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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
 www.smithvillecanrc.ca
 
Title:Jesus' Resurrection confirms Blessed Peace with God
Text:Luke 24:36b (View)
Occasion:Easter
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2021-04-25
Added:2021-05-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 62:1,2,3  

Hy 18:3

Ps 61:1,2

Ps 27:3,6

Hy 31:1,2

Luke 24:33-49

Luke 24:36b

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


We could only wish that those three words –“Peace to you!”– were true.  With scarcely a moment’s thought we can find so much in our lives that screams the opposite.  In fact, given all we hear around us about COVID, political corruption, vaccines and so much more, there’s restlessness in so many of our hearts, a sense that things are not well in our world.  

I would think the same was true for Jesus’ initial hearers on that Easter Sunday.  After all, they’d just experienced the horrors of Good Friday, with their beloved Master arrested, condemned, killed….  To say nothing of their own failures to defend him; they’d scattered – and one of them even denied he knew him.  Their days were dark, their future hopeless….

Yet the risen Jesus uttered this bold declaration of reality to his disciples: “Peace to you.”  With those words he comforted and encouraged them in the challenges of their lives.  The Holy Spirit has preserved that declaration so that we too might be comforted and encouraged in today’s world.

So I summarize the sermon with this theme:

JESUS’ RESURRECTION CONFIRMS BLESSED PEACE WITH GOD.

  1. What’s the meaning of Jesus’ declaration?
  2. Where’s the evidence this declaration is true?
  3. Why are we told?

1.  What’s the meaning of Jesus’ declaration?

Those three words from Jesus’ lips are highly striking.  We’re inclined to read over these words as if they were nothing more than a greeting, a sort of “Hello”.  But that’s to miss their significance.  The term “peace” translates the Old Testament word “shalom” – a term used repeatedly in the OT to describe the restoration of relations with God, harmony between God and the sinner, his smile on you.

Think about it: the term “shalom”, “peace” formed the climax of what happened repeatedly in the tabernacle (and later in the temple).  A sinner confessed his sins over the head of a lamb, that lamb was in turn slaughtered as atoning sacrifice to reconcile the sinner with God.  And so at the end of his stay in the tabernacle, the sinner heard the blessed words of the priest: “The Lord blesses you and keeps you, the Lord makes his face to shine upon you and is gracious to you, the Lord turns his face toward you and gives you peace” (Num 6:24-26).  This blessing was not a pious wishon the part of the priest, let alone a prayer, but was instead God’s sovereign declaration through the mouth of the priest of the new reality that existed between the sinner and God on account of the sacrifice made for sin; there was now “peace” between holy God and the sinner, “shalom” from God upon that sinner.  To hear such good news in the midst of life’s problems – no wonder the godly of Israel longed to go to the temple!

Of course, the sacrifice which the sinner offered in the temple did not itself atone for sin and restore shalom between himself and God.  The sacrifices of the OT cried out for the coming the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, Jesus Christ (John 1:29).  So it’s striking to note that the priest Zechariah in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke described the task of the coming child as guiding “our feet into the way of peace” – shalom (cf Luke 1:76ff, esp v. 79b).  And the angels on Christmas morning sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…,” heavenly shalom (Luke 2:14).  Peace: that’s what Jesus came to restore between sinners and God.  “Peace to you”: it was a bold and meaningful declaration Jesus voiced to his disciples on that Easter evening!

 

Jesus’ declaration interrupted the lively discussion taking place among the disciples.  Indisputable evidence had come to them earlier in the day that Jesus was in fact alive!  That’s v. 34: when the two men who had travelled to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, they found the 11 disciples gathered together with a number of others (v. 33), all convinced that Jesus was in fact alive because he’d appeared to Simon – and they themselves confirmed it through their own account of what happened at the supper table in Emmaus.  Those disciples knew it: Jesus was alive again!

