Easter Sermon

The Lamb of God Who Gives Us Peace

 

(John 20:19–23)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

 “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (LSB 434) that’s been our song all throughout these forty days of Lent. But we don’t move on to better things now that Lent is over! For there’s nothing better than the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. We see Him in our text, fresh from His grave on that first Easter Day. The marks of death are still visible in His hands and side. To His disciples are filled with fear and He says: “Peace be with you!”

Even as He says it, it becomes so. Jesus gives them peace right then and there. Then He then breathes on them the Spirit upon them and sends them out to proclaim the forgiveness of sins that He earned upon His cross. So we come full circle. We began this season pondering the pure and holy Lamb of God, the victim of our sin. Today we see the victorious Lamb of God, our Jesus, the risen champion over sin, death and the devil.

And even as it was said on that first Easter, “Peace be with you.” So Christ’s lasting legacy is peace—the kind of peace that surpasses all human understanding, the peace that outlasts the stresses and storms of this life, the peace that will see you through the valley of the shadow of death and will usher you into heaven’s light filled courts. There you shall stand in your own risen flesh before the Heavenly Father. The Lamb of God gives you peace, a lasting peace, an eternal peace.

That’s why the feast is extended. The Church’s Easter Day continues long after all the chocolate and sugary treats of Easter have been consumed. Long after all the fluffy little toys of Easter have been tucked away yet for another year. Forty days the paschal candle—the reminder of the risen Christ—will stand near the altar. Its bright flame will recall those forty extraordinary days that astonished the disciples while they lived with their resurrected Lord, seeing Him with their own eyes, touching and handling His living flesh with their own hands, eating and drinking with Him after He had risen from His grave, and listening to His life-giving, death-destroying Word with their ears.

After Ascension Day you will see that this candle doesn’t go away; it stands as the perpetual emblem of the risen Christ. For our Lord Jesus is not dead and gone, like some departed hero. Instead, He lives forever and reigns forever as the head over all things for His Church. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ shall come again, alleluia. The very same Lord who was put to death for our offenses has been raised for our justification and He shall come again in glory to claim His Bride, the Church. That’s you! Therefore we Christians remain faithful to our heavenly husband, even though we cannot see Him for a time.

Although we have not seen Jesus with our eyes, yet we love Him; we believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. For in the precious Word of Christ’s Gospel and in His Holy Sacraments we are continually receiving faith, which is the salvation of our souls. No wonder the festival continues without fading. All the Sundays from now until Ascension Day are not labeled “Sundays after Easter,” but “Sundays of Easter.” Throughout the Easter season we celebrate with undiminished joy. And this is a good thing, because God knows there is so much out there that wants to rob us of that joy. Private and public perils surround us. Fear and uncertainty grip the nations of the earth, while wars and rumors of wars echo and re-echo around the globe. Illness and hardship, distress of body, mind, and soul—all these things rob us of inner peace and joy. “Outbreaks of fighting and fears within” is a good description of what we face today

It was like that at first Easter Day also, when Jesus came and stood among His disciples with His astounding blessing. The doors were locked out of fear, but Jesus entered anyway to speak His words of life and hope, “Peace be with you!”

That was the standard greeting of His day, but with Jesus it was made it into something extraordinary.  This was no “Hi, how you doing?” or “Have a nice day.” For after Jesus said these words, He showed them His hands and His side and you know what they saw there in His living flesh? The wounds of His death, the holes of His hands, the gaping gash in His side where the soldier’s spear had pierced His side. Standing before them was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Lamb of God who died that we might live.

But Christ wasn’t dead. The visible marks of death were engraved on His living flesh. This was no figment of their imagination. This was none other than the incarnate Son of God embodied in human flesh standing before them in a locked room. The very same Lord Jesus who had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, who had been crucified, dead and buried, now stood before the disciples, alive. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was now the Lamb of God who gave them peace. And He also gives you peace.

And that is exactly what He did. He came and preached peace to the disciples. “Peace be with you,” He said. That remains an extraordinary statement, without precedent or parallel in ordinary social conversation. Jesus was not merely greeting them, this was a creative word. What Jesus said, He did. With the very words He spoke, He gave peace to His disciples and bestowed among them the termination of all hostility between God and man. It was a spiritual cease-fire, a ratification of a cosmic peace treaty first established at the cross when Jesus breathed His last, commending His soul to God, then calling out in triumph, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The peace of the Lord continues even in wartime. For the great cosmic battle between God and man is done and over. Peace has been won for us all. Sin is now vanquished; the stronghold of the grave has been breached; hell itself has lost all power to destroy. Life has triumphed over death. Death has lost its teeth; it can scowl and glare, as Luther once wrote, but it cannot bite. The sting of death is gone, for all sin has been removed in Christ our Lord, the Lamb who gives us peace. Once sin is gone, there is nothing in all creation that can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death itself.

So now there remains a Sabbath rest for all the people of God (see Hebrews 4:9). Each time we hear the life-giving Word of the Gospel of Christ, and every time we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have His life within. By faith we receive through these divine means all the benefits of Christ’s saving work in the power and presence of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to His disciples, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” (John 20:23). These, too, were not empty words. Jesus actually commissioned these men to serve as His representatives, distributing in the Church the forgiveness He had earned upon His cross. And it is still the same among us. When we hear from the mouth of the pastor, “I forgive you all your sins,” it is not my forgiveness you receive, but Christ’s—the real and genuine article, the actual removal of guilt and shame in Jesus’ name. Not because I says so, but because Jesus says so. He, the Lamb of God who takes our sins away, is the Lamb who brings us peace. And He gives that peace in more than one way in His Church.

“Peace be with you!” We hear these words of Christ before we eat the bread and drink the cup of His Holy Supper. As it was in that locked room that first Easter evening, so it is here this day. Hearts are restored, sins forgiven, lives renewed in Jesus’ name. Although we may daily live and breathe on a virtual battlefield, the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ continues to bring us peace within. This is our shield and protection, our bulwark and defense against all that threatens us. Jesus says in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you,” says our risen Lord. “I do not give to you as the world gives”.

That is where we come in. Left to ourselves in this world we have no peace. Left to ourselves we have to contend with worry and fear, hurt and loss, and also a good dose of shame and guilt. Left to ourselves we are a mess. But we are not alone.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the risen victor over sin and death and He has given and bequeathed to His Church on earth His living and abiding peace. This peace is dispensed and distributed in the preaching of His Gospel and in the eating and drinking of His Holy Supper. Then there is peace once more given. For in the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus’ sake there is peace for every troubled child of God by faith. Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we  have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:17–18).

So in the name of Jesus, peace of God be with you, this Easter day—the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. For Jesus means exactly what He says and gives precisely what He means. The peace of the Lord is with you always. And to this we gladly add “Amen, Thy peace be with us, O Jesus.”

And now may that peace of God which surpasses all understanding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN