April 19, 2020 The Voice of Peace
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Do you ever use your voice like THIS: “Okay, Google, what’s the weather forecast this weekend?” “Hey, Siri, call Mom.” “Alexa, set my alarm for 7:00 a.m.”
In the last few years, the human voice has new power. Now we don’t have to type questions & instructions with our thumbs anymore. We can talk to our devices & they’ll do what we ask; or at least that’s how it is supposed to work. Not that long ago, it was called ‘science fiction,’ & things we’d see on a cartoon = like ‘The Jetsons’.
It was a fantasy when Capt.Kirk on the USS Enterprise would talk to the computer & tell it to engage blast-shields. Siri voice-interface for computers & devices came out in 2011, and now we can all ‘talk to the computer.’ We can speak & dictate a memo or message; we can talk to the smart phone to find a business web page or an address; we can call up a recipe in the kitchen without touching the tablet screen with our messy fingers.
In the beginning, God created all things with His voice-power, and gave His creatures voice-power. Sea lions gather in large colonies to raise their young; hundreds of pups will swim out into the water together and come back together. Once on the shore, they can find their mothers by listening for the distinct sound of the mother’s voice. Our babies also quickly learn to distinguish their own mom & dad’s voice.
One of the aspects of the Lord’s Easter is the power of the voice. On the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we hear one of the most familiar NT Bible events, the two appearances of The Risen Lord Jesus to His disciples, when He speaks His peace into their hearts. And every time we hear this Word of the Lord He is speaking His peace into OUR souls as well = no matter where we are, or what we’re going thru. Let’s review this marvelous event, and receive into our lives again what those disciples received == peace, forgiveness, and purpose.
When we come into John chpt.20, Mary Magdalene & the other women have just come from the tomb, telling the disciples that they had seen the Lord; & their words seemed like nonsense == like if someone came to US, and said that our loved one’s grave was empty & they had come back from the dead. Nonsense.
We know that Peter & John run to the tomb to look; it IS empty, but they don’t see the Lord. So, they return to their hiding place behind locked doors, like 10 rabbits afraid of the wolf that might be hunting them. We’re not told that anyone IS after them; but they are hunkered down, letting fear control their every thought & action.
Then suddenly, while the door remains locked, Jesus comes to them & gives a voice- command to them: “Peace be with you,” He says. His voice & His words have an effect on them, just like when Mary -at the tomb- didn’t recognize Jesus until His spoke her name. These disciples are hiding from the unknown, they’re scared that the Jews & Romans will punish them for being Jesus’ disciples; they were also afraid that God is now mad at them for abandoning Jesus in His hour of need. And, they’re mad at themselves: *Where was their faith? *What kind of pitiful disciples were they?
But when Jesus comes & speaks, it was like the voice at creation. Like a parent’s voice to their scared child: “shhhh, shhh = shalom.” Jesus’ voice creates peace in them; it’s His gift to them. His voice does not scold them, and they are not yet ready to hear all His instruction, so He gives them His peace & presence; and the result in them is the relief of forgiveness, and the calm courage of gladness.
It’s not just that He is no longer dead; it’s also that He did not abandon them; He still loves them; He wants them, & the kingdom needs them. The Church needs them to go out with the message of Law and Gospel, with the call to repent, and the mercy-comfort of the cross. They have His command to both forgive the sins of the repentant, and to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant.
This is Jesus’ Easter message to YOU. You believe that He is risen from the dead.
His actions mean that He has forgiven you, He will never abandon you, He loves you;
He wants you, & the kingdom needs you serving in His Church. His Church needs your ears to hear His Word, /and needs your mouth to confess His truths, /and needs your hands to work for your neighbor, /His Church needs your silver & gold to extend His kingdom toward those who don’t yet know Him, and to those who have been scared & reluctant disciples.
Today He gives you a voice- command: “Peace be with you.”
And so, those-disciples-then and us-disciples-now begin to realize, that PEACE was the whole point of what Jesus had just been thru. Jesus’ death on the cross was to reestablish the peace between holy-God and sinful-man that had been shattered so long ago.
Every conflict & separation we experience with other people -because of sin- is an illustration of what our sin does between God and us. The big difference is that God is sinless & never wrong, so it’s always & only our sin that has caused our separation with Him.
Sin causes us to live for ourselves & not for the other person; we fall out of harmony & peace with others because no one is willing to admit wrongdoing. Until sin is confessed & forgiven, there is no real peace. It was vital that God took the initiative to fix this separation with us, this conflict & disharmony, because it would only end in death & hell. So, by taking our sin to the cross, Christ Jesus removed the cause of our separation & conflict. He reconciled us to God, bringing us back into peace with Him.
It is kind-of a curious thing that the whole scene repeats a week later when the 11th-man, Thomas, is back with the others. *Why were they all still behind locked doors, afraid?
We don’t know; we do know that Jesus comes to them again. And He speaks the same word. “Peace be with you.” And again, altho Thomas would deserve some scolding, Jesus gives some voice-commands: put your finger here & see, put out your hand & touch; stop disbelieving and now believe.
Every generation of Christian disciples could cite their own reasons for acting like scared rabbits hunted by wolves. At times, believers fear being associated with Jesus would mean /getting harassed, /getting fired from a job, /losing friends or family, /or even maybe being arrested, jailed, or killed. So, disciples can still struggle to get out from behind locked doors, and live openly as God’s holy people in the world.
+Some disciples hide because hiding is easier than standing up against the accepted immorality of our culture; +some committed christians have to hide from the non-committed ones who are involved with their own sins of immorality & crude language & drunkenness & mistreating people. +In rural & small towns, it’s a common temptation for christians to get scared & paralyzed because the future of the congregation looks bleak, so they just want to hunker down & hide from what they fear is coming = like closing their church.
Thankfully neither fear nor a locked door can keep Jesus from speaking, and being present among us for the good of His Church & His kingdom in the world. Every 8th day we can count on Jesus to come among us with His life-creating voice; and to give us the gifts of peace, forgiveness, and a living purpose as servants in his kingdom. His voice-command affect us; He says: ‘do not be afraid of ridicule or even death, I have conquered both.’
He says: ‘peace be with you, my peace I give you & not as the world gives.’
He says, ‘as the Father sent Me, so I am sending you; so that wherever you go, and whatever your situation, you will be showing Me to those around you by your trust & faith.’
He reminds us: you have received My Holy Spirit by your Baptism in My name; no threat, & no disease, & no trouble can take My Spirit away from you.
He says, just as you have repented of your sins, and My blood forgives you, so also when others repent, you will forgive them in My name.
He says, stop acting like an unbeliever; you have heard Me, your faith has seen Me, I have made My own redeeming cross felt in your life; now stop doubting == believe & live & be blessed with life in My name.
Long before there was a Siri, Alexa, or Google, there was the risen Lord Jesus, whose voice has been speaking His words of life; words of repentance, & forgiveness of sin; words of blessing & strength & peace that call us out from behind the locked doors of fear, doubt & failure.
That lifesaving voice of God even became flesh and dwelt among us, in order to redeem us, and to create in us a new heart & new life. His voice has given to us His peace; and our voices now have even more power = more than telling a computer what to do.
We have the Lord’s power to tell the good news to souls, to confess with Thomas that Jesus is Lord and God, and to make The Risen Savior known to those around us.