The Risen Christ Says: "Peace Be with You"
A Sermon based on John 20: 11-23
It was Easter evening… The first day of the week was coming to a close. Mary Magdalene, who had gone to Jesus’ gravesite just as the sun began to rise -- as did a number of us this morning at the Small Boat Harbor -- reported to the other disciples that the body of Jesus had been moved from its burial place. The body was missing! This was entirely unexpected news! Peter and another disciple ran to investigate the empty tomb … and throughout that first day, the message was spreading that Jesus had risen from the dead! Mary herself went back to the gravesite, and spoke with the gardener about the missing body; but it was Jesus! Alive again! She knows it was him because he called her by name!
Frankly, Jesus’ followers didn’t know what to believe. It was all so incredible, so unexpected, so down-right incomprehensible!
And now, darkness had returned; and with it, the fear...
"It was evening," John tells us in today's Scripture reading, "and the
doors of the house where the disciples had met were shut (for fear of the
Jews). Jesus came & stood among them, and said: 'Peace be with you.'"
Their nerves were already on a hair-trigger! Imagine how startled those eleven remaining male disciples (as well as the women who accompanied them) must have been to have the Risen Christ enter their little huddle!
They had seen him crucified! They had heard his final words from the Cross, and they saw him "give up the ghost." They saw the Roman spear plunged into his side. They saw the blood. They knew he had been buried, and so -- despite the hints and allegations that he was again alive -- how could it be!?
It looked like Jesus; but since he was dead, perhaps this was a ghost...? Their hearts were pounding. If they were afraid before, as the room grew dark... by now they would be petrified! What did it all mean?
Then he spoke to them: "Peace be with you."
The last words Jesus had spoken to them at the Passover meal -- at the Last Supper on Thursday night, before they rose from the communion table to go into the Garden -- his last words to them before those days of suffering began -- are the first words he speaks to them after his resurrection. "Peace be with you."
"Peace be with you."