Easter 3 – The Risen Savior sends with us a message of repentance and forgiveness
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Jesus Give Peace
Peace in our time.1 Before WWII, there was a British Prime Minister named, Neville Chamberlain. He met with the Nazi Reich. And he heard them promise to him that they had no intentions to go to war. So he came back and told his people in a famous speech, “peace in our time.” His speech became famous, not because of its style or length. Instead, it became famous because of how naïve it was. For only months later the Nazis invaded Poland. That speech reminds us of a very important fact: Peace is only good if it is real and it lasts. Jesus starts out these words here, giving his disciples peace. And the words that follow, we see how this peace is different than the sort of peace that the world might give us. In Luke 24, we read: “36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”” (Luke 24:36–44 NIV11-GKE)
In these words, we find ourselves very late on Easter Sunday. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus have come back to the twelve. And then, when they are all together, Jesus appears. And when, they see him, instead of being filled with confidence, they are filled with doubt. And, in a very fascinating way, we see what the source and cause of their doubt was: joy. This is a strange fact to consider, that joy can get in the way of true peace. It got in their way because, even though they had joy, they didn’t know if they could trust it. This fact brings us back about a month ago when Jesus, with deliberate and burning anger whipped the money changers and drove them from the temple grounds. In those words we spoke about the fact that anger, by itself, is neither good or bad. It is simply part of being human. We can use anger for good or for bad. Here, in these words we have the same thought, but in the opposite direction. Sometimes we might be tempted to conclude that anger is always bad, but it is not always the case. Here we might be tempted to conclude that joy is always good. But that is not necessarily true. Joy is only good and right if it has a foundation.
Let’s use an example from our every day lives. A football team goes into the locker room for half time. The coach tells them their flaws on the field. Meanwhile, the cheerleaders are filling the people with joy and excitement. The team comes out for the third quarter. If the crowds are filled with joy, does that mean that their team is guaranteed to win? Nope. Joy can only give us lasting peace if it has a foundation.
Notice what Jesus does then. He gives them a foundation. First, he shows them his hands and side and eats fish. Second, he reminds them that there were all these promises that God’s word made. Then he gave them the opportunity to look back and ask themselves, “how many of these promises did Jesus not keep?” They had to be fulfilled.2 And all of them were.
These words invite us to confess to our Lord the times and ways we have sinned and failed by making the foundation of our peace transitory joy—the times we tried to build up our hearts or minds with just joy by itself. And as we confess these sins, in such an amazing way he forgives them. He proves his promises to pay for our sin are kept by rising from the dead. And he then gives us a real reason for peace: our joy has a foundation. Jesus continues though: “45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:45–52 NIV11-GKE)
Jesus gives peace. He gives peace by giving a founded joy. But notice here how he gives peace. He opens up their minds so that they are able to put together the details of what God’s word says.3 This brings us to another failing of Jesus’ disciples. All the promises, all the truth was right there in his word. They had no excuse to not know it and not remember it. But they did not know his word and they did not remember.
We too fall into that same trap, don’t we? When we are confirmed we make a promise that we know that what we have learned here isn’t the end of our journey of learning. Instead, it’s the beginning. And we make the promise to learn God’s word all the rest of the years of our lives. What’s the problem though? The problem is that we get out of the habit of reading and learning. I had a pastor’s conference last week. We went through the book of Joel in Hebrew. And it shocked me just how much out of the habit I was of sitting down and reading that much of God’s word at a time. I was out of shape. That robs the journey of its joy.
In addition to this, when we finally do sit down and read the bible, we get stuck. There are parts of the bible that are difficult to understand. So we face the temptation to just give up. And sometimes we do and go back to our home base passages like Psalm 23 and John 3:16.
These words are so amazing. For Jesus doesn’t just open their minds. He also promises to open our minds. First of all, he opens our minds through. He opens our minds through our own reading of his word. Jesus tells us: “He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”” (Matt. 13:52 NIV) There is this amazing fact, that, as we read God’s word, he opens our minds and hearts just as we read it on its own or hear it read to us. But he also gives us help. You have a pastor not just to hear sermons from, but also to learn God’s word from. I went to my class on Joel this last week thinking I knew pretty well what the book was and was about. I came away recognizing that there were a few areas I had reached the wrong conclusion about and so many more areas I needed to learn so much more about. But the only way I learned them was by sitting down and learning from a guy who had studied this more than I had. That is our role in life, to find those who know these parts of the bible, and then learn from them.
So Jesus opens our minds through his word and through people sharing his word. But he also opens our minds to. To what? He opens our minds to old truths. We need, again and again, throughout all our lives to hear that Jesus loves us, knows us, and forgives us. For, as Luther reminds us, we daily sin much. We need the old truths of law and gospel all the time. But he also opens our minds to new truths. Think of these words here. I’ve preached on these words a number of times before. And, in all those readings and preachings, I never read or remembered the part where the source of their doubt was their joy. That was new.
And my friends in Christ, notice what Jesus opening up our minds does for us. Instead of putting in front of us a frustrating journey where we read or hear God’s word and it demoralizes us, Jesus opens our minds again and again so that we have a fulfilling journey. We can come to church thinking to ourselves, “here I’m going to meet old friends.’” We will see our sins in front of our faces. We will see our Savior taking them away. But, if we look even closer, we will find what is new. And so, Jesus gives peace. He gives peace with a founded joy and with a fulfilling journey. Amen.
1 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
2 “ⲇⲉⲓⲡⲗⲏⲣⲱⲑⲏⲛⲁⲓ” (Luke 24:44 GNT-ALEX)
3 “ⲇⲓⲏⲛⲟⲓⲝⲉⲛ…ⲥⲩⲛⲓⲉⲛⲁⲓ” (Luke 24:45 GNT-ALEX)