We for our part, brothers and sisters, can imagine the excited chatter -v. 36a- that accompanied that realization.  Please remember: those disciples had seen multiple resurrections in the past.  They were there when Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11ff) and they saw the joy on the faces of the parents of Jairus’ daughter when she was brought back to life (Luke 8:54).  They all knew of the close friendship between Jesus on the one hand and Martha and Mary on the other, and witnessed the enormous relief those two sisters experienced when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead (John 11).  Now Jesus himself was alive again – what joy, what relief, what excitement amongst the disciples to have their dear Master back!  Life can continue with a measure of normalcy again!  Yes, we can easily color in the sort of talk captured in the disciples’ chatter according to v. 36.

Then, while they were excitedly chatting about Jesus’ return to life, then “Jesus himself stood among them”.  Note the use of Jesus’ name here: the disciples recognized this was Jesus.   Luke does not pause to tell us how Jesus entered room (John tells us more on that); instead, Luke goes straight to what Jesus said, that declaration of “peace to you” – because that’s the point Luke wishes to highlight.  “Peace to you:” that’s Peter, and Matthew, and Thaddeus, and the rest of the little crowd…, the men who had failed Jesus on Good Friday….  They get told there’s harmony, shalom, peace between God and them…!

Are you surprised, congregation, that this statement startled them, frightened them (v. 37)?  Remember: it was the priests’ task to make this declaration and to do so after the sacrifices in the temple had been offered; that’s the setting in which the disciples had themselves heard these words so often in the past.  Besides, these disciples had experienced so much evil in the dark events of Good Friday, had themselves been party to the dark events even to the point of disowning him….  Now Jesus says there’s “shalom”, God’s peace on them??  Who is he to make that declaration?!

Are you surprised that the thought arose in their minds that this must be a spirit, some angel or other messenger from heaven, from God – to make a priestly declaration like this outside the temple?  But Jesus is emphatic: it’s really who dare to make this declaration to you.  V. 39: check my hands and my feet, those parts of me you’ve seen so often over years (and no doubt bearing evidence of crucifixion).  You’ve heard me say more astounding things to you over the years – so why are you troubled when I make this declaration?  Shalom is the logical consequence of my resurrection; there’s peace, God’s heavenly smile upon you!

That’s when the disciples responded with “joy and amazement” – and to give them time to get their heads and their hearts around the implications of what Jesus said, he asked for something to eat, and he ate it in their presence.  And we need to know that eating in their presence is itself evidence of harmony, shalom, peace (cf Ex 24:11; 25:30); you don’t sit down to eat with your enemies.

Still, the question jumps at us: why was Jesus able to make this priestly declaration?  That brings us to our second point:

2.  Where’s the evidence this declaration is true?

Jesus explained this point in v. 44: “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you.”  The last part of that sentence –“my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you”– refers to what Jesus told his disciples when he was with them back in Luke 9: he would suffer, be crucified, die and on the third day rise again (vv. 22,44).  But now Jesus adds what the purpose of his suffering and resurrection was all about; those words were all about bringing “peace to you”, harmony, shalom between God and sinners.  

We ought, brothers and sisters, to have seen this coming.   Recall what I said about the sacrifice of the animal upon the altar of the OT tabernacle; its purpose was to atone for the sins of those congregated outside the tabernacle so that they might be reconciled to the God who dwelt in the Most Holy Place deep inside the tabernacle.   The priest highlighted the purpose of the sacrifice when he laid the blessing on the people: “the Lord blesses you and keeps you…, and gives you peace.”  That shalom, that harmony was the climax of what the sacrifices were all about, was the purpose, was the message of those sacrifices.  Now Jesus says: through my suffering and death on the cross I fulfilled the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and I demonstrated that fulfillment through my rising from the dead.  So the climax, the purpose of it all must be evident: “peace to you”, harmony, shalom from God upon sinners!

