This morning we continue with the events of that first Easter Day as we continue on with the events of that first Easter evening. So far, as we have been witnessing the events which have happened on that first Easter Day. We have heard Mark’s account of these events on Easter Sunday. We heard John’s account of these events last Sunday and today we hear Luke’s account of these events. We have witnessed Jesus rising, early on Easter. We witnessed the women who went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial and how they found the tomb open and witnessed the words of the angels who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. Last week we witnessed as Jesus appeared to the disciples without Thomas and we witnessed as Jesus appeared to the disciples and especially to Thomas, which we saw was for our sakes as well, as we are the ones who have not physically seen Jesus with our own eyes, yet we believe because of the testimony of Thomas and the Word and the Sacraments.
Our text for today brings us, again, to the evening of Easter day. This morning we look in more detail at the events of Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples in the locked room. Right from the start, we notice that the disciples were afraid. Their leader had been accused, tried, convicted, sentenced to death and crucified. What else could this mean for them except the same thing. In other words, if they are found to be followers of Jesus, what could they expect except the same treatment, being tried, sentenced to death and crucified. And remember, the body of Jesus was still missing and they were the prime suspects. So, they did what they believed they needed to do, they gathered together and locked themselves in a room.
Now remember, it is the evening of that first Easter. By now they have heard the good news, or at least the rumors of the good news, that Jesus had risen from the dead. Some had actually witnessed the resurrected Jesus, seeing Him with their own eyes, others had witnessed the empty tomb, and again, most of them had heard the “rumors” of the body being missing. Our text then tells us, “As they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” (v.36). Luke continues by telling us, “They were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (v.37). They are still having a hard time believing. They had already heard so many witnesses, they were just discussing all this with the two from Emmaus who had walked and talked with Jesus, which was the reading right before our reading from Luke this morning, and when Jesus appears they are terrified. They just cannot believe it. I guess it is just too good to be true and yet, here Jesus is, standing in front of them and putting His peace on them.
Jesus gives them His peace. As we said last week, His peace is a peace beyond understanding. The peace that Jesus gives is not simply an hour or so of solitude, away from the hustle and bustle of life, away from the noise of the family and children, and so forth. His peace is a peace which begins with the forgiveness of sins, which is what He earned by His death on the cross. The peace Jesus speaks to His disciples is the same peace He speaks to us today. His peace is a peace of deliverance from sin and especially deliverance from the guilt of sin. Jesus knows their fears and doubts. He knows our fears and doubts. He knows that we are very often like these disciples, sometimes we have a hard time believing the truth of His Word. Very often one of our biggest struggles comes when we disagree with God and we cannot understand why He does not fit into our understanding of who He is or how He should be.
Jesus appears to His disciples in His resurrected state. He is the same as He was before His death, yet He is different. He comes before His disciples and shows Himself to them and they are afraid. They are thinking that they are seeing a spirit or a ghost. And so, Jesus has to show them and assure them that He is not a ghost. He shows Himself to them. He shows them His hands, his feet, and His side. He even asks them for something to eat to show He is not a ghost, because we all know that a ghost cannot eat, because a ghost does not have flesh and blood.
Jesus opens their hearts and minds to understand all the events which had taken place. He explains the recent events in the light of the promises of the Old Testament. That is what that phrase means, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” that is the Old Testament. All these things which took place were promised by God from the beginning. In a very real way, Jesus does the same thing for us today. He comes to us through His means of grace, through His Word and Sacraments. He fills us with His Holy Spirit who works through His Word and Sacraments to show Himself to us, to show us the truth of the promises and His fulfillment, to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith.
Jesus then sends the disciples out. He gives them the commission and His authority to go out and share the good news with others. “You are witnesses of these things” (v. 48), Jesus says. He sends us out as well and tells us that we are also “witnesses of these things.” By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word we too are witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and so we have the commission, we have His authority, we have the privilege and responsibility to go out, to live lives of faith, to live and work in our vocations so that our lives are lived as living sacrifices as priests in the priesthood of all believers. We are to live lives always ready to give an answer, a defense of our faith to all who ask, to share the good news with others.
This giving of God’s authority and sending by God is important to know so that we know that Jesus did not send His disciples out on their own. Jesus gave them His authority (through His commission), the power to go out, and the promise of His presence. Likewise, He also gives us His authority, His power, and the promise of His presence with us as we go out. He gives us His Holy Spirit who gives us the courage and confidence, and the words to speak as we live out our Christian faith.
You know, we are not a lot different from Jesus’ first disciples. Like the first disciples, Jesus has chosen us. He has put His name on us at our Baptism. He has put faith in our hearts and He has given us forgiveness of sins. We have the Word of God, the Bible which we can read on our own and which we can come here and hear read and expounded. As we read the Word of God we hear the promises God makes and we hear of and see the fulfillment of those promises. As we hear and read the Word of God it is that same Word of God, which is a Word with power, which does what it says and gives the gifts it says it gives. As we read and hear God’s Word of forgiveness, we know we are forgiven. As we read and hear God’s Word giving faith, we know we are given faith. Indeed, God’s Word does and gives what it says because it is God’s Word.
Each week we have the privilege to come to the Lord’s house and rehearse all the events which have taken place. We review and review and review. Sometimes we may not understand why we do this over and over again. Why do we listen to the same accounts again and again. It is because there is so much there that we cannot fathom it all with one reading. Dr. Martin Luther explained that God does not pour out all His grace on us at once, because if He did it would literal kill us because we would be too overwhelmed. Likewise, we do not completely understand all of God’s Word with one reading. Well, would we think that we are that much more in tune with God’s Word than Jesus’ own disciples who were with Him for three years of intense instruction? Think about our lives, how often we forget things unless we make a conscious effort to remember. We need this constant repetition so that we might grow in our faith and faith life.
We have witnessed Jesus’ life, we have witnessed His death and we have witnessed His resurrection. We know that Jesus is alive. We worship a living God. We worship a God who comes to us through His Word and who comes to us through His body and blood in His Holy Sacrament so that we might participate in His life, death, and resurrection. His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection.
We have all His good gifts and blessings. He gives and we are given to. So what? So what does this mean? We answer that question by answering the question of, “do we take God’s Word seriously?” If we take God’s Word seriously, then we know that there are people in our world, even really good people who do really good things, who are not a part of God’s Kingdom because they do not know or believe in Jesus as their Savior. And time is running out.
We have the commission to go out, now. That commission comes with power, with authority and with a promise. We have an urgent task before us. God’s will is that all people are saved and in order to accomplish His will and purposes He uses us ordinary people to share this love with others through the way we live, the way we act, what we say and how we reflect the faith that is in our hearts. Every day we have the opportunity to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, put our best foot forward in giving a witness for Jesus as well as thinking about, praying about, and inviting our unchurched family and friends to come to the Lord’s house to be given His good gifts and blessings. And that is acting out our faith.
This morning we have once again heard the word of the Lord. We have been reminded of our baptism and our being given faith by God. We have been reminded of our forgiveness earned and paid for by Jesus. We have seen His resurrection and heard those who have testified concerning His resurrection. We have been commissioned, been given God’s authority, and we are being sent out. We have the promise of God’s presence being with us. My prayer for each one of you is that the Lord will give you an extra measure of His Holy Spirit so that you might with all boldness and confidence experience the joy of sharing God’s love with others through your words and actions, so that God’s kingdom might be filled and so that we might all together stand before His throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.