Easter 2, John 20:19-23 Conant/Pinckneyville
20:19, On the first evening…the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
We call it breaking and entering. Well what would you call it when you’ve locked the doors against intruders and suddenly, there he is standing in your living room? Break and enter is what Jesus did to his fear filled disciples that first evening of the resurrection. Although Martin Luther pointed out in a sermon on our text in 1521, “The Lord… (went) through barred doors, going through wood and stone, and still leaving everything whole, breaking nothing, yet getting in among his disciples.”
But I’m sticking with my charge that on that first Easter evening, Jesus did break and enter. For what purpose? To rob his disciples and you and me. Yes, robbery was Jesus motive. What could the disciples and you and me have that He could want? After all, He has it all, all creation, all kingship, all life and all truth. We sing the reason for his breaking and entering, during the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord. “I know that my Redeemer Lives, He lives to silence all my fears.”
He has come to rob us of our fears. To “silence all my fears.” In this political season we have been told that we have many people to fear. Enemies real or supposed. Beyond that, just turning on the news can multiply our fears. Fear of who might be on the prowl out there, fear viruses, fear neighbors, fear family members, fear losing our health, fear the side effects of our medication that’s supposed to keep us healthy, fear what we eat, fear of falling into the Medicare donut hole, fear of things that go bump in the night. Not the least of our fears is of what goes on inside ourselves that we keep shut and locked away. We fear that God knows all about us, and that isn’t good. Robbing us of the fears that the haunt our hearts is Jesus’ intent. It’s into our hearts the Jesus seeks to break and enter.
God doesn’t lock himself up in the heavenly realms and build a wall to keep out the riff raff like you and me. God doesn’t allow the wall of sin, which we have built, to keep him out. God craves and seeks our company. God has done so since that first evangelism call in the Garden of Eden. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden…and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…but the Lord God called to the man…” Where are you?’” From their hiding place among the trees, the man answered, “I was afraid.” “Where are you?” He asks still today, because God knows we are still afraid, though we make a good show of our bravado. Though we won’t let God into the places of our lives where we really need Him; Christ comes with His Holy Spirit good news breaking and entering through the doors we have locked against his barging in.
It was in the little town of Bethlehem that, “the hopes and fears of all the years” met the night of Jesus’ birth. That is the answer to our Advent cry, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” So the Lord did, he barged in garbed in baby-soft skin and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth. He broke through the barrier between eternity and time, heaven and earth in our baptism and continues to do so through his word and in Holy Communion. Someone wrote, “I am never sure how or why, Jesus has come to me and stood in that hidden place of fear and forgetfulness, but he has again and again.” In our epistle lesson God laid a right hand on the fearful St. John, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last and the living one. I died and behold I am alive forevermore.”
When Jesus breaks into our lives to rob us of our fear, He leaves behind something of great and lasting value, Peace. Three times in our gospel lesson Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” He who is the King of Peace gives the gift of Peace. This isn’t just the ordinary greeting like, “Hi.” Jesus greeting carries with it all the gifts which God had for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and added, for our benefit, the gift of salvation.
When Jesus was born, the heavenly chorus praised God for bringing “on earth peace.” On Palm Sunday the crowds cried out, “Peace in heaven.” Through his life, suffering, death and resurrection, sin was defeated on earth and our warfare with God was ended. We await Jesus return to deliver a deathblow to death and put it out of its misery and end the misery it causes. For in Jesus resurrection death is mortally wounded.
As proof of that, Jesus showed the disciples the marks of the cross on his hands and side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus, who has completed in his suffering, death and resurrection the reason the heavenly Father sent him, now says “Even so I am sending you.” Jesus having robbed us of fear and given the gift of peace now commissions you and me to an ongoing mission to go in peace with the good news that releases people from their sins, just as we have been released from ours.
Someone might say, “Sin, who me? I have no sin. That’s an old fashioned idea that you have no business foisting upon me.” But as St. John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Preaching in 1521 Luther said, “It is not sufficient simply to believe Christ rose from the dead…But you must believe that he rose for your sake, for your benefit, and was not glorified for his own sake; but that he might help you and all who believe in him, and that through his resurrection sin, death and hell are vanquished and the victory given to you.” He continued, “This is the true peace that satisfies and quiets the heart; not in times when no adversity is at hand, but the midst of adversity, when…there is nothing but strife before the eyes.”
That’s why Jesus broke in and entered the world at Bethlehem garbed in human flesh. That’s why Jesus barged in on the disciples garbed in a resurrected body. That’s why he breaks into and enters our life with peace and forgiveness through his word and sacrament. That’s why he will one day break back into our world and garb us in bodies fit for eternal life. May those who are so clothed be many. In the meantime, “The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”