“I have said
these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you
will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the
world.” Those were the last words Jesus
addressed to all the disciples as they made their way to the Garden of
Gethsemane on the evening of Maundy Thursday.
said a number of things, but a theme that continues to appear throughout the
three chapters of his words to them in John’s Gospel is that Jesus is about to
leave. He is returning to the
Father. Now our Lord also repeatedly
tells them that he will send the Spirit who will play a critical role in the
work that is to be done. But the thought
of Jesus leaving them could hardly have prompted feelings of peace.
And then our
Lord says that he has overcome the world.
In the events from Thursday night through Friday afternoon, it sure
didn’t look like it. Instead, he had been betrayed by Judas – someone who was
supposedly one of his devoted disciples. He had been sentenced to death and
crucified. He had suffered and died on a cross. Then, before sundown on Friday,
he had been buried in a tomb. By any
rational evaluation, the world had overcome Jesus with overwhelming might.
On the first
day of the week – on Easter – there had been developments that were
confusing. In John’s Gospel we learn
that Mary Magdalene had gone to tomb early, when it was still dark, and had
found that the stone had been rolled away.
As we heard in the Gospel lesson for Easter, she had gone and told Peter
and John. They found that the tomb was empty. The cloth in which Jesus had been
buried was folded up and, the cloth that had covered his face had been set in a
different place. When John saw this, we
are told that he believed.
Peter had returned to where they were staying.
Mary Magdalene had then met the risen Lord Jesus. She had held on to her Lord who had risen
from the dead. Jesus had replied, “Do
not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my
brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’” Just as
Jesus had commanded, Mary had gone to the disciples and announced, “I have seen
the Lord” -- and that he had said these things to her.
text this morning begins with the words: “On the evening of that day, the
first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples
were for fear of the Jews.” There was certainly no peace in that
room. Instead, there was fear. Mary’s report seemed to have had little
impact on the disciples as a whole. Was
it because the source of the news was a woman?
Was because it was just too good to be true? Was it because it was sounded
too crazy too be true? For whatever
reason, her announcement, “I have seen the Lord,” had done nothing to drive
away their fear.
things from a rational, worldly perspective there was indeed much to fear.
Jesus, the One they had followed for nearly three years had been arrested and
crucified. The disciples had been with
Jesus. It wouldn’t be hard to identify
them. What if the Jewish leaders weren’t
content to stop with killing Jesus? What
if they decided to go after others who were seen as leaders in his movement?
As we live
our lives, when we look at things from a rational, worldly perspective, there
is also much to fear. There are serious,
life threatening health problems in our life, or in that of family and friends. There is uncertainty about the future course
of our life – the direction it will take and the events that await us. There are financial concerns as we face debt
and worries about how we are going to pay for future expenses.
disciples were in a locked room because of fear. But John tells us, “Jesus came and stood
among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them
his hands and his side.” The risen Lord
appeared before them in the midst of that locked room. He said to them, “Peace be with you.” This was not a wish or hope. It was a
declaration of fact. They were words
that did what they said, because Jesus Christ was there speaking them to the
He was their peace. He was their peace
because he had been crucified and died.
But now he had risen from the dead. He showed them his hands, which bore the
marks of the nails that had held him to the cross. He showed them his side, into which a Roman
soldier had plunged a spear to confirm that Jesus hanging on the cross was in
Jesus had died on the cross. He had been
buried. But now he stood before them
alive! Certainly, there was something
different about him. After all, he had
just appeared in the midst of a locked room.
But the marks in his hands and side demonstrated that this was the
same Jesus they had known. It was
the Jesus who had been crucified. It was
the Jesus whose body had now been raised from the dead.
Our translation says, “Then the
disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
But that doesn’t really do justice to the Greek. Not only is the word used here more normally
translated as “rejoice,” but John has placed it has the first word in the
sentence which is a sign of emphasis.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord! Jesus was alive! In an instant they had seen the words of Mary
Magdelene confirmed to be true. Whatever
they had thought about Jesus’ death was now wiped away.
Jesus who had been crucified was alive. He had risen. And now they had peace. Our Lord drove this point home by saying for a second time, “Peace be with you.” And then Jesus went on to express how they were now to share this peace with others. He said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Our Lord had
told his opponents, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is
a slave to sin.” He had said to them, “You are from below; I am
from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you
that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I
am he you will die in your sins.”
John the Baptist had declared
that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus had
compared himself to the bronze serpent that God had commanded Moses to raise up
on a pole. He said, “And as Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted
up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus had said during Holy Week, “Now is the
judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will
draw all people to myself.”
In his first
letter, John explains what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The apostle says that Jesus “is the
propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of
the whole world.” Jesus’ death as the
Lamb of God was the sacrifice that has removed sins and allowed us to have life
with God. John tells us, “the blood of
Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
In the Old
Testament, a sacrifice was killed, and then it was dead - end of story. These
sacrifices pointed forward to the great sacrifice Jesus would offer on the
cross. But as the fulfillment of these sacrifices, Jesus’ death was about the
forgiveness of sins that leads to life.
Our Lord said, “I came that
they may have life and have it abundantly.”
As the risen Lord, Jesus told his disciples, “If you
forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness
from any, it is withheld.” He sent his
Church forth with the authority to forgive sins – his authority as the
crucified and risen Lord. That’s what
happened at the beginning of this service.
You heard these words: “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and
by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
spoken by the risen Lord on the evening of Easter was carried out this morning.
Because it was, your sins are forgiven.
They are forgiven, and because they are you have life. Jesus promised, “He who believes in the Son
has eternal life.” These are not merely
words. They are words that find their source in the One who died on the cross
and then rose from the dead. They are
words that are true because Jesus lives.
He has conquered sin. He has
Jesus Christ, you have eternal life now.
And you also know that the risen Lord will raise you up on the Last
Day. Jesus said, “For this is the will
of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in
him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Death cannot be the end for your body,
because it was not for Jesus. He stood
in the midst of his disciples with the same body that was crucified. Yet it was also a body transformed by the
resurrection so that it can never die again.
Jesus has won the victory for us in both body and soul.
On the night
before he died, Jesus told his disciples, “I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace. In the world you will
have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” On the evening of Easter, the disciples
learned how true these words are.
By his death on the cross Jesus has given us
the forgiveness of sins. By his resurrection from the dead he has defeated
death. Through faith in Christ we
already have eternal life now – life with God that not even death can end. We also have the assurance that death cannot
end our bodily life. Yes, it may put our
body in the grave. But the risen Lord who stood in the midst of the disciples
on the evening of Easter will return on the Last Day to raise our bodies to be
like his own – never to die again.
Are there tribulations and difficulties as
we live in this fallen world? Yes. Jesus
said there would be. But there is no
need for fear. Instead, we live by
confident trust in the Lord Jesus who was crucified on Good Friday to give us
forgiveness and rose from the dead on Easter to defeat death. He has conquered sin and death for us. We
live in his forgiveness and love which will carry us through every challenge as
we set our hope on the risen Lord.