In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
We all do it. We all have our favorite passages from Scripture; our favorite phrases. It seems a little disrespectful to say that we love one part of God’s Word more than another part, but I don’t think we mean any disrespect. We are creatures of habit including loving certain verses more than other verses.
My advice to all of us, however, is do not stop reading and studying all of God’s Word. What a joy it is to read His Word and find a verse or passage or phrase that we never noticed or that we had forgotten . What a delight it is to find a new forgotten passage that strengthens our faith, comforts us in a time of sorrow, or strengthens us in a time of weakness.
During this Easter Season, I have no shortage of words that I love from the gospels. In the Bible Study I did this week at Luther Crest and Luther Woods, I read the resurrection account from the Gospel of Luke. At the tomb, two angels confronted frightened women. The angels said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
What a wonderful way to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. He is living; he is not dead. What a wonderful message to us. Because Jesus suffered and died and rose from the dead we are no longer dead in our sins but we are made alive in Christ.
Another Word of God from the Easter Season that stays with me year round comes from today’s gospel reading. The disciples gathered in a room with the door locked. Even though they had seen the empty tomb and heard the message of the angels, they were afraid.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said to them “Peace be with you.”“ He said it twice, “Peace be with you.” Then, a week later, when Thomas was there, Jesus came again. He said it again, “Peace be with you.” Reading about this second visit, we tend to focus on Thomas and his doubt, but if we read carefully, we read that the doors were still locked.
Jesus had appeared to them. He had shown them his hands and his feet. He had said to them, “Peace be with you,” and still they locked the doors. Still they were afraid. All of them had doubt. They had seen the risen Lord yet they all doubted that he had overcome sin and death.
Hear how Jesus confronts doubt. He said to Thomas, “Do not disbelieve.” To doubt is to disbelieve, to disbelieve is sin. All of our sins are a form of doubt. The apostles doubted that God’s plan of salvation made any sense at all. How could God send his Son to experience such a cruel suffering and death?
They looked at their circumstances and wondered how Jesus could have been so foolish as to come to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified. How could he bring them into this dangerous situation where they had to hide behind locked doors? This all seemed to them like a strange way for God to show his love.
Yet with all of their doubt, the Lord does not come to them with anger. He is not angry that they deserted him. He is not angry with the one who denied him. He is not angry with them for doubting the resurrection.
Instead, he comes to them with forgiveness and love. “Peace be with you.” He wants them to know that all of their sins have been taken away. He did not appear to them to rehearse their sins but to give them peace. He came to show them his hands and his side as a sign of God’s love for them. He came to take away their fears.
And here we sit, one week after Easter Sunday. How have we sinned this week, when did we doubted that God loves us, When did we fear that God was holding out on us, that he was angry with us so he was punishing us with something bad happening to us.
What have we been afraid of this week, afraid that God could not handle. When have our fears of the unknown caused us to hate. When did we demand God prove his love to us by giving us a special blessing.
Worst of all, did we come here today doubting that the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us from all our sins. Did we come here out of fear believing that we must save ourselves? Did we come doubting that Jesus can cleanse us from all our sins?
Regardless of how you have come this morning, with doubts, with fears, with failures, with guilt, it matters not. What matters is that the risen Lord is here with you. He is not angry with you; he is not here today to punish you. He came because you need him. Jesus has come to speak to you. He has come to tell you what he has done for you.
Jesus came to tell you that he did not fail when he hung on the cross, he did not lose the war against sin and death and the devil. The message of Easter is that the victory is won. Christ is risen and because he lives your victory is won.
In a few minutes, I will hold a chalice in my hand full wine, Christ is showing you his blood. Over the chalice, I will hold a wafer of bread, Christ is showing you his body. The words I speak at that moment I speak for him, “the peace of the Lord be with you always.”
He is risen and he invites you to do much more than Thomas was invited to do. Jesus, risen from the dead says to you “take and eat this is my body give for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Christ, risen from the dead says to you, “take and drink this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
With this giving of his very body and blood, he wants you to have peace, peace that takes away all fear and doubt. With this meal, he strengthens your faith, faith in the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal life.
It would be wonderful if I could now tell you that you will have a perfect week, that you will have no more fear, no more doubt, and no more sin. However, your sinful nature will not leave you alone, it will continue to place fear and doubt in your mind. You will sin.
So, for your comfort, one of the disciples who was in that locked room, who was afraid, and who had doubt, speaks to you today. The apostle John writes, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
John is telling us not to doubt our risen Savior. Don’t doubt the advocate who every day is interceding on your behalf. Each day Jesus Christ is presenting to the heavenly Father the reason that your sins are forgiven.
The sinless Lamb of God shed his blood as your advocate, for your sins. He presented his sacrifice to the Father, his suffering and death, as the payment for your sins. Fear not, doubt not, the risen Jesus Christ has swallowed up death for you. The victory is yours.
“Peace be with you.” That is the message of Easter, that is the message of the Second Sunday after Easter, for each Sunday to come, and for each day in between those Sundays.
With those words, Jesus put your sinful nature in place. He declares his victory over your sin and death. We have the gift of peace, peace that comes from knowing that our sins are forgiven and that Jesus lives forever as our Savior. Alleluia. Christ is risen indeed. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria