Third Sunday of Easter – Vicar Schleusener

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the beginning of our Gospel reading for today, Luke, who’s normally known for the precision and literary excellence of his Greek, slides in a delightful bit of ambiguity, and sadly, not many English translators handle it well. I’ll provide a literal translation that also preserves the ambiguity at that point, and we’ll see if you can spot it.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that I am myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”

Did you catch it? It’s a lot harder to see in English than it is in Greek, but when Jesus says “I am myself”, He’s using the ἐγώ εἰμι, the “I AM” language that’s used in the Septuagint to translate God’s name. “See my hands and my feet, that I am myself.” Is He saying that it’s really Him and not just a spirit the way the disciples were thinking He might be? Or is He saying that He Himself, standing before them in the flesh at that very moment, is God? Well. Yes. It’s really Him, the One they’ve been following around for three years, and He really is God. And that means that when He tells His disciples “Peace to you”, it’s not just a form of greeting. The word of God creates what it says, so when Jesus speaks peace to the disciples, He is, in truth, giving them, He’s creating in them, peace.

And the peace that Jesus gives isn’t just peace in an abstract sense. It’s His peace. It’s the peace that He Himself just won for them on the cross. Peace between God and man. The peace of sins forgiven. Of restored relationship with God. Peace that’s freely given and bestowed because there’s no other way to get it.

The disciples had gone through a rough week. From the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the crowds cheering for the Son of David to His betrayal by their very own treasurer, Judas Iscariot, and then their own abandonment of Him. The crowds that had cheered Jesus’ arrival suddenly demanded that He be crucified. Then the crucifixion itself, along with the strange darkness. The death of Jesus that was in many ways stranger than even the darkness, and what must have been the most miserable-feeling Sabbath day of all time, knowing that the One they’d followed faithfully for three years was dead. Jesus had told them repeatedly that He would die and rise again, but they never quite got what He meant by that. These are the disciples that Jesus is speaking to. Confused. Dispirited. Lost. And Jesus says, “Peace to you.”

Given the state of the world today, it seems likely that some of you here today are also feeling confused, dispirited, or lost. Loved ones may have died or perhaps rejected the faith. Perhaps there’s a conflict, either at work or at home, and you have no idea what to do next. The work situation in general might need…well…some work, either because it’s frustrating or because it’s not there right now. And in the midst of it all the great enemy of faith casts his fiery darts. Decisions that you made that maybe weren’t for the best. Words that you said, or perhaps didn’t say, that make you wish you could go back and try the conversation all over again. All of it aimed at stirring up doubt and destroying the peace that Jesus gives. Aimed at undermining the faith.

And Jesus says the same thing to you that He said to the disciples that day. “Peace to you.” And the peace that Jesus gives isn’t a peace that’s dependent on the situations you’re facing. It’s not dependent on you taking the right actions or speaking the right words. It’s not controlled by human decisions. Rather, it’s His peace. The peace of God Himself that’s greater than any distress the world may shove in your face. The peace that Jesus, the great I AM come in the flesh, won for you on the cross by dying in your place.

The peace of God isn’t just an abstract concept, nor is He a God who simply speaks the word and walks away. Rather, He takes action to create it. When Jesus asked His disciples if they had anything for Him to eat, He knew very well that He was the One who would soon be feeding them. Not with broiled fish for the nourishment of their bodies, but with His very own body and blood for the nourishment of their souls. And not just them, but His entire Church. And not just once or twice, but for the rest of time. And so He says to you, “Come. I have something for you to eat.” And He invites you to His own table. To set aside the cares, the burdens, and the worries of this life. To feast on the flesh and blood of the One who is God Himself. To be strengthened by this heavenly Supper against the attacks of the enemy and the struggles of this life.

Rest now, dear child of God, in the word and the promise of God. The word that does what it says and that now speaks and says “peace to you.” He offers you a place at His table, where you can find shelter from the troubles of this life and receive the food that will strengthen you to carry on in the faith. Come. Rest in Him and receive His gifts, and the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts and your minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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