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Jesus Himself Stood Among Them
Luke 24:36


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Third Sunday of Easter—April 26, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for our message is today’s Gospel Reading, especially this verse: “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

It was the evening of Easter Sunday, and the disciples did not have peace.  Today’s Gospel Reading calls them “downcast.”  The Gospel of Mark says, “Those who had been with him . . . were mourning and weeping.” The disciples that first Easter were filled not with peace, but with turmoil, grief, guilt, doubt, despair.

What they had been through the last few days was horrible.  They watched in shock as their best friend and beloved Rabbi Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried.  They were “mourning and weeping” the loss of their loved one.

But, there were a lot of other emotions going on too.  Matthew tells us that at the Last Supper a few days ago, “Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.”  But, just a few hours, and a few verses after that, on the very same page in most Bibles, Matthew reports that when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”  And later that night when Peter was asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers, “He called down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’”

So, the disciples were “downcast” and “mourning and weeping” that day, not only out of grief, but also out of guilt.  Guilt over their betrayal, guilt over their denial, guilt over their letting down of their Lord.  Guilt and shame over their sinful failure.

Like the disciples’ sorry example, we too are often guilty of not showing forth our faith, betraying, denying, letting down our Lord.  We too have guilt and shame over our sinful failures in many aspects of our lives.

The disciples were also “downcast” and “mourning and weeping” that day because their whole world had fallen apart.  Three years ago they had left everything.  The fishermen among them, like the two pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John, had left their nets and boats.  Matthew had left his tax collecting business.  While traveling with Jesus these past few years, they all had left behind their homes and families.  As Peter told Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!”

They did it because they thought Jesus was more than a carpenter, more than a rabbi, more than a man.  “You are the Christ,” Peter had declared just a few months ago, “the Son of the living God.”  They thought Jesus was the long-awaited great Messiah sent from God, who would lead their people to great things, and the disciples themselves to great things too.  It was so wonderful just a week ago on Palm Sunday, when they walked beside him in triumph into Jerusalem as the crowds shouted, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!” 

They were sure that by the end of the week there would be a popular revolution, Jesus would be acclaimed king, crowned with gold, enthroned in governor Pilate’s palace, and they would be ensconced with him.  But, everything went horribly wrong.  Their dream turned into a nightmare, their hopes and plans crushed, their whole world fallen apart.  For, Jesus was crowned, not with a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns.  He was enthroned, not in Pilate’s palace, but upon a cross.  Crucified, dead, and buried, and they felt dead inside too.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Peace!  That’s what the disciples needed that day.  Peace, between them and God, against whom they have sinned.  Peace, between them and their friend Jesus, who they fear will be angry with them for so badly letting him down.  Peace, within themselves, as they struggle with the overwhelming events and turmoil in their lives.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Peace!  That’s also what we need today.  Peace, between us and God, against whom we have sinned.  Peace, between us and our friends and loved ones, with whom we have conflicts and strife.  Peace, within ourselves, as we struggle with overwhelming events and turmoil in our lives.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Peace!  That’s what the disciples needed that day, that’s also what we need today, and that is what Jesus bestows.  “Peace be with you.”

Paul says in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” 

By his suffering and death, Jesus established peace between you and God.  Sin separated you from God, but his sacrifice makes up for all your sins.  As Paul says in Ephesians, “For he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

Because of his blood shed on the cross, you are no longer alienated from God, but reconciled, your sins all forgiven, you are “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”  Paul puts it this way in Romans: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The peace that Jesus established between us and God also brings peace among his followers, with one another.  The disciples were fearful that day that Jesus would be angry with them for so badly letting him down.  But, instead of chastising them in anger, “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” 

The peace that Jesus bestows also brings peace among his followers, with one another.  Paul puts it this way in Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds you all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

The disciples were in turmoil that day as they struggled with the overwhelming events in their lives.  The peace that Jesus bestows also brings inner peace within us.  As Paul says in Romans, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Even in the midst of struggles and turmoil in your life, you can be at peace.  Because you know that your loving heavenly Father will never leave you or forsake you, that he hears and answers your prayers, and he is somehow working all things together for your good.  Paul puts it this way in Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” Jesus still comes among his followers to grant us his peace.  “Go into all the world,” he commanded, “and preach the Gospel to all creation. . .  Whoever hears you hears me.”  The word “Gospel” means “Good News,” and Jesus still comes among his followers through the preaching of the Gospel, the Good News of forgiveness of sins through faith in him.  As Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

“As the Father has sent me,” he said to the disciples, “So I am sending you. . .  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.”  Jesus still comes among his followers in Holy Absolution, forgiveness of sins granted “in the stead and by the command of [our] Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Go and make disciples of nations,” Jesus says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus still comes among his followers in Holy Baptism, as Paul says in Ephesians, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Today’s Gospel Reading says, “Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”  Jesus makes himself known to you today in the breaking of bread.  For, just as Jesus himself stood among his first disciples and declared, “Peace be with you,” he still comes among his followers with his very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Peace!  That’s what the disciples needed that day, that’s also what we need today, and that is what Jesus bestow, in his Word, in Holy Absolution, in Holy Baptism, in Holy Communion.  “Peace be with you.”

Amen.

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