The Rev. Paul J Cain
Peace to You
Easter 3B, 22 April 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
That Philippians 4:7 apostolic blessing from St. Paul is how a Lutheran sermon often ends. Today, it is appropriate that such a blessing of peace begin and end today’s sermon on Luke 24.
The disciples were talking about the day’s events. Two men walked to Emmaus talking about Jesus. Jesus joined them, but they did not know it was Jesus until He revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread. They hurried back to tell the disciples gathered there.
The disciples in Jerusalem had other reports about Jesus that day, too. The women who had prepared spiced to take to Jesus’ tomb found the tomb empty and were greeted by angels who told them of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter ran to the tomb and verified the report that the tomb was empty.
Last week, in the sermon on John 20, we focused on the forgiveness of sins proclaimed in the stead and by the command of Jesus, proclaimed by Christians and especially pastors in Jesus’ place because He said so. We could have focused on so-called “doubting Thomas.” That would have been the easy way out. Jesus, earlier in John 20 and today in Luke 24 confronts a whole room of doubters.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
Startled. Frightened. They thought they saw a “spirit.” An angel? A demon? What did they expect?
Jesus calls them on their doubt, their unbelief, their unfaith: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
It’s like Jesus said: “Why are you guys so upset? Why did you doubt? If you want to walk by sight and not by faith, take a good look. Go ahead, touch Me. If you must, put your finger here, and see My hands; and put our your hand, and place it in My side.”
The disciples “disbelieved for joy.” What an odd way for John to speak the truth about the whole situation. Matthew, in chapter 28 at the Ascension, uses similar language: “And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.”
So, here we are on Easter evening, the sun has gone down on the Sunday of Jesus’ Resurrection. John 20 last week told us of this same night and what happened on the eighth day after, a week after Jesus’ Resurrection. So much happened in that short amount of time that it takes days, weeks, months, and even lifetimes to make any sense of it.
It’s like what John wrote: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but 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” (20:30-31).
John concludes His account of the Gospel in this way: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them written, I suppose that the whole world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25). This is most certainly true.
Unfortunately, so many books and TV programs about Jesus and the Bible are intended to create doubt, ridicule belief, and kill faith. Personally, I don’t think they are worth your time. It is part of my responsibility to understand what they’re saying in order to protect you and refute them. We have nothing to fear of honest questions and responsible scholarship. I will always take issue with those who mean to do Christians harm. And it is our priority to boldly and clearly say what Scripture says.
Similarly, Jesus reminds His disciples of what I taught them before.
44 Then 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and3 forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus not only reminds them that everything that took place in His ministry, passion, death, and Resurrection is as He had told them it would be, He also tells them what will now take place in their immediate future.
One. Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. This is good news for all people, Jew and non-Jew.
Two. You are witnesses of these things. Who will be doing the proclaiming of law and Gospel? The disciples. The Twelve will become Twelve again. Jesus will have His twelve-fold Israel again so that they will be His witnesses to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. All but one, history tells us, were witnesses even unto death.
Three. Jesus sent the promise of His Father upon them. That is why He told them to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. The Jewish Festival of First Fruits, Pentecost, is the time God the Holy Spirit clothes them with power on high, emboldening their witness, and translating it in to the languages that Jews gathered in Jerusalem could understand. There, again, the Lord has His Israel, His congregation, His Church, gathered around His gifts of salvation in Messiah Jesus’ name. The Lord once again has His true “first fruits,” those who fear, love, and trust in the Lord God above all things.
One. Repentance and forgiveness of sins, law and Gospel, are still proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations. Paul preached to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. That is still our task. We are given to keep the message pure and also to get the message out.
Two. You are witnesses of these things. No, not all are in the Office of the Holy Ministry, but all of us, according to our vocations, tell the good news about Jesus.
Fathers are given to raise their children in the faith and teach the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession and the Office of the Keys, and the Sacrament of the Altar to their household. It is an honor and a privilege to help in that regard. Parents are to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate their children. Those things care for God’s gift of life and prepare children for adulthood and their vocations, yet teaching them all that the Lord Jesus gives us in the Word is a preparation for both life and eternal life.
We are given to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching. The baptized are to be taught everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms as well as the New Testament. We will be having Sunday School this summer. Our Bible Class and service schedule will remain the same. And our summer adult Bible Class will focus on Jesus in the Book of Isaiah.
Why Isaiah? Well, why not? Have you ever been to a Bible study on Isaiah? It is so rich in content about Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King, as well as our suffering Servant and Sacrifice of Atonement, that the book has been called the Fifth Gospel. It has sixty-six chapters, just as the Bible as a whole has sixty-six books. And it has two main parts, both by Isaiah himself. The first thirty-nine chapters speak of judgment, yet also contain some of Scripture’s richest Gospel promises. Chapters 40 and following primarily point us to the Lord’s promises, while also admonishing all who worship false gods by their thoughts, words, or deeds.
Why Isaiah? As your pastor, I wanted to study a book with you that would be something fresh and engaging for all who might attend. Isaiah will be interesting to the new Christian, a key to better understanding the New Testament for someone new to intentional study of the Bible with a group, and hearty, rich, convicting, and comforting for the life-long Christian and lay Bible scholar.
Have you been frustrated by Bible study by yourself? Do you need motivation to stick with a class on one book of the Bible? Have you wanted to start reading or studying and just didn’t know where to start? Here’s your opportunity. You can just sit and listen. You don’t have to read aloud or ask questions unless you want to. And if you miss a class, don’t worry. We’ll record them all, just like we’ve been doing for years now.
Jesus calls all of His disciples, including us, out of our doubt, our unbelief, our unfaith: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? …..a spirit does not have flesh and bones as….I have.”
Believe in joy. And taste and see that the Lord is good!
Jesus’ Resurrection means peace for you. He spent His Sabbath rest in the tomb so that His Resurrection would give you spiritual rest and peace in His Word and Gifts, peace that no one and no thing on earth can give. His Resurrection means your resurrection to glory on the Last Day. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus . Amen.