April 8, 2012: See His Cross! Peace and Life are Yours!

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE GLORIOUS RISEN SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST WHO GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THE DEAD AND DYING!

TEXT: John 20: 19,20: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, 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.”

Dear Beloved By Our Living Lord:

Easter is upon us. Joy has replaced sadness. Light has replaced darkness. The raucous colors of Easter lilies replaces penitential purple and somber black. Even the hymns are different. Somehow the day feels more alive, doesn’t it? And why is this so? Because the Lord is risen! “He is risen, indeed!” On Good Friday, when the candles were snuffed out and the bell tolled out Christ’s life, the picture on the high wall of the crucifixion seemed almost scary, didn’t it? But today, today all those fears are banished. When we see the cross we see peace and life. And that brings us to today’s theme:

SEE HIS CROSS! PEACE AND LIFE ARE YOURS!

I

On that first Easter evening, the disciples didn’t yet know Easter joy or Easter peace. They had witnessed the crucifixion. And when He died, so did their hope and expectations. We’re told here that they were huddled in the Upper Room “with the door locked for fear of the Jews.” Why were they so afraid? Well, think back on what they had seen.—Christ arrested, brutalized, beaten, sentenced to die. Christ breaking down under the weight of the cross. Christ uttering agonizing cries from the cross. Christ dead and hurriedly buried in a grave. They had gone from the heights of “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday to the depths of: “Crucify, Crucify” on Good Friday. Where was the promise concerning Lazarus that Jesus made to Mary and Martha when He told them: “I am the resurrection and the life.” He was dead. His words seemed empty, hollow, a cruel joke. All that is why they were afraid.

But, there’s more. They were also afraid because Jesus couldn’t care for them any longer. Christ was dead. They naturally thought: “We’re next.” Even in the Garden Jesus had protected them. He had those soldiers hurled to the ground and advanced ahead so as to separate Himself from the group. But now Christ is gone. His miracle-power is gone. What would happen next? They had left businesses and families to follow Him. And now all they seemed to have to show for it was a dead Friend.

Ah, they had heard reports of His resurrection. By now the angels had appeared to the women. But, they didn’t believe the women. Peter and John had gone to the tomb early that morning. John believed, but fear was stronger than hope and comfort for Peter and the others. All of them were confused as to its meaning. They had seen Jairus’ daughter wake up from death, the youth of Nain get out of his coffin and walk, and Lazarus rise after lying in his grave. But, Jesus wasn’t with them, like He had been in those instances. They felt alone and forgotten, empty and forlorn.

And then, suddenly, Jesus is there! The doors were locked, but the Son of God miraculously appeared. He dispelled their doubts. He showed them His hands and His side. They saw and touched His wounds. Jesus was alive! And in all this He enabled them to see the cross much differently than they had just moments before.

You see Jesus brought peace into that locked Upper Room. By His very presence He confirmed that all He had taught was true. He wasn’t about telling people emotional clap-trap to make them feel better momentarily. When He spoke of heaven, of God’s forgiveness for all sins, of the depth of God’s love for fallen humans—everything was totally true and totally reliable. He had done the impossible. He had beaten death. He had arisen from His own grave! So, when He said: “Peace be with you” well, it was!

All this Christ tied to His cross. Remember Joseph in Egypt? Remember how his brothers sold him into slavery and after 25 years or so those same brothers came groveling for food? Remember how stunned they were to learn of Joseph’s rise to power and how fearful they were because of their sins against him? And remember how kind-hearted Joseph was and how he informed them that although evil had befallen him, God meant it and used it for good? Well, the cross was evil, too. And yet now Christ had turned it into something good, because on it death had died. On it, Christ had won eternal peace for us with God. And from it, His protection from Satan’s attacks still beams forth because remember: “By His wounds we are healed.”

II

Christ’s wounds bring peace and they also bring life. Were the disciples afraid of their impending deaths that night? Of course they were. Gone was the bravado of Thomas who had said a few weeks before: “Let us also go (up to Jerusalem) that we may die with him.” The fact of those locked doors is damning of their fearfulness, isn’t it? And let’s face it, logically speaking after the Master was killed, it only made sense to hunt down the sheep. And even if they escaped, what was the point? All they had cherished was gone. Hope and joy were absent from that room. But then Christ appeared! He immediately knew they would question their eyes so He told them to touch his wounds. He even ate some food with them that night. And so now the cross took on new meaning. Since it meant complete payment for sins, it now also would mean: everlasting life.

His body was the same as at the crucifixion. The wounds were still there. Yet, it was different, too. It was glorified. He didn’t knock and wait for them to open the door. He was just there. Christ had risen above the constraints of time and space. His resurrection meant a new life, a new way of being present with His beloved sheep, was now reality. Seeing through the eyes of faith was now better and more certain and more comforting then relying upon mere human senses.

About six months ago a massive stroke robbed my mother of relying upon her senses. This past Tuesday, Christ came and took her into glory. But, in the intervening months, Mother never, ever lost her confidence and trust in the Lord. She would recite prayers with us on the phone, sing hymns with us, and always loved to hear about Jesus. Her faith was unshakable and her life was a blessing because Christian faith isn’t man-created and man-centered, but God-created and God-centered. An empty tomb and an empty cross stand behind such a faith pumping peace and life from our risen Lord into us! Today our glorious Lord Jesus offers such a life to each of you. Take Him up on His offer and watch your fear fade, while everlasting peace displaces it. Yes, like my now sainted Mother learn and experience the living power of the joyous Easter cross! Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….