Summary: A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 18, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
“You are witnesses of these things.”
This week we return once more to the evening of Easter Sunday. Again, we find the disciples sequestered in their private room. And Jesus suddenly stands in their midst. Like John’s telling of that evening, Luke conveys the same reaction of nervous joy among the disciples. Seeing Jesus in the flesh is just too remarkable to be true. They have to pinch themselves, and pinch Jesus, too, before they fully believe.
This Jesus is no ghostly apparition. He even ate a piece of fish to prove it. This is Jesus in the flesh, resurrected flesh!
And when he enters the room, Luke records the very same greeting as John did: “Peace be with you.” This is the greeting of the resurrected Christ, a greeting of peace. It’s no ordinary peace. This peace is coming from the one who has absorbed all sin into himself. This is the peace that has defeated death and risen to new life.
Peace. “Shalom” in Hebrew. The significance of peace extends to the very roots of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The word Shalom conveys more than a simple serenity. Shalom includes a sense of wholeness. What was partial has been made complete. Shalom incorporates God’s justice and righteousness into the weave of our human existence. Shalom involves the harmonies of God’s design for humanity.
St. Paul described it as “the peace of God that passes all human understanding.” It’s not something that originates from our earthly realm. It comes from above.
This peace is not from us, but it comes to us. The risen Jesus breaks from his tomb. Then he enters through the protected and cloistered room where his disciples are gathered. This risen Lord stands in their midst and bids, “Peace be with you.”
This is the fullness of peace that comes through his resurrection from the dead. It bridges the gaps of our disjointed and maligned human relations. Jesus’ resurrection peace brings the fullness of God’s eternal goodness into our midst. He has interrupted the endless and hopeless cycle of broken and crumbling earthly associations and interjected his new life. His peace binds up the broken hearted, he makes the wounded whole. In short, his peace is a balm. It restores, it heals.
That resurrection peace reverberated and settled on the disciples. And it changed them. We hear today the tail end of a story from the book of Acts.
Peter and John go to the temple in Jerusalem. As they approach, they see some people place a lame man on the steps leading to the temple area. He’s been lame since his birth.
This is a common place for beggars to congregate. As pilgrims enter and leave the temple, they pass by these people with extreme cases of need. It’s an opportunity for almsgiving. Peter approaches the man and looks deeply at him.
He says to the man, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.” Then he takes the man by the hand.
The man comes to his feet and his legs are strong and whole. The people in the temple area are amazed. They wonder at what happened.
Peter addresses them. “This power to heal doesn’t come from us,” he says. “This is resurrection power! This healing power that you’ve seen, it comes from Jesus of Nazareth, the man who was put to death. But we’ve come to see and know that he is the very Author of Life. And you can’t kill the Author of Life!
“That’s why he was raised from the dead. We’ve seen him. We were witnesses of this thing. And this healing that you’ve seen today, that’s the resurrection power in the name of Jesus.”
Peter and John had been touched by Jesus’ resurrection peace. It permeated them, and now they lived in that peace. They became conduits of that healing, life affirming peace.
“You are witnesses of these things.” The risen Jesus came to the disciples in their isolation. His presence filled them with his resurrection peace.
He gave them and his church a mission. It was a mission of peace. Dwelling in his risen presence, we’ve been filled with his healing and life abounding peace. As witnesses of these things, he sends us out. Beginning from Jerusalem and extending to all nations, we are commissioned into a ministry of resurrection peace. We share the peace that can only come from the risen Christ.
As I look about at our world, that is a commodity in desperate need! The world thirsts for shalom. Our recent news cycles have been filled with the antithesis of peace. Racial division and old hatreds have driven a wedge into our society. We cringe when a new video of unnecessary racial violence and abuse is aired. Our communities and our nation are battered by hostility and mistrust. Lines have been drawn over exactly which lives matter.