Peace Be With You!

The Second Sunday of Easter  (Quasimodo Geniti)

John 20:19–20

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.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (ESV)

Introduction: A Promise Given, A Promised Fulfilled

In a single moment, Paradise was lost. Adam and Eve realized the enormity of what they had just done, and in the new-found emotion of fear they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God came looking for them, walking in the garden in the cool of the day (see Genesis 3:8). God came to our first parents in the evening when the day had cooled down. He sought them out, in part, to reveal to them the Gospel promise that one day the Seed of the woman would tromp down on and crush the head of the serpent (see Genesis 3:15). 

So now also the risen Christ comes to His disciples in the cool of the evening. To sinners hiding in fear behind locked doors, Jesus brings the Good News that He has crushed forever the head of the hellish serpent, and has won true peace through His resurrection; also, by His resurrection, our Lord Jesus now has restored that which had been corrupted through the Fall. Paradise lost is now Paradise found and in the process of being renewed and re-created. Oh, we still feebly struggle in this broken, wicked, dying world. Nevertheless we, according to [God’s] promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). The promise given to the first sinners now is fulfilled for all sinners by the crucified, risen Son of God, from whose holy wounds flow an incomprehensible peace that is far greater than our sins and all the evil that the devil can throw at us!

In the Risen Christ, We Receive the Peace of Being Reconciled to God

No door or lock of any kind could keep Jesus shut out from His fearful disciples. He just popped up in their midst to show them that He is the one true Mediator between God and sinners (see 1 Timothy 2:5). When Cain killed his brother, Abel, Abel’s blood for vengeance Pleaded to the skies; But the blood of Jesus For our pardon cries (LSB 433.4). The disciples are not just fearing outside persecution from the Jews but also their own inner turmoil over having forsaken their Lord. And now, that Lord stands before them to speak of better things than that of Abel (see Hebrews 12:24). Jesus speaks not of vengeance but of peace. For it pleased God the Father to reconcile all things to Himself by the blood of Christ, His dear Son (see Colossians 1:19-20). Yes, Jesus is the One who, with His death and resurrection, has reconciled us to God. 

Once, you were alienated from God, even God’s enemy. But now Jesus has reconciled you to God. This is not a reconciliation in which an arbitrator brings together two adversaries to talk it out and bury the hatchet. This is God seeking out sinners hiding in fear, living in sin,  and dying in unbelief. This is God coming in the flesh and then lifting up the body of His flesh upon the cross in order to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (see Colossians 1:21-22). 

Jesus came and stood among [the disciples] and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Notice that He did not omit anyone from His greeting. The Lord excludes no one from His peace, and none shall have any preferential treatment. Instead, Jesus is the Mediator for all sinners, even Peter, who had sinned so grievously by denying his Lord. In excluding no one and by not giving preferential treatment, your risen Saviour is showing that He makes even a great sinner such as you to become the beneficiary of all His heavenly blessings. Even you are reconciled to God, at peace with God. For in His dying and His rising and in His baptizing you, Jesus presents you holy and blameless to His Father, in whose sight you are now above reproach.

The Peace of Christ is Given to Those in Great Need

That first Easter evening, the risen Jesus finds His disciples hiding in fear, both outwardly because of the Jews and also inwardly because of their guilty consciences. Their hearts are still too weak and heavy to believe, even though they have heard from the women and some of the disciples that He had risen. While they were troubled about this and were talking about this, Christ suddenly appears and gives them a friendly greeting: Peace be with you. What wondrous love!—that the first words the risen Saviour speaks to His locked-up disciples are Peace be with you!—such tender, gracious words to comfort those in desperate need.

And our Jesus speaks these very same words to us, for we too are in great need of His peace. Now this peace of Christ is very secret and hidden from our senses. It is not a peace that flesh and blood can understand, for we see that, though we are baptized, we still suffer misfortune, the devil still oppresses us with the fear of our sins and the punishment we deserve, and our sinful flesh sill alarms us with our own weaknesses. Like the disciples, we fear what lies outside of us—the disease and turmoil that is present everywhere; and we also fear what lies inside of us—the guilt and shame of our sins. But our fears cannot lock out Christ. And so, He comes to us to give us His peace.

This peace of Christ is not a visible or tangible peace which we can sense externally. Rather, we receive Christ’s peace internally, by faith, when we grasp and lay hold of nothing but what we hear, namely, those friendly words of Christ which He speaks to frightened and distressed sinners: Peace be with you. As we hold on tight to our Lord’s word of peace, we become satisfied and content with the fact that Christ is our friend and that God wants to offer us everything good, even though externally in the world we perceive no peace, but only its opposite—all kinds of turmoil. This is the peace of which St. Paul says, May the peace of God, which is higher than all reason, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). And as Christ Himself says: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).    

The Peace of Christ is Rooted in the Graciousness of God and the Forgiveness of Sins

Christ comes to strengthens needy sinners with His word of peace. Even when He allows external adversities to continue, His peace remain,  Out of timidity He makes a fearless heart; He makes a trembling heart bold; He makes a restless conscience peacefully quiet. Then we are confident, courageous, and cheerful even in the presence of the things of which the world is still frightened, that is, in death, sin, and all distresses in which the world can no longer help with its comfort and goods. That is a true and lasting peace, which remains forever and is invincible as long as the heart clings to Christ.

So this peace means nothing else than that the heart is certain that it has a gracious God and the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus our Lord. Of course, we can be certain that God is gracious and forgiving only when Christ points us to His hands and side, that is, when He shows us through the Word that He was crucified for us, shed His blood and died for us and in our place, and thus defeated the devil, paid for our sins, and won for us our salvation. The bloody cross of Jesus is the true sign which comforts frightened consciences and hearts and assures us of divine grace and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus directs us to His holy wounds so that we will not doubt, but will be certain that it is He Himself who is not angry with us but is our dear Saviour. This peace is not so easy for us and all distressed consciences to lay hold of because we are alarmed and conflicted. Therefore, He comes and strengthens us both with the Word and with visible signs.

Christ comes in baptismal water to cast out the devil from sinners and to make sinners children of God. He comes to feed us with His Word, blest words that give us life. He comes in Holy Absolution, in which He speaks through the shepherd of the flock; the pastor speaks but it is Christ who is heard by penitent sinners. Through the pastor Christ’s hand stretches out, forgiving sin, destroying doubt (see LSB 616.4). And Christ comes in the Holy Supper, in which His body and blood remove our every sin, and we leave His presence in His peace, renewed again (see LSB 602). 

Christ, in His dying, has defeated the devil. Christ, in His rising, has given us peace. And so, in the face of the world’s turmoils and our own struggles, we are to be glad in our salvation, glad that we have peace and every good from God. In speaking those wondrous words, Peace be with you, Christ our Saviour shows that without a doubt He wants to be our comfort in our great need and that He is the true and indestructible Life and Salvation that is far higher and greater than our death and sin. Yes, indeed, Christ is our true comfort who calls us to live in the joyful certainty of His peace and forgiveness. And truly, we can and should have no other comfort to which we would cling in every need. For through His resurrection Christ has conquered everything and now gives us as our own everything that He has done and suffered and won for us. Amen.