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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

God’s Peace

Note: Today's sermon devotional is dedicated to one of Jerry's closest and dearest friends of over 65 years, Jack Lewis, who was called home to the Lord yesterday. Jack had peace from God, the peace of God, and is now at eternal peace with God and Jerry!


Second Sunday in Easter

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.


Again Jesus said, “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.”


Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”


But he said to them, “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.”


A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then 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.”


Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”


Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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.

John 20:19-31


We cry, “Peace! Peace!” but there is no peace. Every day in the news we hear or read about a peace proposal, a peace conference, a peace effort, some form of peace keeping, a peace initiative, a roadmap to peace, a promise of peace. We cry, “Peace! Peace!” but there is no peace!


We’re told that we live in the “Age of Anxiety.” Historians say that there have been few times in all history when people have been subject to so much fear and uncertainty. All the familiar supports seem to be gone. We talk of peace, but we’re constantly confronted by war and rumors of war. We keep devising more and more elaborate schemes for security, but we haven’t found it.


For generations we’ve been acting like a bunch of frightened children, running up one blind alley after another, each time thinking, “This is the right path.”


One of the first paths we chose was labeled “Political Freedom.” “Give everyone political freedom,” we said (and are still saying), “and this world will be a happy place. If we can pick our own leaders we’ll have the kind of government that will give us peace and happiness.” So we achieved political freedom, but we didn’t achieve our better world. Daily we hear of corruption, favoritism, exploitation, and hypocrisy – and our country is sharply divided over what kind of leaders we want. Political freedom is a precious thing, but it alone can’t give us what we long for.


There was another very hopeful path marked, “Education,” and a lot of people put their faith in it (and still do). “Political freedom plus education will do the trick,” they said, and everyone rushed down the education path. It seemed like a sensible path for a long time, but where has it led us? You know the answer. We are the most informed people in the history of civilization – and yet the most miserable. Our high school students know more about the physical laws of the universe than the greatest scientists in the days of Aristotle. But though our heads are crammed with knowledge, our hearts are empty – and our morals have gone down the toilet! We cry, “Peace! Peace!” but there is no peace.


The brightest, most inviting path of all was the one marked, “Higher Standards of Living.” Almost everyone felt they could trust this one to carry them automatically into that better and more joyful world. This was felt to be the sure route. This was the path that led through the beautiful, full-color magazine ads, past all the shiny new cars, past the rows of gleaming electric refrigerators and automatic washing machines, past all the fat chickens cooking in brand-new copper-bottomed pots. We knew we’d hit the jackpot this time. The other paths may have been false leads, but this time we had it made!


Okay. Look around you right now. At this very moment in history, we have a political freedom that isn’t even dreamed about in most of the world. We have the best and most far-reaching education system ever created, and we have the highest standard of living in the history of the world!


Has it brought us the joy and satisfaction and peace we were looking for? No! But at least now we know what we need: Just a little bit more! Right? J


There are many other paths, of course, and many are travelling them. There are the paths of fame and fortune, of pleasure and power. None of them leads anywhere, but deeper into the mire. Many are floundering and find that their efforts aren’t leading them up, but only further down into the pit. We cry, “Peace! Peace!” and there is no peace. No peace in the world, no peace in our country, no peace in our homes, no peace in our hearts.


And we read in our Gospel lesson that “Jesus came and stood among them and said unto them, ‘Peace be with you.’” And He comes and stands among us today, too, and He says to us, “Peace be with you!” Is He kidding? And if He isn’t, where are we going to find this peace? And how are we going to get it?


In today’s Gospel lesson we heard Jesus say, “Peace be with you!” three times. These three salutations of our Lord give us valuable insights into peace.


Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” God the Father sent God the Son into the world to bring peace to fallen people, and so we have peace from God. God is the ultimate source of all true peace!


Paul, who could find peace even in a dark, filthy, musty old Roman prison, knew where his peace came from. He writes in his letter to the Romans, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7b) And the expression, “Peace from God” is found in the salutation of every one of Paul’s Epistles. Since God is the source of peace, we have peace from God.


Secondly, we can have peace with God. Before Jesus came to the disciples the second time, poor Thomas had no peace with God. Thomas, who had love, and zeal, and faith in Jesus, had lost it. When Jesus said He was going back to Judea – He had been on the other side of the Jordan River since the Jewish leaders had tried to stone Him and arrest Him – when He said He was going back to Judea because His friend Lazarus was sick, the disciples said to Him, “But rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (John 11:8) But Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16) But, when Thomas saw that Jesus really was killed, and tortured to death besides, his faith wavered, his belief that Jesus was the way to God the Father collapsed, and his peace with God was gone!


Mankind first lost its peace with God back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve decided to do things their way, and ended up trying to hide behind trees and fig leaves. Fortunately for them – and for us! – God came looking for them. And He made a blood sacrifice for them which pointed to the Savior that He promised would one day be born to be the Prince of Peace. (Gen. 3:6-21)


And God the Son came looking for Thomas too. And He showed him that He was the promised Savior, the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the altar of the cross to take away the sins of the world. And He said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” And He spoke of us here too, for He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


Paul wrote to the Romans, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) And he told the Ephesians that we “have been brought near (to God) through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace.” (Eph. 2:13-14a) And so we have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the Good News!


There is yet a third aspect of peace, and it’s the part everyone is striving for – not realizing that it’s dependent on the first two – for true peace comes only from God; and peace with God comes only through faith in Jesus Christ; and only then can you begin to know and have what everyone wants: the peace of God.


Easter evening, the disciples were not at peace! Except for a brief run to the empty tomb, they had stayed pretty much holed-up ever since Friday. We read that the doors were locked where the disciples were – because they were scared – scared that they just might get the same thing Jesus got, and they had no interest in exposing themselves to that risk! They weren’t hiding from God like Adam and Eve had tried to do. They were hiding from their fellow-men. “The doors were locked for fear of the Jews.”


Mankind first came to the full realization of the loss of the peace of God almost as long ago as it first lost its peace with God. Can you imagine Adam and Eve, looking with broken hearts upon the lifeless body of their murdered son Abel, with grief practically crushing them? But God didn’t forget them, but gave them another son, Seth. And we read in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus that He was descended from “Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”


And God didn’t forget His disciples hiding on Easter evening either, for Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” This peace of God is what everyone is searching for, not realizing that God is offering it as a free gift through His Son. This is inward peace – real peace of mind, available to all who are at peace with God.


Now, lest there be any misunderstanding, be sure that you understand what the peace of God is, and what it is not! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.” The world offers a peace that is false, temporary, a blind path. It promises a peace that is bliss, with no problems, no concerns, no troubles – but it can’t deliver! That’s not real life! Real life has failures and divorces and broken hearts and disappointments and unemployment and sickness and pain and death.


And in the midst of all that, God offers His own the ability to find peace and rest. Like the little bird nesting confidently and peacefully on a branch just inches from a waterfall. God’s peace is like that – a real peace in the midst of the raging waterfalls of life!


Do you remember when Jesus got in trouble with the Pharisees because He let a prostitute anoint His feet? The story’s recorded in the 7th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. And Jesus explained with a parable how those who are forgiven much, love much. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


Peace had come to this woman from God, the source of all true peace. She was at peace with God, for Jesus had forgiven her sins. She had the peace of God, and was now free to live a new life for God. All thanks be to God!


Amen


May peace from God, peace with God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Amen

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