“And Also With You”
Easter 2A April 23, 2017
Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
It is Easter evening. After the confusion and excitement of that morning, when they discovered the tomb was empty, the disciples return to the Upper Room in which they had eaten their last supper with Jesus.
John makes a special point to say that the doors were locked “for fear of the Jewish leaders.” They still fear they could be arrested and crucified themselves. Suddenly, mysteriously, supernaturally, Jesus is standing in their midst. How did he get in through locked doors? What’s going on? Then Jesus does two things that dynamically change his relationship with the disciples gathered there and through them with us. So,
What Did Jesus Do?
First he said to them: “Peace be with you!” What did that mean to them, and what should it mean to us?
When we pass the Peace the action begins with me saying, “peace be with you”, and you reply, “and also with you.” When we make those statements, along with shaking hands, hugging necks, welcoming visitors, and so forth, what happens is not accidental. It is a way for the Body of Christ gathered here to remember that Jesus has given us His peace, the salvation he won for us on the Cross. It is our responsibility to share that peace – that salvation – with others in the family and with guests who have come to dine with us.
When Jesus said “peace” he used the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is correctly translated as “peace”, but defining that “peace” is not simple. At the simplest level peace means lack of strife. That’s why Jesus also said that his peace wasn’t like the peace the world gives. The best the world can offer is a strife-less peace. Shalom is more comprehensive: it means “wholeness”, “health”, “well-being”, “healing”, “salvation”. It contains all the blessings God provides through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus offers a peace that fills our souls to the point that even in the face of conflict, injury, illness, infirmity, there is a certainty that all will be OK because God is with us.
Shalom is receiving the fullness of the salvation that Jesus won for us through his death and resurrection. It is total reconciliation for our bodies, minds, souls, spirits, and relationships. The peace of Jesus Christ meets all our needs according to God’s riches through Christ Jesus.
When he said, “Peace be with you”, he was telling his disciples that through Him, Almighty God was going to meet all their needs. He was telling them that in this world we will have tribulation, but not to fear because He has overcome the world. He was telling his disciples that God was busy working all things together for their good because they loved Him and were called according to his purposes.
What Jesus did for us on that Cross; what he gave his disciples in that Upper Room on the day of his resurrection, is a gift so wonderful that it defies complete understanding. In John 14:27, Jesus said: 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
In that Upper Room on the night of his resurrection Jesus gave peace to His disciples. He also did a second thing. He breathed on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit: “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’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (:21-23).
What Did It Mean For Jesus To Give Us The Holy Spirit?
When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended on him and then drove him into the wilderness to fast and be tempted. His earthly ministry then began. The lesson for us is that Jesus did not operate in the ministry of reconciliation in his own human power. He operated only when he had received the Holy Spirit. Then, as a man filled with God’s Spirit; he showed us how to do the will of our Heavenly Father; how to reconcile people back to God, to each other, and to themselves.
So, when he came to his disciples on the night of his resurrection he gave them that same Spirit so they could continue in God’s ministry of reconciliation. Now, his disciples were armed with both the peace of Christ and the Spirit of God. This is what enabled Peter to preach that first Christian sermon recorded in Acts 2.
Armed with the peace of Jesus Christ and equipped through God’s Spirit we can even forgive people’s sins, thus helping reconcile them to God, to others, and to themselves.
Why Is It Important For Us To Have Jesus’ Peace and God’s Holy Spirit?
Because, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Are you a whosoever? Salvation is for all the “whosoevers”. God doesn’t want anyone to miss going to heaven but there is a requirement: believing in Jesus as God’s Son and the Savior of the World. And God has called us to participate in this same effort. God has made us to be the Body of Jesus Christ here on earth so that we can do the works of Christ and introduce others to Jesus.
We have the peace of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we might love our neighbor as ourselves with the same love that God in Christ has loved us.
What is the practical application of that love?
It means we want for others what we want for ourselves. “Peace be with you. And also with you.” I want to end up in heaven. So, do I also want others to end up in heaven? I should, and if I do then I need to treat them with the same mercy and grace, motivated by the same love that God has for me. If I want to receive mercy I must be merciful. If I want to receive grace I must be graceful. If I want to receive forgiveness I must forgive. If I want to receive healing I must pray for the healing of others.
God is not calling us to a “me first” lifestyle. It is a servant hood, live for others, radical, life-transforming, walking-in-the-steps-of-Jesus, living the Golden Rule lifestyle. It is not easy – ever- but it is worthwhile because the peace of Jesus resides in the souls of all who belong to him. It is an impossible life except that the spirit of the living God now dwells within our own souls, making all things possible to those who believe.
For example, God has given Holy Cross a mission that is beyond our natural ability to achieve. We are to welcome every ‘whosoever’ God brings here. Every person needs to experience the love of God through Jesus Christ. We have to get beyond our own prejudices and inadequacies so we can be part of God’s effort and carry on the spirit of St. John who wrote: ”But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (:31). So we work to spread the good news of God in Christ to one person, one child, one family, one neighborhood at a time. Because one is a critical number to God.
Jesus came back to that Upper Room after his initial appearance because one of his disciples was missing when he first visited them. Jesus came back for Thomas – one disciple. Again, Jesus proved how important each person is. Salvation is for each person, one at a time. The question is not, “do you (all) believe?” It is, “do you believe?” “Have you received Jesus’ peace?”
When Jesus appeared before Thomas he addressed each of Thomas’ statements of doubt: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe ….” This is how personal Jesus’ Shalom, his peace, his salvation, is for each person: “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas had doubts.
All Of Us Have Doubts.
Many have doubts about some miracle; we have something that we can’t get our mind around and it holds us back from simple, saving faith. God knows what each of our doubts are. God knows what’s holding us back from letting go and letting complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ occur in our lives. If we are earnest in our doubting – and we are not just playing games with God – Jesus will address our doubts and give us a chance to move from doubting to believing. That’s what Jesus did with Thomas and He’ll do the same for you. It may not be as dramatic. That depends on what your doubt is, and how hard-headed you are. Go see the movie, “The Case For Christ” as another example of how God works.
Jesus will come to you and offer you the full benefits of His hard-won peace, and the Holy Spirit to fill you with. I don’t know where you are this morning on your spiritual pilgrimage, but I know that God loves you; Jesus died just for you; and the Holy Spirit is available to be an intimate part of your life. I also know that Jesus is trying to make us into His body so that we can face whatever adversity comes our way, minister with power and grace, and help suffering people overcome whatever is keeping them from accepting and enjoying the full benefits of the peace Jesus won for them on the battlefield of the Cross. You can count on the integrity of Jesus. He has the scars to prove it and a heart big enough to love the entire world personally – one soul at a time. He is here in our midst offering Himself to “whomsoever”. Will you believe and receive His peace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you…
(and also with you!)