Peace be with you.” John 20:21
Resurrection Sunday was anything but normal for us. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would be preaching to an empty church on the most significant day of the church year…the celebration of our Lord Jesus rising from the dead! Knowing the camera and technology would reach beyond the walls of the sanctuary helped a bit. It just was not the same. It was not normal.
The evening of that first Resurrection Sunday was not normal. Ten of the Disciples, plus others, were locked in. Judas, of course, was no longer numbered with the Twelve. We also know Thomas was not there. They were in what would become their gathering place after the last Passover celebrated with Jesus known as the Upper Room. Scripture tells us they were there in fear when suddenly Jesus was there in their midst. The first thing He said to them was, “Peace be with you.”
Eight days later, when Thomas was with them, they were still inside, still holding on to fear, and Jesus again suddenly stood in their midst. Again, His first words to the frightened disciples was, “Peace be with you.”
Our tendency is to focus on Thomas in this portion of Scripture. We have given him the nickname “Doubting Thomas.” He wasn’t with the others the first time Jesus appeared. When told of the experience he said he would not believe unless he saw the imprint of the nails in His hands and felt the wound in His side.
When Jesus appeared the second time, Thomas was able to see His hands, put his hand into His side. Because of that, Thomas was able to believe Jesus had in fact risen. And Jesus reminded Thomas and reminds us today in John 20:29 of the blessing that is ours because we have believed even though we have not seen.
Even greater than that blessing for us is Jesus’ first words to those gathered in the Upper Room on the occasion of both of His appearances. They were locked in in fear. The source of their fear was different than today, but the fear was very real. And Jesus said to them, as He says to us, “Peace be with you.” His peace dissolves all fear!
By Pastor Paul Johnson,Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.