It seems there’s a peace problem in our world and in our hearts. Do you ever feel that? Relational difficulties, social anxiety, grief, loss, our own anger, fears, and worries? There’s no peace in the world, there’s no peace in ourselves, and often our ideas of God are so far removed from the notion of peace. Isn’t he the guy in the sky just giving us grief because we got it wrong again? Peace? Isn’t that all just a pipe dream?
We have before us a wonderful passage in the Bible. Jesus has just risen from the dead, he appeared to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Cleopas and another, and they’ve now joined the 11 disciples. Now Jesus appears to the eleven disciples, plus Cleopas and his friend. As Jesus appears to them he speaks peace to them, he proves to them how they can know for sure that they can have peace, and then he makes a promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming.
1. Peace proclaimed
Jesus was tried in the courts and crucified as a criminal. Where were his friends? They all legged it. Simon Peter denied even knowing him three times. They had royally mucked up. What does Jesus say after his resurrection? ‘Peace to you!’ I would respond with bitterness, anger, resentment. But Jesus? ‘Peace to you!’ He responds not by scalding them, but by speaking to them words of gospel peace. Though Jesus was wronged by his disciples, he proclaims peace to his disciples.
These words of peace are desperately needed. Because as humanity have fluffed their lines as it were, we’ve sinned against God, we’ve sinned against other humans, we have sinned against God, we have sinned against others, we’re fundamentally not at peace. The disciples, without Jesus are not at peace with God.
Here he proclaims this peace over his disciples. How are we to understand what Jesus is saying? What we don’t have is Jesus speaking some nice words to make his disciples feel better amidst their failure. He’s not just saying the word ‘peace’ as a nice sentiment, but he is the one who can actually offer peace. He’s speaking words of peace as a reality of what He has achieved through his death and resurrection.
Paul the Apostle writes that ‘For in Him (Jesus) all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds.’ (Colossians 1:19-21)
Before Jesus steps in, that is the position of the disciples, before Jesus offers words of peace, they are not at peace with God but alienated from him. But Jesus comes and reconciles us to God by means of his death on the cross, he brings us back to God. He takes the punishment for our sin Jesus brings peace to our relationship with God. That is how Jesus is able to speak words of peace to his disciples. He’s not just being nice. He’s actually achieved peace. Peace between them and God. It’s what makes Romans 5:1 possible ‘Therefore since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
That when they place their faith in Jesus taking their place in judgement, taking the blame on their behalf, being their saviour, they can have peace with God, it’s what makes the proclamation of peace possible.
What about you and me? It’s exactly the same. Because Jesus’ dying on the cross is not something only for the people there and then but is a once for all sacrifice for you and me. Though our sins would separate us from God and put us at enmity with him, his grace overcomes our sins and when our faith is in Jesus Christ and in his work on the cross that peace is achieved. That niggling feeling that something isn’t quite right gives way to peace because Jesus has dealt with our greatest problem of sin and makes us right with God because our faith in Jesus.
We might feel like the disciples, indeed we are like the disciples. Faltering and failing, finding ourselves doing, saying, and thinking things that are at odds with God and his standard in His law. Feeling jealous, bitter, angry, vengeful, we might overindulge and be given to greed, we might be prideful thinking we are good enough for God and that God should just be thankful we’re on his team. Whatever it is, we are just like the disciples.
We could go one of two ways with this, we could shrug our shoulders indifferent to Christ and his death on the cross or we could feel our consciences pricking us, challenging us, and wonder where to go.
Indifference : For those who are indifferent, for those who don’t feel their need for God, life will continue to feel unsettling. Peace will always remain that thing that is elusive because peace cannot come from yourself or from others. Christ is the only one that can put that right. He says to those whose faith is in him “peace to you.”
A tender conscience : You might be knowing there’s something wrong in you, your sin, your weakness, you know you deserve God’s wrath. You trust in Christ for salvation, but you find yourself tripping up on the same sins again and again. You wonder if Jesus really is still putting up with you, and if he is you think he’s probably on the brink of giving up. Here is the saviour, Jesus Christ saying to you this morning: peace to you.
“There is more mercy in Jesus than there is sin in us.” (Richard Sibbes)
You might feel weighed down by your sin this morning, you might feel crushed by your sin, but we have one who was crushed for our transgressions so that he could say to you this morning, ‘Peace to you!’
That is true for us. As we feel the weight of our sin, feel the even greater weight of the immense saviour who took your sins from you that he could say, ‘Peace to you!’ Can you have peace this morning? You bet you can! Jesus has come so that you can have peace. So come afresh this morning and hear the words of the Saviour, ‘Peace to you.’ Receive and rest in that peace that he has won for you and rest in Him.
