Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sunday 15 April 2012, Easter 2, Acts 4:32-35 John 20:19-31, Bruce

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

John 20:21
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

John 20:26
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, ....

What is the gospel reading about?

It is about Jesus bringing us peace.

The disciples were not at peace; they thought they might be arrested and killed. Even though there were puzzling rumours that Jesus was not in the tomb, and some of them even thought they might have seen him, still they were afraid.

Then Jesus appears inside a locked room. I wonder how they responded? Jesus felt the need to say again: “Peace be with you”. And they were overjoyed.

But one of them, Thomas, the Twin, was missing, and he missed out on seeing Jesus. So for the next week Thomas was not at peace. Then Jesus appears again and repeats: “Peace be with you”.

What lessons can we learn from this? You might think that the most important lesson is that it is risky to miss coming to church or group; so often good things happen and we miss them!

There is another, more important truth here. Jesus is very concerned that we should know the peace of God. He does not want our hearts to be troubled. He knows that we face all sorts of difficulties in this world. We are to take heart because he has overcome the world. Almost his last words to his disciples before his arrest were that he had taught and instructed them so that they would know peace; and his first words to them as a group after his resurrection was that they should be at peace.

Know that God wants you to be at peace. There may be, and almost certainly are, all manner of factors conspiring to give you trouble and distress in this world, but Jesus really wants you to know his peace.

But how?

First, be open for an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. The doors were locked, but I am sure that the hearts of the disciples were open. Jesus has promised that anyone who seeks will find, that he stands at the door and knocks. All we have to do is open. He will breathe his Spirit into us – just take a deep breath of God, as it were.

But is your life in turmoil, not ready yet to meet God? That is why his first words to us are that we should be at peace. As we trust him and receive forgiveness, so we are at peace with God because of all that Jesus has done for us and yearns to do in us.

Second, realise that we find peace by knowing the will of God for us and carrying it out. Jesus gives to his disciples his peace so that he can give them their calling. Who were they to go out and forgive the sins of others? They were obviously incapable because of their own sins and compromised lives. But Jesus chooses to give them his peace and fill them with his Spirit. He commissions them, us, to lives of service, to be of benefit to others and to bring in his kingdom.

But what if we get it all wrong?

Jesus has made his choice to include Thomas in this calling, and so he appears the second time and brings him peace.

How often do we think that it is all up to us to get it right? And of course we do not get it all right. We think that because we keep falling down on the job, as it were, that we are not fit to follow Jesus. We can make ourselves more unhappy than those who do not know Jesus, because we do want to know him and serve him, but all seems so hard.

The good news, the gospel, for us today is that Jesus knows us and loves us and says to each of us: “Peace be with you”. Look at pebbles from the beach. Each one is different. Some are smooth, some broken and jagged. Some large and obvious, some are dainty. God writes his peace on each one; sometimes on the smooth whiteness on the outside, sometimes on the broken cut surface inside. Let us each, whoever we are, receive the peace that Jesus has for us.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, ....

This is a peace that we ask for and receive when we turn to God in prayer. This is a peace that we share with each other (it is not a pointless ritual during the communion service). This is a peace that we share with family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues when we pray for them to know Jesus, and seek to share the forgiveness that we have received.

Peace be with you.

Discussion Starters

1. “Forgive us our trespasses as we ….” What are the factors that make it easy for us bring peace to others? What makes it hard?

2. Are you a smooth white pebble, rolled in millennia of waves and surf? Or are you broken and chipped? Where is there space for Jesus to write his peace into your life?

3. Take a moment to pray for each other, for any specific troubles, and to know his peace.