Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Peace in the Risen Christ

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Resurrection Morning Worship Service, April 4, 2010.

Joy, hope – and now, Resurrection word number three: peace. Peace. I pointed out in the early morning service that the word “Rejoice!” was the first word Jesus spoke to anyone, following His resurrection. He spoke it, as we discovered, to the women who came to the tomb to embalm His body! In this text, however, the Apostle John focuses his attention – switches on his 'microphone' to record a different word coming from Jesus' lips. A word He uttered at least 3 times – the word 'peace'. Now that word, 'peace' or 'Shalom' as the Jews would have said it, was the sort of their normal way of greeting each other. Kind of like our 'Hello.” But, here in these verses we read, there seems to be something more to Jesus' use of this word than simply a greeting. First of all, notice the element of fear at work in the hearts of Jesus' disciples. Verse 19 – they had fastened their door shut, they were afraid the Jewish leaders might come after them, seeing that the dead body of their prized prisoner was missing. The disciples were fearful, and they needed something, someONE to calm them. Jesus was that someone with the word they needed to hear – Shalom – “peace be to you!” The same someone, by the way, with the same simple, yet powerful word, as when they had been in the storm out on the Galilean Sea – 'Peace'. It's surely a timely word, a needed word, when you're afraid. But, the scene is different now, wouldn't you say? The One Who had been telling them all along about Calvary, and a tomb, and a rising from the dead – the One Who had let them in on all of this while ou in the boat – all of the things He had predicted and come true. Thus what He had said about Himself, about His identity must be true, too! But, what does all of this mean?

Peace... Writing several years later, what we know now as his first letter, the Apostle Peter explained it this way. He said that peace, soundness, wholeness, and the tranquility of heart that goes with all of that, is to be found, not in a greeting, but in a person. In a relationship with the Living One. 1 Peter 5:14 - “Peace to all of you, who are in Christ Jesus!”

In other words, peace - not simply the absence of conflict - but peace in this deepest and fullest of senses begins with what we might call a vertical dimension. It begins by being in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Peace, do you know that peace?

Now, maybe you're wondering, “What does Jesus Christ have to do with my being at peace with God?” My friends, He has everything to do with it! Everything – the Apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 2:14, that Jesus IS our peace! And that is true – verse 16 – Paul says, because Jesus Christ has reconciled us, made peace with God for us, through His death on the Cross! In other words, Jesus Christ is not merely our peace Negotiator, He is our peace Offering. Or, as the Apostle John drives home in his first letter, Jesus' death on the cross, His propitiating death and cleansing, shed blood makes it impossible for us to have what we CANNOT have otherwise – fellowship with God!

Maybe you've never looked at it this way before, but listen, Jesus' words to the repentant thief - the one who, as he hung on a cross next to Jesus, asked Him to remember him when He entered into His kingdom – what did Jesus say to this man? Do you remember? He said, “Truly, assuredly, today you will be with Me in paradise...” How could Jesus make such a statement, such a promise? He could make a promise like that because He, the One hanging from the cross in the middle, came to make a way for repentant thieves, and humble prostitutes and brokenhearted liars and adulterers – and homosexuals – and, yes Jesus came to make a way for even church members – to be forgiven! He is our peace vertically! He is the One who endured God's righteous wrath and judgment against us and against our sins – upon Himself! He is our peace!

Oh, but there's more! I can't tell you how many times, as a minister I have had people tell me the sad and painful stories of their lives with their families – broken marriages due to jealousy and selfishness and infidelity; children abused, neglected, sometimes even abandoned all together; brothers and sisters at war with each other; long-held grudges and bitterness over past sins and failures - where's the peace in all of this? To put it bluntly, there isn't any – at least, not if He is absent!

I'm not sure why Jesus said, “Peace to you” each time He suddenly showed up in the disciples' midst those first few hours and days following His resurrection. Perhaps one reason was to bring some wholeness and even some tranquility to the disciples' relationships – who knows? Maybe these men in that brief period between Jesus' death and the confirmation that He really was alive again – who knows? Maybe they were blaming themselves – perhaps even blaming each other for the sad outcome of it all. But, then suddenly, unexpectedly He shows up among them and says, “Peace!”

Ever have any arguments under your roof? You say you had one on your way here this morning? Doesn't make for a very good mood with which to worship, does it? “Shalom,” Jesus says, “Peace to you!” You see, not only is Jesus our peace, our peace maker – our peace-making sacrifice – vertically, He also came – look at the direction toward which His arms were out stretched. Jesus also came to be our peace horizontally – on a person-to-person, husband-to-wife, parent-to-child, brother-to-sister, basis! Do you need His peace in this way, in your life? Many do. How about you?

Finally, maybe you're like everyone else in this room – you have 10 fingers and 10 toes, 2 eyes, 2 ears and one nose. But, what you don't have is what you yearn for the most: peace within, internal harmony, peace of mind. Did you notice the signboard message out on the lawn? There are two restaurants back over this way, they're advertising to provide you with that peace of mind. “Come on in, we'll show you a good time! Have a few cold ones, watch the Big Screen, sing along with the live band – we'll get you there!” That's quite a promise, if you asked me... Do you believe them? From what I can tell, a lot of folks do! But, do you?

Are you fearful? Fear has a powerful way of robbing one's peace, doesn't it? The disciples of Jesus were fearful – so afraid in fact, that they locked the doors. Oh, but Jesus, the Peace Makers, He didn't need a key! He could walk through walls! More to the point, He could breathe His Spirit of peace upon someone, and he or she would become willing to stare down even the fiercest enemy!

Do you have doubts? Questions? Uncertainties? Ever heard of Thomas, before – doubting Thomas? What was Jesus' initial exhortation to this fellow who as wavering between faith and un-belief? “Peace to you!” The word peace is a Resurrection word, too. Do you see it? Because doubters like Thomas, and like you and me, need it – need the certainty that the Living One offers, here (hands), here (side) and here (in the Bible).

Peace – Hope – Joy. 3 powerful Resurrection words found and summed up, not in anything Hank's or Hooter's offers, but in Jesus – in Jesus! But, why is that so? JOY – HOPE – PEACE. Those powerful Resurrection words are powerful – why? Because of these Good Friday words:

“Father, forgive them... for they know not what they do...” “Assuredly, this day you will be with Me in paradise...” “Eloi, Eloi, Laman Sabbachthani – My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and, “Itisfinished!”

If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.. If you want hope, living hope, certain hope, let Jesus come into your heart. If you want peace, true peace, lasting peace, let Jesus come into your heart...

All hope, all peace, all joy was gone – GONE! Until Easter's dawn. But we are free, FREE, because God's love found a way!

Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12 - “Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

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