before them with a body that was glorified, no longer subject to any suffering or limitations, it was the same body, the same Jesus.

            This same Jesus lives to give peace. Thus, He commissioned His disciples to deliver that peace to others. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The nuance of this is very difficult to convey in English. In the Greek there is no “them.” In other words, the emphasis is not on Jesus’ breath coming upon the disciples. Instead the emphasis is on Jesus speaking, the breath of His words. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit through His Word.  

            Look at what the risen Jesus says about the work of His servants.“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” We call this “the Office of the Keys” and it answers the question, “who gave your pastor the authority to say that he forgives sins?” Jesus did. Jesus lives to give you peace through His called ministers. This very morning, you had the peace of Christ delivered to you personally in the absolution. This announcement of the Gospel is not merely a report; it is the actual imparting of Christ’s forgiveness.

            Verse 24 begins the second part of this text. Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” The other disciples eagerly reported to Thomas what had happened. But, Thomas said, “I will never believe” unless he saw and touched the wounds of Jesus. Thomas isn’t merely doubting; he refused to believe. The Word of God had come to him through the disciples but he rejected it, thinking himself too reasonable for such claims.

            But the risen Jesus lives to give peace. “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”

            Thomas’ unbelief was overcome by Jesus, the Word made flesh. Jesus had lived the life Thomas, the disciples, and we, had not. He is the only one who can say He perfectly kept His heavenly Father as His only source of peace and never looked elsewhere. His life was one of perfect harmony with the Father for it was a life free from all sin, a life truly full of “peace.”

            You are at peace with God for your Savior has reconciled you by His life and death. He has shed His very blood unto death on the cross to make peace for you. He went to the death of the cross so that God’s anger with you would be appeased.  He lives to give you peace by His Word.

            Peace led Thomas to confession. “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Jesus is true God. His resurrection proves this. No one but God could raise Himself from the dead. Jesus is your Lord. His resurrection proves this. He has overcome the grave and in this is found the proof that He succeeded in His work of winning your salvation.

            The peace of Christ is the peace you need, both in this present crisis and always. This peace means the Lord is with you to care for you. You are not alone for the Lord loves you and will be with you no matter what you face. This peace means your eternity is secure. You will live forever in bliss in the presence of your loving God. This is the peace you need, and it is the peace you have.

            Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Faith rests upon the Word of Jesus. Though He is no longer visibly present, His Word is ever powerful. You have not seen Jesus; you still know His peace through His Word, and you are therefore blessed.

            And, just as Jesus gave Thomas something tangible, He does the same thing for you. Christ’s body and blood made peace between you and God. Christ has attached His body and blood to the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Therefore, in Holy Communion as you receive Christ’s body and blood, peace is imparted to you. Come, come and receive peace.

            Dear friends, when you go to bed tonight and in the coming days, use Martin Luther’s evening prayer. It’s printed for you in today’s bulletin: “I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray You to forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.” And note Luther’s instructions following the prayer: “And then lie down in peace, and sleep.” You are at peace for Christ gives you peace. Christ gives you peace even when everything earthly around you is turmoil. This current turmoil cannot change the peace you have in Christ Jesus. Christ lives to give you such peace. Amen.