2. Peace proven
The disciples are scared at Jesus’ appearing they think it’s a ghost, but Jesus reassures them. He reassures them by proving he is who he says he is, that it really is Jesus who is before them! There is a conspiracy theory knocking around the internet that Vladimir Putin has body doubles and there are all sorts of reasons being dreamed up why there are doubles, some even claiming that the real man is dead!
How do we know that the risen Jesus is the real Jesus? The Jesus of the past 23 chapters of Luke’s gospel, the Jesus who died on the cross?
- His wounds
- His body
- His eating
- His explaining the scriptures
- His witnesses
The sceptic among us might seriously doubt that Jesus can make a difference in our lives, that He do anything about our peace or lack of it. It’s a bit of a tall order, isn’t it? Well, here is how you can trust that Jesus can make a difference, that he can give you peace, that you can take him at his word. He has risen, not someone claiming to be Jesus, but actually the real person. We know because of the nail marks on his hands and feet, we know because he came before the disciples and showed them his wounds and his physical body, he ate in their presence. The resurrected Jesus isn’t a fake or a hoax.
How do we know he can deal with your lack of peace? The guy rose from the dead bodily, is anything too hard for him? Is your low-level anxiety too much for him to handle? Is your depression too much for him to bear? Is your grief too much for him? Guys, he rose from the dead, nothing is too hard for him! These words of peace he spoke to the disciples after his resurrection, he can meaningfully and truthfully speak to you.
He won’t take away all our problems, but he will deal with your biggest problem, the lack of peace which exists between you and God. Through faith in Him, we can have peace with God. The gulf in distance between us and God because of our sin was closed by Jesus on the cross that we could have peace with God. How do we know that he can really make that happen? Because he rose from the dead!
3. Peace promised
In verse 49, Jesus says ‘Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
Now, we know Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirt because Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts at the start speaks of Jesus telling the disciples to wait for ‘the Holy Spirit to come upon you.’ And then at Pentecost in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit falls from heaven on his people. Now, the language ‘the promise of the Father’ is interesting because the Spirit, in John’s Gospel, is promised by Jesus, what is specifically meant by the promise of my Father?
In Isaiah’s prophecy we have the language of the Spirit of God being poured out from on high and peace dwelling with the people of God. (See Isaiah 32:14-17) We have here the people of God, having received peace from Jesus Christ, waiting for the promised Spirit to come and of course the Spirit has not as yet come to the people, but they are to wait patiently for that promise to be fulfilled. Just as the promise of the Father was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, so also will the promise of the Father be fulfilled in the coming of the Spirit, but all that is left is to wait for Him to come.
For us, we know the Spirit has come and He lives in us as his people because Pentecost happened, because we know inwardly of the Spirit at work in our lives, the Spirit has come from on high and lives in us, but we also have to wait. We wait for the final promise to be fulfilled, where Jesus will come again to put all things right. To judge the wicked and to save us, to lead us into eternal and everlasting joy and peace in Jesus Christ. Where all sin and suffering will be eliminated and where we will be in perfect peace, unhindered by our sin or others, unhindered by our suffering or the suffering of others.
But now we wait. And as we wait, we must remember that we are people of peace. We have been given words of peace from Jesus Christ, the Spirit of Peace lives within us. So, we do not need to fear tomorrow. How? Because we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. We could face the loss of friends, family, we could lose it all, as Job did, yet we could still have peace because we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.
‘I have spoken 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.’ (John 16:33)
And while we wait we have work to do in serving Him. We have in this passage, Jesus explaining how it is written in the scriptures how Jesus must suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.’ (Isaiah 52:7)
Friends, Jesus has proclaimed peace to you, now go and proclaim peace to Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, and the world! Not peace in our situation or circumstances, not peace in our money or possessions, but peace in the fact that Jesus has died and has risen that whoever trusts in Him will no longer be in eternal opposition to God but will be at peace with God! We have a message of peace because we have a saviour who has brought peace to us. Now go proclaim it! To your neighbours, to your friends, to your colleagues, Jesus, the Prince of Peace has a message of peace he has given to us.
It is written, not just that Jesus must suffer, die, and rise, but that He may be proclaimed to the whole world! Who is there in your life who does not know Jesus? Who is it you can speak to about this Prince of Peace? There are many in this world not at peace because they’re not at peace with God, what peace the gospel message brings! Go and tell this good news of peace to many that he may be known, enjoyed and praised among many in Kirkcaldy!