Peace That Does Not Fade
Text: John 20:19-32
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
It wasn’t that long ago that the disciples had first heard that good news, when Mary Magdalene came to them that morning, announcing that she had seen the Lord and He had given her that message of good news to deliver. But even with her report, and Peter and John’s news about the empty tomb, and the slow realization that Jesus had been fulfilling the Scriptures all along, it didn’t last that long. On the evening of that day, there they were again, huddled together in a house, door locked, out of fear. The leaders in Jerusalem had gotten what they wanted—Jesus’ death—so it only made sense that they, the disciples, were next. And even though they’d heard the message just hours earlier that Jesus had defeated death, they were afraid again.
But then Jesus appeared, speaking peace, showing them that it really was Him, that He really had risen, that He truly had conquered death for them, and they were glad. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit. They were to be sent out to forgive the sins of others, just as they had been forgiven.
And it was good. Granted, Thomas wasn’t there, so he missed out on it all. But even so, they were happy when they saw their resurrected Lord. And even though Thomas refused to believe what they told him, it was still OK. Nothing could dampen their Easter joy.
Or so they thought. It wasn’t that long later, only eight days, that they found themselves in that locked room of despair again. This time Thomas was with them. It was natural, because the heat still hadn’t died down. Those who managed a kangaroo court with Jesus would certainly have just as easy a time taking out these disciples of His one by one. A short eight days later and the fear had paralyzed them again.
Sometimes the joy of Easter fades fast. It did for the Apostles in that room that they kept locking. It does for us too. The stresses of life return. The mockery from the world rises in volume again. Families bickering, problems resurfacing. The return of a bad diagnosis, the treatments have stopped working. Bank accounts not refilling. Depression and anxiety over the state of the world, or the state of the church, or the state of the country, or the state of your own life pulls that door shut and locks you inside. Where are the alleluias now? Where are the flowers? Where’s the triumph, the joy?
Thomas often gets the harshest treatment when people look at this text. Some call him “Doubting Thomas”, as if he weren’t in the room with “Denying Peter” or “Brash James and John.” But if we look at that locked room on Easter evening and eight days later, we’ll see what we always see in the church: a room full of sinners. For who of us, even we who have not seen with our eyes and yet have believed, how many of us look like those other Ten disciples. We believe, we’ve heard the testimonies of those who saw Jesus. We’ve received the Holy Spirit. We’ve touched the Lord in the Supper here, we’ve heard His words of peace in the Absolution. And yet we’re afraid. We think that it’s all well and good, but what about all those “real life” concerns? What about those enemies out there? What about our livelihood?
So we busy ourselves with fretting. We grumble about how things should be different, as if Jesus’ resurrection hasn’t already made all things new. We worry about everything under the sun, as if Jesus hasn’t had all things put under His feet. We grab hold of every situation to manipulate and control whatever we can, as if our victorious Lord wasn’t ruling over heaven and earth. We lock ourselves away in fear—in our homes, in our minds, in our hearts—as if our risen Savior didn’t care, as if He can’t do anything about our troubles because they’re too big even for Him.
Sometimes Easter seems to fade—at least in our estimation. But never for our Lord. Never for Jesus. His victory was not so cheap that He lets it tarnish and dull. So what does He do? He comes to His disciples. And notice the first thing He does when He shows up there in the locked room. He doesn’t scold. He doesn’t tell them to try harder. He doesn’t give them tips on victorious living. Nor does He tell them it’s ok for them to be distracted by the shadows, paralyzed by fear. But what does He do? He forgives.
“Peace be with you.” These words are the first thing He says to His troubled disciples. He says it that first Easter evening. He says it again eight days later when they’ve fallen into that same old worried pattern. Peace be with you. And this not just a run-of-the-mill peace that the world looks for in its vacations and self-care, peace so easily shattered by human foolishness and vanity. Jesus speaks peace with God: all sins forgiven, your grumbling forgiven, your self-centered worry, your trespasses committed out of fear, your doubts about what He can do for you—all of it blotted out and forgiven. God is on your side now because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and empty tomb. And that means that it’s peace that nothing can break. No mortal can undermine that, no fear can break it. And He gives it to you. Forgiveness, life. He’s truly with you now—body and soul, flesh and blood, water and Word. Peace be with you.
This morning we rejoice with our confirmands. They’ve spent the last three years learning about that peace, discussing it, finding ways to describe it and understand it and take hold of it. And I would like to tell you that there’s nothing that will diminish that. But Easter seems to fade sometimes. So we have our confirmands make their vows today—vows to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the peace that God gives them here, vows to remain faithful through everything. And by God’s grace, by His strength, He will bring them through the doubts, the fears, the times when it seems like Easter is a distant memory. But keep coming back to where those words of peace are proclaimed. Keep coming back to the Absolution, the Gospel, the Lord’s Supper. Keep living in your Baptism, praying, reading and hearing the Scripture, talking about it with your family. That’s really what your vows are about today. It’s not just another list of things on a checklist that you have to do now. It’s encouragement to get yourself back to the places where Jesus is present with forgiveness, with peace.
Peace be with you, confirmands. Peace be with you, people of God; disciples who have not seen Him and yet believe. The peace, the forgiveness, the gracious presence of God, be with you always. In the name of Jesus, who gives peace that passes all understanding. Amen.