Peace to You
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There’s a song that was written in the year 1955, one with which you might be familiar. The first line of the song says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." That’s quite a noble sentiment. After all, we all want to experience peace, and we wouldn’t even complain too much if we helped make that peace happen. After all, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." And who wouldn’t want to be called a peacemaker or a son of God? But whether or not we care to be an instrument of peace, we are more than happy to be the beneficiaries of peace.
In our text, the eleven disciples and others were gathered on the Sunday evening of the resurrection. They were seeking comfort and peace from each other. But the events of that morning and the previous few days had shaken them. The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus had them scared for their lives. Then the "Mary's" and the other women that very morning had been to the empty tomb, and they had been told that Jesus had risen. Peter had also gone to the tomb and had found it empty. This should have brought joy and peace to the faithful, but this was anything but a peaceful gathering. Oh, the believers probably weren’t fighting amongst themselves, but the room was full of the conflictions of fear and doubt. This was not alleviated by the fact that two of the faithful who had been traveling to Emmaus were telling the gathered believers about how Jesus had appeared to them: how He had walked along the road with them and explained the Scriptures to them, and how He had revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread.
While these two were still speaking, Jesus appeared in the midst of them and said to them, "Peace to you." Luke tells us that the believers were terrified and frightened, as though they were seeing a ghost. You can imagine their eyes bugging out of their heads! If anything, the appearance of Jesus among them seems only to have made the situation worse! It didn’t look like the believers were going to be able to find that longed-for peace anywhere.
But then Jesus begins to calm their fears. He says to them, "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see." He takes up and eats a piece of fish, proving that He is flesh and blood and bone, that He is, indeed, the same Jesus with whom they spent the last three years, the same Jesus whom they saw crucified just three days earlier. And then, just as He had done with the two believers on the road to Emmaus, He opened the Scriptures to them, explaining how everything that happened was to fulfill the words of the Old Testament, allowing them to see that He was the very Messiah who had been promised to them from the day of the fall into sin. He patiently led them out of their doubt and fear and uncertainty, giving them the peace which only His presence could give them.
Like the believers in our text, we look for peace all over the place. We look to our politicians to legislate some sort of moral peace and to keep physical peace. We look to our parents to negotiate some sort of family peace. We look may even look to the various religions of the world and glean "the best" of what they have to offer in an attempt to find some sort of inner peace. For a time it these things may, indeed, bring us some form of comfort. But true peace? Nothing we can legislate, nothing we can negotiate, nothing we can piece together from the various religions of the world, nothing we can do at all can bring us true, lasting peace.
But rather than finding peace, peace is something we receive. As He did with the disciples that Easter evening, so He does for us this morning and every Lord’s Day. He blesses us with His presence among us, and He gives us peace. He gives us the peace of the forgiveness of sins in the water of Holy Baptism, in the words of Holy Absolution which are spoken by the pastor as from Christ Himself, in His own body and blood in the Holy Supper. This is true peace, peace which, as Jesus tells us in John 14, which the world cannot give. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus brings peace between heaven and earth. God and sinners are reconciled. Sin is forgiven, death is overcome, and we have the peace of God which passes all understanding.
That is one of the great joys of the liturgy which we pray this morning. Peace is all over the place. We repeatedly pray in and for peace in the Kyrie. We recognize the truth that peace is something we receive in the Gloria in Excelsis. In the Agnus Dei, we confess the truth that in the body and blood of Jesus we will be receiving that peace yet again. And of course, the last word which you hear from the pastor in the Divine Service is the Benediction, where the Lord blesses and keeps you, makes His face to shine upon you, and gives you peace. This peace which we then receive allows us to go out into the world and face our daily lives, our trials and temptations, even as that same peace allowed the disciples to go out into the world, making disciples and baptizing all nations as they went, sharing the message that Christ is risen, that sin is forgiven, that death is overcome. You see, that’s the other blessing of our Gospel reading. The Lord made the disciples witnesses to these things. Having been eyewitnesses, they brought a faithful accounting of them to everyone they came across. And we have that faithful accounting even today, because the Apostles left for us in the words of Holy Scripture the account of how Christ has made peace for us with God. This peace even strengthened the martyrs to face their own brutal murders at the hands of those who sought to silence that peace. Should the time come when you are called upon to renounce your faith or be put to death, the peace of God which the world cannot—and which it has no desire to give—will strengthen you to be faithful, even unto death.
This is a greater peace than we can find from our government, a greater peace than parents can enforce with wayward children, a greater peace than we can cobble together from all the false religions of this world. Our Lord did more than just speak the word of peace. He Himself is peace. It is my privilege today to share that peace of God with you, the peace which the world cannot give, the peace which passes all human understanding. So . . . blessed is the Peacemaker. Yes, let there be peace on earth. But let it begin with Jesus, for He makes peace, and He is peace. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.