In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
At least three times in the gospels we read how Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer many things and be killed. He said that he must be delivered into the hands of the high priests and the scribes who would condemn him to death. Jesus told them he would be turned over to the Gentiles, be mocked and shamefully treated.
With each grim prophecy of his future, Jesus also told them that on the third day he would rise. It all came true, the suffering, the crucifixion, the dying, and then the resurrection. They had witnessed the betrayal, had been part of the desertion, and had no doubt about his death.
The doubting and uncertainty came with the resurrection. For a second Sunday in a row, we read about the disciples locked in a room on Sunday evening. They had heard the good news from the woman, Peter and John had seen the empty tomb, and the disciples from Emmaus had told them they had been with the risen Lord Jesus.
Even with the mounting evidence of the resurrection, the disciples were afraid and anxious. We read that they were afraid of the Jews and they were certainly anxious about all the reports that they had heard about the empty tomb of Jesus.
The disciples had suffered too. When a family member or dear friend suffers, we often find ourselves helpless as the disciples did and so they suffer. When the unknown threatens us, we suffer anxiety and fear. Life as the disciples knew it had ended. They feared facing death and a tomb themselves.
In their hearts, they were also suffering because they had forsaken Jesus. They were unfaithful and had abandoned him. They had failed him. In the midst suffering, fear, and failure Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Jesus came with forgiveness and a new and different life for them. He had not failed them. Jesus returned to them with love. He was faithful to them bringing the blessings of the cross and the empty tomb. By the grace of God these events were going to change their lives and fill them with joy.
I have not talked with most of you this past week, but I can tell you about some of the things that happened in your life this week. In one form or another, you suffered. Perhaps someone hurt you with their words, betrayed you, or deserted you in a time of need. Maybe your health or the health of a loved one is failing.
Anxiety and fear in your life are very real when you hear about drive-by shootings, an accused terrorist being arrested in Ohio, or an ISIS training camp in Mexico only eight miles from the US border. And, in your heart you know that you have failed Jesus, abandoned and been unfaithful to him.
It is for these reasons that I pray you heard the voice of Jesus this past week. I pray you heard him saying to you, “Peace be with you.” I pray that the good news of the cross and the empty tomb assured you that Jesus did not fail you.
With those events, Jesus gives you forgiveness and a new and different life. He brings peace to your conscience so that you believe that your sins are no longer haunting you. They went with Jesus to the cross.
He brings you peace even when your vary life here on earth is threatened. No matter what illness or decease causes you pain or takes your life, you will be healed when Christ comes again. Your new life in Christ sees those who betray or desert you with their words or actions as ones who need your forgiveness and prayers.
Just as Jesus brought peace to the life of the disciples, he brings you that peace. It is a gift that changes your life. Jesus has shown you the love of the heavenly Father, a love that gives you a new life as children of God. Speaking of life, let us speak a moment about what nourishes life.
Saint Luke adds a detail to the story of Sunday evening that we did not hear last week. To help give the disciples peace Jesus asked for something to eat. Yes, this is the one who was born of Mary, who was dead but now is alive. Jesus used this simple example of eating food to take away the fear the disciples had that he was not real or that he was only a spirit.
He wanted them to be joyful that he was alive, that he had conquered death. They knew that food nourishes and strengthens the body. Jesus used that knowledge to teach them about a source of nourishment and strength that they would need.
After he had eaten a piece of the fish that they had given them, he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Jesus was directing them to what they would need more than food. When Jesus himself was tempted he answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus knew that the disciples needed more than knowing he was alive. They needed the Word of God that would explain what had happened.
If all that the disciples believed was that Jesus was alive, that he was risen from the dead, then it would only be a miracle like the raising of Lazarus. He wanted them to know and believe more. Jesus wanted them to know and believe the why – that it was for the forgiveness of their sins and the promised of eternal life.
He wanted their new and different life of faith to have nourishment to keep it alive. This is what would truly give them, “Peace from above.” So it is with you. In your baptism, Jesus connected you with his death and resurrection so that you were made alive in him.
To remain alive, to keep your faith from dying, Jesus wants to continually open your minds to understand the Scriptures. Jesus wants you to know that the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments are about “Christ suffering and on the third day rising from the dead” for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus wants you to know that his suffering, dying, and rising are the fulfillment of God’s promise to you. He wants your life to be filled with repentant joy knowing that you are at peace with God not through your sacrifices but though the one all sufficient sacrifice of Christ..
Jesus sent the disciples into the world with this message that he was the Christ and that through his suffering, death, and resurrection peace was available to all who repent and believe. The disciples would preach forgiveness through the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus not through sacrifices that we might offer.
In the reading from the book of Acts, we hear Peter doing exactly what Jesus did for him and the disciples. Peter told how Christ’s suffering and death were the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior. Peter told the Jews to repent, to turn to Jesus as their Savior so that their “sins may be blotted out and that times of refreshing might come from the presences of Jesus in their lives.”
Jesus knew that the joy of seeing him alive and for us the joy of a wonderful Easter morning would be threatened. Jesus knew that the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus is alive needs to include the reason that Jesus died.
You will be tempted to believe that there is no peace in your life. You will be tempted that Jesus has forgotten you. There will be times when you are weak and struggling to make it through the day. Jesus has nourishment for you. He has food that will strengthen you.
His food for you is his Word, the Holy Scriptures that have been given to you. They are the witness of the prophets and the apostles that God not only promised a Savior, but God sent his Son into the world to be that Savior.
His food for you is his very body and blood that is given to you in his supper. Jesus promised that as you receive his body and blood with the bread and wine that you are also receiving forgiveness and strengthening for your faith.
Jesus has promised that as you hear his Word he will open your minds to understand the message of love and forgiveness that they proclaim. Jesus has promised that when you hear of his suffering and dying and raising you will have peace.
The message of Easter is not that Jesus suffered, died, and rose for his sins, but for yours. He suffered and died to pay for your sins. He rose so that you know that he has conquered death and the grave, your death and your grave. They no longer have a sting, they no longer have victory over you. “Peace be with you.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria