Jesus came and stood in the midst and says to them, "Peace to you!" And having said this He showed the hands and the side to them. The disciples then rejoiced, having seen the Lord. Then Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! Just as the Father sent Me on a mission, I also am sending you." And having said this He breathed and says to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If ever you dismiss of anyone sins, they are dismissed from them; if ever you hold against anyone (sins), they have been held fast." But Thomas, one of the 12, the one called Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. Then the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "If I do not ever see in His hands the mark of the nails and I thrust my finger into the mark of the nails and thrust my hand into His side, not at all will I believe." And after eight days again His disciples were inside and Thomas with them. Jesus comes, the doors having been locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace to you!"
During the Vietnam war, the "flower children" demonstrated for peace. Oddly, they would hold up two separated fingers (formerly the symbol for victory) as a call for peace. No doubt they were supporting the troops and hoping for the peace that came from total victory. The nuclear disarmament crowd also utilized signs with their popular peace symbol. Middle East peace proponents make use of a dove with an olive branch, symbolic of the peace which God gave to Noah and his family after the flood. Yet Jesus offers a different peace altogether for us..
The peace Jesus bestows is one that is beyond our full human understanding. It is like the greeting of peace which Jewish people use even today when they say "Shalom"; yet from Jesus, it means much more. For our Lord & Savior, this is not just some sort of holy-howdy. It's not simply wishing folks a peaceful life here on earth. It does not offer peace for our nation against its enemies. The peace Jesus bestows to the disciples here is not a horizontal peace between two worldly warriors, be they individuals, or groups of peoples.
The peace Jesus offers is the incomprehensible peace of heaven! The Lord gives a vertical peace, between His heavenly Father above, and sinners down below. Jesus offers the peace of forgiveness, and the disciples are overjoyed. For their Savior could have been angry with them for running away and abandoning Him in his hour of great need. He could be showing up there in the upper room to really lay into them for all their faults, and they know they deserve such a reprimand. They are pleasantly surprised to hear Him offer instead, "Peace to you!"
The peace Jesus gives.is the peace of holy Absolution–you know, that fancy word for God-flavored forgiveness. Jesus offers complete, total, and absolute forgiveness to the disciples, which results in complete Peace between them and God above! Their sins have been removed from them, washed by the Baptist all the way to the cross of Jesus where He bore them as His Own personal burden. He shows them the marks on His hands and side, so they can see for themselves that He has already suffered their punishment for them, in full. It is finished.
Foreshadowing His death the next day, Christ Jesus offered to the disciples His body given in the bread, and His shed blood in the cup for their forgiveness in the Lord's Supper. Jesus was all about the peace which only His forgiveness could bring. Now, He offers them a trinity of *Peaces*, for their jobs were about to change. No longer disciples who follow after Jesus, now they are Apostles, sent out before Jesus on the mission of bringing this forgiveness and peace to others. They received His Spirit. They went out. They forgave sins. They brought peace.
Fast forward. You are now part of one apostolic church. This means that what Jesus gave His apostles to do, namely forgive and bring peace is now the task given to the church. Publicly, your pastor is called to baptize sinners, to preach the gospel, to absolve sins, and to serve you Holy Communion for your forgiveness. Your sins are washed to the Cross in Baptism; the sacrificed body and blood of Jesus from Calvary are given to you in Communion; the voice of Christ proclaims His love to you from the pulpit; you may also come and your pastor will absolve your sins.
Now most of you have been baptized, heard sermons, and come to the communion rail for Jesus' body and blood. But not very often are people here absolved, and that's a shame. You know what Luther once said about coming to your Pastor for private confession and absolution is? It is simply being a Christian! Yet how quick we are to forget what we learned back in Confirmation class about Confession and Absolution: That before the pastor we should confess those sins which we know and feel in our hearts. And you know what sins grieve you the most...
Recall what you learned from your Catechism: "I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they...absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself". If Jesus were standing here, wouldn't you want to hear His voice say to you, "Peace to you!"? Of course you would. Since you confess that your pastor proclaiming the same words of Jesus is just as desirable, it should be offered all the more.
For this reason, the time has come for this congregation and its pastor to hold regular hours each month for private confession and absolution. To begin with, one Saturday per month, your Pastor will make himself available to hear private, confidential confessions in the sanctuary, and absolve those who come to confess, no strings attached. Each time, you will be dismissed with Jesus words of absolution to you this day, "Peace to you!" Amen.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#467 Awake My Soul with Gladness lyrics
#470 O Sons and Daughters of the King lyrics
#487 Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain: below