Dear baptized and redeemed, Peace be unto you. The resurrected Christ lives to bring us peace. Peace in the forgiveness of sins. Peace by the gift of His Spirit. Peace through the gift of faith. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And what matters more than peace with God? What matters more than knowing that God is at peace with us (for the sake of His Son)?
There are many different kinds of peace. We pray for peace among the nations, we pray for wars to cease. More simply, there is the peace of relaxation, like the feeling we get right after taking a nap. There is peace in relief, after finishing a difficult and important job. There is peace in nature - just sitting outside enjoying a nice warm breeze, or maybe fishing on a nice quiet pond. There is also peace with man. Scripture says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Times of peace with our loved ones is precious.
All these types of peace are blessings from God, but none of them compares to…peace with God. The peace of knowing we will inherit eternal life because of God’s Son. Nothing compares to peace with God.
There are times when we don’t always have all those other kinds of peace, the earthly kinds. Sometimes we don’t even have any of them. But that’s why it’s so important to know we have peace with God. Knowing He has forgiven all our sins in Christ, and believing that He is forever at peace with us. That’s what the resurrection of Christ is all about. The risen Savior means that God accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. Now Jesus lives to bring us the peace He won for us, by His Word and Spirit. What compares to peace with God?
After Jesus had risen from the dead, He paid a very special visit to His disciples, and said, “Peace be unto you.” They had all forsaken Him and fled. Now, they were cowering in fear behind closed doors. Quite a contrast to three nights earlier, when they all said they would never forsake Christ.
So it’s what Jesus doesn’t do that is also important. He doesn’t condemn them. He doesn’t hold their sins over their head. He says “Peace be unto you.” He forgives them. He comforts them. He strengthens them.
After He shows them His scars, He says, the 2nd time, “Peace be unto you.” The following week, He comes back, and He says to Thomas, “Peace be unto you.” It is clear that their sins were forgiven. Our sins too, no matter how great, are forgiven. The risen Savior lives to bring us the peace of sins forgiven.
It’s easy to single out “doubting Thomas”. Today seems to be national pick on Thomas day. But that’s not reality. Reality is that they all doubted, and they all were “slow of heart to believe”. Yet Jesus loves to forgive. He loves to see us rest in the peace of sins forgiven. “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called ....The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”
But true peace does not necessarily mean what many think it means. True peace doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to get everything I want, or that I will have peace with everything and everyone in life. After Jesus had risen, did that mean no one would ever bother the disciples again? No one would ever be mad at them for preaching the Gospel? No Romans would ever be cruel to anyone, ever again?
Did it mean that all wars would cease, and all arguments would just go away? The truth is that God never promised it would be that way. But He does promise, “I will be with you always. I will be with you through it all. I will never leave nor forsake you.”
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” The peace of God doesn’t take away everything that might trouble me, it gives me everything I need to get through it. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” God’s peace calms our fears and removes our doubts - even in the midst of the greatest storm.
Isaiah says, “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” Jesus showed the disciples His hands, His feet, His side. There is a direct connection between His wounds and the peace He brings. He had to suffer many things to make peace between God and man, and His hands, feet, and side, showed the scars.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” The chastisement that earned our peace with God, was upon Him on the cross. But Jesus lives to never die again. He lives to bring us the peace that He won for us. On pentecost He sent His Spirit, and still today, He sends Him to us, to teach us all things. To comfort us in the forgiveness of sins, the fact that the Father accepted the Sacrifice of His Son for all our sins.
At the end of our Vespers liturgy, we pray to our Father, “give us that peace which the world cannot give.” Christ also speaks of giving us peace, “not as the world gives, give I unto you.” The world does give a certain kind of peace. But it’s a false peace – peace in the treasures and pleasures of this world. But what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and yet lose his own soul? Christ gives us eternal peace, eternal rest in the forgiven of sins. That peace endures the ups and downs of life, and weathers even the strongest of storms. “Peace be unto you.”
He gives us confidence, firm trust, that is founded upon the rock solid foundation of His life, death, and resurrection. Because He lives, we too will live. That is real peace. Peace of conscience. Peace of sins forgiven, Peace that brings rest to our eternal soul. Peace that the world cannot give.
“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.” The word remit means to send away, or to let go. Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them. How do we do that? By simply speaking God’s Word. By comforting one another in the resurrection and in the forgiveness of sins.
The disciples behind closed doors are the perfect example. Jesus had already died and risen again. He did all things needful for us all to be saved. But, of what benefit was it to the disciples? They didn’t yet believe. They were still living in fear. It wasn’t until Jesus spoke to them, “Peace be unto you”, that they received the gift of God’s Spirit, and that they believed. For “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
After Thomas was restored, Jesus said, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” We don’t get to reach out and touch the scars on Christ’s hands, feet, and side. Yet, He does reach out to us, in His Word. He does reach out to us, in His true body and blood at the Lord’s table, given and shed for us for the remission of sins. He does reach out to us in the cleansing waters of Holy Baptism, which is not just water, but water comprehended in and connected to God’s Word.
“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” That means you, believers in Christ. And “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” May God’s peace continue to be with you and strengthen your faith. In the words of Paul, “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” Peace be unto you. In Christ’s name. Amen.