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“Peace Be with You!”
John 20:19-31

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday of Easter—May 1, 2011

In Italian it’s “pace,” in Latin “pax,” in Spanish “paz,” in Hebrew “shalom,” in German “freiden” (FRY-den).  In countless different languages, it all means the same thing: “peace.”  “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Amen.

Our text is today’s Gospel Reading from the 20th chapter of John, the first time Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection, the first words with which the risen Lord greets them: “Peace be with you!”

The dictionary defines peace as a “cessation of hostilities” between two enemies.   Paul says in Colossians, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”  God is all-holy, all-good, all-righteousness.  Because we are wicked sinners, by nature we are enemies of God.  What a terrible thought, to be an enemy of God, deserving his vengeance, his wrath, his divine punishment.

And, our wickedness not only makes us enemies of God.  Sadly, our fallen, sinful state also makes us enemies of each other.  Immediately after the fall into sin Adam and Eve began arguing about whose fault it was.  Soon this animosity between humans escalated to the point of Cain killing his brother Abel.

Still today that same sinful animosity lives on in our hearts, sours our lives and relationships.  Not only in the obvious ways, wars, violence, bloodshed.  This animosity in our hearts sours our personal lives and relationships every day.  So much bitterness, so much hatred, so much anger, coming at us, and also coming from us.  Feuds, quarrels, arguments, controversies, fallings-out, squabbles, strife, conflict, bickering, malice, grudges, revenge.

“Peace be with you!”  Why are those the first words Jesus speaks to his disciples after his resurrection?   Because he has just returned triumphant from his mission of peace.  Paul says in Ephesians, “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Like the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, sin was an impenetrable barrier separating you from God.  But, “he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between you and God.

“Peace by with you!” For he has accomplished his mission of peace, he has suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins.  Paul puts in this way in Colossians: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, 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.”

“Peace by with you!” For his resurrection is sign from God the Father that he accepts his Son’s death as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.  As Paul says in Romans, “Therefore, since we are justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Peace by with you!” His mission of peace is accomplished; you have peace with God through your Lord Jesus Christ.

“Peace be with you!”  God remembers your sins no more; God forgives all your transgressions; the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from every sin.

“Peace be with you!”  You will never know God’s vengeance; God will never show you his wrath; you will never feel his punishment.

“Peace be with you!”  Even in times of suffering and sorrow.  As Peter says, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. . .  for Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”  

Christians are not immune from either the laws of men, or the law of cause and effect.  If you drive a hundred miles an hour and have an accident, you may get a speeding ticket, and you may be injured.  But, neither one is a divine punishment for sin.  The speeding ticket is a result of the laws of men, the accident is a result of the law of cause and effect, both of which Christians are still subject to in this world.

But, as a Christian, when you suffer in this world it cannot be a direct divine punishment, for you are at peace with God.  On account of Christ, all hostility from God toward you has ceased.  He promises those who trust in him that even when we suffer he is somehow working all things together for our good.  “Peace I leave with you,” Jesus says.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

“Peace be with you!”  But, sometimes when trouble comes our way we are like doubting Thomas.  We doubt God’s love and forgiveness, we question whether we really are at peace with God, we wonder, “Is this not a punishment from God?”  Like Thomas, look on his hands and feet, wounded for you.  Your suffering cannot be a divine punishment, because God the Father accepts his Son’s sacrifice in your place, as full punishment and payment for all your sins.  Touch him and see, his body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  “Stop doubting and believe” his beautiful benediction, “Peace be with you!”

And since you have peace with God, you will also seek to live in peace with others.  Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  As a child of God you will seek in your life to be not a peace-breaker but a peacemaker. 

Paul says in Romans, “Live in harmony with one another. . . as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. . .  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and building up one another.”  And in 1st Corinthians, “God has called us to live in peace.”  And in Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”  Hebrews urges us, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone.”  And Psalm 34 says, “Seek peace and pursue it.”

That’s what Jesus means when he says, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  Because God has ceased hostilities toward you, because you have received the gift of peace with God through your Lord Jesus Christ, therefore in your life and relationships cease hostilities toward others, share God’s gift of peace.

“Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  “Peace be with you!”  Amen.

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