This Easter meditation was composed by David Mikesell, Elder at Staunton Grace, and presented at the Easter Sunrise Service on 16 April 2017.
Today is Resurrection Sunday, the day that we celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ over death. It is a victory that, as believers, we share in. As Pastor John spoke on Good Friday, Jesus paid it all on the cross. To quote our friend Pastor Jim McIntosh from Beverley Manor Baptist, “He paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay”. And on the third day, Jesus arose from the grave in power and victory. Since we are Jesus’ modern day disciples, Let’s look at how Jesus related to the original disciples on the evening of the first Resurrection Sunday.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The disciples were hidden away, behind locked doors, afraid of what people were going to do to them. When Jesus appears, he directly addresses their fear: “Peace be with you.” He repeats the same thing, “Peace be with you”, after showing the disciples his hands and feet. Yes, it was a greeting, but it also spoke to what the disciples needed then as they were hiding in fear, as well as who Jesus is. Jesus is the risen Prince of Peace – as Ephesians 2:14 says, “He himself is our peace.” And how is that so? Because of what Jesus did on Good Friday. Isaiah 53 tells us, “…the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him.” He paid the price, so that when he says, “Peace be with you”, it is more than a greeting. It is a declaration of who Jesus is, and what He did to bring us into fellowship with God.
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Eight days later, Jesus repeats the same greeting to Thomas. And again, he displays the wounds he suffered on the cross. Thomas responds with an honest confession of who Jesus is. When we, like Thomas, confess that Jesus is both Lord (the one with all authority) and God (the one with all power), we are humbled, and God is able to work in us, transforming us as we enter into that fellowship with him.
Jesus, before he was delivered to be crucified, promised the disciples his peace. In John 14:27, he comforts the disciples, saying, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”. And in John 16, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus promises us we will have trouble, but he also promises peace. We think of peace as a lack of trouble. So how does that work together?
The peace that really matters, that changes our hearts and lives, is not the peace of this world which changes according to circumstance and emotion, but the peace we have with God. Romans 5 tells us that, “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The peace that Jesus’ chastisement brought us wasn’t peace from the ups and downs of this world, but peace with the eternal Father, with whom we will dwell with evermore when this world has long since passed away. While our ships may be tossed around by the storms of this life, we have an anchor that is infinitely sure and strong.
Jesus’ sacrifice on Friday paid for our sins. The justice of God had been satisfied as Jesus took the punishment we deserve in our place. As it says in Ephesians 2:16, Christ reconciled us to God through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Since that debt was paid, the judgement and hostility is gone. We can cry, “Abba, Father”, instead of standing before a wrathful God. We can come boldly before the throne of Grace for help in time of need, instead of standing before the throne of judgement. We now have eternal fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. So when Jesus says, “Peace be with you”, it is cause for celebration because it is a lasting, unbreakable peace that comes directly from the one who is the Prince of Peace himself.