No, back in the days of Luke 9, before Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, the disciples did not understand the reason why Jesus would suffer, be crucified, killed and would arise from the dead.  But on this Easter Sunday Jesus “opened their minds to understand” (v. 45) that this is what the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms -that’s the entire Old Testament Scripture- were about: God’s “peace to you”!

Now we need to notice the precise wording of vv. 46 and 47.  For Jesus mentions three things that are written throughout the OT Scripture, namely, 1. Christ must suffer; 2. On third day he must rise; 3. Repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed.  Of those three Jesus had mentioned only the first two back in Luke 9:22, namely, that he must suffer and must arise.  Now he adds the third, about the forgiveness of sins.  Yet that third matter is not a new matter; it’s instead what the purpose of the suffering and the resurrection were all about, what the reasonfor Good Friday and Easter Sunday was.  You see, forgiveness of sins amounts to the same as peace with God; it’s precisely because Jesus obtained forgiveness of sins that Jesus may declare God’s peace upon the disciples!  The three -Jesus’ suffering, Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of forgiveness- form a package, with the third element forming the climax, the purpose of the first two.

But the matter is more glorious still.  For Jesus adds the amazing words of v. 48: “you are witnesses of these things.”  Of what things, we wonder??  Sure, the disciples were witnesses of Jesus’ suffering on Good Friday and they were witnesses too that he arose from the dead on Easter Sunday; with their own eyes they saw him dead and they saw him alive again.  But when Jesus says they are witness of “these things” he means more than just his suffering on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday; he means also the third item on the list, the repentance for the forgiveness of sins and hence the fact that God’s peace, God’s shalom is with them – for that, remember, was the climax, the purpose, the goal of his suffering and his resurrection.

Yet what is a “witness”?  A “witness” is not someone who’s reporting hearsay; a witness is someone who has seen the matter for himself.  Jesus’ point is that these disciples are “witnesses” of the package, specifically that 1. Jesus’ suffering and 2. Jesus’ resurrection led to and climaxed in 3. The forgiveness of sins, and so God’s shalom rested upon them.  To say it in the words of the apostle Peter: they tasted, they experienced for themselves, the sense of freedom, of peace, of inner quiet and rest that comes from blessed work of Jesus Christ ( 1 Peter 2:3)!  No wonder they want to talk about it – but Jesus tells them they will need to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost before they can begin to do that, v. 49.

Now our last point yet,

3.  Why are we told?

Clearly, we are not told this material simply to satisfy curiosity.  Rather, Jesus’ blessed declaration of God’s “peace to you” -though directed initially to the eleven disciples and those with them- was not intended to be limited to this smallish group only.  No, the delightful benefits of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection were valid for persons in “all nations” (v. 47), and through all times and places.  That’s why his suffering and his resurrection and repentance for forgiveness should be proclaimed “to all nations”.

By the gracious providence of God this good news has come even to us – and we may believe it.  So the Lord would assure even you and me that his peace is actually for us.  What the priest declared in the Old Testament tabernacle upon the completion of the sacrifices is valid for you and for me – for through his suffering on Good Friday Christ Jesus has completed his sacrifice for sin -his resurrection demonstrates it!- and so the climax of the Old Testament tabernacle ceremony pertains to you and me also: “the Lord blesses you and keeps you …, and gives you peace.”  

More: we taste the goodness of the Lord, we experience the rest and the peace of the gospel in the midst of the restlessness of our daily existence.  No, it’s not yet perfect peace we experience in our hearts; in this life we experience no more than the beginning of the heavenly shalom Christ has obtained for us.  But that small beginning is nevertheless a real beginning; in the midst of the strains and stresses of this broken life we may already enjoy something of the reality of heavenly peace, the smile of God on forgiven sinners.  

“Peace to you”: it’s not a longing for those who are restless deep inside; it’s instead a blessed declarationdescribing reality for the Christian: God’s smile, God’s favor, God’s shalom is ours ­– even in the struggles and brokenness of this life.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. C. Bouwman

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