John 20:19-20 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 16, 2023
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel lesson recorded in John 20:
19Therefore, being evening of that day, the first day of the week, and the doors locked where the disciples were because of the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace to you.” 20When He said this, He showed them the hands and the side. Therefore, the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
The sacrifice was complete. His blood had been shed; death and hell were suffered as He hung on the cross. Jesus won the forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the whole world. “It is finished.” Salvation is secured; victory over sin, death, and the devil is complete. As undeniable proof that Jesus is the Son of God, that His doctrine is truth, and that God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the reconciliation of the world, our Lord rose from the dead. And that’s where we meet up with our Risen Lord in our text.
It is Easter evening, the evening of that first day of the week. It’s the very same day that the women had gone to the tomb when the sun had risen and found the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus “not here.” It was the very same day that Jesus showed Himself to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Now the wild stories were flying about. The women had seen visions of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. Mary claimed to have touched Him and held Him in worship. But Peter and John hadn’t seen Him. None of the other disciples had either, until that evening when the disciples were hiding in fear behind locked doors to avoid arrest and execution at the hands of the Jews who had crucified Jesus.
Despite the doors being locked, the crucified and risen Jesus came and greeted His followers, “Peace to you.” He showed them His hands with the nail wounds visible. Jesus showed them His side, the wound of the Roman piercing still visible. This was indeed Jesus who was crucified—alive and glorified—not a spirit, not a ghost, not a vision. This was the right Jesus. He came and gave the disciples what His wounds merited for them and for the world—peace, peace with God because of the forgiveness of sins, a peace which passes all understanding. Proof of this peace between God and people is in the marks of the nails in His hands, the wound in His side, and the fact that He was alive and showing Himself resurrected to them. And so, the disciples responded to this greeting of peace from their crucified and living Lord and Savior with joy! They were glad when they saw the Lord. That’s how faith receives Jesus.
Faith is glad and rejoices to receive the Crucified and Risen Lord and the gift of peace—welfare and health between sinners and God—which He brings in the forgiveness of sins. Because of our sinful condition, humanity’s relationship to God had been severed and destroyed. People, by nature, are hostile to God. We are not content to follow the Word and the commandments of God, even though they bring us blessing. Romans 5 reminds us that at one time we were God’s enemies. Enemies are not at peace in their relationship; they are at odds with one another. This was our relationship with God. We were separated from Him in our sinfulness and at odds with Him, even hostile to Him. All of our impure thoughts condemned us. Each one of our words and actions that are contrary to God’s Word condemned us as sinners who are to be punished with death and separated from God forever. How could we have peace with God in this lost and sinful condition? We were without hope of reconciliation, without hope of salvation and eternal life.
But God is ever faithful to us, despite our sinful condition, despite our being His enemies. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God the Son became fully human so that He might take your place and mine as enemy of God so that He might win for us complete forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation with God. At Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, His angels announced that with the birth of God-made-flesh, there is now “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV). Jesus had come to make peace between God and sinners with His perfect life lived in our place and with His perfect suffering, death, and resurrection.
On the cross, Jesus allowed Himself to become God’s greatest enemy of all time as He bore the sins of the whole world in His own body. On the cross, Jesus was the sinners of sinners for us, and He faced the full separation from God when He was completely forsaken, totally cut off from the Father, enduring hell in our place so that we would no longer be separated from our heavenly Father because of our sins. We read in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus suffered and died, shedding His blood to cover your sin and mine and to bring about true peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins.
The Crucified and Risen Christ’s declaration, “Peace to you,” is His pronouncement that through the cross, the work of winning peace with God is done. It is, as Paul says, a peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). In Christ, God has mended our most serious breach between us and Him. That peace which exists between God and us does not depend on our perception or reflection of it. It is real and objective because Christ, our Prince of Peace, has made it real through His suffering on the cross. When we don’t feel it, we rejoice that we are still, through Christ, at peace with God. When we do feel it, we rejoice in it as a gift from God. The joy that the Crucified and Risen Christ brings to us is the joy of sins forgiven and life forever with God. The gladness Jesus brings to our bodies and souls is the fact that we are reconciled to God, and we have peace with Him.
So we, like the disciples, are overjoyed when we see the Lord who announces to us, “Peace to you!” But where is it that the Lord Jesus comes to us and says to us, “Peace to you”? True, He doesn’t come to us behind locked doors and show us His hands and His side, but He does come to us in His real presence in the Means of Grace.
Jesus comes to us in the peace and joy of sins forgiven in the Word of His Gospel. The very Word of God who was made flesh, who suffered and died to win our peace with God, who is risen from the dead, comes to us in the Good News that announces, “Your sins are forgiven. You have peace with God.” As we receive the Gospel of Absolution, we rejoice to see the living Lord who speaks those words to us through words on a page and through the human voice of His called pastor as we receive his words as from God Himself.
Thus, we see Jesus who comes to us in Gospel Words. But He also comes to us with Gospel Words combined with water in Holy Baptism. In this Sacrament we see Christ, through the Holy Spirit, wash away our sins, declaring us to be at peace with God and reconciled to Him as God’s own children. In Baptism, you and I as children of God are united with Christ in His own death and resurrection. Romans 6, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4 ESV).
The Crucified and Risen Christ comes to us in His Gospel Word, in water and Word in Baptism, and finally in Word and sign with His very Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. By the power of His Word, Jesus Christ gives His Body and Blood in, with, and under the blessed bread and wine. As the hymn writer says, “Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face; Here would I touch and handle things unseen; Here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace, And all my weariness upon Thee lean” (LSB 631:1). At peace with God, we approach the Lord’s Table to see Jesus as we eat and drink His Body and Blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins. In this blessed meal we receive from Jesus life and salvation. He gives us victory over sin and hell and strength for a new life in Him.
Again this day, the Crucified and Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, comes to you in Word and Sacrament and declares, “Peace to you.” Through His cross and resurrection He won the forgiveness of your sins and reconciled you to God through His blood. You are at peace with God. You are His beloved sons and daughters to whom Jesus your Lord and Savior brings the refreshment of peace, forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. As you continue to see Jesus in His Means of Grace, rejoice and be glad. Look forward with great joy to these special moments when your Lord and Savior comes to you with His blessings and love. Amen.