Father, speak again your word of Peace to your people, and make us bearers of that same Peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Imagine all things Jesus could have said to his disciples that first Sunday evening. “Now, about last week. Where should I begin?” No, that’s not right. Behind locked doors and into a place of great fear and trepidation, Christ speaks: “Peace be with you.” He says it three times in the span of this passage, which means it’s really important!
By the way, bolts on doors are no problem for Jesus, not because he is now less solid, less physical, but because he is more solid than doors…and brick…and mortar. Let that bake your noodle for a while.
It’s a marvelous thing – those who betrayed and abandoned Jesus were the first ones to receive the outcome of the new covenant made in his blood: overriding and overwhelming peace. Peace with God and peace with each other. Peace is the word of the new Day that dawned with Jesus’ Resurrection and continues to this very hour.
Glad for the Wounds (v. 20)
Look at verse 20.
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
I return to what I said on Easter Sunday. “The resurrection sets the Cross in power.” The cross isn’t left behind. The first thing Jesus does is to show the Apostles that his Cross was ultimately not a tragedy but God’s means of redemption and the way to Peace. But the Peace proclaimed to the Apostles and entrusted to them is not like the peace of the world. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
The Peace of the Lord is not like the peace offered, for instance, by the false prophets and priests that Jeremiah railed against: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” This isn’t a band-aid on a gaping wound. No, this Peace assumes that the world is a broken place. A place of discord, enmity, and animosity. To put it even more starkly: this Peace knows that the world is place where sin and death reign. That’s why this Peace is so costly and precious. This Peace comes to us from the other side of a grave. That’s why we’re so glad for it! That’s why again and again, the liturgy of the Church proclaims Peace! What better news is there for our world today than true and lastingly Peace? None.
Blessed with Faith (v.29)
Let’s skip down and look to Jesus’ words to the Apostle Thomas in verse 29. Why wasn’t he there? Well maybe, like Arthur Just says, he just missed the sunrise service.
Gregory the Great writes, “It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief.” Jesus allows himself to be inspected by Thomas. His work is, after all, a reality. Verifiable. Not a metaphor.
But then, he points Thomas to something else:
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas is told that he is going to part of a mission to make this same Peace and this same Jesus known by faith. There is a priority and blessing given to knowing Jesus by faith. Isn’t a wonderful thing to know that you have given this faith and have come to know Jesus in a way outside of your own power and doing? It’s mysterious and it’s wonderful. Here, Jesus is bodily present with Thomas, but the hint in verse 29 is that he will continue to be present, bringing the peace and forgiveness of God, though he will not be seen in the same way. Friends, every Sunday morning is such a powerful moment because through the Word of Jesus and the table of the Lord, we are assured that he is still in our midst. Still very much with us.
Speaking of the Lord’s Supper, the early Christian pastor and teacher Cyril of Alexandria said this, “We indeed close the doors, but Christ still visits us and appears to us all, both invisibly as God and visibly in the body. He allows us to touch his holy flesh and gives it to us. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands.”
Friends, when the church is simply faithful to who she is in Christ and to the Peace that’s been given to her, there is nothing like her in the world…because she is from another world. The early Christians were known for their Peace, brothers and sisters! For being a community like no other community in the world! We can still be that today. These promises of Peace are still the word of Jesus for today. In a world where the volume seems to be continually increasing and the vitriol is all the more acidic, we offer a place where sinners can stand shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lately I’ve been taken with the work of hip hop artist Flame. He wrote a whole album on Holy Communion. To put it lightly, you don’t see that much. In his song, “Christ for You,” he says this:
You search and you search…
For Something that’s more than a metaphor
Something that you can experience
That’s deeper than what you’vе been hearing
It’s a supper that he instituted
Along the way it got polluted
But when the church was persecuted
They clung to it and [didn’t] lose it
They found their identity not in ethnicity
But in something that was rooted
In the promise that He made to them
In the elements, He gave to them
And He said that He would save through them
Give us life and forgive through them
Make us one with God the Son
With bread and wine as the conduit
We see today that Jesus’ resurrection interrupts and irrupts into our world, bringing a Peace unknown. That Peace continues to be available and proclaimed day-by-day in the body of Christ’s ministry of the Bible and the Sacraments of grace. Thanks be to God.