They were still afraid. The woman had seen Jesus. He was alive. Peter had seen Him now too. But they were still afraid. They weren’t necessarily afraid of Him. They were afraid of the Jews. They were afraid the Jews wanted them dead since they followed Jesus. Did they know word had gotten back to the Temple that He is alive? That might give them even more reason to kill them! They were right! The Jews’ leaders did later try to kill them.
So they were hiding. They were locked up in the upper room. They’d gone back to the very place where they ate the last Passover, the very room where Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in the house owned by St. Mark’s mother, the place where they were on Pentecost when the Spirit came to them.
There they were. It was now their home base. It was a good place for them all to meet up. So there they were. They were cowering because they were scared of the people who killed their Lord. They were also trying to make sense of everything they’d heard and seen that day. The women had all seen Him. Peter had too. Before that he and John had inspected the empty tomb and the graveclothes. Cleopas came back with another with a report that they’d just been with Him!
Then He appeared. He came outta nowhere. He didn’t knock on a door or say a secret password. He didn’t even break it down or blow it to smithereens with superpowers. He just showed up. All of a sudden there He was. He was no ghost. They saw Him eat. They heard Him breathe. John even implies at the beginning of his first Epistle that He even let them touch Him!
His words to them were not what you would expect. You might expect Him to yell at them for being scared or for running away from Him when He was arrested or for leaving it to somebody else to bury Him. But He didn’t. He said the exact opposite: “Peace to you.” He wasn’t mad at them. He forgave them. He loved them. They were at peace with Him. They were at peace with God.
Peace with God – that’s what Easter is all about. That’s what Jesus’ life is all about. He came to give us peace with God. That’s why the angels sang on Christmas: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The glory of God is that God has made peace with men. Jesus is God’s glory because He completed Mission:Impossible – reconciling sinful man to holy God.
Long ago, when the Church had conquered the Roman Empire, many adults were baptized every year on Easter night. They then attended church every day that week. The bishop preached to them about the Sacraments they had received on that Easter night. During that week they wore white robes; that’s where our white baptismal gowns comes from. On this day they took them off and took their place in the congregation.
On that Easter night they had been reconciled to God. God had rescued them from the devil’s kingdom. If you’re on the devil’s side, you’re fighting against God. Now they were on God’s side. They were fighting against the devil’s work in them because they were at peace with the holy and true God. They had renounced the devil and all his works and ways and confessed faith in the Holy Trinity. They were brought into God’s family, into the Good Shepherd’s flock, by Holy Baptism. Do you need peace with God? Many people don’t realize they need it. Some rage against Him. Others just aren’t sure if He’s real. Some just don’t care and live however they like. And some do realize they have sins, that they deserve God’s punishment. They may try to do things to please Him, but they never know if they’ve done enough good or if their sins are too bad.
You need God to tell you you’re at peace with Him if you’re going to be at peace with Him. What would make you not be at peace with Him? The Collect prays Him to help us produce the fruits of His Resurrection in our life and conversation. We want to live the resurrection life every day of our lives. We want to live the way the risen Jesus wants us to live. He died to forgive our sins and to give us a holy life in the eternal paradise. That’s why He wants us to live without sin today.
But do we? Too often it feels more like the world is overcoming us than like we are overcoming the world. The world certainly seems stronger. Pews are more empty than they used to be in many churches. Christian ways of life are being forgotten and rejected. A healthy fear of God has disappeared. And you? You struggle with sin every day. It’s not an easy struggle. It’s very hard. What’s easy is saying “yes” to sin even when you want to do the right thing instead. What’s easy is enjoying all the pleasure sin gives. Refusing to do the bad thing – that’s hard, especially if it’s going to get you strange looks, sneers, mockery, laughter, hatred if you don’t.
Your Savior knows all this. He knows you’re a frail mortal; He knows exactly what you’re up against. That’s why He doesn’t send you out into the world from this place by yourself. He gives you the help of His grace. Where do you find that grace? He gave it to you when you were baptized. He clothed you in His righteousness. He forgave your sins. He began to give you good desires; He made it possible for you to do the right thing in God’s sight.
But Baptism is a 1-time thing, and it happened so long ago. That’s why He gives us Absolution. Luther says being absolved takes us back to when we were baptized. That word Absolution means you’re being set free from the guilt you owe for your sins. Jesus paid the price for our sins. He was punished for them so you wouldn’t have to be. When you are absolved, Jesus is saying He died for you – you have no need to pay Him for salvation. He’s done it all. Salvation is finished!
When we believe this, we begin to hate our sins and desire to do what is right and to not sin. What’s more, we forgive people who sin against us. That’s what Jesus tells us to do today! He says: “Forgive! I’ve forgiven you. You’ve sinned greatly against Me, but now you owe Me nothing. I love you! Please show that love to everyone you meet. If they sin against you, their sins against you are far less than yours against Me. Forgive them! Be at peace with them. Don’t hold a grudge or hate them. Love them and forgive them!”
Forgiveness. That’s the #1 fruit of Jesus’ Resurrection. He forgives us and we forgive our friends, our family, our coworkers, that bad driver or neighbor, even the school bully or corrupt politician. This then is the victory, the faith, that overcomes the world: Christ Jesus forgives sinners, even me, so I will forgive those who sin against me too. Since we have peace with God, we can be at peace with all people; we can bring God’s peace to the world.