Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

2nd Sunday Easter

Easter 2.18 “How The Conversation Goes” John 20:19-31

So we ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger last week: just after dawn on Easter Sunday, the women met an angel at the empty tomb who told them: “Mr Jesus? He’s not here right now, but He’ll catch you up, later”. They left the tomb amazed and afraid. And we recalled many good reasons why that conversation with Jesus could be awkward—they’d all in one way or another betrayed or abandoned Him, left Him to die for them, all alone. That would make for an awkward conversation with most everyone we know, right?

Right. And I told you if you wanted to hear how that conversation goes, you’d have to come back this week, and I see, that on the Sunday famously known as “Low Sunday” not everyone has returned to hear the conclusion (which is so surprising!). But you’re here, and it’s worth hearing, how the conversation goes with the Risen Lord Christ…

It’s Easter Sunday evening in our Gospel this morning. Ten of the twelve are gathered together, hiding behind locked doors, still amazed and afraid (Judas is dead and Thomas is out and about, but we’ll get to him in a minute). Peter and John have already been to the tomb and found it empty with the linen cloths and face kerchief folded neatly, no longer needed. We hear nothing about a single shroud with an image on it, maybe because the Jewish custom was to wrap dead bodies in strips of linen, with myrrh and aloes, mummy style like the Egyptians, and to use a separate cloth to cover the face. If you want to hear more, we’re considering it this Wednesday evening while reading Christopher Buckley’s very amusing book on the shroud and other relics.

Anyway, Peter and John have seen the empty tomb, and John believes… well, we’re not exactly sure what all John believes at that point, because he says they did not yet get from the Scriptures that He must rise from the dead. And Peter and John apparently have missed the angel and a chat with him/them. Mary Magdalene has seen the Risen Lord Jesus, but she thought He was the gardener and that conversation was kinda awkward, Jesus eventually convincing her of His true identity, but telling her she couldn’t hold onto Him, now, like this. It’s possible Peter has had a one-on-one meeting with Jesus already, too. Cleopas and his pal have walked and talked with Jesus that afternoon for 7 miles on the road to Emmaus, not recognizing Him until the very end when He broke bread and gave them His Supper. So, you’re all caught up, I think…

And in this room where the the 10 apostles (and perhaps a few of their friends, too) are gathered, Jesus comes and stands in the midst of them, even though the doors are locked, and the windows barred and shuttered. This is why I said last week “you can run, but you can’t hide. Jesus will find you!”. And He does, passing right through the locked door, as He’d done earlier that day with the stone sealing His tomb—because the stone is rolled away after the Resurrection, not before, the Gospels tell us…

Important detail, this, I think—Jesus’ defying the normal laws of physics. Before His death and resurrection, He’d more or less followed such laws, hardly ever even rolling through a stop sign—though walking on water and passing through angry mobs untouched were little previews of what was to come. But now, all Laws have been turned on their ear by their Author, even those of space, time, justice, death, heaven, hell: all the cosmic stop signs!

St. Paul reminds us in Romans (a very good book which we just read in the daily lectionary and if you’ve not read it, you really should take the time to read it carefully, this week) that the Law was given by God after our fall into sin, after the Promise of freedom in the Christ was given. The purpose of the Law was to show our sin and point us to our Savior. The Law itself cannot justify, cannot give life, or peace, or joy, or salvation. Law was never intended to be any more than a curb, mirror, or rule for sinful people(!). God and His saints and angels are not under Law, but under grace, as St. Paul reminds us, for, by the Law, is only the knowledge of sin—Law cannot free or save. The blood of Christ is what frees and saves from the Law and its curse: from sin, death, and the power of the devil(!). And once that Blood has been shed, that death has been died, as Jesus did, once for all on Good Friday, the Law has served its purpose and been abrogated for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The wonderful effects of the taking away of the Law from us are seen in the very manner of Jesus’ appearance in the upper room Easter Sunday evening. Even the laws of physics have been busted. Jesus has more wonderful and delightful ways of doing things now—ways He wants to share with you(!)…

Doors and walls, locks and chains, graves and guards—these cannot hold Jesus. They are powerless forms. He passes right through them all to get to us, to see us face to face; and when He does, He has one thing to say: “Peace! Peace be with you! As the Father has apostled Me, I apostle you!” We thought He was going to say something else, because we have a lot of trouble believing the Law is really over and done, fulfilled, overcome, set aside, folded up neatly in a corner of the now-empty-tomb and left behind like His grave clothes, relics of history…

We thought the conversation would be awkward because we behaved badly, all of us, and treated Jesus worse. We thought, like that old bumper sticker: “Jesus is coming—and is He ever ticked!”—we thought the conversation would strike more fear and trembling into us! We thought (at best!) He’d give us a really difficult task to perform as some kind of penance to perhaps earn ourselves a second chance…

But: when He appears (and He will find you!) nothing like that transpires at all! He bursts through the stone doors and walls, the locks and chains, the graves and guards, the rules and codes, like they are not even there, because nothing will separate Him from us, and His word to us: “Peace! Peace be with you! As the Father has apostled Me, so I apostle you!” To be apostled means all that is His is ours—His forgiveness, life, and Kingdom, His power and glory (revealed in weakness and suffering!) and triumphant over all: all this is now ours. We’ve been made over into His image! He’s authorized us to sling around His forgiveness (which conquers sin, death, and hell) to wield the superest of super powers as our very own through Him. He’s turned us into super-heroes just like Himself!!!!

That’s what His “Peace be with you!” means, and it’s why it’s the Last Word in every truly Divine Service! This Peace, this superest of super-powers, comes to us by Jesus’ Word, Sacrament, which faith alone receives. Nothing more is needed to activate IT. We see with Thomas that we can hold IT off by unbelief, but that maintaining unbelief forever is very difficult to do! Because Jesus will find you and show you His hands and feet and then, well… then you’re in deep, in for IT all the way!

A little awkward—like the conversation you had with the pretty girl in sophomore English class, but she said “Yes,” she’d hang out with you, which also exceeded all your expectations, a Gift bringing the purest joy. It’s the end of the old, beginning of something New. It’s Peace, surpassing all understanding; and it guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.


21 October 2018

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 Sunday School

Adult Bible Class with Pastor

Reformation Sunday – October 28 

Festival service at 8:30 & 11:00 DS w/Communion


Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.